Yes Halloween is over and so Christmas is in the air, The shops have filled their windows with tinsel, baubles and fairly lights – as well as a few carefully chosen must-have gifts. And so of course the toy manufacturers are ready for their predictions of what will be the best sellers this Christmas.
I’ve been going round these Toy spectaculars since my oldest was in a pushchair and happily trying out the latest Baby Annabel ( she’s now 13) and it’s great to see how the old favourites evolve each year – as well as having a sneak preview of the annual surprises. This year there really was a surprise and I will be very interested to see how the combination of Charades and a blow up doll does in the Christmas charts (who says toys are just for children!?) – but more of that later!
We now spend an average of £120 per child at Christmas and I’m always slightly gobsmacked at how much retailers think we can afford to spend on our nearest and dearest. But in fact this time only one of the toys in the Top 12 costs more than £100 – and that’s the FurReal roaring tiger ( actually called Roarin Tyler but I don’t think the name does it any favours!!) It is super cute: super soft and responds to being tickled under the chin, opens and shuts its eyes and so on. What’s not to love. It’s selling at £134.99, but I don’t think the price tag will necessarily put people off. It really is rather adorable – especially of you have a child who loves tigers! And much less trouble than buying your little ones a puppy!!
Lego’s offerings that make the Top 12 predicted bestsellers are always at the steeper end of the price range ( though they have plenty of cheaper sets around the £10 to £15 mark). This year it is a Lego BB-8 from Star Wars with moving parts (£84.99). Personally I rather preferred the Lego Friends Sunshine Catamaran, which comes with little Lego people and tiny dolphins as well as the boat. I love boats – but I fear I may be accused of conforming to gender stereotype as I think Lego Friends are aimed at girls. Still when those girl minifigures are not in their bathers, I know for a fact they are in their space scientists gear.
Moving to safer unisex ground – for toddlers and preschoolers there’s Paw Patrol’s Sea Patroller – another boat but this time on wheels ( technically called a land sea vehicle or a duck I believe) with a crane, flashing lights and an anchor to help you rescue wildlife or sailors in distress! ( £69.99)
The Enchantimals Playhouse Panda Set is another fun one for younger children to make the Top 12 – as is the PJ Masks Headquarters Playset – the place that the latest superhero characters, Catboy Owlette and Gekko hang out and plan ways of catching trouble -makers. (£49.99)
But the list also contains plenty of mid price range toys as well great stocking fillers for all age-groups. One of my absolute favourites is LOL Surprise (although, again I don’t think the name really helps sell this). At first glance, these are plastic balls containing collectable mini dolls – but wow are they so much more than that. They are the answer to parent prayer-and-despair over buying gifts that are unwrapped and discarded within minutes, as our insatiable offspring move onto the next big thing!
So how do these toys keep children’s attention? What is so great about these tiny dolls? Well they are cute, but that is not the secret. The secret is the packaging – which is part of the surprise. These balls are wrapped in seven layers of plastic and each layer contains a small surprise – including accessories for the doll you are yet to receive. It’s a bit like pass the parcel – except you get to keep all the treats and don’t have to pass it on or share. Perfect for preventing birthday girl or boy tantrums! The wrapping comes off in strips so it’s not that quick and it takes about five minutes to get to the centre! Fantastic idea and at only £9.99. So worth it!
For the same price Hatchinmals have colleggtibles (ughh) where you have four eggs that you rub until they warm up and then the eggs hatch to reveal the collectable inside. This wasn’t the version that made the Top 12 in fact – these are much bigger and are interactive, although they go through the same hatching process before you nurture them through babyhood to childhood. Each apparently has their own unique personality – yep I think we have all experienced that on a human scale! This larger version costs £74.99 and is called Hatchimals Surprise ( would anyone like to hire me to rename some of these toys!?) Again quite cute , soft and furry!
Fingerlings are another winner and again at £14.99 just about priced for a stocking filler – or a present for your friends’ children, where spending £50 isn’t on the cards. They make monkey sounds; turn their heads and have eyes that blink – mixing the interactive with the cute factor!
Along the same lines ( though not a Top 12) are the Bush Baby world sleepy pods – £12.99 – for a bush baby with moving eyes and waggly ears – spent ages as a child trying to make my ears waggle so I could be like my dad – maybe I should get one and spend some more time trying to master the skill!
Fidget Cubes are a tribute to people power – as they were brought to the market with the backing of 155,000 people on Kickstarter. Perfect stocking fillers (£9.99) and they fulfil all your child’s fidgeting needs: they spin, flip, glide, roll and click. Brilliant!
In the same vein – kind of – the Rubik’s cube has made a come back – actually it has never gone away I’m told, though it first hit the streets in 1980. It’s £12.99 – perfect price for stocking fillers of very affordable present. It could keep the kids off the ipad for quite a while trying to solve the puzzle – although the expert I met did it in 2 minutes. I would not believe it had I not seen it with my own eyes!
The Original Stretch Armstrong – first introduced to children in 1976- is also back on the shelves and has made it to the Top 12 this year ( £21.99) It’s a stretchy superhero/crimefighter that can be tied in knots and then reverts back to its original shape. Well I guess it’s better than letting the kids loose on a snoozing grandparent, relaxing after a glass of seasonal Sherry!
To keep them active, there’s the Laser X for 2 players (£49.99) – even cheaper if you buy it for your two kids to share! Yep I’m picturing the faces of my kids being told they have one present between two this year – but still I watched Bad Moms last night – a must see – but top tip. DO NOT watch it with your kids unless you want to put your hands over their eyes while the leading characters explain the difference between a circumcised and uncircumcised man. You have been warned!! It is a 15, but seriously!
Anyway back to Laser X – a one up on similar games, because when you are hit by the other player the light on your receiver changes colour – so there can be no arguments! The boys I saw playing with it were having loads of fun – but it would appeal to girls and grown ups too – so a good choice I think ( and for those who like shooting at their siblings it neatly avoids the problem of Nerf pellets getting lost!)
Nerf have of course updated their blast gun to the Modulus Regulator this year (£69.99). But their toy that has made it to the Top 12 is the Nerf Nitro Longshot Smash (£21.99) where you blast a car up a ramp where it flies through the air over obstacles before landing the ground – a sort of Evel Knievel set up – if you remember him!
Last but not least in the Top 12 is Toilet Trouble. It’s designed along the same lines as Pie Face, where you keep turning the ratchet and you are never quite sure at what point you will get cream slapped in your face. With this new game, you keep flushing the loo and you never quite know when…. I don’t want to think about it really …and all for £17.99. Obviously kids will find this HILARIOUS.
In fact they are likely to laugh almost as much as I did when I stumbled on Who’s the Dude (£24.99) This is the one where you play charades with the blow up doll with a beard and shades ( he’s a dude after all). So instead of acting out the sport or scene from a movie or whatever yourself – you use the dude to do it. Questions and scenarios come with the game – this is family entertainment after all – and it is strictly forbidden for players to invent their own movies to act out!
If you have found any brilliant toys – especially affordable ones – or stocking fillers – out there feel free to add any suggestions!
Happy Christmas Shopping!
PS Santa seems to be enjoying playing with Aquabeads – but he’s not allowed to have favourites so shhhh!