Top Toys For Christmas
Happy Halloween! Now that's not quite how I'd expect a feature about toys for Christmas to start. But there you go. Nearly all the newspapers have begun to run their lists of top Christmas presents, and now the consumer publication Which? has joined in the fray. Which makes it official. The Christmas Shopping Season starts NOW.
If you're all proper frugal parents you'll be starting now anyway. Or have probably started already. Our own PlayPennies Tamsin is so hardcore, she does her Christmas shopping in January.
The key is to know what you want to get so you can have plenty of time to keep an eye out for it in the half prices sales, or big reductions that suddenly flash by on sites and in retail shops.
So if you're looking for inspiration, then these lists are quite a handy way of finding out what kids might want, or what the huge marketing mechanisms employed by giant toy corporations are going to convince them they want by December 25th.
I'm lucky in a way. My son usually writes his Christmas list in August. So far, for the last three years, he has chosen his big present then and not changed his mind.
Working on the theory that all kids like to emulate what they see in the adult world, the toy retailers are counting on the iPad and Kindle craze to have filtered down. John Lewis has the VTech Innotab (RRP £79.99) at number 9 on its list. The winner though seems to be the Leapfrog LeapPad (RRP £79.99), as this seems to be on most lists. Tesco gave it an award - most innovative toy of 2011. It also seems to be the only place with the LeapPad on sale at the moment, priced at £63.99.
As toys I think these probably work quite well. The screen's certainly look fairly good, and are in colour. And there's a reasonable amount of functionality. But where I think they could be big money-sucks is in the add ons. To really get anything out of them you need to buy extra cartridges or download games or apps. This is a present that you could keep on paying for.
Another bit of electronic kit on nearly all the lists I looked at is the VTech Kiddizoom Twist (RRP £49.99). In fact, it is number one on the Which? shopping list, and number four on the Toy Retailers Association.
This is a 2 megapixel camera with a twisting lens. You can take pictures and movies, and also self portraits. The camera has a 4x digital zoom, built-in flash, colour screen, 5 great games and dual view finders. It is possible to edit and enhance photos with a variety of frames, stamps and 'wacky' effects.
There’s a voice recording function with 5 different voice changing effects: pitch up, pitch down, slow, robot and echo.
Hexbugs are on every single list I could find. Apparently they've just been released in an even smaller form called a Hexbug Nano (from £8). To my eye they look like little insects, strange rectangular insects. Which is part of the point. They are little robots that are supposed to act just like real bugs.
It can flip over, move around obstacles, change direction, and generally do other bug-like movements. There are five different colours available.
Either the Hexbug Nanos, the Hexbug originals, or one of the sets like the Nano Habitat set are on most lists. The habitats are rather fantastical playsets that the 'bugs' can run around in.
Thanks to the iPhone and iPad we're getting a whole new vocabulary. Mostly built around the use of the letter 'i' and the word 'app'. I've only seen these two toys on the Which? list but I loved them so much I had to include them here.
If you are a tech-savvy parent, then you may really want to consider one of these. Although personally I'd probably only go for the case myself. They are the Disney Appmates (RRP£12.99) and Fisher-Price's Laugh and Learn Apptivity case (RRP £13)
The Disney Appmates is a car game for the iPad. You get a racing car from the movie Cars 2, which is placed on the iPad's screen. The car then interacts with the game, with different cars activating different parts of the game.
I think my only concern would be the screen - is it at risk of being scratched?
If you've even younger children then the Apptivity Case is worth considering. Possibly. Maybe. It is for an iPhone or iTouch, and is a lockable case that means baby can play with it, without risk of damage from drool or dribbles. The easy grip handles in theory make it easy for baby or toddlers to hold, and you can download apps for them from the Fisher Price Laugh and Learn range from iTunes.
What do you think? An over priced load of tosh? Or some good ideas? Is there anything on here you thought of getting for the kids and if you did, what was it?Also, have you started your Christmas shopping yet?