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Toys & Games buying guide

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Introduction

Buying toys and games can be incredible fun, letting you re-experience your childhood, remembering what you would’ve loved as a child, picturing hours of enjoyment playing along with your child. It can also be an expensive, frustrating, exhausting experience, trying to find the perfect toy for your child, confused between similar toys that you aren’t familiar with, dealing with out-of-stock items …

Toys and games have been around for thousands of years, dating back to at least 4,000 B.C. Of course toys were much simpler back then, usually carved out of wood or stone, and certainly no electronic gadgets! Today toys are mass-produced, and the selection is nearly overwhelming.

Don’t worry. We’re here to make sure you have one of the fun experiences, taking all the hard work and guessing out of the equation. Whether your child wants Bakugan or Legos, a wooden doll house or Baby Annabell doll, Magic Rattle Pooh or a rocking horse, our buying guide will help answer all your questions.

We have shopped the UK stores for you, so you can find cheap prices on toys and games perfect for your little loved one.

 

Building Toys

  • Lego: The Lego company has been around for more than 80 years and is still owned by the same family. The classic building toy features small blocks that snap together, letting the child build anything they can imagine. In recent years, more complex—and much more expensive—building sets have been introduced, such as Star Wars and Indiana Jones.
  • Duplo: Made by the Lego company, Duplo blocks are twice the size as Lego blocks in length, width, and height. They are designed for younger children and come in sets like farms, zoos, police stations, and fire stations.
  • Mega Blocks: A large plastic building block, similar to Legos and Duplo. They come in three sizes, Maxi size is meant for very young children, featuring rounded corners and tall studs. Mini is for preschoolers, about the size of Duplo blocks. Micro has sharp edges and corners, and they’re the size of traditional Lego blocks.
  • Play-Doh: This famous toy is a modelling compound used for arts and crafts. It now comes in 50 different colours, although most stores don’t carry every colour. Play sets include a barber shop, dinosaurs, cutting tools, the Play-Doh Fun Factory, the Play-Doh Creativity Center, and even computer tie-in games.
  • Moon Sand: Moon Sand features coloured sand that packs together tightly for moulding, similar to a sand castle, but it never dries out. There are many available sets and building centres, like small inflatable sand boxes and different moulds, with themes like castles and monster trucks.

Dolls, Animals, and Characters

  • Barbie: Barbie is a popular fashion doll that has been an icon for more than 50 years. The product line includes a few friends for Barbie, and she has a multitude of clothing and accessories options. There are play sets that offer careers for Barbie, cars, and motor homes. There are also books and movies featuring Barbie.
  • Bratz: Bratz is meant to provide a more contemporary attitude than Barbie dolls, with urban looks and full makeup. In addition to criticism for their provocative attire, Bratz dolls have lost a copyright infringement to Mattel, creator of Barbie. Bratz is under injunction to cease production, but the case is under appeal.
  • Sylvanian Families: Sylvanian Families are toys featuring different animal families, such as Calico Critters. Character families include beavers, mice, bears, and hedgehogs.
  • Furreal: Furreal toys feature a variety of realistic plush animals that interact with your child. Different animals have different actions, but they might open their eyes, purr, “eat,” or swish its tail, basically to lightly mimic a real animal. Animals include monkeys, cats, ponies, rabbits, bears, parrots, dogs, and more. There is also now an elephant, whose proceeds will help AIDS orphans in Africa.
  • Polly Pocket: This line of dolls is generally two to three inches, and their name comes from the fact that original dolls were sold in pocket-sized cases. Instead of cloth clothes, Polly Pockets have rubbery clothes. They can also have hard plastic clothes that can be clipped onto the dolls and then removed again.
  • Littlest Pet Shop: Littlest Pet Shop is a group of miniature animal toys who live in a pet shop that features their own tree house. There is an animated shop based on the line, which now offers dozens of different animals.
  • Bakugan: Following the success of Bakugan Battle Brawlers, a Japanese anime series, Bakugan is a strategic game. It features metal cards and magnetic spring-loaded figures. Players battle when rolled Bakugan pop open on the magnetic cards, and players compare abilities and strengths. There are numerous accessories such as carry clips, launchers, and play mats.
  • Star Wars: For more than 30 years, Star Wars toys have been popular. Characters from the original three movies, such as R2-D2 and Darth Vader, remain popular, but they have expanded even more as the franchise continues. The series continues to expand, as more animated movies appear, and there are dozens of books available. Popular toys include light sabres and Lego building sets

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Electronics

  •  Digital Camera: As digital camera technology continues to decrease in price, now there are even cameras designed for children. Some are water resistant, but all are built to be shock resistant, avoiding breakage if dropped. They are designed to be easy for young hands to hold and operate. Popular brands include Vtech digital camera and Little Tikes digital camera.
  • Leapster: Leapster is an educational hand-held game designed for children ages 4 to 10. Children can learn the alphabet, maths, music, art, and animal facts. Children can use a directional pad or a touchscreen and stylus. There are both Leapster and Leapster 2 games and consoles, all of which can be played on either system. The difference is that Leapster 2 and its games record user activity on a “Learning Path” system, tracking the educational milestones the child completes. Achieving milestones can unlock online games and art for the child.
  • 20Q: 20Q is a computerized version of the old parlour game of 20 questions. It’s available both on a web site and as a handheld game. The player thinks of something, and then the game tries to guess its identity with 20 yes/no questions. The player is the winner if the game cannot guess the item. 
  •  V tech: The company makes computerized educational toys, such as V.Smile and V.Flash. V.Smile is designed for ages 3 to 7, although some games are ages 7 to 9. V.Motion is a variation that encourages “active learning,” but the games are interchangeable with either player. V.Flash uses 3D graphics in a CD format, which is encased in plastic to protect it from damage. These are designed for 7 to 10 year-olds, teaching harder concepts like fractions.

Useful tips when buying toys and games.

  • Know your gift recipient. The individual child is more important than age and gender suggestions on the package. Of course consider any safety warnings such as small parts not intended for children under 3, but other than that, use the age as a guide. Depending on individual skill and interest levels, one 6-year-old might be ready for a particular 7+ game, while another might not. Manual dexterity, reading ability, and personality are key considerations.
  • Shop early. Every year, there’s a hot new toy that sells out, causing parents to scramble because they can’t find that perfect gift. Often they go out and spend twice as much to make up for it, which is what the manufacturers intended, also knowing you’ll still go out in February and buy the toy when it’s restocked.
  • Read reviews. There’s nothing more frustrating that spending hours setting up that new car racing track, only to have it fall apart the first day, only to later find out that other parents have experienced exactly the same problem.
  • Consider the battery requirements. This is important for two reasons. First, if batteries are not included with the toy, and most aren’t, be sure to package some with the gift so the child can play right away. Even if batteries are included, they’re usually incredibly cheap and won’t last long. Next, if a toy takes an inordinate amount of batteries, consider whether you want the ongoing expense from having to replace future batteries.

Buying Guide to Toys & Games
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