It's beginning to look a lot like . . . that same old seasonal power struggle. Do you give kids the presents they want for the holidays -- or what's appropriate according to their age, interest and ability?
This roster, based on general toy categories and age-appropriate groupings from the Toy Manufacturers of America, serves both masters: the children in your life and your conscience.
Culled from independent toy studies and retail forecasts, the toys listed here are hot and developmentally correct.
They've passed muster with kids and with the adults who evaluate them for play value and durability.
They're not only popular, they're toys designed to last past Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Christmas, after the holiday vacation, even after New Year's Eve!
Each toy is listed by name, manufacturer and suggested retail price.
Sorry, batteries are required for much of this kidstuff.
Birth to age 1
Infant learning toys
1. Little Smart Baby Bear Phone. Listen to animal sounds, phrases and nursery rhymes. VTech, $20.
2. Lights 'n Sounds Piano. A toy with three keys that light up and play notes at baby's touch. Fisher-Price, $30.99.
3. Activity Table. Offers colorful table-top amusement for babies and toddlers. Fisher-Price, $29.99.
4. Activity Garden. Small-scale garden includes carrots, flowers and a gate. Little Tikes, $60 to $80.
5. Rolly Polly Penguin. Stacking toy. Today's Kids, $13.
6. Stim-Mobile. Black and white mobile features a face and shapes. Wimmer-Ferguson, $19.95.
Ages 1 to 3
Dolls and stuffed animals
1. Kids of Color. A rag doll. Playskool, $9.99.
2. Baby Beans. Machine-washable soft baby doll that sits. Meritus Industries, $9.99.
3. Talking Barney. An interactive purple dinosaur. Playskool, $34.99.
1. Bumble Ball. Battery-run ball that bounces and rolls by itself. Ertl, $14.99.
1. Mailbox Shape Sorter. Fit pieces through same-shape mailbox holes. Little Tikes, $16 to $20.
PD 2. Hide Inside. Soft, dump and fill toy. Discovery Toys, $16.98.
Push/pull and ride-on toys
1. Rocking Rider Horse. Palomino horse that bounces and rides. Today's Kids, $80.
2. Calliope. Pull toy with bright whistles. Holgate, $20.
3. Double Fun Wagon. Comes with three bright panels and convertible seat. Today's Kids, $40.
Ages 3 to 5
1. Howdy the Talking Pony. Battery-run hobby horse that chats with its rider. Mattel, $30.
1. Sparkling Play-Doh. Glittery modeling clay. Playskool, $3.99.
2. SparkleLights. Make illuminated drawings with colored pegs. Ohio Art, $12.99.
3. 2-Sided Magna Doodle. Magnetic drawing toy. Tyco, $20.
1. Alphabet Soup. Match letters to images around a soup bowl. Parker Brothers, $8.99.
2. Things in My House. Lotto-like game that encourages memory and storytelling skills. Ravensburger of Germany, $11.95.
1. MathSafari. A game that makes math fun. Educational Insights Inc. $99.95
1. Wooden Railway Set. Train construction kit. Brio, $21 to $360.
2. Duplo airport series. Airport construction kit. LEGO Systems Inc., from $5.49 to $35.99.
1. My Size Barbie. Three-foot-tall Barbie. Mattel, $125.
2. Baby Walk and Roll. Doll in radio-controlled walker. Mattel, $45.
3. Cabbage Patch Baby Cries So Real. A weeping doll. Hasbro, $33.
4. Baby Giggles 'N Go. Doll in two-speed walker who giggles when she bumps. Tyco, $35.
1. Little Smart Dr. Doctor. Electronic talking activity. VTech, $48
1. Big Frank. A friendly Frankenstein that tells kids how to repair ,, him. Playskool, $29.99.
2. Toby Terrier. Interactive pooch responds to videotape cues. Tiger Electronics, $49.99.
Farm, village, house and other play sets
1. Drive-Thru Garage. Elaborate play garage that accommodates most kid vehicles. Step 2, $110 to $120.
2. Farm Set. Intricately detailed farm play set. Playmobile, $77.99.
3. Playskool Preschool. A miniature schoolroom complete with cubbies. $39.99.
Games of skill
1. Tyrannosaurus Rocks. Place bones on dinosaur skeleton withoutwaking him. Mattel, $20.
1. Awesome Toss 'Ems. Brightly colored critters that crow, oink and moo. Playskool, $19.99.
1. Big Digger. Sturdy push/pull truck. Little Tikes, $35 to $40.
2. Radio Control Racer. Remote-control car. Fisher-Price, $39.99.
Ages 5 to 9
Action and hero figures
1. Batman figures. Fantasize with Batman and his foes. Kenner, $7.
2. Jurassic Park dinos and figures. 'Raptors and their prey. Kenner, $7.
3. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. From the hot TV program. Bandai America Inc., $10 to $15.
