Okay, the countdown is on. What better time to talk toys than now, right? I turned to my favorite toy store, Barston’s Childs Play, for a few tips about what is hot this frenzied time of year.
Child’s Play, founded 27 years ago, now has two locations in Virginia (Arlington and McLean), a store in Rockville, Baltimore, and a store in Chevy Chase D.C. Owner/manager/buyer and one of the most knowledgable toy guys around (well, according to me), Steven Aarons, spoke by phone about some of this year’s hot toys.
Here you are, Santa-helpers:
* Laser Maze from local company Think Fun. It has real lasers and is known to make even the most game-averse kid sit down to the table and, well, play a game. Recommended age: 8-15 years.
* Spirograph. This retro toy (I remember my days playing with this) has been brought back “at a really creative level and that has been incredible,” Aarons said. So incredible, it appears there has been a run on them. In fact, one man called Child’s Play, trying to buy up all the stock — presumably to resell on the Internet for more than stores are charging. Santa beware. (Aarons turned him down.) Recommended age: 8-15 years.
* Rainbow Loom. You probably know about this popular product where kids can make bracelets. In fact, you may be wearing a few yourself right now. Child’s Play also had to put up a sign limiting the number per customer because of people trying to resell a bunch at higher prices online.
* Any hard to find Legos, particularly the Minecraft sets.
* Simon. Another throwback. This game is a classic that also seems to be flying off shelves this year.
* Spot It card game. A perfect stocking stuffer, Child’s Play said the unit sales for this one have been big. The recommended age starts at 7, but my 4-year-old has gotten into it pretty well, and beats me. There are other versons, including one for younger kids and one with baseball teams.
* Over the Rainbow Loom? The Loopdeedoo kit has done really well at Child’s Play. And just think: no little rubber bands to find in every crevice of your house. Recommended age: 8-15 years.
* Klutz Make Clay Charms kit. This comes with an incredibly well-designed instruction booklet, Aarons said. So even your younger one will be able to make a sprinkle doughnut charm. Recommended age: 8 and up.
* From the folks who make the popular Hexbugs come the Aquabots. Hexbugs, but they swim in water. Recommended age: 14 and up.
* The Spy Alley board game is popular “each year” he said. Recommended for 8 and up.
* Rat-a-Tat Cat game is, well, sort of like poker for kids. Are you bluffing? Recommended age: 6-12.
* HedBanz game. Wear a goofy-looking headband with a card on the front. Figure out what you are by hints the other players give. Ages 6 and up.
* Super Stadium Baseball game is a perfect pinball type game for those kids who naively are asking Santa for their own baseball stadium for Christmas. (That would be mine.)
* The Boogie Board. Yes, I also assumed this was something for riding waves, but really, it’s like a Magna Doodle. Write, draw, play tic tac toe. Then press a button and start over. It’s light and thin and good for all ages.
* Ticket to Ride board game. This is a good, involved game for older kids (8 and up). It takes a while to play — anywhere from a half hour to an hour.
* Magna-Tiles. Go into Child’s Play. Ask what one toy every kid should have. This always seems to be the recommendation. I can personally attest to the good hours of playtime and amazing structures my own boys have built. Is it worth the price? Yes, yes it is.
* Think your kid likes the Rubiks Cube? Try the Gear Cube. It twists like the Rubiks Cube, but has gears and looks like it would get stuck. It doesn’t. Recommended age: 6 and up.
Make sure to also check out the Kids Post top toy list this year, picks based on testing by area school children.