Gift Guide 2008: Toys that kids AND grown-ups will love

Why do kids get to have all the fun? When you peruse the most techno-advanced gifts of today, you'll discover there's something in this for you, too. In fact, some gifts you give the young 'uns are just as much fun for you. That works — everyone's happy, and you are spared the embarrassment of being called a grown-up kid.

Take it from me, an experienced parent: Playing with your kids' toys is one of the many joys of parenting. Get the right ones, and you're both golden. So get ready to make up for that deprived childhood with the best ten toys for kids, each so cool you'll probably end up playing with them long after they've all gone to sleep.




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1. SCX Digital Slot Cars ($322)
Toy cars whizzing around a track was already fun, but now that thrill is accelerated into hyperdrive with this SCX 1:32 Scale Digital GT Slot Car Racing Set. No longer are cars confined to just one track, because each of the three exquisitely detailed racers is digitally addressable, quickly changing lanes and passing opponents with a quick touch of a button on its wireless electronic controller. You can race up to six of the digital SCX cars on the same track, and all your laps are counted electronically. Check out this video to see the mayhem up close. Big fun!

Available at Amazon




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2. SpaceShipOne Rocket ($47)
Launch Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne yourself with this 1:30 scale flying model of the Ansari X Prize-winning spacecraft. This 13-inch-high Estes rocket is fully assembled, and the package includes a complete launch system. After your own dramatic countdown, stay clear because when you fire its electronic launcher, the solid rocket booster ignites. Once it's sizzled and soared to its maximum altitude of 400 feet, out pops a parachute to return it safely to earth. Quickly install another engine, and it's ready for another flight.

Available at AC Supply




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3. Humanoid Robot ($100)
Who knew such a tiny robot could perform such stunts? At a mere 6.5 inches tall, this little guy packs lots of smarts, including 180 pre-programmed movements. You can string together whichever of its mannerisms you'd like, resulting in air guitar playing, simulated gunfighting, or whatever kooky stuff you dream up. Then tell the little sucker what you want him to do — he can respond to 10 verbal commands, too. For a robot, he's remarkably equipped, with 17 servo motors, gyro sensors to keep him standing upright, and rechargeable batteries that operate for an hour on a six-hour charge.

Available at Hammacher Schlemmer




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4. H-Racer Hydrogen Car ($100)
It may be years, or even decades, before real hydrogen vehicles are actually affordable, but that doesn't mean you can't toy around with a model fuel cell car now. The H-Racer hydrogen car's fueling station combines solar power and ordinary tap water to perform its electrolysis magic, running the palm-sized car for about four minutes on a full tank of hydrogen. There are no batteries required, — all you need is a sunny day to send this tiny pocket rocket on its way. But give it plenty of room since there's no way to steer it — we hope real hydrogen cars won't omit that important capability.

Available at Amazon




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5. Snowball Blaster ($30)
Just a glimpse of this Snowball Blaster in the hands of your opponents will instill a cold, frozen fear in your soul. Nobody could pack and throw snowballs as fast as this fearsome winter weapon, hurling the icy ammunition a full 50 feet. Its slingshot action will out throw and out-endure any opponent, and you might consider either wielding two of these beasts or keeping you other hand free for slinging additional projectiles the old-fashioned way. Get ahead of the snowball arms race for 30 bucks, and rest assured, you'll be ready for the inevitable day when those neighborhood snowball thugs come a-calling.

Available at Hammacher Schlemmer




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6. N-Scale Amtrak Acela Train Set ($342)
These N-scale trains are scarcely larger than your pinky finger, but are exquisitely detailed. The Bachmann Spectrum Amtrak Acela Express N Scale Electric Train Set is a worthy replica of that 150mph Acela Express train that races between Boston and Washington, D.C. every day. The First Class and Business cars are faithfully depicted, pulled along by a double locomotive with that distinctive Acela livery. All, the cars have detailed, lighted interiors, and the set also includes a 59 x 39-inch oval track.

Available a Discount Trains




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7. iOptron SmartStar E R80 GoTo Refractor Telescope ($308)
Sure, you can look at photos from the Hubble Space Telescope online, but there's nothing quite like peering into the cosmos with your own eyes. The iOptron makes that easy with its GoToNova controller, using a 5,000-object database to point its 400mm refractor telescope toward a variety of celestial objects. Its Alt-Azimuth mount keeps the scope perfectly pointed at an object as the earth moves. Once you've found a favorite, you can enter those into a 256-item database, building a collection of planets, galaxies and stars for later referral. It's like having a pro astronomer standing next to you the whole time.

Available at Telescopes.com




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8. WowWee Flytech Bladestar ($40)
What the heck is that? Somewhat like a helicopter but more like a flying propeller, the Flytech Bladestar leaps aloft with amazing speed, and if you're having trouble controlling it, let its autopilot take over. It's so accurate, it can avoid ceilings and walls with ease. The counterbalanced blade is so well designed and light, it's surprisingly maneuverable. Designed for indoor flight, its affordable price is low enough for you to consider getting two for some hellacious dogfights. Ounce for ounce, it's one of the best entertainment values you can get.

Available at Esend




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9. X-Treme Rafale B-01 R/C Jet ($5000+)
This radio-controlled model jet is so big, that guy in the picture above might almost be able to put his small dog on board for the ride of his life. The kit includes landing gear, tailpipe and fuel tanks, but you'll have to get the turbine engines elsewhere. The 82-inch plane is constructed with composite wings and carbon fiber, and can accommodate a 19-22 lb. turbine. The engines are remarkable, tiny power plants that spin at tremendous RPM (32,000-128,000rpm), and run on JetA1 kerosene fuel. You'd better be a pretty good pilot, because after you've bought a couple of the $3,000+ engines and a radio controller, you'll be paying prices that are almost as much as a real jet.

Available at Skymaster Jet




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10. Gears of War Lancer Rifle ($140)
It's a good thing this Lancer rifle isn't operational. Its formidable chainsaw might do some serious damage, but not to worry. Even though this replica looks like it just jumped off the screen during a heated battle on the Xbox 360 game Gears of War 2, it's not too dangerous — as long as you don't sling it around too much. It's bad-ass sounding, though, braying out a terrifying roar when you pull its trigger that sounds just like its deadly chainsaw has sprung to life. Pick one up for $140, or get a copy of Gears of War 2 along with it for a total of $210.

Available at Amazon