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Published December 14, 2010, 12:00 AM

Christmas gifts unplugged

Electronic gadgets are cool, but non-digital items are fun, too
Digital media giant Apple Corporation took in more than $15.6 billion of revenue in the fiscal quarter that ended Dec. 26, 2009. That means a lot of digital doo-dads and downloads-stuffed stockings last year.

Digital media giant Apple Corporation took in more than $15.6 billion of revenue in the fiscal quarter that ended Dec. 26, 2009.

That means a lot of digital doo-dads and downloads-stuffed stockings last year.

Techno-gadgets are cool, to be sure, but after watching your child drool in front of a Wii console since last Christmas, you may long for something less virtual.

If so, you’ll be happy to know there are still some nifty gifts that don’t come in digital form. We’ve put together a list of some items that might help your family avoid the digital daze. Who knows? A couple of the things on this list might even entice your children to go outside.

Nerf N-Strike Stampede ECS Blaster

Never has such overwhelming firepower been devoted to pummeling the enemy with foam darts. The Nerf N-Strike Stampede ECS Blaster boasts a scope, flip-up sight, tactical light, a shield, a bi-pod stand and fires up to three darts per second. Men have gone to war with less.

Of course, that kind of raw foam-propelling power doesn’t come cheap. Toys ‘R’ Us lists the item at $50. Turn up your nose at the cost if you will, but when the Great Plush Toy War breaks out, everyone with one of these will be ready.

Blongo Ball

Trying to toss two balls connected by rope so that they wrap themselves onto one of three rungs on a ladder is a lot more fun than it might initially sound.

The aim of Blongo Ball, or Ladder Golf as it’s also known, is straightforward enough that young members of the family and beginning players can still impact the game. On the other hand, skill certainly matters, making it challenging for adults, too. Plus it gets the family outside – or, during the winter, in the garage – together.

Amazon.com has Blongo Ball for $45, but if you’re feeling industrious this holiday season, you can actually make your own with some golf balls, rope and PVC pipe.

Monopoly City

This incarnation of the Hasbro/Parker Brothers classic takes the family board game of cut-throat one-upmanship to the next dimension. In Monopoly City, players build 3-D cities with the more than 80 structures included.

Nothing says “family time” like soaking your own children for their very last dime. Walmart has the game for $24 online.


This activity is sort of what Scrabble would be if everyone played at the same time and raced to finish first.

A Bananagrams game set is basically a collection of Scrabble-like letter tiles (sans the little score numbers) with a zippered banana pouch in which to keep them. Players spell out connecting words like a crossword puzzle until someone has used up all their tiles.

It’s a simple concept, but simple isn’t necessarily bad. Bananagrams won “Game of the Year” in the 2009 Toy of the Year Awards.

Along with some family time, the kids might get a little vocabulary workout from this $15 game. It’s also really minimalist: no pencil, no paper, no board, no scorekeeping. And, thanks to the banana sheath, it’s also super-portable.

‘Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader’ game

“Are you Smarter Than a Fifth Grader” is like the television program hosted by comedian Jeff Foxworthy, “but a board game,” says Carl Knudson, manager at the Art and Learn store on the corner of University Drive and 13th Avenue South. They carry the game for $26.99.

Wrack your brain to answer questions and see if you know more or less than children. If the television show is any indication, your kids may have the upper hand on this one.

Jumbo cardboard blocks by Melissa & Doug

Children break things, and they seem to enjoy it. With Melissa & Doug’s jumbo cardboard building blocks, they can construct and promptly demolish their own creations, working off that pesky destructive energy.

The set of 24 costs $25 at Art and Learn and contains three sizes of blocks, the largest of which is a foot wide. Cardboard bricks may not sound particularly sturdy, but they are folded together (well, they will be once you get finished folding them the day after Christmas) such that they are internally reinforced.

Knudson says they’re good for spatial development, hand-eye coordination and creativity.


Sometimes, ugly is cute.

Such is the case with Uglydoll plush toys, which sort of look like animals crossed with aliens crossed with monsters. Their big eyes (or eye as the case may be) and stubby, little appendages help make them pretty huggable.

“They’re addicting. Watch out,” says Bobbi Solien, a sales person at Zandbroz Variety in downtown Fargo.

Zandbroz has the adorably cute characters starting at $11.

Science toys

As all parents know, children are basically gross. Not only are they a constant source of filth, but they love disgusting things. Some toys tap into that instinctual love of all things yucky for educational purposes.

Totally Gross: the Game of Science is among those. Right on the box, it says: “Answer sickening questions. Take part in revolting activities.” It’s $27.50 at Zandbroz.

Also grossly educational are the Kirkland 3-D Anatomic Puzzles. There are human skull and muscle man puzzles for $23 and $21 respectively at Zandbroz. The store also offers Eco System brand worm and ant farms for $20 if you like more mobile forms of grotesqueness.

Images special to The Forum

Readers can reach Forum reporter Shane Mercer at (701) 451-5734