I may not be an expert on kids' toys, probably because I have no kids of my own. But ... I was a kid at one point so I feel like I can pick out some good gifts.
The options these days spread far past the good ole Toys-R-Us and can range from reasonable to unbelievably outrageous.
Here is a round-up of a few faves:
Teepee - This Land of Nod tent is precious and perfect for both boys and girls / Calendar - This Lulie Wallace calendar would be amazing artwork for any little girls wall and the price point beats any Lulie painting. Just tear out the images, frame and arrange in a gallery setting / Anywhere Chair - The children I babysit for in high school had these and they fit their little bottoms perfectly; especially when you needed undivided attention / Personalized Plates - How precious are these plates? You can even get them in adult version too! / Blabla dolls - These little things are all over the internet so they must be hot... but kinda pricy. What ever happened to Barbie and Cabbage Patch dolls? / Lincoln Logs - A tried and true toy... I mean you can't go wrong with any building blocks set (by the way - check out the Met's online store; great items)