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Black Friday Shopping Tips From A Toy Expert

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Before we get to "the most wonderful time of the year," we have to endure what is arguably the most stressful time of the year for parents: Holiday toy shopping.

CBSNewYork spoke to toy expert Laurie Schacht, co-publisher of The Toy Insider and founder of The Big Toy Book. She filled us in on the biggest trends for 2011 children's gifts and tipped us off to what will most likely be on your son or daughter's wish list – along with advice on how to make sure you snag the perfect stocking stuffer.

See Also: The 6 Best Toy Stores In NYC

Some of Schacht's favorite toys for this year include Let's Rock Elmo, the Leap Pad and the Color Me Playhouse, to name a few of the items. However, she said it's important to keep in mind that there's isn't one toy that's perfect for everyone—you have to know your own child.

See Also: The 4 Best Toy Stores In N.J.

"It's not one size fits all," she said. "Know what your child's passions are."

Technological and interactive toys are topping the list of toy themes in each age group. Collectibles - toys that can be supplemented with additional pieces and figures, sold separately - are also expected to be a big hit this year, and Schacht points to the opportunity they provide for your child's growth.

With individual add-ons being sold for under $10, children can earn the money on their own for items they may want - an early lesson in finance.

"The price points are great," Schacht said. "Kids can save their allowance and feel empowered."

But before you get that far, you have to make it past Black Friday - and Schacht offered valuable advice.

Before you spend any money, you should know what your child wants. Sounds obvious enough, right? Not necessarily, according to Schacht.

With the flood of toy commercials and catalogs, it's easy for kids to get caught up in the holiday hype of the year's "it" toy. Remember Zsu Zsu pets?

But parents aren't immune to the buzz, either. Don't assume that the toy is a good match for your youngster just because all the advertisers seem to think so.

Another tip? Don't ignore the suggested ages on the box – manufacturers put them there for a reason.

"They mean it," Schacht said. "Look for toys that will grow with your child."

A toy that's too complex will only cause frustration. If it's too simple – it's boring.

"Whether you spend $10 on a gift or $50 on a gift, the value is in how much it gives that child," Schacht said. "If it's going to give them months, years of pleasure – that's valuable. If it's going to end up in a closet…that's not."

And when it comes to looking for the best bargain, don't take it too far. Holding off on purchasing because you think the price may go down might end up being the wrong move.

"If you know what your kids want and you see it on a shelf, buy it now," Schacht said, pointing out that the downward direction of the economy didn't just affect consumers, but retailers, as well. "They buy what they think they're gonna sell."

That means that if they sell out of a toy, you might not see it again until after the holidays.

This isn't the only effect the economy has had on holiday shopping. According to Schacht, trends in toys have changed a great deal from three years ago.

"Manufacturers – and everyone – is aware that the economy has affected everybody," she said. "They're trying to make toys affordable, because you don't want to disappoint kids."

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