When I visited the Toys ‘R Us in Williston and the Toy Shop of Concord, Mass., last month and looked at the hot toys of the 2010 season, I saw no foot-long, skull-crushing projectiles. Here, however, are toys that did catch my eye.
* Cuponk. The object of this game is to bounce a small ball into a plastic cup, which lights up and makes noise when someone succeeds. It brought back fond memories of my underage drinking in my college fraternity: I can’t decide whether Cuponk was inspired by “quarters” or “beer pong,” or is meant to teach kids to play them. (Hasbro, $12.99)
* Nerf N-Strike Stampede Rifle. Just another Nerf gun? Maybe. But it launches a “stream of darts up to 25 feet.” The warning on the box is prominent: “CAUTION: Do not aim at eyes or face. TO AVOID INJURY: Use only darts designed for this product. Do not modify darts or dart blaster.” I would have loved this as a boy. Thank heavens it didn’t exist in 1969. (Hasbro, $49.99)
* Lego Harry Potter sets. These sets are terrific, especially Hagrid’s hut and the Weasley family’s burrow. But here is my counsel for parents: Be careful if you only buy one set and your children want to have Harry, Ron and Hermoine figurines to play with. To wit: The set with the Weasley family’s home (the burrow), comes with Harry and three Weasleys … but not Ron. The quidditch match set comes with five figurines, including Harry, but neither Ron nor Hermoine. (Lego, $10.99 to $129.99)
* Milestones in Science Experiment Kit. When I saw this at the Concord Toy Shop, two grandparents were considering it for their granddaughter. At first blush, this one reeks of the sort of well-intentioned, high-minded, “educational” toy that would have infuriated me when I was a child. The box top is covered with old bald guys with beards from history and a token woman: Marie Curie. But it grew on me when I read more about it, especially since it seems to include everything for a hundred experiments — except the scientists themselves. (Thames & Kosmos, $89.95)
* Sing-a-ma-jigs. Envision a small, plush vaguely bear-like creature with a flexible hair scrunchie for a mouth. The voice is a synthesizer on steroids. Of course, to get these bad boys to really rock, you need more than one. Why? They harmonize. So, if you want your own Sing-a-ma-jig batch of Von Trapps, you’ll need to bring home an armful. Imagine: A toy company designing a product that works best when you buy more than one. (Fisher-Price, $12.99)
* Bigfoot the Monster. Bigfoot is a spectacularly ill-behaved remote control monster. I would have loved him when I was three or four. He walks and talks and stomps and burps and, according to the box, throws a tantrum. In other words, he would have been someone I could have identified with when I was a kid. (Fisher-Price, $89.99)
Three final warnings before you pick out the perfect present this season. First, see if the toy needs batteries and whether batteries are included. Second, be prepared with a backup if you find the toy is sold out. Third, be wary of parental elbows. Right now it’s a jungle out there in most stores, and even the Nerf Stampede Rifle is no match for moms and dads in the Lego aisles.