One holiday season about twenty years ago, when my friends and I were all feeling the bite of adulthood, we decided that we would give each other toys.  I received the High-Hoppin’ Hoomdorm, which was excellent for terrorizing cats and making adults fall about laughing . . . .

UglyDolls:  Not only are they adorable, there’s a lovely romantic story behind their creation, and each Ugly comes with a hangtag that gives you an idea of their idiosyncratic personalities.  About a dozen of them, in various sizes, are colonizing a corner of my living room.  The medium size is perfect for cuddling, and the little ones hang nicely from belt loops.

Labbits and Munnys:  Oddly attractive plain white plastic creatures.  Labbits come with various accessories; one of the cutest is a bubble-gum bubble.  Munnys are do-it-yourself art.  Both by KidRobot, which makes a lot of other appealing stuff.

Luna Stix: Sort of like juggling, easier to learn than balls or clubs, and pretty flashy in action.  They come in sizes suited to children, teens, and adults.  My 12-yo saw these demonstrated and within minutes had learned the basic moves.  A few months later she was inventing moves of her own.  More than a year later, she still practices several times a week, without any nagging from me.

Cosmic Catch:  Normally, I’m not a big fan of toys that talk, but trying to keep up with this talking ball is more fun than I expected.  Each of 2-6 players wears a different colored sensor band on one hand.  There are three different game modes.  In one, you pass the ball to the player designated by the talking ball; in another, the players build a pattern of passes which must be repeated backwards as well as frontwards; a new color is added after the successful completion of each forward pattern.  In the third, players have to “decode” an unknown color pattern.  (When there are only two of us playing, we each wear two sensor bands and try to catch the ball one-handed.)

Fisher-Price Imaginext Spike the Ultra Dinosaur.  What else do you need to tell you that dinosaurs are totally mainstream?  Okay, try this:  Kota the Triceratops, made by Playskool (made me think of The Enormous Egg when I first saw it).

Precious Miseries:  Pre-order a doll, support an artist.  I first encountered Precious Miseries at Hot Topic several years ago, but apparently they didn’t have enough mass appeal for the chain to continue supporting the merchandise.  For those who were on the ball at the time, however, there were Precious Miseries keychains, t-shirts, patches, magnets (now decorating my kitchen cabinets), and a pair of dolls, Ragdoll and Flower Girl (have ’em both).  The original cast of characters has expanded without losing any of its charm; there’s a nice website and a webcomic.  Melissa Diaz is trying to raise enough money to produce a pair of Precious Miseries girls, Alise and Goth.  Ordering these will be an exercise in delayed gratification, as it’s not clear how long it will take to hit the magic number that will enable the dolls to be made.  My 12-yo is leaning toward Alise, who is friends with Ragdoll (who, as mentioned above, already lives with us).

Happy shopping!  I’m done with my gift-buying, except for donations to my synagogue’s annual Toy Drive.  (This is because I essentially shop year-round so I can avoid the big cash hit in the fall.)


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