The biggest toy this holiday is only 5½ inches tall.
Move over Hatchimals. This year’s must-have toys are Fingerlings — tiny, interactive robotic monkeys that grip onto a finger, or almost anything else.
Retail priced at $15, these colorful little critters hit the market in August and have been almost impossible to find in stores since way before Halloween. On Amazon.com, you can find one for $20, although most range from $30 to $50.
What’s the big deal with a little monkey? Well, first, there are actually six different monkeys to choose from, all in varying colors, plus a sloth and a unicorn. Just like the also immensely popular Hatchimals, Fingerlings engage children by responding to touch, sound, changes in position, even a gentle blow in the face. They babble, laugh, move, kiss, sing, whistle and — just in case you don’t have enough of this in your house — burp, sneeze, pass gas and snore.
Add to this the fact that they’re small enough to go anywhere — hanging on a backpack, pen or belt loop — and you have the perfect recipe for top toy for either gender over the age of 5.
The breakout star of 2016, Hatchimals continue their popularity. Larger than Fingerlings, these furry robot creatures hatch from eggs and then wait for someone to guide them through different “life stages” like learning to walk and talk.
What’s better than a Hatchimal? Two, of course! This year it’s all about Hatchimals Surprise, an egg that hatches twins that also interact with each other. Options include either Giravens (a cross between a giraffe and a raven) or Peacats (mix between a peacock and a cat). The toy retails for around $70.
Playing the game
Moving on to gaming, Nintendo rules this year with its ultra-portable Nintendo Switch. Released in March at a retail price of $300, this handheld console features detachable controllers and can either be attached to a TV or played on the go. Designed for all ages, the console features parental controls that can also be accessed via an app for smartphones.
New Orleans resident Jennifer Vititoe says her children haven’t asked for it, but she’s found something she thinks her 4-year-old son Brayden and 6-year-old daughter Gianna will love — Osmo, a game system that blends physical play with screen time. Drawing pads, puzzle pieces, blocks, cars — Osmo offers up a wide array of physical objects that react with screen simulations in a way designed to be both educational and fun. Games are geared for ages 4 and up. All that is needed to play is a $29 base, an iPhone or iPad and a game. Games start at $29 and full kits at $99.
Vititoe says she sees the system as the perfect compromise between what she wants and what her children want.
“They love tablet time and ask to have their tablets constantly, but we currently limit it to weekends only,” she said. “With the Osmo, they could have tablet time with hands-on learning. The games and drawings look fun and interactive. The only downside is it looks like it’s only available for Apple products right now.”
Dolls in balls
Similar to small collectibles like Shopkins, L.O.L. surprise dolls are on the wish list of many elementary school-aged girls. Very hot and unfortunately impossible to find right now: L.O.L. Big Surprise! Surprise! — a ball that includes 50 small collectible dolls that retails for $70.
In advance of the release of the latest Star Wars movie in December, Star Wars toys are also hot this year. For little Jedis, Toys R Us has its own Luke Skywalker’s Landspeeder™ 12-volt ride on — their “Outdoor Toy of the Year” — for $450 that rockets up to two riders along at two to five miles per hour.
For the 8 and older set, there’s the Star Wars App-Enabled Droid R2D2 for $180 that you either control with a smart device or let roam around on its own.
And, if you’re shopping for a DIY child, they can build their own droid with the $100 Droid Inventor Kit by littleBits.
Finally, baby dolls have been around since the 1800s, but in 2017 it’s all about realism, and the hot seller now is the interactive LuvaBella doll from Spin Master. Like the Hatchimals, this doll progresses through stages as it's played with — from babbling to saying more than 100 words and phrases. Released in October, Luvabella features facial expressions and movements realistic enough to have already made it one of the top toys of the year.
While many parents plan to battle it out this year to find and procure the top toys kids are clamoring for, there are some kids, like 7-year-old Mac Harcher, who prefer to think a little more outside the box.
“Mac told me he wants a ‘sushi dispensing skeleton,’ " said New Orleans parent Radar Harcher.
“I told him Santa doesn't make them because of fishing regulations," Harcher said. Fortunately, there's a second choice: "We're probably going to get him a karaoke machine.”