Forget Halloween. For retailers, the scariest thing lurking around the corner is the specter of a bad holiday shopping season. Perhaps that explains why Toys R' Us is releasing its annual "hot list" of toys before the leaves have even fallen from the trees. It wants parents to take the list, check it twice...and please, please, please buy an expensive toy from it (preferably at your nearest Toys R' Us).

These 36 toys are the season's alleged "it" toys, the ones the kids all want to see under the tree. They include everything from a tricycle to a toy that lets you move a ball using the powers of your mind. But if last year's experience is any gauge, (comparable-store sales for the nine-week holiday shopping season fell 3.4% domestically and 5% internationally) parents are unlikely to be swayed by even the noisiest bells and whistles.

Pricey toys, in particular, didn't move too well last year. Perhaps that's why there are only a handful of items -- mostly electronics and toys with movie-tie-ins (Toy Story, Transformers etc.) priced at or around $100. The rest of the toys on the list run the gamut from toddler fare (The Laugh & Learn Learning Farm from Fisher-Price: $79) to 'tweens (Nintendo DSi handhelds: $169) and many of them carry much more moderate price tags, from about $11 for dolls to $35 for a Nerf gun.

You can check out the list here. But here's this mom's reaction:

Most of these toys reflect the state of American culture. For boys, lots of electronics and battle toys. For girls, there is all that pressure to be hotly-dressed rock superstars. There is even a "Little Superstar Jammin' Band" toy for your toddlers. Might as well start 'em early, right? Sigh. Aren't there any kids who want to be firemen or veterinarians anymore?

Despite the declared focus on price and value, this year's list features a couple of pretty pricey "Ooh-ahh" toys.

The $80 MindFlex Mental Acuity game by Mattel is one of those, "So-cool!" games you'll lay down the cash for your kid to play with that evening and then all-too-soon watch it get banished to the corner as they lose interest. Yeah, it's cool to try and move a ball through a maze using only your brain -- show me a 9-year-old boy who's not gonna go for that? -- but that's all you can do with it. Once you've tried it a few times...what then? Break it down for parts? The guys at our sister site Engadget had fun with it here.

I'd rather drop $100 on a bike. Old-fashioned, sure. No sexy mind-control stuff, but your kid will play on it happily until he grows out of it.

There's been a lot of fanfare surrounding the Nintendo DSi (most of it created by Nintendo), but upon closer inspection shoppers will realize it's just a Nintendo DS Lite that can take pictures ... for about $70 more than a DS Lite. Why? Even my 9-year-old Nintendo fanatic said "meh."

Most over-hyped toy on the list, IMHO? The Barbie All D'oll'd Up nail printer. For just $179, your budding little party girl can hook this thing up to a computer and print out one of hundreds of designs for her nails. Or design her very own!

Wow. Call me nutty, but $179 will buy nearly two years' worth of manicures from the local mini-mall nail place. Those ladies can do amazing things with rhinestones and glitter if you let them. And, in any case, if my girl were that into her nails, I'd ban her from Hannah Montana for good and make her go outside and climb trees.

So for this mom of two, there's nothing on this list that would compel me to whip out my checkbook.

Am I in good, frugal company? Who knows? Maybe it will be up to the original Tickle Me Elmo doll, back again and exclusively at Toys R Us, to stage a one-monster rescue of the season.



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