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Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Tips on Tuesday: Popular Christmas Toys Part 1

I'm always fascinated by what toys are hot each Christmas. I've been looking over the toys for this year and think I can see some of what will be a 'hot toy', but beyond that, I'm looking for a hot toy that my kids will play with longer than Christmas day.

Keep in mind, I often think that toy manufacturers come out with their list of "hot toys" only to drive market share to something that wouldn't sell well unless touted as a hot toy. I generally think a lot of the hype is media generated and not true hype--until the American public goes into a frenzy over a product.

I've been looking at these toys and if you read farther, I'll give you the Coolestmommy take on these toys.

Some items on this year's list of hottest toys (from multiple sources) includes:
Kung Zhu Zhu Pets
Paper Jamz
Loopz and/or Kaponk (two games but they both slide in and out of top toy lists)
Lego Games and Toys
Toy Story 3 toys

Let me tell you what I observe as a mother of children in all target ages. I have a tween/early teen, an elementary school child and a preschooler. I also drive a lot of kids in a lot of carpools to a lot of places. While that doesn't really make me an expert, it's given me a strong sense of what is really popular with kids and why. Is it marketing hype or is it really a toy that they will enjoy and play with for a long time to come? While toy makers and list makers base toy success on sales, I'm more concerned with the long term engagability factor--will my kids play with it beyond their Christmas break? Or was it money spent to entertain them for a couple hours?

To the list of hot toys...
KUNG ZHU:  I think Kung Zhu toys are going to be a big hit. BUT--as a parent, I don't see them reaching the Zhu Zhu mania of last year. There are too many alternate Zhu Zhu toys on the market that could be substituted. I agree Kung Zhu will probably be the most popular of the kingdom of Zhu, but the Rock Star Zhu's or some of the other things would satisfy a child if Kung Zhu wasn't available.
MY AGE RECOMMENDATIONS: I was surprised to find the Zhu mania crosses age lines. Both preschool and elementary kids love Zhu (elementary loves it more, but don't underestimate the preschool force). Tweens/Teens enjoy playing with these, but won't want them as an outright gift. They enjoy playing with their sibling's toy, but don't want it under the tree.

SQUINKIES: Here's a sleeper toy that's going to hit near silly band levels. I know the true brand name Squinkies are already hard to find, but just as silly bands can be found under the name crazy bands, trading bands, fun bands, etc. You can find Squishies, Topper Bubbles, Pencil Squish and other Squinkie knock-offs that are just as popular among the kids. This is the sort of toy that kids want, but not really under the tree. They would rather get a bunch for doing well on report cards or for some other reason. Parents Beware: These are a trading item (like silly bands) so don't spend a fortune on them because your kids are going to trade them away.
I think preschoolers would like them, but the size and bubble concern me as a parent. I also don't find it as appropriate for a preschooler because they are ultimately a glorified pencil topper. PreK doesn't need a bunch of pencil toppers. Save your money and buy your preschooler generic silly bands at the dollar store as silly bands continue to be the biggest hit (and currency) of preschool life.

SING-A-MA-JIGS: Here's a toy that the toy manufacturers are making a killing by using media hype to get your dollars. Kids don't really love them. They entertain for a short time and then the kids walk away. Are they cute? Yes. But how many times will you listen to them harmonize the same three songs? How long before you as a tired parent can't stand the noise of these things talking all the time? I know they will sell out nationwide in stores because the media keeps hyping them...but these do not pass my "will they play with them beyond Christmas" test. Save your money and buy something that lasts.
MY AGE RECOMMENDATIONS: Preschool--but I wouldn't buy them for anyone so maybe I should say no age.

Last on my list today are the Zoobles. (Look for the rest of the list next week.)

ZOOBLES: This toy is a mystery to me. I see why girls in particular would love this toy. I can imagine it having a lot of success. Early reports in September said it was already hard to find on shelves...but, I'm hearing nothing about this from any kid I know. Not one kid mentions this toy as one they want. I'm starting to think parents liked it, but kids really don't. I'm also finding a lot of UK references so I think kids overseas are liking them better than kids in the US.
I'm really stumped by this toy. The manga eyes, animals that spring to life, lots of accessories--this should be the hottest toy on the market. But it's not. Before you invest in Zoobles, be sure to show them to your kids and see if they are interested. I'm not hearing kid interest. And if your kids give you clues as to why they aren't interested, please let me know.
The only reason I can think of for a lack of interest is that Polly Pockets and Littlest Pet Shop are still very popular amongst the girl crowd and they would rather add to their Pollys or Littlest Pet Shop sets instead of starting a new set.
MY RECOMMENDED AGES: Preschool and Elementary School. I think younger elementary will like these more than older elementary...if they want them.

Stay tuned for next week where I'll hit the rest of the list. I'll also give some ideas for the tough to buy for tween/teen crowd.

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