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Hot holiday toy ideas that are kid-tested and approved

  • Play Visions' Dirt Bugs in a Jar is a low-price holiday toy that Parents Magazine recommends.
  • WowWee's Fingerlings are bargain-priced and already popular.
  • The magazine also liked: LeapFrog's Scoop & Learn Ice Cream Cart, WowWee's Mini Minion MiP RC, and Dynacraft's Stable Buddies Unicorn 6V Plush Ride-On, among other toys.

Ready or not, the holiday shopping season has begun.

Americans will spend more than $678 billion dollars in the last two months of 2017 as they hunt for holiday gifts, according to estimates from the National Retail Federation, which excludes spending on cars, gasoline and restaurants. That's about $1,000 dollars per consumer.

The expected 3.6 percent to 4 percent increase in spending from last year "reflects the very realistic steady momentum of the economy and overall strength of the industry," said Matthew Shay, the CEO of the retail trade group, in a press release.

One big bonus for retailers this year is that Christmas falls on a Monday, giving last-minute shoppers an extra weekend day to complete their shopping lists — and potentially splurge on themselves.

But parents, wanting to make sure their children get the items they've been wishing for, may not want to postpone their shopping.

Parents Magazine put together a list of toys they tested with kids. The children come to the company's office in New York City and Parents Magazine editors watch to see which ones are the favorites.

Here's a few picks from their top 50 list.

Bargain buys ($15 and below)

For those looking for a hit with the kids that won't break the bank, Parents Magazine Editor-in-Chief Liz Vaccariello said to check out WowWee's Fingerlings. The toy is geared for ages five and above, and costs $15.

"These guys open and close their eyes, they hang and jingle," said Vaccariello. The Fingerlings even interact and sing together if you clap twice.

Stores are offering exclusive versions as an incentive to get you to shop at their store. But there are already reports, these toys are flying off the shelves.

"If you go to Walmart, they have the sloth and the unicorn is at Toys R Us," added Vaccariello.

Fingerlings
Source: YouTube
Fingerlings

Another bargain buy is the Play Visions' Dirt Bugs in a Jar. This one is geared toward ages three and above, and costs $13. The sandy dough looks like soil and provides toy insects that kids can bury in the "dirt."

Mid-range priced toys

For those willing to spend a little more, LeapFrog's Scoop & Learn Ice Cream Cart costs $40 and perfect for kids older than 2 years old. Vaccariello said this toy works on "development, memorization and sequencing."

"We found the kids played with this for hours," she added.

With the third edition of the "Despicable Me" movie franchise out this past summer, the little minion characters have become one of the must-have toys for kids. WowWee's Mini Minion MiP RC costs $20 and aimed for kids 4 years old and above. The toy speaks "Minion" and can respond to clapping and hand gestures. Kids can drive it around and control it through the Turbo Dave app, which has more than 100 sound effects.

Splurge

For those willing to shell out the big bucks this year, Hatchimals are once again a hot holiday toy. They were huge last year, but this year the Spin Master's Hatchimals Surprise hatches twins. Each egg costs $70.

"The technology's incredible. As the twins age, over the course of days and weeks, they develop as children do. They start to talk to each other, they go from babbling to talking to eating," Vaccariello said.

And one of the big trends this year has been unicorns, and now kids can drive their own magical creature. Dynacraft's Stable Buddies Unicorn 6V Plush Ride-On costs $150. It goes 2.5 miles per hour and Vaccariello said, "It's total delight."

"On the Money" airs on CNBC on Saturdays at 5:30 a.m. ET, or check listings for air times in local markets.

Disclosure: "Despicable Me" is a Universal Pictures property. Both CNBC and Universal Pictures are units of Comcast's NBCUniversal.