The hunt may be on for Hatchimals — the interactive pets that hatch from an egg — may be causing Santa a few headaches as he makes his final preparations for December 24 but many of the other toys on children’s lists this year have their roots in old favourites that have been loved for generations.
LEGO was ranked as the top toy that Irish parents would like to bring back from their childhoods and play with again. Some 37% of those surveyed by Argos chose the item prior to the launch of its Top Toys For Christmas 2016 list, followed by Barbie. LEGO sets from Star Wars Rogue One, Belle’s Enchanted Castle, and the LEGO City Volcano Exploration Base, which includes male and female scientist figurines, an erupting volcano, and a drone, are among the toys that children would like to find under the tree this year.
Barbie, the world’s best-selling doll, also continues to be a favourite with little girls, though demand has dropped in recent years due to Frozen’s Princess Elsa, as well as parental criticism over her unrealistic body shape. This year Mattel gave the 57-year-old a makeover, adding three new body shapes — tall, curvy, and petite — as well as more hair colours and skin tones.
Other toys with cross-generation appeal, like Nerf guns and Hot Wheels cars, have been appearing on toy lists annually for many years, as has Thomas the Tank Engine, who was first brought to life in children’s stories in 1945.
Thomas is just one of a number of classic characters who continue to delight children today, along with the likes of Paddington Bear, Winnie The Pooh, and Peter Rabbit.
Demand has also grown for toys based on traditional favourites, such as dollhouses and playkitchens, which encourage active, open-ended, and creative play.
Wooden toy brand Hape celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, with new railway sets for toddlers and a limited edition range of its bestselling toys including the award-winning Pound and Tap Bench.
For something slightly different, Paris-based Djeco specialises in giving traditional toys and art sets a fresh and highly-imaginative modern look.
Alternatively, Green Toys for toddlers are made in America from recycled plastic and include a dumper, mixer, and a tea set.
British toymaker Chad Valley, now sold through Argos, has made toys for eight generations of children. It’s new ‘lifelike’ baby doll, weighted to feel like a real newborn, is expected to be a bestseller this Christmas.
Petitcollin, a French company, was established in 1860 and has been making dolls in the same traditional way since then. Pinocchio’s on Cork’s Paul St are stockists.
Other old European toy brands now available in Ireland include Vilac and Jeujura, which have been making wooden construction sets in France for more than 100 years.
Bikes and other ride-on toys have also been making most-wanted lists for decades, like the Rolly John Deere X-Trac, a classic farm toy that has brought hours of fun to Irish children for many years.
And Christmas wouldn’t be the same without some family board games.
Monopoly, the world’s favourite, celebrated its 80th anniversary last year, while Pie Face, Hasbro’s newest game, became a smash hit and was named toy of the year 2015.
Tots to teens
Situated on the top floor of the Powerscourt Townhouse Centre, KID is a design-led concept store offering a collection of beautiful brands for babies and children made by Irish designers including soother/toy clips and ‘chew-safe’ necklaces for mammies, made from food-grade BPA-free silicone beads, from Plepleple (plepleple.com). A gift set with a bandana bib is €25; www.powerscourtcentre.ie/kid.
Families can sit down together and take a cultural trip around Ireland with the new jigsaw from Clonakilty-based Gosling Games. The 1,000 piece Art Puzzle of Ireland features heritage sites and landmarks from the Wild Atlantic Way, Newgrange, and other places of interest and costs €16. Gosling games and puzzles are available from toy stores and www.goslinggiftsandgames.com.
The idea for The Field came about when Padraic Cuddy decided to make a play area for his son’s cattle and tractors from some artificial grass. Soon other children were looking for fields for their farms, dollshouses and fairy gardens. Now Roscommon based Class Grass Ltd has added three more products including The Field Farm, a larger farming area, which also has a show jumping area, €79.95 from toy stores or www.thefield.ie.
Rita O’Brien a recent graduate in Visual Communications from Limerick has been chosen as the inaugural winner of the Eason Creates design competition and her designs are now available to buy in the form of a new range of stationery. With colourful geometric patterns and fun typography, there are notebooks of various sizes and this handy To Do List with fridge magnet, €6.99; www.easons.com.