Ottawa’s 2015 toy story is all about the classics. Everything old is truly new again.
“We hear over and over again [that parents] are trying to get kids away from their screens,” says, Eira MacDonell, general manager of Mrs. Tiggy Winkle’s, which has five stores in Ottawa. “They want more play value and interaction.”
Puzzles, board games and even new versions of the Rubik’s Cube have seen a popular resurgence, she says. “We sell probably 12 different varieties of Rubik’s-type challenge.”
Star Wars is a hot commodity across toy lines, including Perplexus Death Star and classic board games likes Star Wars Battleship, she explains. LEGO is popular across the board, but Star Wars themed sets are selling particularly well.
“We get constant calls for LEGO sets,” says Janet Jones, manager and co-owner of Playvalue Toys. “They have gone into so many different themes that capture different interests and the imagination.”
We asked five local toy stores to pick their hottest toys — here are their choices:
Ski Skooter, (four years+, $59.99): One size fits all, from kids to adults. You can “snowboard” on snow, grass or even sand. It also works on flat terrains (including grass, packed snow, even carpet!) when maneuvered like a scooter and using the handle for balance and directional control.
Make Your Own Glitter Snow Globes, (six years+, $29.99): Fully illustrated instructions, plus all the supplies and tools needed to create two completely personalized snow globes. Oven-bake your sculpture for a permanent finish, then assemble and shake up the glitter snow.
Trefl 1,000 Piece Puzzle “Fun On The Rideau Canal,” (10 years+, $21.99): Puzzles are always a favourite family activity and this particular puzzle is really special. Canadian artist Pauline Paquin captures a familiar Ottawa sight, kids in their favourite NHL team jerseys skating on the Rideau Canal!
Klutz LEGO Chain Reactions, (nine years+, $26.99): This turns bricks from kids’ own LEGO collections into ball-moving machines. LEGO Chain Reactions includes cardstock ramps, plastic LEGO balls, 33 essential, hard-to-find LEGO pieces and instructions for 10 different modules. Each machine forms one step in a customizable chain reaction.
My Toy Shop: Owner Claire Kerr said the trendiest toy lines are Shopkins and Minecraft, but the independent Manotick store is a trove of treasures shoppers won’t find anywhere else — so she picked her most popular unique options.
Rocking Donkey, (18 months+, $150.00): This charming, silvery-grey and white Rocking Donkey from Kaloo is not only sweet on the eyes but sure to become fast friends with your baby — providing endless hours of entertainment. It’s the perfect toy for a little one that has just started walking.
Nesting, Sorting Barns and Animals, or Nesting, Sorting Cars and Garages, from Melissa & Doug, (two years+, $32.50): Either one of these sets is sure to be a hit … and the early-learning concepts form number recognition, numerical order, size seriation, colour, matching.
Aircraft Engineer, from Thames & Kosmos (three years+ $60.00): Read the amusing story of two inquisitive kids and build the simple models of the aircrafts they discover on their hilarious family vacation. The large, colourful, plastic building pieces are perfect for little hands.
Highway Freak Scooter, from Scoot & Ride, (three years+ $160.00): This 2-in-1 push bike combination scooter adapts with the growth of the child, and it promotes balance and coordination. A simple one-hand mechanism allows you to twist between the push-bike and scooter without the need of tools.
Grow n’ Glow Terrarium, (six years+ $24.00): Two hot trends in one complete crafting kit. Turn this plastic mason-style jar into your own little habitat with real plants, tiny figurines and translucent glow-in-the-dark stickers; hold it up to the light and watch the fireflies glow.
Maze Racers, from Foxmind, (eight years+, $50.00): In Maze Racers, players use magnetic walls and a good dose of creativity to build the most wicked maze that will leave their opponent scrambling to find their way out.… Both sides swap their maze boards and a furious race starts! By tilting their board, each player steers a ball through the maze as quickly as they can in an effort to complete it first.
Zoomer Kitty: Whiskers the Orange Tabby, from Spin Master, (seven-10 years, $119.99): Kids are looking for toys that are more interactive, responsive and personalized, making robotic pets a must-have for the holiday season…. Zoomer Kitty acts and plays just like a real cat. This orange tabby can pounce, purr and perform tricks with lifelike movements and uses True Vision technology to actually see and follow your movements. When playtime is over, this tabby loves to cuddle and nuzzle and can sense when she is petted with touch sensors in her head, ears and cheeks.
LEGO Star Wars Millennium Falcon, (nine-14 years, $179.99): With the newest Star Wars movie set to hit theatres, franchise toys and collectibles are hotter than ever. Something that is sure to be at the top of kids’ wish lists is the new LEGO Millennium Falcon … It is crammed with new features, a more detailed design and six mini figures (including Rey, Finn, Han Solo, Chewbacca, and a BB-8 Astromech Droid).
Interactive Minions – Stuart/Kevin/Bob, from Thinkway, (four to eight years, $64.99): Toys of the most popular on-screen characters continue to be a big hit, especially with toddlers and pre-schoolers. One of the most popular in this trend are interactive Minions like, Minion Kevin – Banana Eating Action Figure, Plush Jumbo Talking Minion Bob… and Tumblin’ Stuart. (All three minions speak in their original movie voices).
Tag Along Toys: Patti Taggart, owner of this west-end store, tagged four toys.
Imagination Patterns, (three years+, $39.99): These magnetic blocks are an amazing building toy – great for home or travel. Just follow the patterns on the cards [to make things like animals, faces and vehicles] or make your own creations.
Creativity for Kids Macramé Terrarium, (seven years+, $24.99): We can’t keep it in stock. Children look after it, hang it in their bedroom or anywhere in the house. Just add water and watch it grow.
The Neon Straws & Connectors, (four years+, $29.99): Canadian made and hours of fun. You can use the idea guide to build a fort, house, rocket, boat, tower, tunnel or bridge… or come up with your own fun creations.
Yookidoo Submarine Spray Station, (one to three years, $39.99): This is the best bath toy on the market – it plays music and has a shower spray. Children will not want to get out of the bath.
Playvalue Toys: Co-owner Janet Jones says LEGO and puzzles are the dominant trends.
LEGO: Star Wars and Minecraft are popular… They also have a new Classic line of Creative Bricks boxes ($19.99-$59.99) with different sized bricks and colours – things to get kids into free-form building. They have been very good of finding themes of interest to builders. They are great for kids, but adults often come in buying for themselves; there aren’t many gifts that appeal to all age groups like that.
Ravensburger games and puzzles: Puzzles are huge right now. It’s something that’s growing. It’s a nice family hobby because people can work together. Scientific research shows that puzzles are good for both sides of the brain. From kids to the elderly, it’s a great hobby. (Note: The store’s puzzles range widely in both price and complexity – from In the Jungle, a 9,000 piece for $129.99, down to the 24-piece Junior Mermaid Floor Puzzle for $17.99.)