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Toy Expert Laurie Schact Picks Season's Hottest Toys, Offers Holiday Shopping Tips

By Carly Sitzer

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — For this holiday season, one toy-savvy New Yorker has already made her own list—and checked it twice.

See Also: CBSNewYork's Holiday Season Guide

Mom and toy expert Laurie Schacht runs the Toy Insider, which is a holiday gift guide for finding the best toys. She's filled with tips to prep Tri-State area parents for Black Friday and beyond.

"We're created a way to shop for toys without it being overwhelming," she said. "We make a list of about 130 toys—at the time we scour our list down from thousands; we break it down into four age groups, we help parents choose things based on what their kids like, what their passions are and what they are looking for from the toys"

See Also: NYC's 6 Best Toy Stores

Schacht starts on the list a full year in advanced with her team of toy experts, all of  them parents. After collecting toys from trade shows and manufacturers submissions, they narrow the list down.

"We want toys that are engaging," she said. "We try to have an equal amount of toys that are for girls, toys that are for boys and toys that are gender neutral. And we try to cover all the various categories of toys that you can find."

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.

"As far as I'm concerned, there's never one hottest toy," she said. "Just because it gets a lot of hype and it's flying off the shelves, if it's not right for your child, it's not right."

See Also: New Jersey's 4 Best Toy Stores

Although there is never one hottest toy, Schacht explained that there are always trends in what's popular every season. For example, this year, real toys inspired from digital games are popular.

"We're seeing physical toys come from video games and virtual worlds, and we're seeing a lot of them," she said. "There's a hot one—Angry Birds. They come in the birds, the come in the pigs, they're really quirky and they're fun."

Additionally, as a parent and a toy expert Schacht offered tips for shopping this holiday season; she said to shop around, but also to shop early and buy something if you see an item on your child's list.

After all, you never know when you could be buying your child's favorite toy—Schacht can still think of her favorite toy from her childhood.

"I loved my Barbie dolls," she said. "And my mother saved many of them, so that my children and now my nieces play with the original ones."

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