What’s on a child#039;s list for Christmas

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 17, 2004

One of the most cherished traditions for children each holiday season is writing that all-important letter to Santa – the wish list that lets the jolly old gentleman know just what each child hopes to find beneath the tree on Christmas morn.

Recently, we paid a visit to local retailers to discover what the &uot;hot&uot; toys and games are for youngsters in 2004.

Parents, don’t be surprised if some of these wildly popular items appear on your children’s Christmas wish lists. And be prepared to also find new twists on old favorites, along with items we adults couldn’t even envision as children …Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the Toy Zone!

Let ’em roll!

Contrary to popular belief, all children have not devolved into lifeless couch potatoes devoted solely to video games. According to local retailers, bicycles are a top item of many children’s wish lists this year.

&uot;Bikes – we’ve seen a ton of them go on layaway this year,&uot; says

Chris Crosby, asst. manager at the Greenville Wal-Mart Super Center.

Other types of vehicles are also proving popular for the younger set.

Local families may not be able to put a $55,000 Humvee in the garage, but they can place a mini-sized Little Tikes Hummer H2 (with room for two children, ages three and up) in the driveway for just under $200.

(The manufacturers promise &uot;fast and easy&uot; assembly for the scaled-down SUV.)

For a few dollars less, a Razor Pocket Rocket mini-electric motorcycle might be the perfect choice for ages 12 and up.

And if you fondly recall all those fun times you had pulling around your very own red Radio Flyer wagon, folks, believe it or not, there is a new version on the market today (can you improve upon perfection?).

The Radio Flyer Pathfinder Wagon, which retails for just under $60, features convertible seating for two (with child safety belts), no less than four cup holders for juice and snacks, plus a large storage compartment.

&uot;Yep, they have gone and fixed our little red wagon,&uot; comments Crosby.

The original Radio Flyer steel wagon is still available for die-hard fans at under $25. There is also a sturdy &uot;all-terrain&uot; model featuring removable wooden sides that retails for just under $75.

John Deere (which has become quite &uot;cool&uot; this year) also offers a child-sized battery-powered two-seater Gator 4 X 2 for just under $260.

Make mine green and yellow

Nationally, John Deere hats, T-shirts, accessories and toys are popular with children through teens (including many, it seems, who have never been near a tractor in their lives.)

JD is pretty popular with local youngsters, too.

20-month old Hayden Mayes of Greenville may have a little trouble saying &uot;tractor&uot;, but he certainly knows what a John Deere is.

The famed green and yellow farm vehicle is on the little guy’s list – he positively lights up when he sees the familiar toy line on store shelves.

&uot;Oh, yes – he certainly loves John Deere tractors,&uot; says his mom, Kristi Mayes, with a grin.

Hayden also wants Santa to bring him that perennial favorite, a Winnie the Pooh doll, and a &uot;bouncy ball&uot;, says his big sister Shelby.

Elmo – he’s ba-ack!

Speaking of dolls, that cute little red guy from Sesame Street, Elmo, is back for Christmas 2004 in yet another version.

Just when you think they have run out of ideas, along comes &uot;E-L-M-O&uot; – with a squeeze of his left hand, the fuzzy fellow sings and spells out his name with his arms and legs (sparking nostalgic memories for some adults of the Village People and &uot;YMCA&uot;, the tune he sings and dances to).

E-L-M-O, geared to the 18-month-and-older set, is under $20, making it one of the more affordable &uot;hot&uot; toys this year.

Another doll retailers expect to be on little girls’ wish lists this Christmas is the &uot;My Baby Princess&uot; line from Mattel, featuring pint-sized versions of popular Disney heroines Ariel, Belle and Jasmine, at approximately $16 each.

Barbie is another perennial favorite with little girls, and 8-year-old Shelby Mayes says she hopes to find a pink battery-powered Barbie Dune Beetle (approximately $250) parked under the Mayes tree this year, along with a new Barbie watch, and a nice pink, red – or purple – teddy bear (&uot;my favorite colors&uot;).

&uot;Ooh, I’d like one of these, too,&uot; Shelby says with a smile as she snuggles down into a soft Cabbage Patch child’s chair ($40 retail).

Gadgets galore

While old-fashioned delights like dolls and stuffed animals are still in demand, high-tech video games and their electronic sisters and brothers aren’t going away anytime soon, moms and dads.

&uot;Madden 2005 Pro Football is THE video game this year,&uot; says Crosby.

Portable DVD players ($100 and up) are also at the top of many children’ lists (including young Shelby). &uot;Shrek 2&uot; and &uot;Spider Man 2&uot; DVDs are expected to be high on wish lists in 2004. (There is also a wide assortment of Spidey items, from &uot;web blasters&uot; to chairs and table sets out there for fans of the Webbed One.)

For the preschool set, Playskool’s VideoNow Jr. has a color personal video player for ages three-plus, featuring educational television shows such as &uot;Blue’s Clues&uot; (the player retails for approximately $70). A top educational toy for the past several seasons, LeapFrog (geared to preschoolers through second graders) is expected to leap off the shelves again this year.

For those who can’t put down that remote control, the radio-controlled Cadillac Escalade, which retails for just under $100, may be a lot smaller than the full-sized version, but it is &uot;really big&uot; on many a wish list in 2004.

The popular cable show &uot;West Coast Choppers&uot; has also spawned two new radio-controlled toys, the Jesse James’ El Diablo II motorcycle and the classic ’54 Chevy.

At $88, the vintage 1:6 scale car features voice, sound effects, sparks from the exhaust pipe, working lights and hydraulics – virtually everything but the kitchen sink, it seems (one suspects both children and children-at-heart will enjoy these gadgets).

Sport addicts unite

Every year, plenty of trampolines and basketballs make it onto children’s Christmas wish lists, retailers tell us. This year, they may also be asking for &uot;Slam Dunk&uot; (retailing at $50) which features electronic scoring that allows you to play several games by yourself or with your friends.

&uot;Game Zone&uot;, at $90, offers its players the choice of air hockey, foosball or basketball. And if that’s not enough sports options, consider the ESPN Gamestation ($180), offering six sports and no less than 21 games, a computerized scoring system and sound effects, including theme music from ESPN’s &uot;SportsCenter&uot; show.

If you’re looking for something completely different, there is the Hot Wheels &uot;Slime-Cano&uot;. For under $30, your child can create his or her own slimy, slippery, yuck-inducing volcano. (They will love it!)

Merry Christmas to all – and may all the &uot;Santas&uot; out there have much success filling those holiday lists.