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Video: Unique toys for kids

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    >> target. expect more. pay less.

    >>> and this morning on "today's holiday gift guide," we're talking about great toys. sure, you could try to find a zhu zhu pet or the latest video game , but we've got some alternatives that will thrill your kids. elizabeth werner is "today's moms" toy guru. happy holidays.

    >> you, too, thanks.

    >> so, guitar hero , electronic, all that stuff kids love. why not get them real musical instruments ?

    >> exactly. musicians keep saying that. those guitar games are cool and fun, but this is where it's at. it's about creativity, it's about making music. all these products are by first act. they make products for young children up through the older ones.

    >> they're to scale so little ones can get their hands around these guitars, electric and acoustic.

    >> the drum sets are phenomenal. put them together and let the kids make their own band.

    >> and this is wireless, the electric, so you can take it around and annoy the neighbors. it's fantastic. they go from $29 to $99. what is this now?

    >> so, this is a whole new series called the worry woos. they're books. "the monster in the bubble" is the newest one. each has a flush as well. they talk about emotions, help children with insecurities, overcome their fears --

    >> loneliness, all of that?

    >> all that, and respecting and appreciating honesty and innocence.

    >> and the books are between $14 and $21, which is great.

    >> yes.

    >> and they come with these cool stuffed animals , some. now, what is this?

    >> so, this actually -- this is jackson . he's sitting on our baby mat.

    >> hey, jackson .

    >> and this is by best ever. they're super soft, plush, yummy-feeling animals. they come in giraffe. hi! he's so cute. and frogs and teddy bears .

    >> go ahead.

    >> my daughter's 8 and she still sleeps with it, and matt thinks that that's odd, but --

    >> no, no, no. i would never say that on national tv .

    >> i love it. jackson 's also playing with our zoobies. and these start off as stuffed animals , but we unhook them on the bottom, they become a pillow and then they unzip and become a blanket as well.

    >> great for traveling.

    >> great for car trips.

    >> jackson , well done.

    >> well done, buddy!

    >> well-behaved. let's talk about this art game .

    >> this is by tier toys called noah's ark stacker. there are multiple levels where they're going to stack and build this ark, but there's also a puzzle where they have to take the 44 animals and place them inside.

    >> and the cool thing is, if they put the animals inside, they're cleaning up after themselves, which is good.

    >> we love that.

    >> the rubik's cube is a classic, but this has all technology in it.

    >> this is the rubics touch cube and works like the iphone. you slide your finger over the top surface and that moves all the lights, but i love that it has a hint and a solve button.

    >> so, if you get stuck, you push that and it gives you the next -- that's a little more expensive, right?

    >> that is. i call it the splurge gift, but if your child has the ipod, the ds, this is a cool option.

    >> this game is really cool.

    >> all the kids love it. this is called meatball madness. these ladles are air-powered. they'll float the meatballs through all of the different obstacles. they haven't had time to practice, but look, already she's doing it. they go all over the house, get exercise, eye-hand coordination. this is $19.99 and hours of fun.

    >> fantastic. let's move down here. "clue" has been around forever, but there's technology in this one.

    >> "spies and secrets," the new "clue." they're going to overcome agent black, go through all these secret missions, but the cool thing is, there are lights that come with it that reveal secret patterns, and they also send texts to your cell phone with clues.

    >> really?

    >> the kids love it. you can play without the texting, but that really brings it to a whole new level.

    >> great. this is kind of the super stuffy or -- no, super stretchy abc, right.

    >> it's by a company called i can do that. this company, there's a mat for the floor and they spin a spinner and it tells them where to place their hand, feet and ears --

    >> so it's kind of twister for kids.

    >> but it's the abcs and learning the abcs and reinforcing them.

    >> and this one quickly.

    >> it's a tin tea set , and when you tip it over, it actually plays "i'm a little teapot." i love that. sweet and nostalgic for kids.

    >> and i don't think it's a problem that your 8-year-old daughter is still using the plushy mat.

    >> she loves it.

    >> thank you.

    >> thanks to you, too.

    >> for more ideas, you can head to todayshow.com. elizabeth werner, thank you very much.

    >> thank you.

TODAY contributor
updated 12/3/2009 9:10:53 AM ET 2009-12-03T14:10:53

Never heard of a Zoobie? What about Meatball Madness? Elizabeth Werner of TODAYMoms.com highlights the top 10 holiday toys you or your kids may not have seen yet, but should keep your eye on this season.

1. Musical instruments from First Act
Light Up Drum Set
Ages recommendation: 6-12
Suggested retail: $99.99

30” Acoustic Guitar
Age recommendation: 7+
Suggested retail: $29.99

Portable Electric Guitar (boy or girl)
Age recommendation 7+
Suggested retail: $79.99

What could be a better gift than the gift of music and creativity? The cool Light Up Drums, rocking Acoustic Guitar and easy-to-travel-with Portable Electric Guitar by First Act encourage our children to make a band and jam together. We have these set up in our playroom and my kids spend hours “practicing” and I get called in periodically for show time!

2. Zoobies
Bubba the Black Bear and Lilly the Ladybug
Suggested retail: $32-$35
Age recommendation: good for all ages

My children and I fell in love with Zoobies the minute we saw them. These adorable stuffed animals also serve as a lush pillow and a yummy soft blanket. Now, when you are driving to grandma and grandpa’s for the holidays, you only have to pack a Zoobie — leave the bulky pillow and blankets at home. Bubba the Black Bear and Lilly the Ladybug are among the newest additions to the Zoobie line and big favorites at my house.

