Hottest holiday toys: Electronic gadgets and classics among this year's must-haves
Published Tuesday, November 4, 2014 6:40PM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, November 4, 2014 8:07PM EST
Electronic gadgets, including robots that whirr, fly and giggle on command, are among this year’s hottest toys for the holidays, along with a few old favourites with some new twists.
Toymakers from the Canadian Toy Association presented their list of the “Hot Toys for the Holidays” on Tuesday, which are the toys that the association's 35 members expect to be the big sellers this season.
This year continues an ongoing trend toward more electronic gadgets and robotics, and even toys that work with Android or iPad apps.
One of the most popular items at the show was the Smiley Mini Flyer by Stortz Toys, which looks like a tennis ball but acts like a helicopter that rises and falls when it feels it’s close to a surface or a waving hand.
In the same year that Apple unveiled its plans for a smartwatch, VTech and LeapFrog have also come up with their own versions of smartwatches for kids. The Kidizoom Smartwatch from VTech includes a camera, a voice recorder, games for learning how to tell time, and an alarm clock.
“The one from LeapFrog is sort of like a FitBit,” explained the Toy Association’s public relations chair Laura Wiese, referencing a popular fitness tracker. “It lets kids keep track their activity levels through the day and then rewards them with points.”
A lot of toys at this year’s show are more gender-neutral than we’ve seen in the past, says Wiese, particularly those for toddlers. But she says there will always be dolls that are geared toward girls and race cars which tend to be geared to boys.
Mellissa Ruscio’s six-year-old daughter, Hannah, is a big doll lover right now. Hannah headed straight for the new Snow Glow Elsa from Jakks Pacific Canada. The “Frozen” character’s dress glows with lights when her magical snowflake necklace is pushed. Much to Hannah’s delight -- and perhaps less so to her mother’s -- the doll also sings “Let It Go.”
Ruscio says she prefers toys that challenge her kids to use their imaginations. That’s why she doesn’t mind that Hannah has also taken a shine to the Crunchy Munchy Panda from Jakks’ Animal Babies line. The doll makes several baby sounds as it eats, including, of course, burping. It is geared to little kids, after all.
Ruscio, who has a background in early childhood education, says she tries to avoid video games for Hannah and her eight-year-old son Hayden.
“I like to see them playing with toys that are more interactive, things that help with their social skills and their development skills,” she says.
But then she’s not opposed to the odd remote-controlled truck, like the LiteHawk Jr. Spike Monster Truck.
Her six-year-old loves “anything crafty” right now, she says, which is why she also loves the Crayola Paint Maker. It lets kids create mix up custom paint colours.
Hayden, meanwhile, was fascinated by Crayola’s Virtual Design & Drive, a sketchbook that allows kids to colour and design a car, and then use a smartphone to photograph it. When the photo is loaded into the Design & Drive app, kids can watch as their custom-designed car performs tricks on a virtual stunt track.
There are lots of old favourites making returns, too, including a new camper for Barbie, new versions of LEGO Friends, and a very cool LEGO High-Speed Passenger Train, which is fully motorized and operates at seven speeds with a remote control.
Then there are old favourites from the ‘80s that appear to be targetting nostalgic parents looking to recapture a bit of their youth.
The Rubik’s Cube is back, but this time, designed to not jam up. Today’s version, the Rubik’s Speed Cube, allows for faster turning with “no-pop” technology.
Simon, the memory-challenging game is back too. And while the idea is still to try to remember an increasingly difficult pattern of lights and sounds, users now need to swipe the buttons, not push them.
All of the toys from this year’s “Hot Toys for the Holidays” showcase will be donated to the annual Toys For the North toy drive, co-sponsored by the Canadian Toy Association, the RCMP and Thomson Terminals transportation. The toy drive will to deliver thousands of toys to children living in Canada’s far North.
The toys are donated by Canadian Toy Association members, and are stored, processed and shipped by Thomson Terminals to staging points in Winnipeg, Goose Bay and Northern Ontario. RCMP members then get the toys to communities identified as those most in need, some of which may be only accessible only by float plane, ice highway or snowmobile.