If you're looking to instill some esprit de corps in your little soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines this holiday season, we've done the shopping for you. From tactical gear to decked-out duds, our toy guide will help motivate your little troops.
1. Lego Coast Guard patrol boat and helicopter
What: The classics keep getting better. Lego's Coast Guard boat and helo feature movable cranes, wenches and anchors, and both sets come with Lego sharks to keep the Coast Guardsmen busy. The boat comes with an orange Zodiac; the helicopter comes with a rescue buoy. As an added bonus, the ship floats.
Ages: 5-12 recommended, but Legos engage builders of all ages.
Cost: $59.99 boat, $39.99 helicopter
2. Armed forces rubber duckies
What: Show that service pride, even in the tub. These vinyl, 2-inch uniformed rubber duckies are dressed in service-specific military garb. The floating webbed warriors make perfect stocking stuffers or party favors.
Ages: 3 and under
Cost: $5.99 per dozen
3. Remote-controlled Apache helicopter
What: Take to the skies with this realistic, remote-controlled Apache. The two-motor miniature of an AH-64 is battery-operated and is good for beginners or pros. It's made out of tough materials to minimize damage in a crash, is about 18 inches long and is factory-assembled so you can take it out of the box and start flying.
Ages: Good for all ages with adult supervision.
Cost: $99.95 on sale
What: Modeled after the historic BB 62 New Jersey — now a floating museum near Philadelphia — this big, gun-toting, top-of-the-line toy features rotating batteries and intricate superstructures and comes equipped with historically and strategically inaccurate modern-day die-cast fighter jets, tanks and a helicopter. Relax, it's a toy! The 27-inch-long warship sits on wheels for easy movement; it also includes a lower-deck storage area.
Ages: 3 and older
5. F/A-22 Raptor Blue Angels jet
What: We know, we know, the Blue Angels fly the F/A-18 Hornet. The Air Force flies the F-22 Raptor. Still, your future fighter pilot will gladly chuck interservice rivalries to "fly" this electric-powered jet. The ride-on "Raptor" travels in two speeds (2.5 and 5 miles per hour), including reverse, and even plays realistic jet sounds.
Ages: 4 and older
6. You sank my battleship!
What: The classic naval warfare game is just as you remember it: strategic and fun. Learn the basics of sea battle while destroying your opponent's fleet of ships. The game includes two fold-up units, 10 plastic ships and plenty of white and red pegs for registering hits. The house will soon be filled with the memorable phrase, "You sank my battleship!"
Ages: 7 and older
7. McFarlane's military figures
What: Action figures don't get more realistic than this. Series 7 of McFarlane's Military, available at most toy retailers, features an Arctic Ops Army Ranger and Army Special Forces soldier, an Air Force helo jumper and an Air Force fighter pilot, all about 5˝ inches tall with articulated heads.
Ages: 13 and older
Cost: About $11.99 each
8. USMC Dress Blues bear
What: Ready for inspection! Give your future Devil Dog a cuddly Marine bear decked out in "official" dress blues. The plush bear is 20 inches tall and features removable dress blues, shoes and dog tags. It's available from Sgt. Grit's online store, a Marine specialty retailer run by a Vietnam vet.
Ages: Perfect for all ages
9. Electronic aircraft carrier
What: Send the rugrats to sea aboard this miniature aircraft carrier, complete with lighted flight deck, blast deflectors, aircraft elevator and realistic topside sound effects. Six aircraft (included) are ready for flight — your kids couldn't care less that the B-1 bomber would never really deploy on a carrier — and stow easily in the toy's hangar deck. Removable island included. Batteries required.
Ages: 3 and older
10. Snowball launcher
What: Beef up your home-front fighting position this winter with a plastic cannon that makes softball-sized snowballs and then hurls them up to 80 feet. Just pack snow into the forming chamber, place the projectile into the muzzle and pull back the slingshotlike elastic band for instant long-range assault. No batteries are required — just lots of wet, white ammo.
Ages: 8 and older
11. USMC gas pump gumball machine
What: When the troops are running low on sugar, refuel with this Marine Corps-themed old-fashioned gumball "pump." The dispenser is 22 inches tall, takes coins and dispenses gumballs individually. You can also remove the coins for reuse. Available from Sgt. Grit's online store; gum is not included.
Ages: 5 and older
12. Matchbox Sky Busters
What: Rule the air with a miniature Matchbox strike force. The B-2 and the F/A-18 Super Hornet are two of dozens of fighter planes available in the Sky Busters series. They're die-cast quality with metal and plastic parts, and are perfect for high-performance enthusiasts or young collectors. They also make great stocking stuffers.
Ages: 3 and older
Cost: Around $2.50 each
13. Kids' ACU uniform
What: Take playtime up a notch with these authentic-looking uniforms for your junior soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, complete with personalized name tags and headgear. The package comes with a blouse, trousers, brown T-shirt, hat and name tag. The clothes are available in many sizes (they run a little small, so consider ordering a size up) for all four branches. You also can order the optional boots to complete the look.
Ages: Available in many youth sizes.
14. NERF N-Strike Vulcan EBF-25
What: Go recon with this menacing fully automatic NERF rifle. It fires 25 rounds and even comes with a standard tripod for better target acquisition, perfect for terrorizing the neighborhood or exacting revenge against bullies. The "sonic micro dart" ammunition whistles through the air before striking its target with considerable precision. Mayhem included; batteries are not.
Ages: 6 and older