Childrens’ toys teach and entertain

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — Toy shopping can be stressful for parents trying to decide between trends that are played with today and shelved tomorrow or educational interactive toys that offer continuous engagement.

Perhaps a little of both is the answer.

Many toys such as Barbie, Hot Wheels and Lego have stood the test of time and are usually on every child’s wish list but finding the newer items that last beyond the fad can be challenging.

Danielle Russell, the senior association manager with the Canadian Toy Association, said collectible toys are a growing trend.

She says children are trading and collecting toys like their parents exchanged hockey cards and grandparents accumulated marbles.

Confirming Russell’s observation is Michelle Liem, director of client development for NPD Group, a consumer tracking service.

“We’ve seen the interest in collectibles increase over the last two years,” she says.

Liem says the list of collectible toys includes Fingerlings Baby Monkeys, CollEGGtibles, L.O.L. Surprise Dolls and Shopkins.

Such items tend to be small and portable, have a lower price point, offer an element of surprise and and can be traded with friends to complete a set.

“We’ve been watching the popularity of board games increase as well,” says Liem. “We’re seeing kids versus parents games that can be filmed and posted. The sharing drives the popularity.”

Another increasing trend is coding that requires the child to enter a code into a computer to activate the toy.

Liem says the Dance Code Belle doll that can dance once coding is complete and Boost Lego that, when connected to a computer, will allow the model to move, are two popular toys in the category.

It introduces children to a skill they will need as they complete school and enter the workforce.

For parents seeking more hands-on engagement, look to independent stores that often provide toys not found in big box stores.

Krista Hunt, owner of Monkey Mountain in Okotoks, Alta., says building toys are always popular.

“We’re seeing magnetic blocks and Nano Blocks as big sellers,” Hunt says. “Detailed craft and science kits are also popular. We’ve seen an increased interest in room escape board games that can be played at home with friends.”

At Zippity Zoom in Regina, store owner Tracy Bosche says she tries to stock toys that encourage imagination.

“We sell lots of Magna-Tiles and Playmais, both are super neat.”

Playmais might appeal to farm families because it is made with corn and looks similar to packing corn. The safe, biodegradable puff sticks together with water, allowing children to create anything from an entire zoo to a galactic world.

“Playmais can become addictive because anyone can do anything with it,” she says.

The strength of the magnets in the Magna-Tiles and similar brands encourage abstract reasoning as the child lays the tiles flat and then, when the entire design is picked up, a shape is formed, such as a ball or a rocket.

“We sell lots of them. If you can get kids’ brains working, they will develop skills,” says Bosche.

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