I thought my kids were too old for play dough, but it turns out they're not. This Yummy Dough was a surprise hit. Combine the ideas of play dough with cookies, and you get an edible play dough (you can eat it raw or baked). It has no butter in it, and almost all natural coloring (the only color that isn't 100% natural is the blue, which has a few drops of dye). The other color comes from things like tumeric and beets. It's a German product being introduced in the U.S. by two parents. The dough is $12.95/container, and you mix it yourself to make it fresh. Each container carries 4 colors in separate packs - just add water. It's pricey enough you may want to give it as a gift or use for special play dates, though I have a buy one, get one free code good through January 7, 2013 if you buy from their Smarty Parents website. Use code BOGODOUGH at checkout. I've purchased color cookie dough before, and it tasted terrible. The Yummy Dough, while not something I'd choose to serve guests, tasted okay and the kids liked it. A neighbor sampled the leftovers that we brought home, and he thought it was great.
I noticed the Kiddy Platter, which the kids were using as a tray to make their dough. The platter, BPA free, is a clear plastic tray (you can put flash cards, learning sheets below) with slip-resistant edges, and a container for crayons, silverware, etc. at the bottom. Use it for crafts or for meals - or both. It's dishwasher safe. Conceived of by two parents who I met staffing the table. They recommend it starting around 12-18 months, when kiddy graduates from the high chair into a booster. Cost: $30 from Smarty Parents. You can combine it with a container of Yummy Dough for $38.95.
LEGOS meets lights. With battery powered light packs, you can make light up creatures that blink. And mix and match with LEGOs. Prices for Lite Brix start on Amazon at $20 and go up from there. They were just introduced this fall, and you may have seen TV ads for them. My 9 year old loves his, and has been busy building.
GIANT HEX BUGS and TAGAMOTO CARS
giant Hex Bugs, remote controlled. These run about $40 each. They can flip over and fight each other. And they use 3 AAA batteries (I asked). The company was also showing Hex Bug Warriors, which has a different stadium than traditional Hex Bugs (not a good thing for parents trying to reduce clutter) - the warriors are bigger than Hex Bugs. And also Tagamoto cars that look like Hot Wheels but are MUCH more advanced. They're only at Target until 2013, when they get expanded.
I'm not sure if these magic sets are so different than other ones - I haven't compared. We did have a chance to meet Ryan at the show and he demonstrated tricks from some of the sets, like from the magic hat, the full starter set, the lunch box set and others. Since Zack went to magic camp last summer, we spent quite a lot of time with Ryan, who was not only pleasant to look at, he was a really good magician! The kids got a couple of the smaller boxes to bring home.
The fun part of these Mystixx Vampire dolls, which are around Barbie size, is that you can take the hair off - and you have a two-faced doll! One side is a normal girl, and the other side is a (not so scary) vampire. The set comes with 2 wigs and 2 outfits. The doll on the right is obviously wigless, and you're seeing the "girl" side of the doll. The clothes are pretty funky too. They cost about $42 for the set, and there are 4 different dolls.
This updated version of an Etch a Sketch is the Boogie Board, an LCD screen using a watch battery they say never needs replacing. It can handle 50,000 erases. It's fun to write on, and with the push of a button, it erases. This would be great for a road trip or plane ride. Costs vary, but the cheapest one I found so far is $42. They come in several colors.
Disclosure: we got samples of some but not all of these products.