A lighthearted look at news, events, culture and everyday life in New York.

By Nina Pajak

Seeing as I am neither parent nor child, and all the kids I know are either under the age of one or are still in uteri, I’m sort of out of it when it comes to the toy scene. I’ll admit, I still watch a few minutes of the occasional Saturday morning cartoons, just to see what the youths are up to these days, but everything feels so noisy and manic that I quickly become disoriented and pine for the days of “Crossfire” and “My Buddy” commercials as I change the channel to catch that lovely elderly bit on CBS Sunday Morning where they show you footage of a non-specific sunset or a hawk gliding around for two whole minutes. Ah, peace. Dagnabbit.

However, I happened to catch the news of the release of Toys ‘R’ Us’s annual “Hot List,” a predictor as to what the most popular toys will be this holiday season. And it’s sort of fascinating. I would have guessed it would be filled with gadgets that look like iPhones and video games and dolls with retinal scan capabilities and robot parakeets that can teach SAT vocabulary and overly-hip, reinvented versions of beloved characters from my childhood (seriously, what is up with Strawberry Shortcake these days?).

And there’s some of that, sure (Wii something-or-other; LED-powered, multicolored “Lite Brix building set; illuminated, fully articulated, radio-controlled cyborg landshark). But I was really shocked to discover that toys today aren’t all that different from the ones my brother and I coveted decades ago. Minnie Mouse, Tigger, Legos and Playmobile play as active a role as they ever did, and apparently kids today aren’t too cool to still shoot Nerf guns.  Then again, seeing this list now made me realize how totally insane our parents must have found some of our toys to be.

For instance, I couldn’t help but notice the “Doc McStuffins” doll, an apparent child prodigy doctor who comes with a disproportionately large stuffed lamb who serves as her patient. This is, evidently, from a television show which has absolutely no relationship to “Doogie Howser, MD.”

Or the “Lalaloopsy Silly Hair Star Doll,” a creature who appears to be the nightmarish hybrid of a Harajuku girl and a character from Tim Burton’s creepy Coraline. She has buttons where her eyes should be (makes you wonder what she’s seen), and you can plug a variety of pigtails into ports on the sides of her head.

I was shocked to see that Furby is still alive and kicking. I’d assumed he’d gone the way of the Tamagachi, but I guess it just goes to show that there will always be an endless appetite for creepy, talking, animatronic alien dolls which can “develop their own personalities” (read: become self-aware and hold your family hostage) and annoy the crap out of parents. There must be some kid out there who has actually managed to become fluent in Furbish. Who knows? Maybe one day it will be an offering on college campuses. Pretty soon they’ll probably have enslaved the human race, so it isn’t so outlandish.

I for one am going to have a pretty hard time not prematurely buying the “Gelarti Designer Studio” for one of my friends’ unborn babies. It’s a kit which allows you to color in and print your own wall decal stickers! Whaaaat! Sold. I have a feeling I know a few mothers out there who wouldn’t mind keeping that warm until their kid grows into it. Christmas shopping: done.