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The Globe and Mail

Gift Guide: 10 high-tech toys for pre-teens

Lasers, robots, flying machines, brain-breaking puzzles and more gifts that will amaze

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Lazer Stunt Chaser light-controlled cars Like cats chasing light reflections, these high-tech toy cars – which zoom at scale speeds of up to nearly 500 kilometres per hour – follow a laser dot aimed at the ground via a plastic pistol. Crash and land upside down? No problem: Oversized wheels mean these zoomers roll equally well on both sides. Optional accessories include ramps, loops and even a funnel for serious high-speed high-jinks. ($39.99; www.toysrus.ca)

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Hexbug Micro Robotic Creatures Hexbug robotic insects have been popular gifts for a while, but these clever automatons – which scoot about of their own accord – are easy to lose. The Bridge Habitat set, which comes with a pair of Nano Hexbugs, provides confined quarters for their speedy antics while setting the stage for entertaining robotic brawls. (Bugs starting at $8.99, Nano Bridge Habitat $39.99; www.toysrus.ca)

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ITC Skeet Shooter Skeet shooting is fun and all, but those pellets can really leave a mark. A safer alternative the whole family can enjoy is ITC’s Skeet Shooter game, which comes with an infrared light beam pistol, a skeet launching mechanism and three discs that break apart when struck by the gun’s beam. The lightweight, soft-edged targets make it suitable for indoor or outdoor play. ($39.99; www.bestbuy.ca)

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Lego Executor Super Star Destroyer There are times when Lego becomes more than a mere toy, and this highly detailed model of Lord Vader’s personal Star Destroyer is one of them. Comprised of more than 3,000 plastic bricks, it's a dauntingly challenging set aimed at geeky grown-ups whose connection to George Lucas’ classic space opera and Denmark's famous building blocks reaches back deep into childhood. Your kids can play with it later; the joy of building this epic piece of sci-fi nostalgia is meant for you. ($399.99; www.lego.ca)

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Electric Paper Airplane Conversion Kit Making precisely engineered paper airplanes is an art not easily mastered. An easier way to keep your lightweight flier aloft is to add an engine and a propeller. The Electric Paper Airplane Conversion Kit attaches in a jiffy, charges in seconds and provides half a minute of soaring flight. It’s not cheating if it’s science. ($19.99; www.thinkgeek.com)

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Luna Optics LN-PB3 Great for nocturnal birdwatchers and night hunters alike, these high-power night vision binoculars cut through the inky dark up to a distance of 300 metres. Glass optics provide image clarity, and a sturdy, all-weather aluminum body endures the elements. It provides all the fun of military grade night vision minus the danger of a battle zone. ($599.99; www.opticsbrands.com)

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Buckyballs There’s always one gift that everyone in the family takes turns playing with on Christmas day, and this could be it. Sold in packs of 125 and 216, these powerful magnetic spheres – also available in cube form – attract to each other to form a variety of pleasing shapes. There’s even a book (sold separately) of Buckyball projects. Just remember to keep them away from the wee ones. (Starting at $34.99; www.chapters.indigo.ca)

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Perplexus Epic 3-D maze The easiest way to break the brains of your fellow family members this holiday is to let them play with this “professional” 3-D labyrinth. Players twist and rotate a 21-centimetre sphere containing 125 separate barriers in an attempt to make a steel ball roll along a narrow track without falling. It’s self-contained, suitable for all ages and a smart alternative to screen-based entertainment during lengthy car rides. ($29.99; www.mastermindtoys.com)

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Prank Packs Invented by a group of jokesters who left The Onion to start a venture of their own, Prank Packs are empty gift boxes designed to fool recipients into thinking they contain ridiculous products that don’t really exist. Exhibit A: The iArm, a patently preposterous wrist-mount for everything from iPads to dinner plates. ($8.00; www.prankpack.com)

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