Stretch Your Dollar: List of hottest toys for 2012 holiday season


In the Hall household during the holidays, royalty rules.

"We are all about princesses in our house. We have little tiny princesses, big princesses, medium princesses," mom Krystyn Hall said.

But figuring out what to buy the other kids in her life is an issue -- and that's where toy insider mom Laurie Schacht saves the day.

Schacht says ultimately, there are four hot groups to select from. The first is tech, no matter what the age.

"They're swiping before they're speaking sometimes and we're really embracing, it because they're really learning the digital skills that they need for the 21st century," Schacht said.

For the little guys, the LeapPad 2 is out now with a second camera and faster processor. Meanwhile, the iPad is all the rage for just about every other age. And now, your tech can actually turn into the game controller, like the Wi-Spi helicopter.

"Once they're airborne, they can take pictures, videos and share on all their social networks immediately," Schacht said.

Want something more traditional than tech?

Construction toys are the second category.

Lego is out with a line for girls these days. There are also chunkier versions for toddlers with littler hands. Even Angry Birds is into the build-it craze.

"You're actually building the Angry Bird set, just like you see on the app," Schacht said.

Crafts are the third category.

From the huge toy train you can color and crawl through, to the Crayola marker air brush, to the haute couture fashion design set.

"Comes with fabric and cloth and everything they need, including mannequins and a real working sewing machine," Schacht said.

Pop culture rounds out the final toy category and this year, Chuggington is taking train fans to a new level. It's over two feet high. There's a radio-controlled Batman car that comes pre-programmed with commands.

Disney's Doc McStuffins also is in demand, along with Merida and Angus her horse built for the "Brave."

When it comes to buying, Schacht says start now.

"Retailers are not overstocking, so if you see something that's really high on your child's list, you should buy it," Schacht said.

Something else to point out that's different this year: Some of the stores are now using QR codes -- little labels you can scan -- on shelves with the toys. That way, if it is sold out on the store shelves, you can still buy a toy and have it shipped to your home.

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