Toronto Star

Toys that change the way kids play

Interactiv­e, face-to-face gifts with a longer play-life will be on your kid’s wish list

- JEN TAPLIN SPECIAL TO THE STAR

The gift-giving challenge is on — finding and picking out those justright presents for our little ones — while ensuring we check off ‘everything’ on their holiday wish lists.

(Did you keep a copy of that letter to Santa?.)

We want to put something under the tree our kids will go nuts over, while making smart choices, so gifts aren’t tossed aside before Boxing Day.

It’s a challenge toy companies embrace, putting their best products forward to help parents — and aunts, uncles, grandparen­ts, whoever — wrap up the ideal gifts for kids. A team from Toys “R” Us Canada spends the year tracking worldwide trends in preparatio­n for its annual holiday hit list, according to company spokesman Tamar Nersesian.

“Many of the toys on our holiday hot-toy list are changing the way kids play, using the latest innovation­s to make toys more interactiv­e, endless, responsive and personaliz­ed than they have ever been before,” Nersesian says. “While licensed products are always a big hit, the latest Star Wars toys will add a touch of nostalgia for a lot of parents and giftgivers.”

Here are some of the toys which made the hot list: Mega Bloks Despicable Me — Build-A-Minion ($49, Toys “R” Us), the Little Live Pets Clever Keet — which sings, dances and drives its own cart ($74.99, Toys “R” Us), Nerf N-Strike Modulus ECS-10 Blaster ($64.86, Walmart), and the LEGO Star Wars Millennium Falcon ($179.86, Walmart).

David Niggli, president of the American catalogue company Chasing Fireflies, says personaliz­ed toys are extra special because they can be keepsakes. It has a design-your-ownprinces­s-dress, plus a line of personaliz­ed plush toys.

“I think parents and kids are looking for things that spark their creativity and imaginatio­n,” Niggli says, “but also allow them to be part of creating the play pattern.”

Parents want more from toys than simple entertainm­ent, says Diane Goveia-Gordon, president at MGA Entertainm­ent Canada.

“We are seeing a lot of demand from parents for toys that teach S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineerin­g, Art, and Math),” she said.

Goveia- Gordon highlights ProjectMc2 fashion dolls ($29.99, Toys “R” Us), which come with experiment kits so kids can build their own lava lamp or volcano.

Other heavy hitters in the MGA line up this year include the Little Tikes Lil’ Explorers Three-in-One Adventure Course ($79.90, Amazon.ca) for little ones, and the Bratz #SelfieSnap­s Photobooth ($68.86, Walmart) for older girls.

Mattel has an arsenal of bestseller­s, but there are a few that really stick out as sure bets this year. Riza Javellana, spokeswoma­n with Mattel Canada, says classic toys which provide open-ended play are the go-to this year.

“Open-ended play allows each child the freedom to make play their own without rules or requiremen­ts,” she said.

Top picks are the Fisher-Price Smart Toy-Bear ($149.99, Toys “R” Us), the Hot Wheels Ultimate Garage ($149.99, Toys “R” Us) and the Barbie Saddle ’N Ride Feature Horse ($59.97 Walmart).

Hasbro’s list of top sellers this season is what the toymaker calls interactiv­e and face-to-face. Some of the toys and games on its list are Playmation Marvel’s Avengers ($119.96, Amazon.ca), the Pie Face game ($19.93, Walmart), and Play All Day Elmo ($59.94, Walmart).

Catherine Belknap and Natalie Telfer, who operate a mom’s online club called Social Common, test drove toys for Fisher-Price.

“Toys that are innovative and encourage both imaginatio­n and physical activity are the big trend,” Belknap says.

Telfer says they really like Bright Beats Dance & Move BeatBo ($49.99, Toys “R” Us).

“It’s perfect for creating a family dance party,” she says.

Kids want toys that are fun while parents are on the lookout for durable toys that both educate and encourage imaginativ­e and physical play, Telfer says.

“We want to purchase toys that will continue to stimulate them as they grow, and hopefully keep their attention for more than a few months in the playroom,” adds Belknap.

 ??  ?? Little Tykes Lil’ Explorers Three-in-One Adventure Course, $79.90, amazon.ca. Barbie Saddle — N Ride Feature Horse, $59.97, Walmart, walmart.ca. Hasbro’s Pie Face game, $19.93, Walmart, walmart.ca.
Little Tykes Lil’ Explorers Three-in-One Adventure Course, $79.90, amazon.ca. Barbie Saddle — N Ride Feature Horse, $59.97, Walmart, walmart.ca. Hasbro’s Pie Face game, $19.93, Walmart, walmart.ca.
 ?? JEREMY LLOYD PHOTOGRAPH­Y ?? Hot Wheels Ultimate Garage, $149.99, Toys ”R” Us, toysrus.ca.
JEREMY LLOYD PHOTOGRAPH­Y Hot Wheels Ultimate Garage, $149.99, Toys ”R” Us, toysrus.ca.
 ??  ?? Playskool Fold n’ Go Busy Elephant, $24.94, Walmart, walmart.ca.
Playskool Fold n’ Go Busy Elephant, $24.94, Walmart, walmart.ca.
 ??  ?? Playskool Pop Up Shape Sorter, $16.99, Indigo Books & Music, chapters.indigo.ca.
Playskool Pop Up Shape Sorter, $16.99, Indigo Books & Music, chapters.indigo.ca.

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