Earlier this week, I travelled into London for the day to go to the Christmas In July event.
I was part of the ukMums.tv panel and as such, was forced to spend the day looking at toys, talking about toys and playing with toys. It was really hard work. (Actually it was pretty tiring, my feet were killing me by the end of the day but it was fun too!)
There were a group of us ‘real’ mums checking out the toys, and rating them as we did so. These marks were collated and a list of the Must-Have Toys for Christmas 2012 was produced.
But everyone’s children are different and there are things on that list that I know would leave mine cold. As a mum of three girls, aged 6, 8 ( for another week) and 10 and a 4 year old boy, my toy knowledge is definitely skewed towards ‘girl’s toys’.
So I thought I’d do a list of ten toys that I saw, which I know my kids would like, or would have liked when they were younger. Take from it what you will but I’m hoping that if you have children similar ages to mine, you’ll find at least some of the suggestions helpful.
1. Bobble Bot Moshi Monsters by Innovation First
My kids all love anything Moshi, and although these little battery powered Moshlings will eventually probably end up as just another bit of plastic in a cupboard, I know any of my children will be thrilled to find one of these in their Christmas stockings. They have a RRP of just £4.99, so will make perfect stocking fillers.
The Bobble Bots use the same vibration technology as hexbug nanos, so they can move pretty fast and will escape if you don’t keep them contained. We found that hexbug habitats do the trick if you’ve got one lying around, but your children are probably going to want the ‘real thing’.
Luckily, there are also various specific Bobble Bot Playsets available. These are configurable 3-D “dollhouse” replicas of the same streets, buildings and houses found online in Moshi Monsters’ Monstro City. They come in various sizes and vary in price from £12.99.
2. Spin Mania by Drummond Park
I liked this game because it can be used to encourage children to be active and introduces them to a new, easily learnt skill.
It’s a fairly simple idea; there is a spinner that you place the ‘plates’ on to get them rotating, then you lift them off with the spin-spike and race to put them, one at a time, on the 3 scattered stands. The goal is to get all three plates spinning, on their stands at the same time, in the shortest time possible.
The catch is that your opponent places the stands around a predetermined playing areas, so you have to find the spikes as well as transport the spinning plates against the clock. Once you are done, you stop the clock, and mark your time.
Spin Mania will be in the shops from August.
3. iTikes iPad Toys by Little Tikes
Most of us know Little Tikes from their Iconic Cozy Coupe cars but they have placed themselves firmly in the 21st Century with these toys.
My favourite is the iTikes Discover Microscope. This is a stand alone toy in its own right with 36 ready mounted real specimens. But add an iPad and your child can view images, videos and factoids related to the slide they are looking at. This microscope will cost £74.99 but is well made, sturdy and easy to use.
Also in this range is the iTikes Canvas (think etch-a-sketch for an iPad; £39.99), iTikes Piano (learn how to read and play music, and play musical games: £49.99) and iTikes Map (learn about different cultures and places;£59.99)
I like the iTikes range as it introduces a new dimension to the iPads, iPhones and iTouchs that many families own these days. Young and not-so-young children will be fascinated by the connectivity between these toys and their devices, and as they play they will be learning too.
4 Stacking hoops by Play to Z
These gorgeous stacking hoops are an alternative to the usual plastic or wooden hoops usually provided for babies, toddlers and preschoolers. They are designed to improve fine and gross motor skills and the hand-eye coordination of the children who play with them, but many adults find them irresistible too.
The set includes over 20 sensory-rich hoops, chosen for their contrast in textures, weights, properties and fascinating stories, like the hoops made from banana leaves or recycled sari silk.
Also provided are three mini-bags for sorting and transporting, activity cards and information about each of the hoops.
These are stacking hoops for the discerning parents who want something a little different for their children, and would also be a good fit for home educators and child minders as well.
At £40, they seem pricey but will be treasured by you and your children, and kept for future generations.
5. Scatterbrainz by Jakks Pacific
As a rule, my children aren’t allowed guns but I might well make an exception for these.
