Our favourite toys this Christmas

Arachnid robot, Christmas toy

Favourite toys for 5 to 12 year olds

My daughter’s favourite toy this year was without doubt the Panda Pillow pet . Despite all the toys on offer at  this year’s Dreamtoys fair run by the Toy Retail Association to predict the top 12 Xmas best-sellers, she repeatedly snuck back to this stand and sank down into the crate of pillow pets clutching her favourite – the panda!  The pillowpet was not in fact among them but she immediately said she wanted the giant one and is still hopeful we might move into a larger house just to accommodate her growing panda family. But she knows what she likes and her smiles said it all when she was given the mini pillow pet by a nice PR lady.Toyfair pillowpet hat It now is the toy that goes to bed with her every night alongside the panda that she’s slept with since she was a baby. And although it s very much a pet to her,  she has also used it as a pillow when travelling – which is kind of the point! You can also buy very cuddly hats – as modelled by my youngest!

Something else my now 9 year old daughter fell in love with was the Tatty Teddy interactive Binky panda. Ok so she loves all kinds of pandas but this is the only one she has that talks!

You may recognise the Tatty Teddy logo as I did, as their parent company Carte Blanche has been making cute teddy bear greetings cards forever. For some reason their teddies have blue noses. This has become a feature of their new range of cuddly toys too – and  in  case you are thinking “ too much detail” these blue noses glow in the dark.

So back to this range of “Join in and Play Me Blue Nose Friends”. Ok the name is a little too long,  but Amelie loves that if she presses the panda’s paws enough times it will say I love you. And her brother loves the fact that it says other things too,  when she just wants to hear about the love  ( it has 12 different phrases so you have to wait your turn) I still remember the things my walky talky doll said 30 odd years ago.  “Where is my purse?”   and  “Can I wear my new coat?” being among them  – so talking toys are powerful things!

If you have more than one  interactive teddy friend, they will talk to each other if you press their tummies – nice idea if you have more than one child.  There’s a sheep, monkey, rabbit, hamster and bear as well as the obvious star of the show – the Panda! They retail at around £25 which I think is fair for what they do – but you may not want to buy the whole set at once!

I still love the Novi Stars the cosmic dolls from out of space (rrp £20). There’s Mae Tallic who is, well , metallic and speaks; Ari Roma who smells of bubblegum and has a bubble helmet and glitter covered body and Una Verse who’s body is clear and filled with water and glitter – like a snow globe. But my favourite is Alie Lectric who lights up in many colours. In case you think this sounds a bit too weird , their bodies are dressed in normal girls clothes so the effect is mainly noticeable on their arms and legs. They come with  a little pet, are aimed at 6 plus and have an interactive online element too. I hate to diss the original girls’ fashion doll, but I really do think for a 21st century vibe they beat a Barbie hands down.

This year my daughter ignored Baby Annabell in favour of the latest Baby born (they are actually made by the same company). The great thing about the latest version of BB is she’s interactive and doesn’t need batteries she interacts with her accessories – and this baby has started young! She has a car, a scooter, a horse – and a kitchen – forget the rules about keeping babies away from the stove as this baby is learning to cook! To be fair,  the oven doesn’t heat up – although there is running water in the sink!

If you are looking for less extreme behaviour from your baby, you will be relieved to know she also moves, drinks from her bottle and if you feed her she will cry and need the potty – back to reality! Because she has no batteries, you can take her in the bath with you, but when you give her a dummy she will still close her eyes and fall asleep

If your little one is a Sylvanian Families fan then the Camper Van is a brilliant update on the caravan and it does mean you don’t have to buy the Morris Minor ( cute though it is) to pull it along, The Camper van has wheels – as well as drop down beds, pull out benches and tiny cups, plates cutlery and baskets of food. At £40 this is likely to be popular this Christmas. If you buy it for someone who doesn’t have any Sylvanian families you might also want to buy some kittens, mice or badgers – or pandas ( sorry but they do makes them – stretching the woodland theme just a little) Just find out the child’s favourite animal and they will almost certainly have it: a family of four costs an extra tenner or so.

For older girls 8 to 12 Paper FX is a way of weaving paper to make bags and boxes. You rip up old glossy mags to make the paper strips so it has a green environmentally friendly/ recycling feel to it. But it does require a bit of skill and patience, so don’t buy this for younger children unless you want to me the maker while the fashionista just chooses the colours!

