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What a Livin’ Doll

If you have daughters, nieces, or, gasp, sons or nephews who like playing with dolls (and no, there’s nothing wrong with boys who play with dolls), then there’s a very good chance that you have dolls on the brain. And the floor, the furniture, your car, and everywhere else. While the choices in dolls may seem as endless as that hour between dinner and bedtime, there are some fun, new twists on the basic baby doll that have recently come out, and your little doll is sure to love ‘em.

Peek a Boo Dolly (Gund)
peek a boo gundThis cute doll is great for the youngest children. She engages them in games and actually talks to them. Peek a Boo Dolly pulls her pink blanket up over her eyes and asks, “Where did you go?” and then, a few seconds later, lowers the blanket and announces, “Peek a boo, I found you!” She says six different phrases and plays for roughly 40 seconds at a time when her button is pressed. Dolly is soft and snuggly, and kids will love to hold her. With a sweet smile on her face and fleecy clothes, she looks happy, plush, and has no small parts to choke on or come loose. She needs 3 AAA batteries, which are included. Dolly’s cousin is a brown Peek a Boo Bear, who comes with a cream colored blanket. Each retails for $40 at your favorite gift- or toy store, as well as at http://shop.gund.com

PlayTime Baby Love Ewe (Adora)
adoraThis doll is so sweet, and would make a great Easter or spring friend for your precious little one. Dressed in a little lamb-covered one-piece outfit and pink headband, she is truly adorable and kids will gravitate to her. She comes with her own bottle, her eyes open and close when you move her, and she can suck her own thumb. The best part about this baby, though, is that she’s completely machine washable. You read that right! When she gets dirty, as your kid’s favorite toy is bound to, just toss her in the wash on gentle and hang her on the line to dry. Can’t get any easier than that. These doll are handmade and have a light baby powder scent, and you and your child will appreciate the life-like features of this toy, from her little fingernails to her turned up toes. Their “skin” is made of special “Gentle Touch™ vinyl” that makes them soft and cuddly as well. Available for $35 on http://www.adoradolls.com

Cozy Cutie Drink ‘n Wet Doll (Kidoozie)
drink n wetCozy will make your child giggle and keep her (or him) busy for hours. Give the baby her bottle and she needs to run (or be carried) to the bathroom right away! Just put her on her included potty and she’ll wet. This is a great way to get kids interested in potty training, and to encourage them to go themselves (“Hey, Cozy Cutie’s doing it, wouldn’t you like to give it a try too?” Or, “Who can get to the toilet quicker—you or Cozy?” Whatever works, right?) In addition, kids love all things bathroom related, as we all know quite well, so you might get a few moments of peace and quiet as your child gives the bottle and gets baby to the potty over and over (and over and over) again. The Drink ‘n Wet doll retails for around $20 from http://international-playthings.shptron.com and comes with a removable two-piece outfit, headband, bottle, and potty seat. Drink up!

Game On!

Looking to connect with the kids in a virtual way, but still keep a foot in the “real world”? Check out these fun systems and games, perfect for rainy days, nights, or just hangin’ out.

ouyaThis sleek, new, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean-powered micro-console started life as a Kickstarter campaign, got funded quickly, and hasn’t looked back since. There are more than 400 games available for OUYA, ranging from racing, to role-play, to action—every one of which you can try for free, which means never having to shell out good money for a not-so-good game. Some games stay free after the trial period, others you’ll have to buy. Aside from taking a long time for the initial setup, OUYA works flawlessly, and its open-source platform makes it easy to upgrade and add on later. Comes with a one Bluetooth wireless controller. Additional controllers (sold separately) are easy to pair to the console. $99.00. OUYA.tv

Nintendo 2DS
nintendo 2dsFrom the name, one might think that the 2DS would have preceded the 3DS, but it’s actually Nintendo’s latest and greatest handheld console. The new 2DS has dispensed with the 3DS’s hinge, which makes it harder to break. And its slight wedge shape gives it a tablet-like look and feel. The 2DS can play most DS games, all 3DS games (minus the 3D effect), including Pokemon X and Y and The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. So if you’re a first-timer and are looking to jump into handhelds, this is a high-entertainment-value, relatively inexpensive way to go. Comes with an SD card, wall adapter, stylus, AR cards, and access to the Nintendo eShop. $129.99. nintendo.com

pokemon x and yPokemon have been around since 1996, and they seem to get better—and more popular—every year. The new Pokemon X and Pokemon Y keep the familiar role-play elements, leveling up, vast territory to explore, grand story line, and the fun of collecting cute little critters. But now there are more battles, more evolution, and tons more features. Start by picking a gender and then one of three starter Pokemon: Chespin (grass type), Fennekin (fire type), or Froakie (water type). As the game progresses, you’ll battle other trainers and Pokemon. For younger kids or those who just want to skip the battles and go right to the roleplaying, this is a series of mini-games, where players interact directly with the Pokemon—petting, giving treats and playing with them. Available in the 3DS/2DS shop for about $39.99. nintendo.com

Skylanders Swap Force
skylanders swap forceThe Skylanders are invading again, but this time they’re coming apart at the seams. Skylanders Swap Force is the newest Skylanders game and the main feature is that you can create your own characters by swapping the tops and bottoms of existing ones. For example, if one of your characters has an arm cannon and tire feet but you’d rather have the tentacle feet from another character, you can make the switch. Small magnets keep the tops and bottoms of the new figures together during play, but easily pull apart whenever you want. Combining characteristics and creating new characters opens up new areas in the game. The 16 Swap Force characters create 250 combinations, 16 new Core characters, 8 LightCore characters, and more. And not to worry, all your old ones—including Giants—will work with Swap Force.  $74.99 for starter packs, $14.99 for SWAP Force figures, and $9.99 for Core figures. skylanders.com

A final note: As we move into the Holiday season, be sure to check the Entertainment Software Rating Board (esrb.org) for reliable, bias-free ratings and game reviews.