Guest Guru: Ed Crotty of The Toy Spy

December 1, 2011    |    By +
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Our latest and greatest “Guest Guru”, is Ed Crotty of The Toy Spy. Along with his wife, Cheri, Crotty founded the site in late 2011, after successfully helping to start another toy related website, Zoolert. Which allows you to track any toy or gadget listing online and notifies you when it’s on sale or part of a giveaway, genius!

Both as a parent and toy enthusiast, Ed’s site is a great resource for honest reviews and hands-on demonstrations of all the toys and gadgets that are out on the market today. So before you start tackling your kid’s toy list, check out Ed’s favorite picks for the holiday season to see what’s really worth the bang for your buck.

My goal, as The Toy Spy, is to find people the toys they didn’t know they needed yet. In that process, I also discover toys that may not work as intended. Or, hoped. Heard of the You & Me Interactive Play & Giggle Triplet Dolls? It’s not the dolls you will notice, but, in fact, what they say! (Hint : It’s not kid friendly!)

But, it’s not all controversy and hijinks in the wonderful world of toys this year. Have a fan of last years hot properties on your list? You’re covered.

From Lalaloopsy Silly Hair Dolls with hair that twists and bends to new Monster high characters like Abby Bominable; we’ve found that many of last years “must have” toys are back again but each with something new and unique to offer.

Tech is in this year in a very big way. What was once reserved for the gear heads has now become common place. Tablets, smart phones and other tools that bring curated computing to the masses are all the rage. The children of parents with these tools have certain expectations. See the video of the toddler trying to use a magazine as an iPad? Yes, this is the world we live in.

For these modern day tikes, two big toy options exist – Vtech InnoTab and the LeapFrog LeapPad. Each have their own pluses and minuses, but, in summary, the InnoTab is the closest to a true iPad experience as the interactions with the device feels snappier with built-in tilt sensor and faster response time.

However, it’s missing one key feature that its competitor has – a built-in camera. This differentiating feature is a big one. The built in camera of the LeapPad allows the child to take pictures and videos of his or her world. And, this same content is intertwined within applications, such as the included Story Studio, All About Me app.

In an ironic twist, “reverse tech” is also big as Angry Birds leap from the very same devices that toys are looking to emulate. These come in the form of board games.

Mattel started with the first edition, Angry Birds Knock On Wood, and was quick to launch the second edition, On Thin Ice, which is proving as difficult to find as the first.

Here’s a quick list of other ideas to help ensure you own the satisfying smirk earned only by watching them open the perfect gift :

- Air Hogs Hyperactive : An incredibly fast 450mph scale speed R/C car that always lands top side up.

- Fijit Friends : A modern day Furby that dances and jokes with you, minus the attitude.

- Let’s Rock Elmo : Elmo rocks out by knowing what instruments you’re using and plays along.

- T-Pain Microphone : If you’re going to Auto-Tune, you might as well do it like a pro. Now, sans iDevice.

- Doggie Doo Game : Have someone with a twisted sense of humor or just your average six year old boy? Words don’t do it justice.

- Vortex Praxis : It’s not the biggest of the new Nerf guns, but with a satisfying pump action it’s the most fun.

- Hot Wheels Wall Tracks : A mothers’ nightmare turned dream. Get the mess off the floor and onto the wall .. using safe 3m stickies.

- My Keepon : What was once a $30,000 dancing robot is now available to the common man at a more affordable $40.

- Skylanders : The all ages video game available for all major consoles combines virtual world with the physical with collectible toys.

- Victorious Singing Doll : Next only to Big Time Rush, the current “it” star of Nickelodeon has been immortalized in her own singing doll.

Best of luck finding your perfect gift. And, shop early! With generous holiday return policies, renewed layaway options and credit card grace periods, securing your toy has less chance for buyer’s remorse than ever.

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Meet the Gurus

Kathryn D.W.
Kathryn Drury Wagner is the senior manager of content at She was formerly the executive editor at Honolulu Magazine, and is the author of The Ultimate Guide to Shopping on Oahu. Her career has included staff positions at Country Living Gardener and Power & Motoryacht. Her latest book is "Hawaii's Strangest, Ickiest, Wildest Book Ever!"

Gwen P.
Gwen is the Editorial Curator at In addition to writing blogs, she creates gift guides, curates the site, and produces content for our social media channels. As a freelance writer, she created blogs on fashion, art, travel, health and lifestyle. A talented jewelry designer, she's also a yogi and a hospital volunteer with her therapy dog, Lilo, a Pomeranian.