Todd Davis

Expert Gives Tips for Holiday Toy Shopping

You snooze you lose when it comes to holiday toy shopping.

Buy too soon and you get the toy your kid casts off minutes after it's opened. Wait too late and all the good stuff is gone. What is a parent to do?

Meet the Toy Insider, Laurie Schacht. She and her team work all year reviewing thousands of toys, but it all comes down to the Hot 20 — toys they predict will be at the top of kids' wish lists.

Schacht said the team looks for durability, whether a toy's worth the price and "play value."

"We want to know that when you take this home, your child is going to have tons of time with it," she said. "They're not gonna play with it for five minutes and then end up at the bottom of the toy chest."

Here are a few of the team's top picks:

  • Ages 0-2: Jumbo Jamboree
  • Ages 3-5: Doc McStuffins Pet Vet Check-Up Center
  • Ages 6-8: Star Wars Bladebuilders Jedi Master Lightsaber
  • Ages 9 and up: Lego Elves Treetop Hideaway

"Most importantly, look for the fun factor," Schacht said.

There are experts, and then there are experts. We brought 12 of Schacht's favorites to seven kids — mostly girls — aged 5 years old and younger, so most of the toys were for that age range. There was a clear winner.

"The Doc McStuffins," 5-year-old Kennedy Hunter said.

Says Schacht, "The is $79. Something like this kids are going to play with this for hours at a time. When when I set this up the little girls were running over. "

Experts at Penn State say when checking out a toy for any age group, consider these questions:

  • Can a toy be used in more than one way?
  • Do kids decide how to play with it or does it play for them?
  • Can the toy be used with others they already own?

"Every single toy that we brought today was not a watch me toy," Schacht said. "Kids had to play with it to make it do something."

The kids didn't know it ahead of time, but we gave each child one toy to keep. We donated the rest of them to a shelter.

More: Good Toys for Young Children

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