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What is the hottest Christmas toy of 2010?

Local elementary school students tested more than 80 toys to see which were worth adding to their wish lists this holiday shopping season.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010; 2:05 PM

What will the hottest toy of 2010 be? Even booksellers like Barnes & Noble are trying to figure it out by getting into the holiday toy market:

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At the Barnes & Noble in Tysons Corner Center, one aisle has a peculiar new configuration. On one side, new current events books about America and its troubles and promise. On the other side, toys: Cook and Play Potsy, My Pal Scout, Ernie Fire Engine. "I had no idea this was here," said Charles Davis, an Alexandria resident shopping with his companion, Sabina Sauer.

They had stumbled upon the intriguing new world of toy retailing, in which Barnes & Noble, Borders and retailers even less associated with products for little kids - Whole Foods Market, The Vitamin Shoppe - are angling for parental wallets with high-end, mostly educational toys, often with a green component.

The new toy hawkers know that children's wares have been an easy path to parents' wallets for eons, particularly during recessions. Older shoppers may recall that the original department stores placed children's items in the very back, so moms had to traverse the entire store, much as many supermarkets stock milk in the rear corner of the store.

As Ylan Mui reported, early indications were that Justin Beiber would flex his commerical appeal this holiday season and snag the top toy spot:

Every year, there is intense competition for the elusive title of the hottest holiday toy. This year's contenders include Sing-a-Ma-Jigs, whimsical, colorful creatures that play music when squeezed. There's Paper Jamz, electric guitar look-alikes that play perfectly with just a touch. And the Kinect Xbox video game system is challenging the dominance of Nintendo's Wii.

But the Bieber doll requires no explanation or instruction manual. Few toys can inspire the fervor that he stirs in his fans. They have clicked endlessly on the YouTube videos of him singing around his house - in the bathroom, holding a toothbrush, wearing his jammies - that propelled him to stardom. They have listed "Bieber" as their middle names on Facebook and plastered their Twitter accounts with his photos.

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