All the kids I know make their Christmas and Hannukkah lists early. Children take note of those toy commercials right around Halloween and by the time December rolls around they have about five Christmas lists with stars, underlines, and hightlighted gifts that they would like you to relay to Santa ASAP.
But while Santa has his little elves on the assembly line to help with his orders, you often battle the toy stories alone -- snatching up the season's biggest gets so that your kid isn't the only one on Christmas morning to wake up without a Tickle-Me Elmo or a Furby. But in case you arrive at the shelves to find this year's hottest toys sold out, here are some alternatives that may pass your kid's smell test.
Disney Princess Quintessential Castle, $144.99
Target informs me that this Disney Quintessential Castle is one of the most in-demand dollhouses this winter and although I'm inclined to believe that that stairway and shell bathtub would make any girly girl swoon, this Barbie Three-Story Townhouse is just as glam -- and expensive.
Barbie-3-Story Dream Townhouse, $135.00
VTech Pink Innotab Bundle, $79.99
This VTech Pink Innotab Bundle is already sold out in most stores, as it's being marketed much like a kids' iPad with games that stress memory and math skills for 4-year-olds. But this V-Tech V Reader below has virtually the same design, only with an emphasis on reading and stories instead.
VTech V.Reader Interactive E-Reading, $47.99
Angry Birds: Knock On Wood Game, $32.97
Our Editor-in-Chief, Shawna Cohen, informs me that her two sons would love the above Angry Birds: Knock On Wood game this year. Based on the best-selling iPhone app, the angry birds have now reach their three-dimensional incarnation. But if you can't find this coveted game on the shelves, fear not. The birds also manifest as a card game, allowing kids to still play with their favorite furious characters -- no iPhone required.
Angry Birds Card Game, $10.17
LEGO Harry Potter Hogwarts, $40.50
Harry Potter Legos are on the holiday list of both boys and girls this year and although many kids have their sights set on this Hogwarts castle battlefield, other scenarios are available and awesome -- like this triple-decker Knight bus. The latter has about half the total pieces as the Hogwarts castle, but the mobility of this bus more than makes up for the fewer characters.
LEGO Harry Potter The Knight Bus, $27.90
Spooner Board, $44.95
This popular Spooner allows kids to pretend they're skateboarding or snowboarding wihout ever having to put on a helmet. But considering that these boards are virtually indestructable according to most reviews, and usuable for all ages, chances are that they will go fast. So if you don't get your hands on one come the big day, opt instead for this Radio Flyer Scoot 2 Skate. It's about the same price and can function both as a scooter and skateboard for kids up to eight years old. Do plan on coupling with a helmet though.
Radio Flyer Scoot 2 Skate, $44.99