4. Star Trek figures. They're baaack. Playmates, $4.99.
1. K'Nex Connector Set. Unique construction kit with complex XTC possibilities. Connector Set Toy Co., $9.99 to $99.99.
2. Wizbits. Colorful and fanciful construction kit. The Wizbits Corp., $17.50 to $69.50.
3. Dragon Masters collection. Medieval LEGO kits. LEGO Systems Inc, $17.99 to $57.99.
1. Dream Doll House. Victorian mansion with veranda. Fisher-Price, $79.99.
1. 2-XL Robot. Electronic quizzing robot sold with educational tapes. Tiger Electronics, $39.99.
2. Talking Whiz Kid Plus. Electronic building activities with three challenge levels. VTech, $49.
3. Microscope Science Set. A preschool science set for early exploration. Little Tikes, $32 to $40.
1. Never Ending Stories. Make up fun stories using cards to help fill in the details. Discovery Toys, $16.98.
2. Loopin' Louie. Protect your tokens from Louie's plane. Milton Bradley Co., $20.
3. Chick-A-Boom. Stack eggs in a nest without toppling the chicken. Pressman Toy Corp., $11.99.
4. Picnic Panic. Match food pieces before the ants come. Milton Bradley Co., $18.
5. Hot Shot Basketball. Fast-paced electronic hoops. Milton Bradley Co., $35.
6. The Madeleine Game. A game that celebrates our favorite little Parisian. Ravensburger of Germany, $17.95.
7. Snaardvark. Race to the end of Snaardvark's tongue before he eats the game pieces. Parker Brothers, $19.99.
Games of skill
1. The Wobbler. Use hands and feet to move the ball around a maze. Toy Dreams, $25.
Model, craft activity kits
1. EZ 2 Do Twist 'n Swirl. A kit for marbleizing paper and fabric. Kenner, $24.
2. Strike Up the Band. Build your own instruments. Creativity for Kids, $18.95.
3. Sidewalk Chalk-O-Graphic. Enhances sidewalk chalk art with spinner discs. Bandai America Inc., under $20.
4. Fruit Snack Maker. Makes real molded fruit snacks. Tyco, $21.
5. Crayola Designer Lite Desks Fashion Vehicle. A lighted desk with stencils and art materials. Binney & Smith Inc., $18.99.
6. Creepy Crawlers Workshop. Pour, bake and decorate slimy little bugs. Toymax, $25.
1. Kitty Kitty Kittens. A purring kitten with realistic heft. Tyco $10.
Ages 9 to 12
1. Tonka Real Power Toolshop. Use power tools to make woo designs. Hasbro, $34.99.
2. 9.6V Turbo Scorcher 6 X 6. A souped-up remote control car. Tyco, $80.
3. McDonald's Hamburger Snack Maker. Make look-alike snacks. Mattel, $24.
Advanced construction kits
1. Power Modeler, Race car model kit comes with CD-RO software. Revell-Monogram Inc., $69.95.
2. Erector Set. A revamped version of the classic Erector Set. Meccano, $13.99 to $139.
1. Trivial Pursuit: A Year in Review. Trivia one year at a time Parker Brothers, $14.99.
2. The Amazing Labyrinth. Fast-paced race through an ever-changing labyrinth to discover treasure. Ravensburger, $24.95.
Games of skill
1. Throw in a Row. A playful blend of basketball and tic-tac-toe. Parker Brothers, $19.99.
2. Zoom Ball. Grab the handles and pull strings apart to send the Zoom Ball toward the other player. Pressman Toy Corp., $9.99.
Compiled from lists and suggestions supplied by Christopher Byrne, editor of Toy and Hobby World magazine; Marianne M. Szymanski, editor of Toy Tips magazine and president of Toy Tips, Inc.; the Duracell's Annual Kids Choice National Toy Survey; the Parents' Choice 1993 toy awards; Kay-Bee Toy Stores; and Toys R Us.