The anticipation of opening presents on Christmas morning for both the gift giver and the receiver is like no other. The gift has been sitting under the tree possibly for weeks, the shape of the package alluding to its contents. The reaction of the recipient after they’ve torn off the wrapping will say it all – so how does one make sure the gift is a winner?
Local experts Matthew Purdy and Lori Heppner at Toy Traders and Collectibles in Langley give their take
Each year media drive sales, but don’t be fooled by a trend when purchasing a toy, said Matthew Purdy owner of the local store. The thing to consider about the toy is its play value.
“People are going back to traditional classic toys, and people are steering away from electronic toys, or electronic only toys because you don’t get the play value, maybe an hour on Christmas morning and that’s it; people are learning that now,” he explained.
Classic toys include wooden games, and they’re making a comeback.
Hape brand wooden train sets are a popular choice this holiday season, according to Heppner, team leader. The train sets appeal to a broad age range between 18 months up to five years and use soy-based paint.
Years ago there were issues were certain toys using lead-based paint, according to Purdy. Toys are now tested and regulated by the industry.
Toy kitchen gadgets and food have also spiked in popularity.
A brand that has been around for nearly half a century recently made its debut on the big screen, and the box office sales are having an impact on the toy company’s bottom line.
“Playmobil is now a huge, huge line and Playmobil learned from LEGO a few years ago how a movie helps drives sales” said Purdy. “Now the movie ties into all kinds of different things, much like the toy line, where there [are] Romans and Pirates and Knights, so it’s taking all the different kind of themes Playmobil has – Playmobil even has hockey.”
The European company has reinvented its classic figurine through the years in a variety of different play themes maintaining its relevancy.
A popular choice in Langley is Playmobil’s Spirit line, a high-quality toy, which is centred all around horses, Purdy said. Other themes in the line include fairies, sports teams, dinosaurs and emergency services.
Staying with the theme of miniature figures, Calico Critters is a line of animal families with homes, furniture and accessories. The line is a play-off of the once popular Fisher Price line of little figurine animals.
The Critters are getting a lot of traffic and are a “big deal”, according Purdy.
“So you get the house, you buy the furniture you design the house you way you want, and you pick the family you like,” he said.
Animal families available are pandas, elephants, chipmunks, rabbits and kangaroos – just to name a few.
The company responsible for the Beanie Babies craze is back with with their latest plush, Beanie Boos.
“They have the large eyes, sparkly eyes. They come in different sizes. They’ve got ones for your backpack [and] they’ve got families you can make,” Heppner said.
Ty’s latest plush comes at an affordable price point ranging between $4 to $8, she added.
Another toy that constantly tops the charts year after year will likely garner a positive reaction on Christmas morning.
“Every year LEGO is huge,” said Purdy.
LEGO is available in many themes like Star Wars and Harry Potter, but Purdy believes the best value lies in bulk Lego.
An added feature to Lego’s Hidden Side kit is an interactive component.
“Hidden works with your kids phone, so it comes alive on their phone as well as their Lego they’re playing with in hand,” Heppner explained.
Shoppers moving away from classic brands and more towards classic gifts can look to baby dolls and educational games.
“Board games are very popular especially at this time of year because people are trying to bring their family together… and there’s a lot of games for all ages,” Purdy said.
The experts recommend strategy game Catan is a good choice for kids once they have outgrown Monopoly.
“So that’s when you bring in the more mature games, the more interesting games,” Purdy added.
Finally, for those waiting the mention of “Baby Yoda,” the toy is definitely a chart topper this season, but no one should expect to be getting their hands on one this month.
The new character introduced in a Star Wars series The Mandalorian on Disney+ was an instant hit, but no dolls were made prior to the premiere of the show for fear of the character being leaked, according to Purdy.
Baby Yoda is in production, but won’t be available until the new year, Purdy said.
Toy Traders is taking pre-orders to ensure fans of the character have a doll reserved when they hit the shelves.