Another craft option is the make your own jewellery sets which I confess I haven’t tried but I’ve seen them out of the box at another trade fair and they are extremely good quality and look like an excellent present. Or a favourite with my arty daughter is a set of Staedtler fine-liner felt-pens or Caran d’Ache crayons. Yes, they are more expensive than the average felt-pen or crayon, but once you use them and see the colour of the crayons especially you will never look back!

Something I’ve not spotted before are remote control  toys for girls.  Most are aimed at boys in that they are mainly cars and planes, but seeing a gap in the market perhaps, IMC toys based in York have brought out the remote controlled Minnie Scooter – which is not mini in size but ridden by Minnie Mouse. It’s appropriately pink and girly and Minnie comes off the bike so you can play with her separately. Clever idea if our daughter  is at the age where it has to be pink –  it sells at about £35.

So how about the boys in your life – if you hadn’t heard,  Ninja turtles are making a comeback and although my son didn’t watch the original cartoons, being 6, and isn’t that into the current ones that hasn’t stopped him tying a red sash over his eyes and yomping round the room being a turtle. Or enjoying playing with the figurines that are on sale to coincide with Nickelodeon’s relaunch.

Alexander is also still enjoying his Trash pack garbage truck, which he was given earlier in the year and comes with dustbins with horrible little collectible trashie monsters inside. The latest version this Christmas is the Trashie Street Sweeper  which has rotating rollers to sweep your trashies back into the waster catcher.Both vehicles come with bins and trashies and cost around £20.

A new toy which appeals to me more than the foam pellet Nerf gun idea (which is of course still extremely popular with boys) is the Attacknid.Dreamtoys toyfair arachnid display These remote control battling robots are one of the top 12 tipped to be a bestseller this Christmas. They are aimed at six year olds and up. They have six legs, a rotating head and can fire up to 30 feet ( yes OK so there is a shooting element!). They were extremely popular with all the boys at the Dreamtoys Fair and you can play with them on their own or of course battle with other robots. They are programmed so that 40 robots can take part in a fight. Again though as they cost £69 each you may want to keep the numbers down!

Football fanatics will be hard-pressed to choose between the newly re-launched Subbutteo (you get the whole kit for £30) and the Sports Stars Pitch and Play set from Character options which my son is loving |( £20 for the whole pitch in one and some players) . Here’s the review I made earlier.

Unisex toys are all about  animals, collectibles – or technology. These elements are brilliantly combined when it comes to my children’s current craze for Moshi Monsters. Though he was in transports of delights when given some tiny Moshis and  Moshlings at the DreamToys Fair, it was not enough for my six year old son. No,  not once he had seen what he really wanted. His toy of choice was the Moshi Monster App MonsterKatsuma Moshi monster Katsuma Plush. In English this is a velvety toy resembling Katsuma the orange monster – yes  Katsuma like Satsuma!- which wraps round your iphone like a large squashy case.  You download the Moshi App and the face of your phone becomes the face of Katsuma which you can control. It is actually very cute.  A simple but clever idea. They retail at £22 and you get two monsters in each box ( Poppet and Luvli or Katsuma and Furi since you ask).  So they could be shared between two children – if they could agree on whose monster is whose that is and I have actually seen these for half that price on the internet which is true of many toys.  The only downside is that it’s another excuse for the kids to take our phones. We got round this by finally getting upgrades and giving the kids our old phones – they don’t work as phones of course but you can play games on them! And in fact because these are cuddly, my little one now sleeps with his Katsuma every night and does not ask to have a grown-up’s phone inside at least not most of the time.

Bandai have a similar idea with Techpet except here there is extra technology. The similarity is you put your iphone or ipod touch into the body of the Techpet, download the free app and the phone becomes the face of the dog . The difference is that Techpet is a robot rather than a soft toy and will move on hearing your voice – or sing or even dance.  As it does rather more, it costs rather more as you might expect £59.99 in fact. Again it’s a fun idea.

When it comes to traditional games you still can’t beat Tip the Ship from Ravensburger, and if you like jigsaws this is a good place to look . They have some fantastic 3D jigsaws and miniglobes as well as the more traditional large Christmas jigsaws. Bananagrams is another traditional game based on scrabble but without the board  adn aimed at children. You make your own individual crossword with tiles and when you run out add to it from the bunch of tiles left.  You can dump an awkward letter but have to pick up three tiles instead. The winner is the first to use up all their tiles. The game comes in a small canvas sip up banana bag which makes it really compact and easy to store – a big plus point in my book!

I will be constantly updating this with more toys and pictures but with only two weeks to Christmas I wanted to get some ideas out there from some kids who are exposed to more than their fair share of toys ( though they don’t get to take them all home!)


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