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Toys

As little ones excitedly unwrap gifts and squeal with delight at the new toys they've received, your mind may travel back in time to a similar scene.

In this flashback, it is you who opens a package and feels the rush of delight in finding a new Teddy Bear, Etch-a-Sketch or Barbie.

Toys are one of the true joys of childhood. The Web has many sites that review toys and offer advice so that parents can make choices that are safe, educational and fun for their children.

Those who are nostalgic for their own childhood will also find a boundless array of sites that highlight toys of yesteryear, from such bygone favorites as Odd Ogg and Zoids to perennial favorites such as yo-yos and Frisbees. Today the toy industry has been revolutionized, having elaborate to mimick James Bond, or even fancy video games to occupy kids time. Toys for kids keep evolving, but it's great to know we can still rely on the classics.

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Toy Education

Today, there are so many kids toys cluttering the market that it's difficult for parents to know which choices are the best for their children. Safety and educational value rank high on most parents' list of desired toy qualities, but it's also important that such toys are fun for the kids.

The Web has several sites that offer reviews and toy education. Parents looking for the perfect prescription for safe children's fun can stop by Dr. Toy's Guide on the Internet ( www.drtoy.com ).

Dr. Toy is an alias for Dr. Stevanne Auerbach, a child development expert who examines toys and other children's products, and highlights the best on her website. So far, more than 2,000 kids items have gotten the Dr. Toy seal of approval.

In the Tips on Toys section, Dr. Joy suggests 10 questions and five points of consideration that every parent should address before choosing a toy for their child.

Parents looking for more detailed help can click on Dr. Toys Rx's, which features dozens of articles featuring titles such as "Tips for Keeping Toys Clean and Safe," "High Tech Fun" and "What's Right for Toddler?"

Click on 100 Best Toys, and you'll find the latest list of the top 100 toys as chosen by Dr. Toy. These are products that excel at promoting a child's intellectual or physical development, while remaining safe and wholesome.

Ten toys are chosen in 10 different categories, including Best Educational, Best Creative, Best Socially Responsible and Best Software/CD.

There are also sections that recommend top Vacation Toys and links to places where you can learn more about Classic Toys, which are those forms of children's entertainment that have stood the test of time, such as yo-yos, kites and checkers.

Are you searching for a toy from the past, but just can't find it? Click Ask Dr. Joy, and leave your question and an e-mail address. The message will be posted at the website, and others will be invited to send the answer directly to you.

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Toy Tips.com (www.toytips.com ) is another site packed with great education for parents seeking information about fun and protective toys. Billing itself as "the independent voice on toys for child development," Each toy at this site is rated on a scale of 1 to 5 under two criteria. The first, the Toy Tips Rating, is compiled by researchers who observe the toy and its affect on children. The second is the Fun Score, which is compiled by the real experts - the kids themselves.

There is also a section on Safety and individual sections targeted at various age groups, from infants to kids aged 9 to 12.

Finally, if you're nervous about toy reviews that may be influenced by advertiser dollars, check out the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio (www.toyportfolio.com ). This site offers reviews of toys in five categories: Infants, Toddlers, Preschool Years, Early School Years and Later Elementary School.

What sets this site apart from many others is that it refuses to accept the advertising of any toy sellers or manufacturers. The site's administrators contend that maintaining this policy ensures that their opinions are independent and honest.

Safety First

Parents want toys to be fun for their children, but nothing is more important than toy safety. Fortunately, the Web offers resources to help keep your child's play safe.

The Toy Industry Association of America - a group whose members manufacture 85 percent of the toys sold in the U.S. - has safety tips.

Here, you can order booklets with toy safety information, or simply view them online. Available titles include Fun Play, Safe Play and Guide to Toys for Children Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired. You can also find information on toy safety via searches by toy manufacturer, product name, product category or the top-selling toys.

Children At Heart

After the children have enjoyed their time surfing for toys, it's time for the parents to return to the years of play. There are many sites on the Net that cater to the fond memories most of us have of playing with popular toys of yesteryear.

You can find sites for those who are feeling a bit nostalgic. These sites usually features recaps of past movies, TV shows, fashion, lunchboxes and more.

It also includes interviews with celebrities who talk about their favorite childhood memories, such as director Quentin Tarantino's reflections on GI Joe and Cap'n Crunch.

The toys section itself is a wonder. Here, you'll will find roundups of toys from every decade since 1900. From Pokemon in the 90s to Micronauts in the 70s, and Chutes and Ladders of the 40s to Raggedy Ann of the 10s, it's all here.

Many toys now considered icons of American culture have their own websites devoted to celebrating these institutions.

Even if you've never played marbles, chances are you've seen the colorful spheres flecked with streaks of white or blue. At Akron Marbles (www.akronmarbles.com ), you'll learn the history of the marble craze, which began in Akron, Ohio, in the 1880s.

If you grew up in the 1950s - or if you are a doll collector of any age - chances are you're familiar with the 8-inch "Ginny-type" Dolls of the 50s.

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Sci-Fi Fun

Science fiction buffs who grew up playing with Micronauts, Zoids or the Six-Million-Dollar Man can relive their childhood at Bug-Eyed Monster (www.bugeyedmonster.com ).

Each of these toys and many more get their own page of explanation and appreciation at this site. Plus, you'll find links to other sites that focus on these toys, and a great selection of wallpaper images for your PC.

Some of these sites focus on toys from a particular decade. Children of the 1960s can stop by Toys From the Sixties, where they can wax nostalgic about Odd Ogg, Uncle Fester's Mystery Light Bulb and the Green Ghost Game.

Meanwhile, children of the 1980s can check out images of their favorite toys at Toys of the 80s.If you remember Smurfs or Wacky Packs, this is the site for you.

Finally, a pair of cable television networks have their own website sections devoted to our childhood play-time memories.

The History Channel hosts a celebration of toys and games, including features on Barbie, Monopoly, Scrabble, the Teddy Bear and yo-yos. You can also test your toy smarts by trying the toy quiz at the site.

The Discovery Channel's "Toys Were Us" turns the spotlight on five all-time classics - Frisbee, Barbee, Slinky, Skateboard and Video Games. Each toy gets a well-written appreciation that traces the development and popularity of the toy throughout the years.

Any parent who has struggled to keep a clean home knows that toys are a child's ultimate calling card. Few things fire a child's imagination like their favorite toy. Thanks to the Net, parents can now ensure that their children enjoy safe, educational toys.

Then, when nobody's looking, they can travel back to a time when Silly Putty ruled the universe!

Didn't find the toy you were looking for in this article? Have no fear - the Yahoo! search engine is here to save the day.

At the Yahoo! toys directory, you'll find everything from LEGOs to Nerf, View-Masters and Weebles. There are also categories on various types of toys, such as action figures, dolls and toy guns.

Kids of all ages are bound to find sites that will keep them entertained for hours.