Children (most typically girls) aged 5 to about 7 or 8 are often hooked on all things pet-related, and there's no shortage of cheap toy pets for the 2010 holiday season. The ones below garner enthusiastic endorsements in reviews we found online and in talking with adults and children. It's the "cool factor" that will have the little people in your life squealing with delight upon receiving these cheap toy pets and creatures.
Cheap Toy Pets and Stuffed Animals
Last year's popular ZhuZhu Pets (starting at $10) are as big as ever, and Cepia LLC has just introduced a new addition to the happy hamster family, a line of baby hamsters (starting at $7). Littlest Pet Shop, often considered a cheap toy for girls, has been around since 2005 (Hasbro first sold the little toy pets and play sets in 1992 but pulled them four years later) and remain a hit with the elementary-school age group. Now Hasbro has extended the line with Littlest Pet Shop Online (LPSO) Starter Packs (starting at $7). These cheap toy pets include a 30-day premium membership to LPSO, allowing the younger set to try out virtual pet ownership in the online world. And if your budget has some extra padding, Pillow Pets (starting at $20) -- cuddly stuffed animals that fold up into a pillow -- are another in-demand cheap toy, according to a Toys R Us manager. (This cheap toy for girls or boys is also known as My Pillow Pets.)
Several new products that seemingly fall into the cheap toys for boys column may also appeal to an action-oriented girl. The same company responsible for the ZhuZhu Pets craze has launched a line of sparring, motorized rodents this year -- Kung Zhu Battle Hamsters (starting at $9) -- that can be outfitted in armor or battle gear and accessorized with military vehicles and training arenas.
The HEXBUG Nano (starting at $8) is a tiny robotic insect whose movement replicates that of a real bug. These tiny robots swarm with other HEXBUGs and negotiate their way around objects in their path. A variety of other HEXBUG insects, including the HEXBUG Original Robot (starting at $10) and the HEXBUG Ant Robot (starting at $12) are also available.
Cheap toys in this category are relatively trendy. Although ZhuZhu Pets and Bakugan game figures are likely to be past their prime in a year or two (remember the Beanie Babies of yore?), part of the fun of these playthings is collecting them, showing them off to friends, and maybe engaging in a trade or two. For the most part, these cheap toy pets and creatures have little educational value, although one parent posting a toys review on RadioShack says the HEXBUG Nano inspires both creativity and scientific curiosity. Other toys, like Kung Zhu Pets, Zoobles (see our full Zoobles review), and Littlest Pet Shop, also allow for free-form pretend play. We found few complaints in toys reviews about poor durability, but it would be foolish to expect heirloom quality and staying power from these cheap and fairly new-to-the-market toys.
That said, toys reviews do grouse that batteries in toys like ZhuZhu Pets and HEXBUGs are quickly drained, so you may want to stock up if you're considering these cheap toy creatures. Another adult shopper comments in a toys review on Amazon that you should be wary of Pillow Pets knockoffs when shopping; DealNews.com generalizes the concern to all kinds of cheaper knock-offs.
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