Tracking hot holiday toys

FRESNO, Calif.

Believe it or not, many retailers kicked off the holiday shopping frenzy this weekend. Action News Consumer Reporter Christine Park asked toy experts and Google to predict what kids will be asking Santa for this year.

Before he was ever governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger played a desperate parent on the hunt for the must-have toy in "Jingle All The Way". It's a role, many parents know all too well and would like to avoid.

Well, this year, toy experts say, you're in luck. "I think this year, it's a little different. Instead of one hot toy, there are several hot toys, with different age groups," said Kristy Farley with Toys R Us in Clovis.

Toys R Us just mailed out its "Great Big Christmas Book" highlighting all the latest and greatest toys for 2010.

Even in the popular doll category there's something new and hot for everyone. The $24.99 Baby Alive Bouncin' Babbles for toddlers and preschoolers. The new 18-inch Princess and Me dolls target 6 to 8 year-olds. The hot "Monster High" dolls tap into pre-teens' obsession with vampires and werewolves.

Doing your research on what's hot now pays off before you go shopping. Because last year's hottest toys might not necessarily be so this year. Remember these furry little hamsters, the Zhu Zhu Pets? Last year the stores could not even keep them on the shelves and this year, well, there's plenty left."

That's where Google's trend spotting tool: "Insights for Search" comes in. Google was among the earliest to predict last year's Zhu Zhu Pets toy craze after spotting an explosion of searches for "Zhu Zhu Pets" on its search engine a full three months before Christmas.

This year Google "insights for search" shows in the past 90 days:

  • Searches for the Nerf Stampede  are up 1,450%
  • Searches for Mattel's Sing-A-Ma-Jigs are up 500%
  • Searches for Pillow Pets, searches are up 300%
  • For those perfect stocking stuffers, Silly Bandz Rings, searches are up 400%

Toys-R-Us say it's seeing a corresponding demand in its stores, even this early in the shopping season. "They come in, asking for those certain toys and we definitely want to have those in stock for our guests."

We tested out the toys, and here are some favorites:

The $49-99 Nerf N Strike Stampede E-C-S Blaster has Nerf fans in a frenzy.

Fisher Price's quirky and collectible Sing-A-Ma-Jigs are on sale for $9.49. "They chatter, they sing and they can harmonize together and the kids love them."

Games are still popular, Mattel's $29.99 Loopz is a memory game that gets kids moving. Remember simon says? It's very similar, really fun game, just came out.

Hard-to-find Squinkies are tiny collectible figurines that come in bubbles and work like gumball machines. One toy trend that experts say kids won't notice, but adults will -- affordability.

"It's definitely a factor, I think if you look at what toy manufacturers have done in the past couple of years, they've said we're not gonna make those expensive toys, what they've done is lopped off the over $100 dollar toys. There's a lot of innovation thanks to less expensive technology at the lower price point," said Chris Byrne with timetoplaymag.com.

Byrne says the bottom line is, if you see it, buy it. Stores are stocked up now. So even if holiday toy shopping normally drives you crazy, this year, you can be in the driver's seat.

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