Being Santa is an increasingly difficult job, particularly when just about every advertiser claims that their product is the thing to have. The December holiday shopping rush is stressful for everyone but when you are shopping for children a great deal of questions can come into play. Will the kids like it? Won’t they? What is age appropriate and what is not? Will this purchase be a flash in the pan or will little Annie and little Billy still be revelling about their new favourite toy long into the New Year? Will they learn something from this toy?
Fortunately, the little elves at the Nation have been working really hard to do a bit of the leg work for Santa and anyone else who wants to play Santa for the holidays.

Bounty for babies

Though they may not be able to open their own gifts, little ones under the age of three still get a bombardment of bounty from Santa and just about everyone else who is fond of them.

For the wee little ones both safety and comfort come to mind which is why the new Fisher-Price Dream Glow Pooh makes a wonderful addition to the crib. Pooh’s eyes appear closed when he is “sleeping” but give him a mild squeeze and his face lights up and eyes open.

Retailing at about $15, depending where you shop, Dream Glow Pooh is a great gift for those 6-18 months. Of course if you are more of the mind set to get something for baby that will help them develop, the Leap

Frog Infant Learning System is an idea gift that helps babies develop visual, vocal, and language skills. Featuring 10 music selections and four different visual screens, this baby play centre can be used while baby is lying down, sitting up or standing and is perfect for a newborn up to 18 months old. This item is a great bet at $30-$40.

The experts at the Canadian Toy Testing Council have just released their 2007 Children’s Choice awards and at the top of the list was Leap

Frog’slearn Around Playground (Activity Centre). Ideal for babies 9 months to three years old, this activity centre does it all from teaching letters, colours and numbers. It also switches to a music mode. Retailing at around $70, it is a big investment for a little person but with a kid-tested stamp of approval it may prove a worthy investment.

All products available at

Toys for Toddlers

They call them the terrible twos but most parents know that terrible threes and fours can also come on just as easily. The best solution to this of course is to keep them busy with things they like so that they don’t end up destroying or hurting themselves with your things.

An inexpensive gift for the wee man of the house is the Hasbro Games Wheel Pals – Construction Fleet. At only $10 a pop, this collection of brightly coloured, soft and squeezable little vehicles are loads of fun for children 1-3.

For the little Miss of the household the Littlest Pet Shop Bathtime Playset with 4 pets is a great bet for endless hours of fun. The set includes four little pets, a bathtub and accessories and it’s perfect to teach any little lady why cleanliness is next to godliness. Exclusive to Toys R’ Us, this Hasbro Games product comes at a mere $ 15.

Both products are available at or other stores

My First Leap

Pad Blue is a great gift for a boy or a girl. It’s designed for both fun and learning. Letters, words and numbers all come to life when the child touches them with the attached magic pen and the product features interactive learning games, sing-a-longs and word play to help kids learn to love to read early on. Available at Wal-mart, this fancy pants learning game retails for $28.96.

A celebrity amongst those under four feet tall, Elmo is back and better than ever with the release of the 2006 Elmo TMX or Tickle Me Ten. The fuzzy red firestorm started a decade ago with the original Tickle Me Elmo and ever since has been top seller every year for the holidays. According to Elmo TMX’s makers, Fisher-Price, the new model is supposed to be the “most x-treme Elmo yet!” and features three interactive points on his body. Retailing between $40-$45, these little guys are in top demand this season. Elmo TMX is ideal for children 18 months and older.

As children love interactive toys and parents love toys that have learning potential, another hot item this season is the TJ Bearytales doll from Hasbro Games. Don’t be mistaken, TJ is more than just a bear, he is a storytelling bear that actually asks questions and weaves engaging songs and activities right into the tale. Beyond letters and numbers, this toy also tries to teach life skills like following directions and helping others.

Retailing for $40-$60 depending on distributors, TJ is a good bet for any child aged 3-6.

The Canadian Toy Testing Council’s Children’s Choice Awards highly recommends three new Folkmanis animal puppets to please children over three years old.

Kids loved the Elephant, Flamingo and Peacock puppets along with the Giant Sequoia Play Set that comes as a sequoia tree with animal finger puppets. Beautiful, colourful, well crafted and exciting, these spectacular puppets are recommended for any child over three or for classroom learning. All featured puppets range between $30-40 and are available on their website at school-aged children aged 5-7, a toy needs to be multifaceted; in other words, they need some bells and whistles to generate some excitement.

What little boy’s childhood is complete without Hot Wheels miniature cars? As a tried-and-true classic, if you happen to haveany of these durable vehicles around the house why not get your little tyke a Hot Wheels Track Set Assortment. The set includes three track sets that can be configured differently for maximum speed and stunts. Wal-Mart offers this item for only $9.92 and it’s a lot of fun for little guys and dads alike.

If the little miss likes both Bratz dolls and horses, here is a toy that brings together the best of both worlds, the Bratz Rodeo Palimino. This attractive horsey is how the Bratz girls ride around in style when they go Western. This MGA Entertainment has style-able hair and comes with cool wild western accessories. Featured at Toys R’ Us for only $17, it’s a lovely addition to any girl’s Bratz collection.

Making a comeback even though it’s been around for a few generations, Mouse Trap is still a favourite among kids. Travel around the board and collect pieces to make a better trap than your opponent. This classic board game is available at Wal-Mart for $24.99.

Happy Feet is going to be one of the biggest movies this holiday season and if your kids have seen it or are planning to, why not bring home the star of the show and have a Happy Feet Mumble large plush doll under the tree for the little ones. Soft, cuddly and loveable, kids just love it when you can extend the movie experience for them and why not? Available for $25, the Mumble doll is ideal for children 4-8.

Of course if a stagnant Mumble is not exciting enough, for an extra $15 you can get a Tap-Dancing Mumble. Mumble dances to his included music or just about anything else and when kids speak to him, Mumble responds by talking and dancing. This version of Mumble is also available at Toys R’ Us for $40.

If your child is allergic to pets but wants a dog to play with, why not go for Tekno The Robotic Puppy. Tekno is loads of fun as he barks when you come in the room and trembles with excitement and he also whimpers when you leave the room. Just like a regular puppy, Tekno wants love, affection and loads of attention and he does not make a mess. At $90, Tekno is a worthy investment for any kid who wants a puppy but isn’t quite ready for the real thing.

Available at Toys R’ Us.

When kids hit the 8-11 age group their entertainment needs have evolved and are gaining shades of “coolness.” The following items may please your cool kid.