MAMA HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE :: gifts for the kiddos in your life

We are all about the toys that are going to inspire creativity, learning, and that are built to last AND keep our children's attention longer than a day. These are toys that we give our "we tried them, we like them" mama seal of approval:

Best Toys for Infants

The Leapfrog Scout is a plush toy that talks, introducing children to first words, daily routines and counting, all while incorporating a child's name, favorite color, favorite animal, favorite food and favorite songs and lullabies into activities and dialogue. Parents can change a child's "favorites" and personalize the toy by hooking up the back into their USB port.

We love the new board book “Look Who Is Coming…”, a great photo book for all young children to help them learn to recognize the important people in their life.

Best Toys for Preschoolers

The Leapfrog Zippity is a TV-based gaming system for preschoolers that combines full-body movement, music, education and fun. The Zippity system lets kids bring the fun of Playhouse Disney to life at their house, as they dance, jump and move with characters from Disney Channel’s Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Disney Little Einsteins, Winnie the Pooh and more.

Looking for something more personalized? Just this year, Shutterfly added puzzles to their line up of personalized storybooks and posters. You can upload a photo of your child alongside some of their favorite charaters like the cast of G.I. Joe, High School Musical, Transformers, Star Wars and Hannah Montana.

We've long been fans of Manhattan Toy's Groovy Girls, and they have a new line of horses for little girls called Star Willow Stables. This new line of fashionable horse dolls plays upon a little girl's dream of having her own horse. Each horse comes with its own hairbrush so girls can enjoy brushing and braiding their horse's mane.

The Scholastic Storybook Treasures on DVD are an ideal gift for preschoolers who will enjoy hearing and seeing their beloved storybook classics. We love the read along aspect, and with stories like Where The Wild Things Are, Corduroy, Curious George, and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, your kiddos will too.

Green Toys is one of our favorite toy companies - making toys out of recycled milk jugs! Last year we featured their tea set, which we adore, and this year we are loving their recycling truck. Kids can get in on the recycling fun with the recycling truck's chutes on the side, and the moveable recycling bed in back.

The collection of I Can Do That games are always a great gift for families. Their newest game, Richard Scary's Busytown, has kids racing around town solving mysteries on a gigantic, colorful game board that’s over six feet long. As players race through Busytown, they’ll team up every time someone lands on Goldbug—leaving no corner of the board unexplored as they discover hidden objects. With hundreds of objects to find this game provides hours of fun, while building confidence each time a child says, “I found it!”

The Victory Lane racetrack is a Nascar inspired a super fun option for the car enthusiast. We love that it does not use batteries, and kids simply rev up their engines by pulling the cars backwards and then let them go to race. A great way to test out cause and effect.

The Automoblox toy line from Manhattan Toys is a big hit for kids who love cars, and building with blocks. The new "mini" line is a scaled down version that fits in the palm of your hands, and has the same fun interchangeable parts that allow for endless creative possibilities.

Best Toys for Elementary-Aged Kids

Clementine Art sells a variety of products that allows your children to craft and create away without having contact with any chemicals or toxins.

Legos remain one of the best toys for building creativity and problem-solving in kids of all ages. For ages 4 and up, the classic block starter set is a great way to begin (or build upon) a child's Lego collection. There is even a pink block collection for girls, in classic and hard-to-find colors like pink and teal. We love the tub packaging that serves as a lego-inspired storage bin.

HABA's Ghost Tower and Knight's Castle Blocks proves that older boys can have fun with natural wood toys! Knights on horseback, knights guarding the castle, a ghost, a dragon, and building fun, this painted beechwood set by Haba provides great imaginative solo or group play.

Do your children already love games? For some fun takes on more classic games, try Cranium's new Spongebob Edition, where kids get acting, puzzling, sketching, sculpting, and code cracking with SpongeBob-themed challenges. The classic Jenga game has a new twist with Jenga Max, a building game where kids compete to avoid knocking down a tower while hanging blocks from an every-growing construction. And one of the favorites from our own generation: Battleship, has a new Advanced Mission edition that we think parents will have a hard time not playing themselves!

Best Toys for Tweens

LittleMissMatched has some adorable glove sets for young girls in fresh and funky colors, and cozy slippers that your tween girls are sure to love. We also think their colorful socks make perfect stocking stuffers for kids (and adults) of all ages.

LABsmart has great science-and-learning based kits for older kids, and their new Artlab products are sure to be a hit with older girls. Each kit comes with everything budding artists need to hone their craft, including unique tools and progressive techniques. Fashion Studio allows girls to create their own fashion line, while the SpaLab allows girls to mix it up with do-it-yourself beauty products naturally.

The Pulse Drift Slither is a fun new scooter for boys that has a swivel mechanism, making it easy for kids to ride it like a snowboard. It's a great gift for an active boy (or a boy you'd like to get off the couch). You just might want to hide it from your husband, though.

All Around Best
We Give This The 2009 Mama Toy Award
RideMakerz basically takes the "build-a-bear" concept, but allows the child to build a car from scratch. They choose the body style, wheels, rims, decals and accessories to customize their "ride". You can go for the in store experience (right now there is a store set up for the holidays in Downtown Disney), an option to build your ride online, or pre-made kits that can be purchased and assembled at home.

This is definitely a toy that will stand up to a lot of play - they are built to handle a lot of action, and will be loved by boys and girls alike (thanks to the pink cars and girlie accessories!). And, after your kids get home, they can play games online, race against other "rides", and build "virtual" cars online using their special code from their own car.

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