- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The holidays are a time filled with warmth, good cheer and blah, blah, blah. Let’s get down to the serious portion of the show - gifts for those good little girls and boys. No, not socks, not that annoying light-up sweater vest or sacks of roasted chestnuts. Let’s talk toys.

* The Baby Einstein Connect and Play Zone (ages 6 months and older, $39.99) is filled with discovery activities. Five activity modules - such as a ball drop, a baby-safe mirror and turn-and-pop characters - connect or can be separated for on-the-go individual fun. A language selector toggles between English and Spanish. Colors and shapes are discovered through brightly colored buttons and turn keys.

Another great Baby Einstein offering is the Nature Nesting Blocks(9 months and older, $15.99). This set of sturdy cardboard blocks is brightly printed with real-life and illustrated animal and nature images grouped in themes, such as day and night or spring and fall. They can be stacked or nested inside each other.

* Chicco’s Turbo Touch(ages 2 and older, $14.99) roars to the finish line with a simple touch. Press down on the roof, and the car vibrates, revs up and accelerates before it squeals the brakes and toots the horn, signaling the end of the line. Each of the five collectible cars has its own personality.

* Darby is the newest addition to the Hundred Acre Wood as she joins the regulars for adventures in the Fisher-Price Inc. Disney Super Sleuth Changing Tree (ages 3 and older, $49.99). Based on the “My Friends Tigger and Pooh” show, this interactive play set features Pooh, Tigger and Darby figures ready for 50 missions from the show. The tree is filled with surprises as Pooh quick-changes into supersleuthing gear, slides pop out and branches become ramps. The tree is outfitted with a computer, map and gear and has more than 75 fun phrases to add to the mix.

* Soft and sweet, Sensitive Baby Serenaby Goldberger Doll Co. (ages 1 and older, $14.99) is certified safe for children with allergies and asthma. Serena is a 13-inch, all-soft-body doll with a sweet face. Dressed in a pink gingham dress or green romper, the doll wears a sun-shading hat, and all her clothing is of baby-soft knit fabrics. All Goldberger Dolls come with a lifetime replacement guarantee.

* Building is one of your little one’s first “I can” activities, and the Playskool Clipo Figure Bucket (ages 18 months and older, $19.99) is filled with 50 brightly colored interlocking peg-covered shapes for lots of manipulative fun. The bucket’s lid doubles as a sturdy building base, while the blocks store neatly inside when playtime is done. Other Clipo items include the Clipo Creativity Table ($32.99) and Vehicle Starter Set ($6.99).

Also from Playskool, the Busy Ball-tivity Center(ages 9 months and older, $29.99) stimulates baby’s sense of discovery as brightly colored balls swirl through the ball pool or hover over the air cannon. Air powers the activities as a peekaboo monkey pops up or the bright green alligator chomps away. Stackable pieces spin, twirl and chomp when placed on the gently blowing air ports. The Busy Ball-tivity center also features lively music and animal sounds to further engage your child in fun, active play.

* Nursery rhymes and cheery songs help baby learn about shapes, colors and fruits with the Sing ‘n’ Learn Kangaroo by Chicco(ages 9 months and older, $24.99). This early-growth toy is bold and bright with fun, sunny colors of orange and yellow. Mommy Kangaroo’s pouch doubles as a sorting toy as baby is encouraged to find the right shape, fruit or colored block to fit.

* With plenty of positive-reinforcement messages, Tonka’sMy First Tool Kit (ages 18 months and older, $14.99) will put a little handyman in a fixing mood. The sturdy plastic tool set comes with four voice-animated little-hands-friendly tools - a hammer, wrench, screwdriver and air hose. The kit works with Tonka’s Scoot ‘n Scoop 3-in-1 Ride-on Truck (ages 9 months and older, $29.99) to teach children shapes, colors and tool names as they play with both.

The Scoot ‘n Scoop is a crawl-to-walk transition toy, converting from a push toy to a walker handle to an extra-stable wide-seat riding toy. It features block sorting and scooping action, and a removable tire can be fixed with the My First Tool Kit.

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