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Electronics are setting toy trends this season

It's summertime. It's hot. The stress alone is enough to make you goofy. And what can make you nuttier during summer than a kid who's hot and bored?

Enter The Toy.

Not only do they occupy a child's time, but they can also educate, motivate and massage their gray matter. But once you know you need toys, there's the issue of finding the right toys that will do those things yet not empty the checking account through trial and error.

Summertime - like Christmastime - is prime toytime. The toy industry is more than happy to lend a semi-operational robotic hand at a time when we really need it. Over the next few hot months it won't be hard to notice the onslaught of new toys.
The trend of electronic toys is an obvious one, but what exactly is the industry up to this year and which toys rate better?

Christopher Byrne is one of the nation's top toy experts. Known as "The Toy Guy," the New York resident is an editor at The Toy Book, an industry publication, and he's appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show and on CNBC.

Each toy season, "The Toy Guy" crawls out of his toy box and unveils a list of his favorite toys. His goal: helping separate the duds from the beauties, saving parents and kids a bundle of time and money in the process.

"The trends this year," he says, "are aimed at electronics for girls, video games for boys and the adult collector."

Electronic toys are everywhere. Even the newest Barbie needs batteries. This isn't to say the "classic" toys we've known and loved aren't still attractive. Etch A Sketch has gotten a flashy update via a new case filled with liquid and glitter. This fun adaptation is called Etch20. Polly Pockets, a perennial favorite of little girls, does a lot more stuff but still mostly relies on a kid's imagination.

The "hit" toy on The Toy Guy's list this year for indoor play is Poo-Chi from Tiger Toys ($27.99). It's an electronic pet that resembles Sony's $2,500 robotic dog called Aibo. Poo-Chi sings songs, plays games and, through its sensors, reacts to stimuli such as light, sound and touch. He sits, stands, dances on his tiptoes and grabs for his bone. Just how cool is this toy and how does it compete with the inert standbys?

The Toy Guy's official hot summer toy list will be grabbing attention in the coming weeks, but we decided to check out the season's toys ourselves, asking local kids to help us sort the flops from the greats. And maybe reduce some stress levels in the process.

Christine M. Carbone is a Dallas-based free-lance writer.
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