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This year’s top toys are worth all the hype

Stephanie Oppenheim of toyportfolio.com shares her big-ticket list for the holidays. Here are the selections.
/ Source: TODAY

If you know a child who's been extra nice this year, Stephanie Oppenheim from toyportfolio.com has some eye-popping toys that are sure to make a child smile on Christmas morning — and that won't be forgotten by New Year’s Day. Oppenheim was invited on the “Today” show to share some of the top picks. Here are the selections.

Great Big Creamy Bear(Mary Meyer; $30 to $130)As always, we find selecting one winner totally unbearable! Here are our top picks: a big bear, two medium-sized bears, and a wee little baby bear. Great Big Creamy Bear ($130; 36 inches): Remember the oversized bear you always dreamed of winning at the fair? This one is much better, because he’s totally huggable, soft and delicious! At 3 feet tall, this memorable bear will be great to talk to and lean on. Also available is Kinda Big ($30; 20 inches). 800-451-4387.

Or consider some of our other best bears of the year: Smushy Bear (North American Bear; $40) is a floppy tan 25-inch bear with a huggable, smushy body, floppy head, and velvety nose. (800) 682-3427. Cuddly Pals Big Pokey (Gund; $20) is a pudgy, 16-inch soft bear with stitched features and honey-colored fur, all dressed up with an organdy bow. (800) 448-4863. Age: Preschool.

Jules
(Corolle; $55)Finding a boy doll is not easy, yet it’s a great gift, especially when there’s a new baby in the family. Meet Jules, a 17-inch bald baby doll in blue romper with bottle, bib, and pacifier. Like last year’s winner, Lila, he cries, laughs, and babbles. Both are a perfect armful for pretend play. 800-668-4846. Age: Preschool.

Push Car and Doll Pram
(Haba; $159) Our test family, with three under the age of 4, got right into active pretend play with both of these beautifully styled push-about toys. The Push Car ($159) is low to the ground and balanced enough so that a little sister or a big teddy bear could ride about as a larger child pushed. Furnished with seat cushions and pocket for treasures; made of varnished beech wood with rubber wheels, it maneuvers well, even in tight spaces. Equally well designed, a red and blue Doll Pram ($130) comes with a cushion seat and accommodates several dolls. You can adjust the push bar as children grow, so this will grow into the preschool years. 800-468-6873. Age: Toddler, preschool.

Swan Lake Musical Dress(Acting Out, $30)Push the button in this pink dream dress and your little ballerina has her own orchestra that plays as she dances! Musical chip is hidden in a pocket inside the dress. Once she starts dancing, the music is magically motion activated. One size fits most 3- to 6-year-olds. Also available as a multilayered Swan Lake Musical Skirt ($24). Great for active dramatic play! Actingoutdressup.com. Age: Preschool, early school years.

Tchaikovsky Musical Dress(Acting Out, $30) Push the button in this red tulle and satin dress and your little ballerina has her own orchestra that plays Nutcracker music as she dances! Musical chip is hidden in a pocket inside the dress. Once she starts dancing, the music is magically motion activated. One size fits most 3- to 6-year-olds. Also available as a multilayered Nutcracker Musical Skirt ($24). Great for active dramatic play! Actingoutdressup.com. Age: Preschool, early school years.

The Nutcracker(Simon & Schuster, $19.95) Best known for his pop-up bug books, David Carter orchestrates a very special bug-less Nutcracker treat that's reminiscent of old-fashioned holiday cards — each capturing a different scene from Hoffman's classic tale. SimonSays.com. Age: Early school years.

FLY Pentop Computer(LeapFrog, $99)Truly an innovation in electronic learning toys! FLY is a computer in a pen that works with special paper to create a variety of options: a working calculator that you draw, a translator (great for beginner language students), and a musical keyboard you can draw and then play on your paper. There are also games that involve special baseball trading cards. All very George Jetson ... will appeal most to tweens. 800-701-5327. Age: Early school years, late school years, tweens.

I Dog(Hasbro $24.99)
I-Dog works both as an interactive pet and as a speaker for an MP3 player. It has that sleek, white I-Pod look. We tested the I-Dog with several groups of tween testers. The I-Dog was a bigger hit with girls. Boys tended to prefer the IZ from Zizzle. Girls thought it was a great accessory to their IPods. One tester wrote: "I really liked the dual use of the I-DOG. When I was experimenting with the toy first I realized that you can use the toy as either a game or a makeshift pet. It was incredibly entertaining." There were some complaints about the long set up time, but overall the I-Dog did very well with our testers (ages 7 to 14). Is this a must-have toy? Not really. But if you're looking for a speaker for your child's IPOD, here's a good choice for the money. It also gets the music out of their ears so they have a better chance of hearing you call them to dinner! 800-752-9755. Age: Late school years, tweens, teens.

IZ(Zizzle, $39.99) IZ looks like a playful alien. Twist his ears, nose and eyes and you will activiate a random collection of sound effects and music. Plug IZ into your MP3 player and he now becomes a speaker. We put IZ to the test against I-DOG, the iPod-inspired pup from Hasbro. IZ appealed much more to boys (young and old). Our girl testers felt that IZ was cute but "younger looking" than I-DOG. Our 11-year-old boy tester wrote: "It was still appealing after the newness wore off. It would be a cool desk toy to fool around with in the duller hours of the day." Boys generally liked the robotic, alien design of IZ. This same tester hit the toy on the head: "I found IZ, besides being entertaining, a bit pointless. But, then again, fun can sometimes be pointless, right?" We agree. Zizzle.com. Age: Late school years, tweens.

Robosapien
(WowWee, $99) Our 11-year-old testers were thrilled with this programmable, 14-inch-high black-and-white robot that walks, dances, picks up and tosses objects, and delivers karate chops! Not designed for instantaneous gratification — there's a manual that involves reading and thinking to make things happen. Marked 6 and up, we'd say it's better for 9 and up. (514) 344-1250. Age: Late school years.

Robosapien V2(WowWee, $250)
Last year's Robosapien was a hit with our testers ... but now he is an even bigger hit, literally! The V2 stands almost a head taller and is able to do more stunts than his earlier self. He's a more powerful robot that kids can program with even more motions. While you can make something happen by just pushing a button, we liked the fact that kids really have to work to get the Robosapien V2 to do all of his tricks — requires kids to stay with it! (514) 344-1250. Age: Late school years, tweens, teens.

Star Wars Game Saga Edition(Tiger Electronics, $49.99)Plug the training droid into your TV, and your players are ready to become Jedi warriors, complete with wireless light saber. Testers got an aerobic workout swinging the light saber and ridding the galaxy of droids and other evildoers! We don't usually review zap-it games, but this is more fantasy than war, and multi-generational — may even get parents up and on their feet! May the Force be with you. (888) 836-7025. Age: Late school years, tweens, teens.

Star Wars Trilogy(Twentieth Century Fox, $49.95) As fun as it was to see these movies the first time, there's something special about sharing them with your kids. You won't be disappointed! There are some changes from the original — one of our young viewers insisted that Hayden Christensen (Anakin Skywalker) was always featured at the end of the third movie. It wasn't until a parent pointed out that the actor was only 2 when the third movie was released! Includes behind-the-scenes and making of the movies features that older movie buffs will enjoy as well. Age: All ages.

Young Jedis will also be interested in the extensive line of Star War sets from Lego, including the Clone Scout Walker ($9.99) and the Darth Vader Transformation ($6.99). Age: Late school years, tweens, teens, adults.