How come they didn't have toys like that when I was a kid? That's the biggest question on the minds of adults this time each year as news from the American International Toy Fair begins to spread. For kids, it's just a matter of time before the newest cool and fun playthings -- most due in the fall -- find their way from the showroom floor in New York to their eager hands. Here are some of the best and brightest offerings from this year's Toy Fair, which ended Wednesday.

Green is in

Forget last year's scares about the use of lead paint in toys. Makers want you

to know that their latest offerings are environmentally friendly. Take, for example,

Barbie Bcause (Mattel, $5-$20), a line of patchwork handbags made from recycled materials. The H2Go (Corgi, $130) is a remote-controlled car that runs on fuel cells instead of disposable batteries and comes in recycled packaging.

The Planet Care line of wood, plastic and plush toys (Toy Quest, $4-$50) is made from recycled materials, such as wood chips and biodegradable parts in the wood toys.

Tickle us, Elmo

Elmo's alive! No, really -- the latest toy incarnation of the effervescent "Sesame Street" character is called Elmo Alive (Mattel, $60). He sings, he jokes, he dances -- he even does "jazz hands." The techno-blog Gizmodo calls it "simply the most expressive toy we've ever seen." (Check out the site's videos of the toy in action at Elmo Alive is due Oct. 14, but you might want to start standing in line now.

Be the 'Hero'

Who needs an expensive video-game setup to play the "Smoke on the Water"-hot game "Guitar Hero"? Guitar Hero Carabiner (Basic Fun, $15) is a portable version of the game that has its own LCD screen. Measuring 7¾ by 3 inches, the game handily folds down to half its length. Sure, players just press buttons rather than mimic playing air guitar in the real game, but they also don't have to worry about hitting fellow school-bus passengers with flailing arms.

Have dino, will travel

Forget Pleo, the pricey play dinosaur that created a stir last holiday season. Kota the Triceratops Dinosaur (Playskool, $300) will actually take small kids for a ride -- seriously. More than 40 inches long, the fully articulated robotic creature responds to kids' touches and voices with dinosaur sounds and movement. It also is sturdy enough for kids to climb atop and go for a ride. Wow.

Here, doggy, doggy

Biscuit (Hasbro, $180) is said to be so lifelike that kids would hardly know it's a toy golden retriever and not the real thing. Mom and Dad, of course, will look at that price and think, "We could have probably gotten the real thing at the Humane Society for less." Oh, sure, but you don't have to train, feed and clean up after a toy.

Wire services contributed to this report.

Randy A. Salas • 612-673-4542.