While we’re all scrambling through toy stores to find Hatchimals, iPhones and every other sold-out item worth panhandling for, there is a hefty lot of alternatives out there that will impress the most trendy teen, fickle adult and snobby toddler. I’ve put together a list of gifts that won’t get you trampled like the Black Friday wig lady.
Price: $299.99 (with 20% cash back)
We’ve been weary of the hoverboard movement since they’ve been burning down houses all over the country but The Sharper Image has put out a remedy. Their new model is UL-Certified, meaning that they didn’t opt for cheap, flimsy parts. This particular hoverboard has been tested and approved by Consumer Product Safety Commission to not double as a flaming chariot. While it is safer to use, airports and other transportation hubs still haven’t lifted the ban on them. Keep it local and you’ll be fine.
There’s been a great deal of talk in the toy world about gender roles, especially when it comes to girls playing with toys aimed at boys. In fact, many toy stores are eliminating separate sections (No more pink and blue!). The multi-ethnic Wonder Crew doll line adds to the conversation by focusing on boys and developing their sense of empathy and emotional maturity. The crew of boys are super heroes who go on adventures while learning how to express their feelings in productive ways. Each doll comes with a matching costume for your little dude to save the day in.
Price: $4.99 per month
As the cord-cutting community continues to grow, technology is improving to meet the demands of average consumers. Thankfully, we don’t all have to be tech wizards to break away from the money draining clutches of cable companies. Plex provides a way to organize media you already own and replaces a DVR. This puts us all a step closer to eliminating the need for overpriced cable boxes and offers the ability to expand recording space with external NAS hard drives. Plex also lets you view your recorded programs remotely as long as you have an internet connection. The basic setup is cool with an HD antenna, but the magic really happens with the HomeRun HD Prime which accepts a CableCard from the cable company. That lets you watch all of the channels in a cable subscription that aren’t already free. Just know that there is a $60 annual fee for the HomeRun TV service that lets you schedule recordings.
With mobile video games gaining more popularity and devices becoming more powerful, controllers like the ones that come with video game consoles are a hot ticket. Controllers for mobile gear have been around for years but they were often exclusive to Android with much left to be desired on the Apple iOS side. The GameSIR G3S brings quality compatibility, for not just an iPhone or iPod but also iPads and Apple TV.
Price: $199 (16GB) and $299 (500GB)
When the NVIDIA Shield debuted two years ago, it was aimed at the crowd who wanted to play high-end video games with the option of streaming media to televisions. However, the streaming capabilities became so popular that the company decided to put more into the media side. I can honestly testify that the NVIDIA Shield is the best box out there if you’re looking for a hub for digital entertainment. It plays every video format you throw at it and if you’re a PC gamer, you can stream games from the computer to play on the TV. It comes with Plex, Netflix, Hulu and the Google Play store where you can find tons of apps to customize it to whatever type of entertainment set-up you want. It also supports 4K video if you’re baller enough to have a TV to support it.
Aimed at collectors, the super limited edition “Big Kid” Cabbage Patch Kids will only be available this 2016 holiday season with only 1000 made of each. The 18-inch dolls come as Zoe Sky the Flower Girl and Eden Noelle the World Traveler (pictured). The age range on these are six and up but I’d lean more towards the older collector, since these will become very valuable – as long as they don’t wind up with any apple juice stains or missing limbs.
You can never go wrong with LEGO. The toy line is a favorite for kids and adults alike, so whenever Warner Bros. Interactive drops a video game based on the billion-dollar franchise, it’s always a hit. Following the success of the LEGO Dimensions video game, LEGO Worlds sets itself up to be another winner. In this title, players can create their own worlds and characters to play with and can share these worlds with other players around the globe.
In the battle of the smartwatches, Samsung’s Gear S series was able to weather the storm as competitors like Huawei and Pebble switched strategies and retreated from the game. Samsung’s Gear S3 is the step up from last year’s S2 and brings along with it a more traditional watch look. It’s not like the S2 was ugly, it just wasn’t the type of watch that would go with a formal outfit. The new version has a sturdier screen, rotating bezel to accept or deny calls, better battery life and more. Just like its older sister, you can swap out the bands for when you want to go from ratchet to classic.
The age-old cliché of getting a puppy for the holidays is awesomely cute until you have to walk it, feed it and toss all the expensive shoes it chewed up. Instead of a canine, get the kids The Last Guardian video game where you navigate a young boy through his adventure with a dog-bird-like creature named Trico. What makes the game unique is that it uses a beefed-up artificial intelligence engine that makes interacting with Trico super realistic. I swear, it acts just like a real dog that needs to bond and does everything but pee on the carpet. It’s only for the PlayStaion 4, so if your kid only has an Xbox One, it’s time to dig deeper in the money sack for another console.
When the Dynacraft toy company showcased this ride-on at a popular mommy-blogger event this past summer, everyone went wild over it. The Disney Princess Carriage looks like something out of low-rider convention. It has sparkling lights, LED candles and curtains that give it a true fairy tale effect. It’s a bit on the pricey side for today’s ride-on vehicles but trust me, I actually saw grown women trying to squeeze themselves on.
Larry Hester is a Brooklyn-born writer who’s written for Vibe, BET.com, The Source, Complex and more. He now resides in Newark, New Jersey with his wife and son. He welcomes any parenting advice or encouragement. Check him out on Facebook and Twitter @almostcooldad.