ELECTRONIC toys and games are everywhere this Christmas season. Like last year and the year before, electric sports games, electric dolls and electric space ships crowd the shelves of area toy stores. But if you look closely the traditional toys and games of Christmas past can still be found.
One toy you didn't see last year was Baby Soft Sounds ($30) by Fisher-Price. "Baby Soft Sounds," says Carol Blackley, public relation spokeswoman for Fischer-Price, "is motion-sensitive. She comes with an electric voice unit that is inserted into a zippered panel on her back. wDepending on how she is held, she eitheer coos or makes fussing sounds."
Baby Soft Sounds (recommended for ages 3 and up) comes as a white or black doll and retails for $30 to $34. She works on a 9-volt battery that is not included. Baby Soft Sounds was recently chosen by the City Museum of New York as part of its Toy and Doll Collection. "Baby Soft Sounds," adds Blackley, "and our new Alpha Probe Spaceship, are Fisher-Price's first electronic toys."
Of course this year wouldn't be complete without the game "Dallas" ($5.94, SPI). the box cover includes a large portrait of J. R. Ewing -- surrounded by his various costars. The object of the game is to play-act. Scripts, plots devices as well as director suggestions are all included -- if you're not worried about starting your children on a life of sin.
The Alpha Probe Spaceship works on one battery, not included. The ship consists of one Mother Ship, which at a touch of a button makes blast-off sounds, communication noises, or flashes red lights along with siren sounds. The Mother Ship, comes with a smaller ship inside and with one female and one male astronaut. Alpha Probe retails for $31.75. Suggested for ages 4-9.
You might remember Milton Bradley's Simon ($23.94-$32.99), which came out in 1978. This year -- in addition to Simon -- Milton Bradley has put out Super Simon ($29.99-$35). Super Simon works on the same principle as Simon -- only it has eight colored keys instead of four. When pressed, each key makes a different electronic tone. The object is to see how long a series of tones you can remember by playing them back. When you goof, the machine buzzes you out. Pocket Simon is also available ($18-$21.99).
Electric (not electronic) football has been popular for years and is still on the shelves (12.86-$16, Tudor). Tudor has not made a sturdier version it calls NFL Super Bowl ($22.92-$30). The game still operates by the electric vibration of the metal football field, which causes the players to move across the field.
Also among the larger sports games is Coleco's Stantley Cup Power Play $21.97). The ice hockey rink is occupied by moveable stick players, which are operated by twisting sticks beneath the board. Ice hockey board games have been popular for nearly two decades.
"Mattel," claims spokesman Jack Fox, "invented the electronic hand-held game in 1977 with the introduction of our electronic football game. We made $5 million on it. During the next year , other companies joined us -- adding a total of $375 million to the toy industry just through electronic games alone." This year Mattel has Football II -- a more sophisticated version of the first game. Football II intercepts, scrambles, has down and yardage situations, a referee's whistle, a bugle charge and four playing speeds. Price: $35-40.
Mattel also makes an electronic basketball game complete, with foul shots and a two-minute violation -- for kids, as well as adults. Cost: $35-40.
Mattel makes non-sporting games as well. A words and numbers game, called Brain Baffler, includes a 38-character keyboard and eight different games, ranging from scrabble to arithmetic. It can be programmed for youngsters and adults. Cost: $50.
Horse Race Analyzer (which Fox thinks "people will go bananas over") takes the information from a racing form and programs it into its mini-computer (retails for $100-$125). The Horoscope Computer ($50) is programmed through Dec. 31, 1987 -- simply punch in the date and category you're interested in (e.g. Jan. 1, 1982 -- career) and voila (you may not want to know!).
Also new this year is Head to Head Electronic Baseball by Coleco. "Head to Head," says Coleco's vice president of marketing, Michael Katz, "is the most advanced electronic computerized game on the market." It includes 16 pitching variations, automatically computed batting averages, bunting, stealing and extra innings. Cost: $35-40.
Coleco claims it is leading the toy-game industry in education and sports electronic games. Their Plan and Learn Electronic Learning Machine contains 32 two-sided activity cards, covering everything from spelling and math to riddles and rhymes. Recommended for ages 4 and up. Cost: $39.95.
Celebrating her 21st year this Christmas is Mattel's Barbie doll, whose 1980 name is Beauty Secrets Barbie. She looks like her counterparts from previous years, but according to Fox, "Beauty Secrets Barbie's hair is longer, her arms move through a panel in her back, plus she comes with her own hair dryer and Super 'Vette car." Beauty Secrets retails for $9-10.
Matchbox cars -- made in England and at $1.08 one of the best buys on the market -- are still around. The sturdy finger-length vehicles ranging from race cars to garbage trucks to tractor trailers now have their own Matchbox Super Garage $11.97).
Doll houses are more plentiful than the real kind, available without 15 percent mortgages at area stores, including the Patowmack Toy Shop, Columbia Mall, in Columbia, Md. Its doll houses include simple one-story homes to triple-decker Victorian town houses. Prices start at $85 and run as high as $350.
But it's Patowmack's accessories that really strike you -- it's like being in the land of Lilliputians: miniature furniture sets (both traditional and contemporary), tiny china sets, minute venetian blinds, as well as microscopic Tiffany lamps. Most are by Concord Furniture. They're not cheap, but the superior craftsmanship is worth the price. Sample prices: a maroon-with-gold-thread love seat, $44; a Victorian cradle, $20.99; a brass queen-size bed, $43; an Early American chest, $47.99; and electrically lit chandelier, $17.99; and a pair of double-window venetian blinds, $3 (with valance, $2.80 extra).
The National Trust for Historic Preservation has miniature doll house furnishings including a Queen Anne dining table, $22; three-piece sterling silver place settings, $13.50; and Queen Anne side chairs, $18 each. Other toys range from a children's three-dimensional German pop-up book-theater by Franz Bonn ($7.95) to rag dolls "made today in yesterday's image" (says the Gift Catalogue), $40.
Sleds and skates may be exceptionally "hot" items for a winter that is supposed to be colder in January. Coleco puts out a plastic Super Sled for $11.99 as well as a not-very-sturdy Slide-A-Boggan for $2 (suggested ages 4 to adult). The well-known Flexible Flyer sleds are still around, including the two-seat, 48-inch model for $27.96 and the three-seat, 54-inch Flexible Flyer III for $25.78. Gladding makes Speedway sleds ranging from a 48-inch model for $23.94 to a 52-inch sled for $25.96.
And in roller skates -- there's Mattel's Sunrunners made with high-rebound urethane wheels, $36.97; Roller Derby's steel-wheel Streetkings (for outdoor use only) in white, red or black, $9.78.
Be sure safety is on your Christmas toy list. The Consumer Products Safety Commission has published "A Toy and Sports Equipment Safety Guide" that is available for $1.50 from the Consumber Information Center, Dept. 113J, Pueblo, Colo. 81009.
Among their suggestions:
Avoid toys that are too complex for young children -- a toy that is safe for an 8-year-old may be dangerous for a 2-year-old.
Read labels and instructions carefully before buying.
Look for labels with age recommendations.
Toys that shoot objects may injure eyes.
Check toys used by children under 3 for any small parts that they could put in their mouths and choke on.
Demonstrate and discuss with children how to use toys properly.
Encourage children to put away their toys so they won't be broken and no one will trip or slide on them.
Examine toys periodically -- look for particularly small broken pieces that a child could swallow or sharp edges and points. Sand splintered wooden surfaces. Repair broken toys and discard those that cannot be fixed.