3. ‘Squeek and the Monster in the Bubble’ storybook
Suggested retail: Plush $21.50; Book $14.99
Age recommendation: 3+

“The Monster in the Bubble” storybook and Squeek, the-11-inch WorryWoo stuffed animal, are part of a new family of monsters called the WorryWoos that help children face and overcome loneliness and insecurities as well as help them understand and embrace innocence and honesty. Squeek, the Monster of Innocence, is afraid to try new things and hides in his cozy bubble dreaming of the world of possibilities that awaits him if he could only step outside. When Squeek is presented with the opportunity to be outside his bubble, he learns a great deal. The 67-page, hard-cover “Monster in the Bubble” storybook will take children of all ages on a beautiful journey.

4. Tier Toys Noah’s Ark Stacker
Suggested retail: $49.99
Age recommendation: 3+

The Tier Toys Noah’s Ark Stacker is an incredible unique stacking toy and puzzle all wrapped up in one. The Ark has 12 stackable layers and 44 detailed animal figurines that store within the 12 layers which, when put together by your child, make Noah’s Ark. My daughter and her buddies pull this toy out on a regular basis and thoroughly enjoy taking it apart, putting it back together and playing with the numerous animals. This toy remains out on the coffee table and hasn’t made it into the toy closet yet, which means it’s a major winner.

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Image: Rubik's TouchCube
The classic cube gets a modern update with this version.

5. Rubik's TouchCube (Techno Source)
Suggested retail: $149.99
Age recommendation: 8 and up

The Rubik's TouchCube is the updated version of the Rubik’s Cube we played with — and I personally never solved — years ago. The TouchCube has touch sensors on all six sides so we can swipe our finger over the lights to move them to the next side of the cube, a motion-detecting accelerometer so the cube knows which side is up, and colored lights in every square (no stickers for us to peel off of this one). My favorite part of the updated Rubik's TouchCube is that it has a hint button and a built-in solver button so if you get stumped you can get help or actually have the cube solve itself. This is a great gift for the kid or grown-up who already has it all!

6. Tara Toy Meatball Madness
Suggested retail $19.99
Age recommendation: 5 and up

Meatball Madness is a game that gets our kids up and active, helps them with their eye-hand coordination and provides hours of fun play for both boys and girls. Kids (and grown-ups) use the air-powered ladle to float foamlike brown meatballs about the size of a golf ball through a series of goofy kitchen obstacles on the three upright game boards. Kids will race against the clock to see who can get the meatballs from the pot to the plate in the least amount of time. This game is so creative and fun and should be added to everyone’s game closet.

7. Clue: Secrets & Spies
Suggested retail: $24.99
Age: 9 and up

Clue: Secrets & Spies is a great new version of the beloved game Clue that we played when growing up. In this new version of Clue, Agent Black is plotting and we have to stop him by going undercover, completing missions, attending secret meetings, responding to actual texts sent to our cell phones and uncovering secrets using a spy light. My son is 11 and he and his friends have been playing and enjoying this game a lot. They especially get a kick out of the cell phone texts they get. Visit Hasbro.com/clue/spiestextterms to see Text Terms and Conditions for Clue: Secrets & Spies.

Image: Frog baby mat by Best Ever
These baby mats by Best Ever are silky smooth, huge and cushiony.

8. Baby Mat by Best Ever
Suggested retail: $45.00
Age recommendation: 0 and up

The Baby Mat by Best Ever is by far the best baby mat I have ever seen — or, more importantly, that I have ever touched. These HUGE cushiony baby mats come in the shape of frogs, giraffes and pink or blue teddy bears and are perfect for babies to lie on during awake time for play, tummy time or looking around and exploring with their eyes. The absolute magic in these Baby Mats is the heavenly soft fabric of which they are made. When you feel how butter silky smooth these Baby Mats are you, will be e-mailing me asking for an adult-size one. These “baby mats” really are for kids of all ages because my daughter has slept with hers for three years now and she is 8 years old. Can you tell I love these?

9. Dr. Seuss Super Stretchy ABC Game
Suggested retail $16.99
Age recommendation: 3 and up

Dr. Seuss Super Stretchy ABC Game by I Can Do That! Games is a fantastically fun way to teach and reinforce letters with our kids all while bending, twisting and stretching on a huge play mat that features all the letters of the alphabet, fun objects that start with each letter and Dr Seuss’ Thing 1 and Thing 2. The kids spin a tornado spinner and then learn where they will have to place their feet, hands and ears on the crazy play mat. I played this with my kids and we were absolutely hysterically laughing watching each other try to pretzel our way to victory.

10. Musical Tin Tea Set
Suggested retail $22.99
Age recommendation: 3 and up

The Musical Tin Tea Set by Schylling is a very special new tea set for our gals to enjoy for years to come. When our girls wind the key on the bottom of this beautiful tin teapot and tip it over, they will hear it play the song “I’m a Little Teapot.” I love the retro look of the Tin Tea Set, and the music adds such a fun, special touch. This 15-piece set includes one teapot with lid, one serving tray, four plates, four teacups and four saucers. Get ready for hours of great imaginative role play and fun tea parties.

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