Ho! Ho! Ho! 8 hot toys for the holidays

Looking for the perfect gift for a special child in your life? Before the lines get too crazy, TODAY Moms toy expert Elizabeth Werner has a list of the hottest toys this year.

1.  Step 2 Fresh Market Kitchen
Age recommendation 2-7 Suggested retail: $199

The Step 2 Fresh Market Kitchen encourages role play, an important part of early childhood development. My daughter Simone loves this kitchen because it has three distinct play areas — the kitchen, the market and the dining area — making it fun and easy for her and her buddies to all play restaurant together. I love the look of the kitchen and the countless high-quality accessories that are included. Children play with their toy kitchens for years, making them a great investment.

2.  Mattel Barbie Dream House
Age recommendation: 3-8Suggested retail: $159

The Mattel Barbie Dream House has three stories of pure-pink girlie fun to offer the little girls in our lives. My daughter and her gal pals love putting Barbie in her elevator when moving her from floor to floor and think the flat-screen TV, fireplace, light-up chandelier, whirlpool and tiki lights are “soooooo cool!”  This is a souped-up version of the Barbie dollhouse I played with in the ’70s with my best friend Daphne. A dollhouse offers endless hours of play for years to come so it is a fantastic holiday gift purchase.

3. Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen - Bumblebee Voice Mixer
Age recommendation: 5 and upSuggested Retail: 39.99

The Bumblebee Voice Mixer lets our little ones dress up and become Bumblebee, their favorite Transformer. Not only will your child look like Bumblebee, but they will sound like him, too, when they put on this cool helmet and play with the several voice-changing and sound-effect options. Kids are scrambling to collect and play with Transformers items this holiday season, and the Voice Mixer is top on their lists because they get to do more than just play with Bumblebee — they become him.

4.  Spin Master Maxus Dragonoid 7 in 1
Age recommendation: 5+Suggested retail 39.99

The Maxus Dragonoid is the hottest new member of the Bakugan family, offering one Bakugan and six brand-new Bakugan Traps that when combined, make one threatening monster. Last year, in February 2008 on TODAY, I predicted that Bakugan would be one of the hottest items of the year because of its fantastic collectibility and game play. Bakugan was indeed the hottest property of the year and was by far the most popular toy for boys. The popularity of Bakugan continues to climb, and this holiday season your boys will be begging for the Maxus Dragonoid.

5. LEGO Builders of Tomorrow Set
Age recommendation: 4+Suggested retail: $29.99

The new LEGO Builders of Tomorrow Building set encourages children and families to use their imaginations to create an unlimited number of LEGO creations. Several LEGO sets that our children play with are themed like the ever-hot STAR WARS LEGO sets. In the themed sets, our children build according to step-by-step directions. The LEGO Builders of Tomorrow sets bring us back to the basic LEGO play that we all grew up with — where we pick through a pile of LEGOS and build whatever we want.  My children and I love to build this together. LEGO has also created where kids can go for building inspiration and instructions.

6.  Zhu Zhu Pets
Age recommendation: 4+Suggested retail: Pet Carrier & Blanket: $3.99Hamster Bed & Blanket: $3.99Zhu Zhu Hamsters: $7.99 Adventure Ball: $9.99Surfboard & Sleep Dome: $9.99Sk8board & U-Turn: $9.99Spiral Slide & Ramp: $14.99Hamster Wheel & Tunnels: $14.99Hamstermobile & Garage: $14.99Giant Hamster Funhouse: $19.99Hamster House Starter Set w/ Patches the Hamster: $19.99 Zhu Zhu Pets are by far the hottest toy for the 2009 holiday season! These well-priced, adorable and personality-filled toy hamsters are unbelievably realistic as they make their way through their hamster habitats. I have really enjoyed watching my daughter and her gal pals love and nurture their Zhu Zhus as well as chase around after them when they are exploring.  Zhu Zhus have 40 different reactive sounds and statements, a bump sensor in the front that indicates when they have run into something and need to turn around, and move in all directions just like a real hamster. Two hundred thousand Zhu Zhus are being made each day, and stores can’t keep them on the shelves.

7.  Girl Gourmet Sweets Candy Jewel Factory
Age recommendation: 8+Suggested retail: $29.99

The Girl Gourmet Sweets Candy Jewelry Factory is a really FUN craft item that allows our girls to design, bake, wear and then eat fashion-forward yummy jewelry. My girlfriends and I loved wearing and eating our candy necklaces and rings when we were young, and now our kids get to actually make the jewelry creations themselves. The set includes a “baking oven” and a variety of molds to make hard-candy charms and gems. Kids fill the molds with the candy chips, pellets and sprinkles that come in the kit, bake them for 12 minutes and then create the ultimate jewelry to wear, give as gifts or enjoy as a tasty snack!

8.  Wii Sports Resort
Age recommendation: EveryoneSuggested retail:  $49.99Wii Sports Resort will have your whole family skydiving onto Wuhu Island for a vacation that is loaded with the greatest variety of get-up-and-go active sports you have ever seen. Even the most confirmed couch potatoes will be jumping up to go canoeing, fencing, skydiving, golfing, cycling, flying, water-skiing, jet-skiing and so much more. Wii Sports Resort comes with the brand-new Wii MotionPlus controller, which is incredibly motion sensitive and makes game play more realistic then ever. Wii Sports Resort is a new game for 2009 that is LOADED with content that will entertain the entire family for years to come.