What's hot for tots this holiday season: Monster High dolls, more

Three of Mattel's Monster High dolls are Draculaura, Frankie Stien and Clawdeen are available for 15-20 in local stores.
  • DID YOU KNOW ...

  • 43.1 percent of consumers plan to purchase toys this holiday season.

    Eight in 10 holiday shoppers plan to give gift cards this year.

    Nationwide, people plan to shell out an average $704.18 on holiday spending this year.

    Source: National Retail ...

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  • DID YOU KNOW ...

    43.1 percent of consumers plan to purchase toys this holiday season.

    Eight in 10 holiday shoppers plan to give gift cards this year.

    Nationwide, people plan to shell out an average $704.18 on holiday spending this year.

    Source: National Retail Federation website

As the calendar cues us that Christmas is, in fact, just around the corner, a growing sense of panic is understandable. Normal, even.

Especially for those shopping for little ones.

Without a constant stream of Nick Jr. or the Disney Channel flowing from the TV, it can be difficult to stay on top of what's "cool" in the pint-sized consumer's world.

But have no fear.

Here are a few kid-friendly gift options passed along by those in the know. And, while some have all the bells and whistles new technology offers, a few old favorites still rank high on wish lists.

Monster High dolls

Think Barbie but slightly darker. Each character is a mixture of high school student and monster, with names such as Draculaura and Jackson Jekyll. But these guys aren't mean. Cleo De Nile admits, for instance, that she's a monster who's afraid of the dark.

Hot Wheels

This long-time favorite still sits high on the list for boys, offering them a chance to set up tracks, gas up and engage in high-speed car racing. All this without leaving the comfort of the living room.

Elmo

This bright red furball wooed holiday shoppers more than a decade ago in "Tickle Me Elmo" form but, in recent years, fell from the lists. This year he's back, though, and sits among the top picks for both boys and girls.

Melissa and Doug toys

From puzzles to stickers and wooden train sets, these toys aren't just colorful ways to keep kids entertained. They contain educational elements, too.

Video games

From games for full-sized consoles such as the Nintendo Wii and Xbox 360 to hand-held devices, video games are a big seller this holiday season.

Creative carry-alls

Sometimes, a kid needs a way to transport toys, and fun options are available. Fluffy Buffy, for instance, is a bunny-shaped backpack decked out in ballerina garb. Animal-themed Snuggle Duffels are another option, with dangly legs and straps for easy carrying.

Lego

Another classic, these tiny colored bricks allow children to build whatever they can dream up. Themed kits also offer up a chance to build structures straight out of movies, such as Harry Potter and Star Wars.

Lalaloopsy

This rag doll-inspired toy line might boast a silly name, but it sits among the top girls' gifts this year. The story goes that the dolls' personalities match the fabrics from which they're made. Sunny Side Up came from a farmer's shirt and overalls, for instance, and she enjoys caring for animals.

Barbie

This feisty femme proves that, even after all these years, she's still got it. The fashion icon has topped girls' lists with her endless wardrobe choices, career options and accessories since her launch in 1959.

Personalized items

From CDs and DVDs that incorporate the child's name into the songs to Bibles with the child's name imprinted on the cover, a personalized gift is often a fun way to make that gift extra special.

Sources: Pat McDonald, owner of Days Gone Bye, Wanda Williams, co-owner of Blessed by the Gift, Barbie.com, Lalaloopsy.com, MonsterHigh.com, National Retail Federation news release