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Hot For The Holidays

12/19/2013, 12:45 p.m.

By JENNIFER STEIN

Lucky for gift givers, while choices are numerous this year, the best and brightest choices stand out. The Amsterdam News has searched high and low for innovative, creative, dependable, awe-inspiring and fantastic finds for the whole family. For the naughty and nice on your list, we have ideas—and we even have something for your mother-in-law.

Giving functional gifts is always a good bet—like a gift card to Toys R Us, a karate dojo, a theater or Barnes & Noble—but giving a frivolous gift that just makes the receiver feel warm and fuzzy is always fun. No matter what one picks, as long as it is on the receiver’s list, one can’t go wrong.

Some characters can scare kids. I adore Cookie Monster, but my daughter was given one for the holidays years ago, and it almost sent her into therapy! I can still hear the screams of terror! It was on my list, not her list!

The new app from Time to Play magazine can help consumers do cost analysis, get additional product information and see where products are being sold. While one–stop shopping saves time, it does not always mean you are getting the best deal. Shopping around online ahead of time on apps like this can save you valuable time and money that can go to purchasing more presents.

Lastly, please decide this holiday season whether the toy is appropriate for the recipient. Rated M video games do not belong in the hands of 7-year-olds, and if a label says 5+, then do not buy the product for your mature 3-year-old. Pets often eat anything on the floor and many $19 toys turn into $3,500 vet bills. While you may be purchasing for an older member of the family, the youngest person in the home most likely will get their little hands or paws on the product.

All the following items were Amsterdam Elf-chosen for their reliability, durability, creativity, playtime appeal and innovative qualities. Prices vary from store to store and online. Happy holiday hunting!

Prices below are approximate.

BEAUTIFUL BABY

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Twist, Click & Match Early Learning System 3m+ Kids Preferred $14.99 Twist the scrunchy blocks, click them and match the pictures to create new animals! The caterpillar clip on top allows for easy stroller attachment. www.eric-carle.com

Nickelodeon Bubble Guppies Swim-Sational School 18m+ Fisher-Price $39.99 Molly & Gill figures roll and go through an active wet and wonderful-looking playset that has music and phrases from the series. www.fisher-price.com

Little Pim Mandarin Chinese Volume 1 0-6yrs Little Pim Corporation $49.95 The three-box DVD set teaches 180 words and phrases in Mandarin while improving memory, boosting analytic ability, enhancing problem–solving skills and strengthening abstract thinking. This award–winning CD collection has a plush collection as well. LittlePim.com

Earlyears Click, Rattle N’ Roll Caterpillar 6m+ International Playthings LLC $14.99 Kids can entertain themselves with the caterpillar as a whole or take the three rattle balls and shake them for individual play. www.earlyears.com

Playskool Learnimals Color Me Hungry Hippo 6m-36m Hasbro $24.99 Colors, phrases, shapes and sounds all come together with this happy hippo that kids can feed.