The Scatterbrainz darts have a super sticky squashed brain tip and although they aren’t designed to be shot at people, they will stick to them quite effectively. Each dart is a unique character and are sold in packs of 3 and 8. The 8 packs include a target but if your children require extra ‘splat’ power, there is always the Brain Bazooka.
The Brain Bazooka shoots up to 5 darts, comes in two different styles and includes two exclusive dart characters.
Scatterbrainz will be launching in the UK from August 2012.
6. Kurio by Inspirationworks
I’m an Android fan, so I loved this little 7 inch tablet. It’s just the perfect size for kids to use and if they do happen to drop it, it’s fitted with a built in bumper which makes it much less likely to get damaged than larger, more fragile competitors.
Kurio is a tablet especially designed for children but it will also be enjoyed by adults when the kids go to bed. It’s a gaming tool, a multimedia and high quality entertainment device and boasts built in session time control features, web filtering systems, parental control features such as block/safe list options, and user level configurable filtering settings for up to 8 different profiles.
Kurio is also the very first tablet to preload full versions of many of the must have Apps, including Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, Fruit Ninja, Doodle Jump and Color & Draw. There are also many fun and educational apps and games, e-books, Alligator Creative Play Apps, videos, and a music player. And Kurio also has its very own ‘protected’ store where many more popular and family friendly apps can be found. However, any android application for tablets and smartphones can also run on the Kurio.
Kurio can be fully customised with a range of licensed accessories available. At £149.99, it’s the most expensive ‘toy’ on this list, but it’s something that will just keep giving.
7 Triqo by Ark DIY
Triqo is a new, unique construction toy suitable for children 5 years and over. It may have only 2 construction shapes, a triangle and a square, but with these you can create an endless variety of 3-dimensional geometric and everyday objects.
The shapes clip together with little poppers around the edge of each shape. These can be tricky to use at first, but it means the finished creation is very stable. It is also very light which means that it can be used to make hats and other wearable objects.
Triqo is made of exceptionally strong and flexible polypropylene, which is fully recyclable and suitable for both indoor and outdoor use.
It’s exceptionally good value for a construction toy, as Booster Packs of ten pieces retail for £3.49, while a 100-piece Triqo Box Mix is £29.99.
8. It’s A Chicken.
This is being billed as a children’s game but I can see it appealing to families, as it’s a game that anyone over the age of 5 can play.
Players pick up a card and roll the colour coded dice which will tell them if they need to draw the red, yellow or white words. There are four different types of paper sheets pre-printed with circles so for younger children, it’s quick and simple to draw the word on the card. And the youngest players can use the white word on the card, which features a picture they can copy. Points are awarded for good drawings and correct guesses, and depend on the time taken.
It’s A Chicken retails for £10.99 and Mymumdom predicts it will be appearing under Christmas trees all around the UK in 2012.
9 Red Tool box Kits by Ark DIY
This was billed as a ‘boy’s toy’ but I’m going to get a couple for my oldest girls. Why should boys have all the fun? My girls like to make things too.
These are a fantastic idea, especially for kids who don’t have an adult with wood working know-how in their lives. These kits contain the all tools, materials and instructions required to make a variety of objects including a toolbox, a treasure chest, a birdhouse, a bug barn and a go kart.
Parents and children of either sex will enjoy working together, developing carpentry skills as they go and will have something to keep and use at the end of the project.
10 My Style Design And Make Kits/ Wild science Kits by Interplay
We’ve already been lucky enough to review some Interplay stuff in the past, and it’s always been fantastic. The ingredients and equipment are excellent and there is always more than enough to do the highlighted activity a number of times.
The Wild Science kits are designed to introduce children over 10 years of age to science, and the Design & Make kits are aimed at children 8+ years who enjoy various crafty activities. They include all instructions, equipment and materials required for each activity and usually require minimal parental assistance.
These kits are priced from £7.99 and I already have my eye on a couple of different ones for the girls for Christmas, as I know they will won’t disappoint.