The best toys for kids this Christmas
Stuck with what to buy your little cherubs or grandcherubs this festive season?
Want to know what the on-trend toys are before they sell out? Or does the cost of living crisis mean you want to find the gift that keeps giving?
We’ve done some research and chatted with Phillip Bramley, owner/operator of Toyworld Wellington, to give you some suggestions.
The Hape toolbox
Wooden toys are always popular for this age group as they are robust, easy to clean and generally safe. Hape is a brand to consider (prices start at $14.99) for a wide variety of wooden toys. There are train sets and marble runs to doll houses, toolboxes and even a balance bike, but that’s made of metal so they are cheating there!
Tonka’s Mighty Dump Truck
Other brands worth considering here are good old Tonka trucks. They last a long time and seem to be popular with the little ones for a few years too, especially at the beach or in the sandpit. The Tonka Mighty Dump Truck retails for $99.99.
Stanley Jr tools
Stanley tool company also has a range for budding little builders. The Stanley Jr line includes dump trucks and cranes, but its range of tools is probably more interesting, so your little DIYer can emulate their parents in the workshop or garden.
Stanley Jr has all manner of tools, drills, jigsaws, hammers and saws, along with garden tools such as rakes, spades and leaf blowers. There’s even a pretty robust little wheelbarrow! The age range is 3+ for the Stanley Jr toys and prices start around $15.
Schleich world of animal figures
Approaching school age, the Schleich world of animal figures caters to kids four and older. Schleich makes beautifully sculpted creature figures including farm and domestic animals, wild animals and dinosaurs.
They aren’t cheap (you’re looking at around $15-$20 for a basic figure), but a quick look on a certain online auction site shows a huge range of secondhand figures for sale at cheaper prices.
This brings us to an important point. Before you head out and buy that expensive toy, have a look online first to see whether there’s a secondhand one out there at half the price.
The nature of toys is that kids grow out of them reasonably quickly, so there is a thriving secondhand market for pretty much every toy category.
Squishmallows and Cats Vs Pickles
Soft toys are ever popular with younger age groups, but plushies have a collectable following with older kids up to 10 years old too. Brands such as Squishmallows (priced from $12) and Cats Vs Pickles (small ones from $10) have a wide variety of funky collectable plushies that will appeal to a range of ages.
CoComelon Boo Boo JJ Plush
There are also some more interactive plush toys, such as the CoComelon Boo Boo JJ Plush (around $99), a toy toddler that tells your child if they’re hurt and then reacts when a bandage is applied and they’re healed.
The Scruff-A-Luvs Cutie Cuts
The Scruff-A-Luvs Cutie Cuts range (from $24) are very hairy pets that need your budding Sweeney Todd to give them a trim with the grooming kit (included).
Our Generation dolls
Dolls are popular again, with ranges such as Our Generation being big sellers. These dolls are 18'' tall (nearly half a metre) and come with various accessories, a range of themes and supporting books. Dolls start from around $70 but there are cheaper accessories too.
With the cost of living crisis curbing our spending, many parents can only afford one present. Often people go back to the tried and tested brands of their childhood. You really can’t go wrong with buying a Lego set for most children, and the beauty of Lego is that it opens up a world of creativity after the instructional set has been built.
My youngest son spends hours building little vending machines from Lego that can dispense items (Tic Tacs are his favourite but they tend to run out quickly).
There are heaps of YouTube instructional videos for all manner of projects. Just point your kids in the right direction, make yourself a cuppa and enjoy a few hours of respite. Actually, you will likely spend the time looking for that one crucial bit of the build among thousands of pieces!
Another range worth considering is Gravitrax. Basically it’s a fancy marble run construction toy, but is really well made and designed. Also, it’s easy for kids to build their own runs after they have completed the ones in the instruction book.
Once you’ve bought the starter set there is a range of expansion pieces, such as magnetic canons, loops, trampolines and spinners. They’ve recently introduced a vertical range too, so you can build much taller runs.
Gravitrax is pretty expensive (the starter set is around $140), but it’s worth it as your children will keep coming back to it and it’s fun for parents to build runs with the kids, too.
Duct tape and cardboard boxes
The cheapest option in the construction category is a roll of duct tape. Combined with cardboard boxes and a little imagination, you can have many hours of construction fun.
Craft and science
Green Science’s Potato Clock
STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) kits are popular and there’s quite a range of sets to choose from. Our pick would be the Green Science range from 4M (prices start at $25). These sets focus on renewable energies, water cleanliness and plant growth. And there is the classic potato clock kit!
BrainBox FM radio kit
BrainBox electronic kits are also a good option. The range has simple-to-build electronic sets with features such as motors, sounds, sensors and even an FM radio kit ($19.99).
Nebulous Stars kits
Likely more popular with girls than boys is the Nebulous Stars range of sketchbooks, pens, stencils, jewellery-making and dreamcatcher kits. Prices start from $6. This range is ideal for creative kids and clever with its use of a number of characters and back stories for children to base their art on.
3D printer pen
Our wild card option here is a 3D printer pen (various brands available). Yep, you can get a pen that squirts out molten plastic to sculpt 3D forms. Sounds dangerous, right? The ones for kids are low-temperature models, but we’d still recommend parental supervision.
This product melts a filament of plastic and pushes it out of the pen nozzle. You build up your sculpture/object in layers. You can get a range of colours of filament. It will take some practice and a fair bit of patience to master, so most likely it’s better for older kids. Pens with filaments included are about $50.
One of the main battles parents have today is how to get their kids off devices. Getting the family involved in playtime with participation toys is one way of doing this.
You can buy twin sets of remote-control cars if you want to race them with your children, but how about a good old water fight in the (hopefully) hot summer months?
Water balloons are great fun, but what about all the burst bits of rubber that get thrown away? There is another option: you can get self-sealing magnetic water balloons, so they’re reusable. Essentially, they are two hemispheres that magnetically clip together and are filled with water. Great idea! The Splash brand costs $30 for five balloons.
Board and card games
Board and card games are also a good way to bond with your loved ones – or cause a family argument. Ever popular are non-combative games such as Catan ($79.99), but if you want some mindless fun, Cards Against Humanity is a wonderfully dumb game that is really easy to pick up. Just make sure you get the $59.99 Family Edition as the standard version can be a little risqué at times!
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