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The Hottest Toys of 2011 (That You Won't Regret Buying by the 26th)

Will the Air Swimmer Shark be 2011's hottest toy?

I can remember the first time I got hooked by the holiday toy frenzy where some “hot” product became almost impossible to find about the same time my son heard about it. The child proceeded to work himself into an absolute lather about it, which made me get all hopped up to get my hands on one, so I could get it under the Christmas tree and watch him light up when he opened it. Which is the whole point, right?

With twelve years of intensive present-giving under my belt, I know a thing or two about buying fad gifts versus the classics. With that in mind, I’ve weeded through the “Top Toys of 2011″ lists that the other sites are touting , taking out the truly obnoxious toys that you will loathe after 10 minutes and your child will tire of in an hour, and padding it with some of the tried and true toys that always sell out, even though they haven’t seen a “hot list” in years.

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  • Animal Planet’s Air Swimmers Shark 1 of 15
    Animal Planet's Air Swimmers Shark
    Even though I KNOW a horrible disaster will befall this helium-filled shark —probably on it's maiden voyage—I am still 100% buying it. It just looks way too cool and kind of makes my head explode with the awesome. I'll be buying a repair kit along with the helium tank needed to get it up and running—and hoping for the best (along with hundreds of thousands of other kids around the U.S.).
    Find it HERE.
  • LeapFrog LeapPad Explorer Tablet 2 of 15
    LeapFrog LeapPad Explorer Tablet
    LeapFrog hopes parents will be able to pry their iPhones and iPads out of their toddler's hands long enough to replace them with this bit of more child-friendly technology. I've seen one in action and have to admit it is pretty sweet. Which explains why (as of 11/24) they are already sold out at all the major big box stores. Of course, you can still get it on Amazon, but for twice the $99 all the other places had it for. **fingers crossed it will be back in stock after Black Friday**
    Find it HERE.
  • Hot Wheels Wall Tracks Starter Set 3 of 15
    Hot Wheels Wall Tracks Starter Set
    Hot Wheels cars that race down tracks attached to the wall (via removable Command Strips)? A no-brainer slam-dunk for most little boys.
    Find it HERE.
  • American Girl Dolls 4 of 15
    American Girl Dolls
    Always a sure winner for any little girl who likes dolls and you couldn't give a more classic (and classy) present.
    Find it HERE.
  • LEGO Star Wars Sets 5 of 15
    LEGO Star Wars Sets
    All the other Hot Toy list are pushing the LEGO Ninjago sets, but I'm sticking with the Star Wars and Creator sets that my kids never get tired of and consistently sell out year after year. This set is particularly good for kids that are building up their clone armies - lots of mini-figures for the price!
    Find it HERE.
  • Elefun Ball Popper 6 of 15
    Elefun Ball Popper
    The only noisy toy on this list, the Elefun Ball Popper gets a pass because I honestly don't think there is anything more fascinating to a toddler than balls that miraculously fly out of a hole and then disappear into another one. This new version will occasionally launch a ball for your little one to chase across the room, too.
    Find it HERE.
  • Calico Critters 7 of 15
    Calico Critters
    I almost died of CUTE when I saw these for the first time. The Calico Critters may not rank as "hot," but they will make your little one with the animal/doll/miniature-obsession positively squeal with delight.
    Find it HERE.
  • Quirkle 8 of 15
    Quirkle
    Winner of the Parent's Choice Gold Award and a Mensa Select National Competition Winner, Qwirkle is the family game of choice in my house right now. Besides being a brilliant strategy game, it is a rarity in the board game world in that it is fun to play with children over a broad age spread (I play with my 12-, 9-, and 5-year-olds).
    Find it HERE.
  • Klutz Activity Books 9 of 15
    Klutz Activity Books
    The Klutz "Chicken Socks" series of activity books, come in a wide variety of arts and crafts, for girls and boys. I've had problems with them selling out in years past, so check out the full selection now.
    Find it HERE.
  • Xia Xia Hermit Crabs 10 of 15
    Xia Xia Hermit Crabs
    This is one of the new toys for 2011 and is supposed to be similar to the Zhu Zhu Pets of years past. One can hope they are quieter, though, seeing as they are Hermit Crabs, right? I am skeptical, but at the same time—they are kinda cute.
    Find it HERE.
  • Original Classic Marble Run Play Set 11 of 15
    Original Classic Marble Run Play Set
    I've spent a lot of money over the years on all the variations of marble mazes on the market. This one is the gold standard by which all should be judged—and way less expensive than the other ones, too. Toddlers will need some help constructing at first, but their little hands will be able to get the pieces together and built into speedy marble runs before you know it.
    Find it HERE.
  • Angry Birds: Knock on Wood 12 of 15
    Angry Birds: Knock on Wood
    Even the latest of late-adopters can join in the Angry Birds craze now that the price of this game has finally dropped to a reasonable $19.99. Plus, *BANG* it's all about knocking stuff over, which, last I checked, is a toddler's favorite past-time.
    Find it HERE.
  • Nerf N-Strike Stampede 13 of 15
    Nerf N-Strike Stampede
    For the older boy on your list (8+), the first ever "fully automatic" Nerf gun is one of those presents that will make your child/nephew/grandson absolutely worship you. Bonus points for the house, because this is a toy that parents can classify as "Outside ONLY."
    Find it HERE.
  • Toysmith 4D Frog Puzzle 14 of 15
    Toysmith 4D Frog Puzzle
    Can you believe that this picture is of a frog made out of puzzle pieces? These intricate and clever "4D" puzzles are always on my kids' list. Check your local toy shops for them in the "stocking stuffers" section. If you're shopping on-line, Amazon has several marine puzzles left, but the dinosaurs are already sold out.
    Find it HERE.
  • LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar 15 of 15
    LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar
    Though you won't find this under anyone's tree on the 25th, LEGO Advent calendars are growing in popularity every year. Each day of December until the 25th, will be greeted with excitement as your little LEGO enthusiast gets to open another set of LEGO bricks to build. The Star Wars version joined the ranks this year and is almost sure to sell out. eBay manages to always have all the different iterations, but the price escalates the closer you get to December 1st.
    Find it HERE.

FYI: You never know which toys will sell out, so bite the bullet and order now if you have even the slightest inkling that you might want it later. You can always sell it to a friend who didn’t have your forethought.

Read more of Amy Windsor’s writing at Bitchin’ Wives Club.
Follow Amy on Twitter and Facebook.

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