Toys mentioned in this article meet the National Parenting Center’s Seal of Approval.

Some seasons feel like life in fast motion. Long before Labor Day, my little granddaughters have dog-eared catalogs of coveted Halloween costumes. Now, almost before the Jack-o’-Lantern has cooled, they’re dreaming of holiday wish lists. As much as I resist, it’s hard not to catch their excitement. But how to choose from a dizzying array of gift options?

One good resource I have found can help. If you’re looking for holiday gift ideas for the special kids in your life, now is a good time to check out the National Parenting Center’s Seal of Approval program. For two decades, this organization has been testing and finding the latest award-winning products and services, as judged by parents and children.

The testing involves a multi-step process conducted over eight weeks. Staffed by volunteers, the testing facility of The National Parenting Center gives parents, children and educators the opportunity to examine a variety of submitted products. The testers are encouraged to play with, build, read about, and judge by the reactions of the children, each product’s quality.

Each product is rated its level of desirability, sturdiness, interactive stimulation and other ingredients essential to a quality product.

The Fall 2012 Seal of Approval report is ready for review at, but you can also browse all the seal winners since 1992 at

Some Top Picks for the 2012 Holidays
This year’s list contains some traditional toys and educational products, while reflecting the rising popularity of mobile technology.

“We are surely seeing a movement towards mobile products and apps and even traditional games adding in a level of connectivity to keep current, says David Gaynes, product testing manager for the program. “We have discovered some wonderful apps including, ‘The Monster at the End of This Book’ from Sesame Street, ‘Toy Story Showtime’ and ‘Brave: Interactive Comic’ from Disney Publishing.”

There’s even an app that can teach your child (ages 4 and up) how to speak a new language. Little Pim Spanish, French, and Chinese apps impressed the testers with their crisp, clear graphics and vibrant colors. Testers say the narrator’s voice is easy on the ears and the vocabulary being taught is simple and helpful. Categories include child-friendly concepts such as waking up, eating, drinking and playtime. While only an introduction to language, the apps do what they are supposed to: make learning other languages fun.

When it comes to gifts, Gaynes has some recommendations:

“For crafty kids I’d recommend ‘Duct Tape Bangles’ from ALEX, ‘My Friendship Bracelet Maker Traveler’ from Choose Friendship, ‘PlusCraft BFF Pillow’ from The Orb Factory, and a book called ‘101 Great Gifts Kids Can Make’ by Gryphon House.” He also recommends the “Play-Doh Candy Cyclone” from Hasbro.

“It’s not traditional crafts, but a blast,” he notes.

For video game fans, Gaynes urges parents to consider the Kinect games.

“There are two amazing games that get kids up and moving and are fantastic,” he says, ‘Kinect Star Wars’ and ‘Kinect Rush: A Disney/Pixar Adventure.’”

Gift-givers can also check out “LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes,” which is a more traditional XBox controller game.

When it comes to more traditional toys, look for “Tranquil Turtle” from Cloud B, which is bound to melt everyone’s heart. Other 2012 favorites include “Pour and Float Froggy” from VTech—a great bathtime toy—and Folkmanis “Little Puppets.” “Trucky 3” from Smart/Tangoes is a truck toy that doubles as a logic puzzle for ages 3 and up. “Stuffies” animals/pillows from martFIVE are adorable and will surely elicit lots of smiles.

Gaynes said “Imaginext Eagle Talon Castle”  from Fisher-Price will thrill any little boy, and their “Fantastic Gynmastic Dora” will make any little girl’s holiday.

While on the Seal of Approval site, parents can complete a questionnaire to better understand their child’s personality. The extensive questionnaire was developed by psychologists to rate the personalities of children, adolescents, and adults of any age. Parents can also search through an extensive collection of parenting articles written by experts in subjects ranging from sibling rivalry and explaining divorce to potty training and talking back.

Don’t forget to add a good book!
No holiday would be complete without a good book or two. Each year a committee of the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) identifies the best-of-the-best in children’s books for readers birth through age 14.

Visit to check out the 2012 Notable Children’s Books list.

Linda Wacyk is a regular contributor to Country Lines magazine….and yes, a grandmother too.