- Associated Press - Thursday, December 16, 2010

NEW YORK (AP) - While stores still sell a plethora of good old-fashioned toys such as board games, action figures and stuffed animals, electronic ones aren’t exactly a niche category anymore either.

And fortunately for parents, the selection has grown beyond video games and noisy radio-controlled cars to include educational e-readers, musical instruments and interactive robots.

Whatever your kid’s age or personality, here’s a short list of toys we think are worthwhile.

For the gamer:

Today’s children probably won’t remember Simon, the game in which players memorize an increasingly complex pattern of flashing red, green, yellow and blue lights.

Mattel Inc.’s electronic memory game Loopz ($30, ages 7 and up) is a loose remake of the classic. It invites players to follow music and light cues and then wave their hands over one of four areas to replicate the pattern _ the modern-day equivalent of smacking a color-coded button.

Wordy kids will enjoy Hasbro Inc.’s Scrabble Flash ($30, ages 8 and up), an electronic game that actually resembles Boggle more than it does Scrabble. The game includes five cubes with digital screens, each of which displays a letter. Players rearrange the cubes, clicking them together to form as many words as they can in the allotted time.

For the spy:

Children have long pretended to be playground secret agents, but over time their spy tools have grown more sophisticated. Jakks Pacific Inc.’s SpyNet Secret Mission Video Watch ($50, ages 8 and up) records audio, video and photos. Budding spies can play back video on the watch’s 1.4-inch screen or upload it to the family computer.

The company also sells the Net Flex Snake Camera ($30), which sits in one place and beams live video of passersby to the spy watch. Other accessories include night vision binoculars ($50) and a recording pen ($20).

And while radio-controlled cars make for noisy gifts, Wild Planet’s Spy Video Trakr ($130) records audio and video and is decidedly cool.

Even Barbie can go into stealth mode. Mattel’s Video Girl Barbie ($50, ages 6 and up) has a hidden camera that records movies from Barbie’s point of view. Kids can watch the movies on the doll’s small screen or upload them to a Mac or PC and then use Mattel’s software to add music, graphics and special effects.

For the musician:

The video game “Rock Band” isn’t the only way for kids to live their rock star fantasies. ThinkGeek Inc.’s Electronic Rock Guitar Shirt ($29.99) looks like a plain black T-shirt with a picture of a guitar on it. (There’s also a drum kit version.)

In fact, each of the buttons on the guitar’s neck corresponds to a different pre-recorded chord, which kids can play using a magnetic guitar pick that comes with the shirt. The shirt also comes with a clip-on amp and tone knob so that they can play their music louder as well as adjust the sound.

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