Wean off the screen

Local retailers describe popular kids gifts this year

Jefferson Dodge | Boulder Weekly

Sometimes it’s good to get back to the basics when shopping for kids’ holiday gifts.

When it comes to steering away from the high-tech mayhem, several Boulder toy stores can offer guidance to the hottest presents for children this season, from old, simple classics like the hula hoop to the newest craze in tiny bug-like robots. And Betty Quigley, the “experience coordinator” for Grand Rabbit’s Toy Shoppe at 2525 Arapahoe Ave. in Boulder, says to not overlook books. She recommends the Klutz line that features supplies and instructions for hands-on activities in a variety of areas, from arts and crafts to sports to science. And she says Klutz makes books that cater to an age range stretching from 5 years old to about 12.

Dawn Saurwein, who owns Playfair Toys in Boulder, also endorses the Klutz line, noting that offerings for young girls include making a twinkling tiara, while the older kids can use a loom to do bead- work. In environmentally conscious Boulder, Quigley says “green” gifts — made with natural or recyclable materials — are also popular. A brand called Green Toys makes various vehicles from recycled plastic, including a dump truck, tugboat, fire truck and sports car. She also recommends Automoblox, which makes a line of classic wooden cars. When it comes to infant and toddler toys, Quigley suggests the Twilight Turtle, which projects a starry night on the walls and ceiling, and Sophie the Giraffe, a chewable and huggable rubber toy that small children love.

Sauerwein says another toy for the tiny ones is the “Melissa and Doug Doorbell House,” which features a separate key for each distinctly numbered and colored door, and a different doorbell for each. She also sells Playmobil advent calendars that feature a small toy behind each door that kids can use to set up a themed scene, from a Christmas post office to a dinosaur expedition to knights and dragons. Saurwein says old-school toys are still in vogue as well. She started getting requests for hula hoops, for instance.

“And it’s very hard to keep pogo sticks in,” she says.

Other simple but irresistible favorites include Stomp Rockets, ant farms and PlasmaCars, according to Sauerwein.

“My employees and I have races in the store on them,” she says of the latter.

Quigley and other local toy retailers agree that one of the hot gifts for kids this year is the Hexbug and its habitats. These battery- powered micro-robotic insects scurry across the floor like the real thing, and you can buy sets with elaborate ramps and pathways for them to travel along.

Saurwein reminds Hexbug shoppers to consider glow-in-the-dark versions of the bugs and the habitats.

She also recommends Strange Planet’s terrarium, which lets kids grow their own collection of weird plants, from a Venus Flytrap to a flower that looks like an eyeball.

Paul Kussler, manager of Into the Wind at 1408 Pearl St., says wind-up toys — of which he has an impressive collection — are always popular stocking stuffers. He recommends “flying toys for boys” and wooden bead sets and wooden stamp kits for girls.

He says puppets are also popular this year, whether it’s the finger, stage or hand variety.

Kussler carries the Folkman is line, which he calls the “Cadillac of puppets.”

And, of course, there is the product for which Into the Wind is known best. It is the kite, which Kussler says is a popular gift from grandparents to grandchildren.

For more gift ideas for the young ones, check out the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association’s “Best Toys for Kids 2011” online at www.astrabesttoysforkids.com.