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For many parents, Halloween is a cinch compared with Christmas. I'll take the madness of a sugar-induced meltdown of an evening over the potential disappointments of Christmas morning any day.

Mastermind Toys founder Jon Levy says the secret formula to gift-buying is balancing a little from your child's shiny-new-thing list to "show you're listening and you respect their curiosity" with toys and activities you know they love. "They'll thank you by playing with it over and over."

Herewith, the top 10 toys this year that might fit either category.

Tim Fraser for The Globe and Mail

Rainbow Loom

Yes, you may have heard other parents cursing all that the darn rubber bands underfoot thanks to this new craze from the friendship-bracelet genre, but this rubber-band version just keeps going gangbusters. It was invented by a parent, after all: Detroit’s Cheong-Choon Ng, a former crash-test engineer from Nissan, tapped into his memories of weaving jump ropes as a kid in Malaysia to create this weaving kit for his daughters.

Skwooshi

Think the gluten-free trend can’t get any more ubiquitous? Here you go: A kids’ clay that touts itself as gluten-free. (Kids do chow down on the stuff.) And it purports to never dry out, so you can stop your constant nagging to put it away.
Tim Fraser for The Globe and Mail

Papo Dinos

Refe Tuma and his wife devote each November to persuading their children that their toy dinosaurs come to life while they sleep. Their Facebook page for Dinovember tracks the beasts’ nocturnal activity – breaking into the fridge, eating crayons (the kids wake up to the destruction) – and has garnered much attention. To stoke your kids’ imaginations, all you need is a couple of toy dinosaurs. Consider it all of the fun of Elf on a Shelf with none of the creepy surveillance factor.

Y Fliker Scooter

The newest scooter, from Ireland-based Yvolution, splits the base of the scooter in two and rests on three wheels. Kids use a downhill-skiing motion, swaying hips from side to side to propel themselves. In a Today’s Parent test with 75 families and 135 child testers, the Y Fliker F1 (for ages 5-plus) was chosen as one of their top toy picks this holiday season.
Tim Fraser for The Globe and Mail

Angry Birds Star Wars Telepods Star Destroyer

Your kid playing too much Angry Birds Star Wars on the iPad? Reverse-engineer the situation with a bricks-and-mortar version of the addictive game.
Tim Fraser for The Globe and Mail

Nerf Rebelle

Even though this is aimed at (no pun intended) girls, Alex Thorne, an 11-year-old toy tester for Toys “R” Us says, “I like it, too. It’s actually inspired by The Hunger Games.” Look past the eye-searing graphics and the cheesy name and this upgraded archer accessory might tap into your daughter’s inner jock. Who would you rather your tween emulate: Jennifer Lawrence or Miley Cyrus?
Tim Fraser for The Globe and Mail

Lottie

The un-Barbie-like Lottie dolls are the brainchild of a husband-and-wife team who tested the toy market with Kate and William dolls to mark the 2011 royal wedding. Mastermind’s Levy says, “The idea is, ‘Here is a doll just like you. You pick one to be your friend.’” The cute outfits don’t hurt either.

Marker Maker

Crayola goes meta this season with not only a new twist on markers (new colours, glitter), but also an actual marker-making toy. You mix your own ink and watch the marker sponge absorb it. When asked if this was a potentially messy gift, Alex said it depends: “If your kid is someone who can find mess in lots of things, yes.”
Tim Fraser for The Globe and Mail

Zoomer

Don’t want the hassle of a real-life pet? Spinmaster’s Zoomer is ready to cuddle. Toys “R” Us has a purple pup, but the white one should blend in nicely with your fleet of Apple electronics. One big upside over a real dog, according to Alex, it only “fake pees.” Amen.
Tim Fraser for The Globe and Mail

Snow Fort

For the helicopter parents on your list, or for a family that lives in warmer climes, comes an indoor snow fort and bucket o’ balls. Designed by a mom and grandma with too many kids underfoot, the original involved a spool of cotton batten and homemade snowballs, Levy says
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