The 20 Must-Have Toys of 2011

ipadThe days until Christmas and Hanukkah are dwindling, and if you and your elves haven't done your shopping yet, now is the time to start (quickly!). Like every year, there are "it" toys that seem to end up on all children's lists across the country. Somehow they become hot, and you find yourself doing mad dashes across town and frantic online searches trying to track down the coveted items.

Of course, sometimes the challenge is greater before the big hunt when it comes to narrowing down what exactly is hot, especially if you're buying for nieces, nephews, and other kids you might not be getting direct input from. To help you out with your holiday shopping and make you look cool and happenin', here's a list of the 20 Hottest Toys of 2011 based on input from parents and kids across the country. Ready, set, shop!

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1. iPad Hands down this is the most frequently requested gift I've heard from kids. It's also the one I've most frequently heard parents say there's no way they're buying their kid. But a kid can hope.

2. Kindle Fire Quite a bit lower in price than the iPad, this has made the more realistic lists of some.

3. Password Journal This high-tech diary uses voice-activated password protection and sounds an alarm when your sneaky little brother (or curious mom?) tries to read your most private thoughts. (Recommended age: 6-8 years old)

4. LeapFrog LeapPad For the younger tablet set, this hardy version is hard to come by. Some parents say it has been sold out since Thanksgiving, though there have been some re-stockings of it. (Recommended age 4-9)

5. Beyblades These spinning tops that battle come in a variety of formats, and all sorts of accessories are available for them. Many, however, may prove difficult to find. (Recommended age: Products vary but generally 8 years and up)

6. Fijit Friends These interactive, dancing, and talking robots are reportedly selling out the minute they hit shelves. (Recommended age: 6 years and up)

7. Beanie Boos These cute little stuffed animals come in a wide variety of choices for collecting. Priced right at under $10, they're great stocking stuffers as well. (Recommended age: 3 years and up)

8. Ninjago Legos From spinners to complex building sets, Lego lovers love this line. My son is crazy for them, and I fully attribute the ones he has to my toddler daughter's in-depth knowledge of nunchucks and the like. (Recommended age: Products vary, but generally 5 years and up)

9. Sesame Street Let's Rock Elmo For the younger set, Elmo is back and better than ever as a rocker. He plays music, and your kid can play along too. (Recommended age: 18 months - 4 years)

10. Trash Pack "Trashies" Garbage Truck With hundreds of "trashies" to collect, they need a big rig. This is it. (Recommended age: 5-7 years)

11. Nintendo DSi XL An extra large screen makes gaming on this even better than earlier versions of the DS, according to kids a Stir writer tested it with. This version also doesn't do 3D, which is a bonus for parents worried about the potential negative effects from it.

12. Hot Wheels Wall Tracks These innovative sets let kids build courses for their cars up the walls. (Recommended age: 5-7 years)