Metro-East News

Still Christmas toy shopping? The best 2016 toys are high-tech. The worst are downright dangerous.

Remember Cabbage Patch Kids or Tickle Me Elmo? Brace yourself, parents, the latest toy craze has hatched. Hatchimals are large speckled eggs with furry, magical creatures inside that eventually crack out of the egg but only if given enough human attention. As you rub the egg it lights up and makes sounds. Eventually, the baby animal inside begins to peck away and break free. Kids can watch it develop its own personality as it matures from a baby to adulthood, where it can repeat words and play games. Hatchimals landed in stores on Oct. 7 and are already hard to find. (Learning Resources)
Remember Cabbage Patch Kids or Tickle Me Elmo? Brace yourself, parents, the latest toy craze has hatched. Hatchimals are large speckled eggs with furry, magical creatures inside that eventually crack out of the egg but only if given enough human attention. As you rub the egg it lights up and makes sounds. Eventually, the baby animal inside begins to peck away and break free. Kids can watch it develop its own personality as it matures from a baby to adulthood, where it can repeat words and play games. Hatchimals landed in stores on Oct. 7 and are already hard to find. (Learning Resources) TNS

Don’t panic! There’s still time to pick up the remaining toys on your kid’s list, but if you’re still looking for some ideas, here are some of best and worst toys on the market this season.

The best toys include little fuzzy electronic creatures that actually hatch, and the worst are, well, downright dangerous. But let’s start with a few of the best and what’s hot this year.

Toy pets

Hatchimals is where it’s at this year. Little fuzzy toy pets actually hatch out of a shell with a bit of care and nurturing. Once they’ve hatched, your kid takes care of the interactive toy as it grows through three stages — baby, toddler and kid. Hatchimals can learn to walk, talk and sing. At a $69.99 shelf price at Toys “R” Us and a $59.99 suggested retail price, it could potentially fill the “big gift” category on your list.

If you want to give your child a Hatchimals toy for Christmas, however, you better start looking now. They’re selling like hotcakes and are hard to find. The Hatchimals website on Tuesday had a disclaimer saying more of the toy pets would hit the stores this month, adding, “We have increased production and a whole new batch of Hatchimals will be ready to hatch in early 2017. In the meantime, we have created an online resource center at Hatchimals.com/NorthPole to help kids and their parents during the wait.”

Online retailer Amazon.com has them listed for well above retail price at upwards of $230. They’re sold at Target, Wal-Mart, Toys “R” Us and other retailers, but call your local store to check on in-store availability.

Coding

If you’re afraid your kid will lose interest in a toy pet after a day, check out the Think & Learn Code-a-Pillar from Fisher-Price. It retails for around $50, but the little motorized caterpillar toy allows your kid to rearrange its pieces to actually “code” how it moves. The idea is to give your kid a super-simplified idea about how computer codes work.

The Code-a-Pillar is for kids ages 3-6, so if you’re looking for something a little more advanced, check out the Ozobot, it behaves on its own but your kids and their friends can use smart phones or tablets to play games with the robot and complete coding challenges. The Ozobot starterpack retails for about $50.

Virtual reality

If you’re not afraid to strap a virtual reality headset to your kid’s face, check out the Sky Viper V2400. The live-streaming drone, controller and headset go for $100, but you have to admit it’s pretty cool. Here’s how it works. You connect your smartphone wirelessly to the drone’s camera and then insert your phone into the headset. When you put the headset on and the drone takes off, you get to see what the drone sees through your phone screen. The best thing about this gift is you might have some fun playing with it, too.

Bargain gifts

So, you don’t want to drop a cool Alexander Hamilton on your kid? Here are few gifts under $20 that should keep your kid busy while you enjoy that third (eighth?) Christmas cookie.

Good Housekeeping suggests the Road Rippers Maximum Boost race-car toy. It does wheelies and speeds around, complete with race-car noises. On Tuesday, it was on sale at Toysrus.com for $17.99. If your child is into science, check out the Solar System Planetarium. It’s only about $10 and it will keep your kid busy for hours as they assemble and paint the solar system model. For more cheap toy ideas, visit the cheap toys list compiled by BestProducts.com.

Worst gifts because they’re dangerous

Let’s get to the nitty-gritty, here. There are a lot of bad toys (that is, boring) out there, but the worst gifts this year are downright dangerous.

World Against Toys Causing Harm, Inc., or W.A.T.C.H., compiled a list of the top 10 most dangerous toys on the market this year. They put the the Peppa Pig’s Muddy Puddles Family toy set at number one because it represents a choking hazard for its recommended age audience, 2 years old and up. The NERF Rival Apolli XV-700 Blaster also makes the list because its high-speed firing capability represents an eye-injury hazard.

Watch out for the Warcraft Doomhammer, aimed at kids 6 years old and up. The hammer-shaped toy represents a potential impact risk.

And no worst-toy list is complete without mentioning flaming and exploding “hoverboards,” the self-balancing electronic scooters that give the impression you’re hovering down the sidewalk. But hundreds of thousands were recalled in July this year, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, because they posed a fire safety risk. Before you buy a hoverboard, take a look at suggestions from consumer review site CNET on how to know which one to buy.

Kelsey Landis: 618-239-2110, @kelseylandis

Don’t forget to give

Here is a list of toy drives compiled as part of the Belleville News-Democrat Blessed to Give campaign:

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