- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 25, 2009

For gift givers, here’s a sampling of possibilities that could put smiles on the faces of toddlers this season.

*The VTech Kidizoom Plus(ages 3 and older, $59.99) is a kid-smart digital camera that lets children shoot up to 2,000 photos or up to 30 minutes of video in 2.0 megapixel resolution. The camera easily connects to a Mac or PC, TV or printer for playback.

The binocular-style viewfinder makes it easy for young photographers to focus on their subject, and the camera has 256 megabytes of internal memory, plus a slot for a memory card, which is not included. The camera enables children to edit pictures and add graphics, silly frames and stamps and photo effects. In addition, the camera is a hand-held gaming device with fun games and music.

The durable casing, easy-to-use buttons and two hand grips for added stability help the Kidizoom work for even the youngest Annie Leibovitz in the house.

*Take the boys and girls to the country with the Little Tykes Apple Grove Pals Farm Playset(ages 18 months and older, $29.99). This set includes a barn with a silo and corral along with three cute little friends to frolic on the farm - a piglet, calf and zebra, the star of the enclosed book “The New Kid Has Stripes.” The play set folds together for storage and on-the-go fun.

*The PBS “Super Why” television series and Web site engages children in reading through play. Adding to those reading adventures is Learning Curve’s High Flying Super Why action figure (ages 3 and older, $29.99).

Dressed in his reading-hero costume, Wyatt takes on the Super Why persona, which encourages children to read by helping them with early reading skills, including letter recognition and rhyming skills, while immersing them in interactive stories filled with literacy-based games.

The figure sports a cool motorized waving cape and jet boosters complete with lights and sounds. Super Why wears his goggles and carries his Why Writer. Fly him through the air and experience 12 motion-activated lights and sounds.

*Inspiring complex thought through their simple design, Dado Cubes (ages 3 and older, $26.95) will be the toy wise parents leave on the playroom floor for years to come. Ten open-ended cubes with interlocking slits invite the child to explore numerous rules of physics, balance, structure and spatial awareness. The blocks, which cascade from large to small, allow for building a seemingly endless array of structures vertically or horizontally from a base block.

*Patch’s Pass the Pup(ages 3 and older, $25) will have children howling, fetching and wagging as they pass the pup back and forth or around a circle as the refrain from “Who Let the Dogs Out?” plays. The player caught holding the pup when the song ends must get in touch with his or her inner canine by performing one of 14 actions, including “wag” or “dig.”

*Fisher-Price delights with Mickey’s Magic Choo Choo(ages 3 and older, $39.99), the train that lays its own track, just like on “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.” In Magic Mode play, as the train lays the track, Mickey’s train follows along while the whistle blows. In Classic Mode play, set up the track and let Mickey enjoy the ride as the whistle blows and the choo-choo song plays. Mickey’s Magic Choo Choo comes with track, train, play accessories and a Mickey Mouse figure.

*Build upon a new level of construction ideas with brightly colored wooden blocks from Fat Brain Toys. Twig(ages 3 and older, $49.99) consists of 72 bright, bold wooden blocks in a variety of shapes. These blocks are unique in that some have been precision-cut so square pegs fit into square holes and blocks can be inserted into each other to build unique shape and color combinations.

*Add the “Tickle Hand Groove” to your musical repertoire with Fisher-Price’s Elmo Tickle Hands (ages 18 months and older, $29.99). This pair of soft, furry gloves features Elmo’s face. When the nose is pressed, the gloves vibrate and children hear lots of fun phrases along with the song. The gloves come packaged with the “Tickle Hand Groove” music DVD so children and parents can learn the new dance with Elmo.

*The Explore ‘N Grow Busy Ball Popper by Playskool (ages 9 months and older, $22.99) has five colorful balls spinning around and popping into the air as eight songs play. Sturdy, easy to clean and brightly colored, the popper helps children develop gross motor skills as they dance with the upbeat music and chase balls that fall off the track. Babies also learn a little bit about manipulating their world and about cause and effect as they push the plunger to start the action.

*Active infants and toddlers can take Goldberger Doll Manufacturing Co.’s Look & Learn doll (newborn and older, $8.99) on the road with its “hang and hold” ring that snaps easily onto a stroller, car seat or diaper bag. Look & Learn baby dolls are soft and pliable, with lots of black-and-white contrast patterns and crinkle spots that are fun to crunch. The soft vinyl face has painted eyes.

Belly Brites by Goldberger Doll (ages 2 and older, $12.99) have light-up bellies that glow in soft pink, yellow, green and blue tones while gentle music plays, soothing fussy ones off to sleep. The doll is soft and huggable, with an embroidered face and soft cloth hair.

Goldberger dolls are all machine washable and are covered by a lifetime replacement guarantee.

*Rollers spin; eight happy, smiling, winking peekaboo faces on pop-blocks go up and down; and blocks roll down the slide and peer out from hidey-holes, giving baby lots of manipulative play choices with the Fisher-Price Stack ‘n Surprise Blocks Songs ‘n SmilesSillytown(ages 6 to 36 months, $48.99).

The blocks also can be stacked on each other or on top of the knock-down tower. Baby can learn cause and effect by pressing the lever that sends a block tumbling down. Add a music roller with blinking lights, motorized action and more than 16 songs and sounds so baby can sing, clap and laugh along for plenty of silliness. A handy storage bin keeps everything tidy when playtime is over.

*Learn letters and colors, following directions and identifying character descriptions, such as “Who has a yellow hat?” while testing memory skills with Wild Planet’s Mickey’s Mouse-ke-TAG (ages 3 and older, $14.99).

An active learning game that will have your “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” fans racing to find the right character from among Donald, Goofy, Mickey or Minnie Mouse when they hear the spoken clue. As children grow, skill levels increase from basic to more difficult “commands” requiring increased listening and hand-eye coordination.

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