Toy stores have been putting together Top Toy lists since the summer when Hamleys held their annual Christmas in June event, predicting that My Friend Cayla, a doll which uses speech to text technology to hold a conversation will be among the most exciting new toys this year.
Linzi Walker, chief toy buyer at Argos, said: “Toy trends develop and change every year, and although tech is now given a heavy focus, toys based on more traditional themes such as arts and crafts are a phenomenal trend this year. In many cases, the more innovative and technologically advanced toys, like Cayla, are built upon the simple classics such as the toy doll.”
Released just before Christmas last year, the film has surpassed all expectations and one of the toys, expected to delight young Frozen fans this Christmas is the Snow Glow Elsa doll. Watch her dress light up as she sings the Oscar-winning ‘Let It Go’.
Based on the traditional 18” doll, My Friend Cayla has one major difference — she can talk back to you — although you do need a phone or tablet. Sync her with a smart device via Bluetooth and she can have a simple conversation or read a story or play games, with safe-search technology to look up the answers to children’s questions via Google.
The new Teksta T-Rex joins the interactive robotic pet family, awarded Toy of the Year 2013 by the Toy Retailers Association. Watch him roar and chew on his bone followed by a giant burp. With some batteries and a little patience, you can teach him to respond to voice and hand movements.
There’s also a pink kitty and a Scooby-Doo version that’s exclusive to Argos.
Another interactive toy which is good fun and reasonably priced is the Little Live Pets Bird. The more you play with it the more it will chirp and tweet; use the button on its chest to record your voice and it will repeat what you say.
Nerf guns make an annual appearance on toy lists and last year the ‘Nerf for girls’ Rebelle range, inspired by action heroines like Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games and Tauriel in The Hobbit, hit the target. This year’s Secrets and Spies range includes the Agent Bow — launch your arrows at targets up to 85 feet away, with secret messages, which can only be read with the included decoder.
The Vtech Toot-Toot Drivers Train Station was the Toy Retailers Association Pre-school Toy of the Year 2013 This zoo playset features seven smartpoint locations which respond to the animals with fun phrases, animal and nature sound effects and melodies.
Retailers who sell traditional and wooden toys say that kitchens are proving particularly popular this year. Little Ones in Ennis (www.littleones.ie) recommend this country style kitchen from John Crane, designed with a taller work surface to provide more years of play. It has an oven and hob, Belfast sink, clock and utensil shelves, perfect for little Masterchefs.
Large-scale open wooden dollhouses come complete with furniture and offer plenty of space for Barbie and Monster High fashion dolls. JellyBean in Douglas, Cork (www.jellybeangroup.com) stock a selection of Kidcraft dollhouses including the pretty Kayla design, which has 10 pieces of furniture.
A wooden trainset is another classic Christmas gift. Pinocchio’s in Cork like the Around the World Train Set from Bigjigs, a winner at the Slow Toy Awards last year (slowtoymovement.com). The set consists of 73 pieces; learn about different places when you take the train, passing by Big Ben, Sydney Opera House and the Pyramids.
Farm toys are always popular at Christmas, particularly with rural children, providing opportunities to role play and mimic the world around them. Toymaster with 32 independently-owned toyshops around Ireland (www.toymaster.ie), stock a wide range and their top picks for mini farmers include the Rolly John Deere tractor.
Playing board games is a fun way for a family to spend time together, as well as teaching turn-taking and other valuable skills and there are always a number of games on toy lists, including at least one version of Monopoly. Mouse Trap has been entertaining children for 50 years and this year’s new version has simplified play to introduce younger players to the fun of the game.
Lego became the largest toy company on the planet this year and it’s not hard to see why, with a set of bricks to suit all tastes and pockets.
Lego Friends, widely criticised for its pink prettiness when it was released in 2011 has proved a smash hit with girls and the Heartlake Shopping Mall is expected to be the top seller this year, along with the new Lego City Arctic sets for boys. Get your budding Lego enthusiast started with the award-winning Numbers Train from Lego Duplo.