It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas … no? Well, maybe not here in Florida, where fall is defined as any string of three or more consecutive days during which the temperature doesn’t exceed 90 degrees and winter is the two-week period when the National Hurricane Center isn’t monitoring any suspicious looking tropical waves in the Atlantic.
It is beginning to feel a lot like Christmas, though. How can I tell? Because suddenly I am seeing an uptick in allegedly helpful lists of “top toys.” It happens every year: The toy industry — from manufacturers down to merchandisers — touts a self-serving list of the year’s likeliest candidates for most desirable Christmas toys. Come Christmas morning, those lists are long forgotten as kids attack the gift-wrapped treasures beneath the tree like aspiring Indiana Jones-style tomb raiders. Maybe they’ll latch on to one of the season’s “top toys” for a bit, before abandoning it by mid-afternoon.
With any luck, other toys — purchased with the specific child in mind — might end up being cherished possessions for years to come. The perfect toy for one child may not begin to capture the imagination of another. In the end, however, my advice is to value your own child’s wish list over any corporate manifest. With that in mind, following is a list of potential gifts compiled from a number of different sources.
Each year, the Goddard School, a play-based preschool system, gives children a chance to test the most innovative educational toys on the market during its annual Preschooler-Approved Toy Test. The results for 2020 have not yet been announced, but among last year’s winners were Crinkle Monkey from the Manhattan Toy Company, Peg Brite from Quercetti, LeapBuilders ABC Smart House from LeapFrog and Latches & Doors Busy Board from VTech.
For more information about the Goddard School Toy Test, visit www.goddardschool.com/TOYTEST.
Tru Kids Brands, the parent of the Toys"R"Us brand, recently relaunched its annual Geoffrey's Hot Toy List for the 2020 holiday season. The team points to some toy trends and play patterns in selecting the top 20 hottest toys of the year from the world's best toy brands including Fisher-Price, Hasbro, LEGO, Mattel, Spin Master, VTech, and more.
Some of the top toys that made Geoffrey's Hot Toy List include:
• Barbie Dreamhouse Dollhouse with Wheelchair Accessible Elevator from Mattel
• LEGO DOTS from LEGO
• Little People Launch & Loop Raceway from Fisher-Price
• PAW Patrol Dino Rescue Dino Patroller Motorized Team Vehicle from Spin Master
• Rainbow High Fashion Dolls from MGA Entertainment
• Squeakee The Balloon Dog from Moose Toys
• Star Wars: The Mandalorian, the Child Animatronic Edition from Hasbro
For an international perspective, let’s have a look at some of the top picks touted by the Toy Retailers Association based in the UK. According to a press release from the organization, the DreamToys list is the UK’s most authoritative predictive list of what will be hot this Christmas. Selected by a panel of retailers and industry experts, the list is independent of toy manufacturers and makers.
Following are some of the highlights of the Toy Retailers Association DreamToys list:
• Barbie 3-in-1 DreamCamper from Mattel
• Monopoly for Sore Losers from Hasbro
• Super Mario Adventures with Mario Starter Course from LEGO
For kids who love arts and crafts, the Toy Retailers Association included a recent update on a childhood classic on its long list: The Original Spirograph Design Set Box from Flair Leisure Products features all the iconic wheels and rings of the original, re-engineered and updated for today.
Walmart unveiled its own annual toy list back in September.
“This year’s Top-Rated by Kids Toy List reflects the shift we’ve seen in toy trends and behaviors this year,” Steve Ronchetto, vice president of Toys at Walmart, said in a press release. “Toys play a critical role in families’ lives as they spend more time at home and parents seek ways to keep kids engaged with learning-based play. More than any year before, we’re seeing strong interest across toys that stem from digital platforms, like kid influencer-created toys, interactive and educational toys, screen-free indoor entertainment and toys for active outdoor play.”
Walmart’s list categorizes toys. For instance, for high-tech toys, Walmart suggests the Sensory FX ASMR Mega Bar, a store exclusive, along with the VTech KidiZoom Creator Cam and the Fujifilm Instax Mini 7S Instant Camera. For kids who enjoy interactive play, the list includes the FurReal Mama Josie Kangaroo Pet, Squeakee the Balloon Dog and Little Live Pets Gotta Go Flamingo — an interactive, toilet-trained flamingo who loves to sing, wiggle, chat back, eat, and poop. Yes, I said poop. Don’t worry: He comes with his own toilet.
Parents magazine released its list of best toys late last month. It recognized 45 top toys selected by the editors following a months-long research process complete with kid-testing.
For the baby and toddler set, the magazine touted a number of items, including the Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Grow-the-Fun Garden to Kitchen, the WowWee Pinkfong Baby Shark Dancing DJ, and the Skip Hop Bandana Buddies Activity Toy Llama.
Among the toys tapped for school age kids by the magazine was the Playmobil RC Crane with Building Section, Healthy Roots Doll Zoe, Thames & Kosmos Ooze Labs: Colorful Crystal Lab and Little Live Pets Lil' Dippers.
Zulily, an American e-commerce company headquartered in Seattle, Washington, put out its inaugural top toy list in October. In a press release, the online retailer stated that it hoped the list will help parents get inspired for filling out their gift lists this year.
Some of Zulily’s top toys for the season are:
• Barbie Dream Closet & Doll by Mattel
• Hot Wheels Sky Crash Tower by Hot Wheels
• LEGO Harry Potter Set: Hogwarts Astronomy Tower by the LEGO Group
The Toy Insider, one of the toy industry's most influential organizations, also revealed its list recently. However, instead of focusing on specific toys, this list highlights top trending toy themes of 2020, giving consumers an inside look at the hottest categories and hand-picked favorites that are sure to be bestsellers this holiday season.
"As families continue weathering the pandemic, we've seen a shift towards toys and games that keep kids engaged and entertained at home while also helping parents stay within tighter budgets," said Laurie Schacht in a press release. Schacht is the “chief toy officer” with the Toy Insider. "We're also seeing a renewed interest in screen-free play as many families want to balance out the increase in screen time that kids are getting with remote learning. Toys that help build kids' awareness of the world around them and instill a sense of social responsibility are also getting lots of love this holiday season."
The following are some of this year’s top trending toy themes as identified by the Toy Insider:
• Screen-free learning: With many kids learning partially or completely at home this year, these incredible toys give kids a break from screen time. Potential toys that fit this category include Thames & Kosmos Mega Cyborg Hand, and Apollo, a game inspired by the NASA Moon Missions from Buffalo Games.
• Family fun: Due to the pandemic, many families are spending more time together than ever these days. The toys in this category can help make that time extra special. For instance, the Toy Insider suggests Plinko from Buffalo Games, Pizza Party Throwdown from Hog Wild or Pokemon Battle Academy.
• Social responsibility: There may well be a great, big beautiful tomorrow out there, but in order to get there it is imperative that we educate our kids to be more socially responsible — and, according to the Toy Insider, that’s reflected in the toy aisles. Toys such as Rescue Tales Adoptable Pets from MGA Entertainment, Blippi Recycling Truck from Jazwares, and Theo the Therapy Dog from Roylco will encourage kids to make the world a better place.