12 Toys of Christmas …. and the winner is…

As Christmas draws closer, we all wonder what Santa will be bringing to our kids – I still believe in Santa, so don’t look so surprised! One of my favourite places to purchase all my stuff is eBay because it’s quick to search for the best deals on the mobile phone and these days you can get pretty much everything there at lower prices. I found a recent report by eBay on the 12 Toys of Christmas interesting, considering the amount of data they have available on tap. They have also partnered with Social and Behavioural Psychologist Honey Langcaster-James to uncover why these toys benefit a child’s development and help parents choose the perfect gift this Christmas. London Mums have checked the list and selected their favourite toy out of the 12. Find out which one it is below. 

The online marketplace’s ‘12 Toys of Christmas’ includes favourites such as ‘FurReal Friends Ricky the Trick Loving Pup’, which builds companionship and social interaction in kids, LEGO favourite ‘The Creator Pirate Roller Coaster’ which helps to  develop fine motor skills – and the top toy for building imagination, ‘Myla the magical make-up unicorn’.

Navigating the many toys on offer can be a daunting prospect, and as many Brits get set to switch into present-buying mode for their kids. This year there have already been almost 226 million searches for unicorn related items on eBay.co.uk. I honestly don’t understand this appeal so I found Honey Langcaster-James‘ explanation on the psychology behind why kids are so drawn to them quite intriguing: “Unicorns encourage imagination and allow children to escape the every-day. Whilst the toys engage a child’s interest through fantasy and magic, they allow to explore a world where everything is exciting, yet also safe – as well as offering a sense of comfort and companionship.”

Offering advice for adults buying toys for kids this Christmas, Honey adds, “Some toys are designed to encourage trust and friendship and others may foster early science, engineering and maths skills, so one way to get the best toy is to consider what additional benefits it may have for the child, beyond its mere play value.”

Honey Langcaster-James reviewed and analysed a selection of this years’ popular toys. Read on to discover the potential psychological benefits that each of eBay’s 12 Toys of Christmas could provide:

1. Harry Potter Hogwarts Great Hall – this is London Mums’ favourite toy as the winner within this selection! 

For slightly older children this toy provides great play value – it’s not only themed with popular and dearly loved characters, but it’s also intricate and challenging so it encourages sustained attention, engagement and perseverance. The complex nature of the toy provides not only captivating entertainment value, but there’s also an opportunity for a real sense of accomplishment, mastery and achievement once it has come together. The Harry Potter theme along with the complexity of the kit, means this is a toy that would appeal to both boys and girls, as well as the adults in the family. This LEGO box is also great to encourage the children to read the Harry Potter series. 

A few facts about this fantastic toy:

  • Ideal for children aged 9 to 14 years old and all Harry Potter fans!
  • 4-level tower features movable Grand Staircase spiral steps at its base, potions room, treasure room with chest and a turret featuring the Mirror of Erised with changeable pictures and roosting spot for Fawkes.
  • Includes 10 mini-figures: Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, Draco Malfoy, Susan Bones, Professor McGonagall, Professor Quirrell with dual Lord Voldemort face, Hagrid, Albus Dumbledore and Nearly Headless Nick.

  • Also includes buildable Basilisk and Fawkes creatures, plus Hedwig and Scabbers figures.
  • Accessory elements include 7 wands, 3 tumblers, an umbrella, lantern, broom, sorting hat, cauldrons, potions, candles, 2 wizard brooms, food, trophy, teapot, chest and a spider and a boat with hanging lanternTravel to the legendary Great Hall of Hogwarts!
  • One of the most famous backdrops of the Harry Potter books and films, with the LEGO 75954 Harry Potter Hogwarts Great Hall set you can gather for a feast in the Great Hall and get ready for the sorting ceremony before drawing wands for a duel with Draco Malfoy!

  • Kids can play with the mini-figures pretending they climb the moving stairs to explore the Grand Staircase tower, master the art of potions in the classroom, discover changing reflections in the Mirror of Erised and help Harry, Hermione and Ron as they battle the evil Basilisk and he who must not be named… Lord Voldemort!

£84.95 from eBay seller jadlamracing

 

2. Creator Pirate Roller Coaster

The Creator Pirate Roller Coaster is another great Lego based toy. Based around an adventure playground, a place that many children would be able to relate to as being fun and adventurous, there are some great opportunities for both imaginative play and cognitive development. As well as thedevelopment of fine and detailed motor skills, this toy requires ingenious creativity and conceptual thinking. There are elements to the roller coaster build in particular, that have the potential to teach valuable scientific concepts such as force and motion.

£64.99 from eBay seller Argos

3. Myla the Magical Make-up Unicorn

Unicorns are a hugely fashionable and popular toy at the moment and there can be valuable social and emotional benefits that come from a child having a toy that’s likely to be popular with other children their own age. Myla could be a particularly good toy for a child who would value an opportunity to engage with other children, because she’s portable, comforting and soft to carry yet also a really impressive talking piece because of her magical colour changing properties. This toy is also musical and encourages children to be musical too through the ‘sing with me’ game. This offers an opportunity for self-expression and creativity and Myla then rewards you by telling you “you’re a great artist” or saying “you’re special”. These affirming phrases could help to encourage a shy child to express themselves and increase a child’s confidence and self-esteem.

£44.99 from eBay seller Argos

4. Toot-Toot Friends Kingdom Pirate Ship

For younger children there is plenty of play value in the Toot-Toot Friends Kingdom Pirate Ship, as they can develop valuable cognitive skills through the interactive nature of the toy. In particular, there is an opportunity to learn about cause and effect as they press the various buttons. There’re also some great opportunities for imaginative and fantasy play with safe and appealing parts that are easy for younger children to grip and interact with as their fine motor skills are still developing.The overall design of the toy promotes comradery and team work as the pirates must work together on board their pirate ship towards their common goal. The multiple characters all on board the ship together provides children with an opportunity to develop imaginative narratives about how the characters might interact and engage with one another. A toy like this allows for a host of imaginative possibilities and could enable younger children to role play valuable team working skills.

£39.85 from eBay seller homeoffice2014

5. Leap Start Leap Frog

For young children the Leap Start Leap Frog toy provides somegreat opportunities for cognitive development and early learning to be presented in a fun and entertaining way. Children can explore concepts such as number, shapes and colours in an interactive and engaging manner and the highly portable nature of this toy makes it great for car journeys and other situations where a child needs to be kept entertained or occupied while on the move. The pointer allows for fine motor skill development too as it requires hand eye co-ordination and the child’s accuracy and precision is then rewarded through gratifying sounds. The toy overall delivers a valuable message of ‘learning is fun’ which could potentially help children to develop a love of learning from a young age that would benefit them in the future.

£37.49 from eBay seller Argos

6. Playmobil Family Fun 9060 Aquarium with Fillable Water Enclosure

There are various play benefits of this toy because of the challenging nature of the original set up with all its intricate pieces, and also because of the added value of then being able to fill it with water and engage with exciting water-play. Playing with water offers some cognitive developmental benefits since it teaches children about conservation, displacement and gravity among other valuable early scientific concepts. The presence of the recycling bin and other subtle features in this toy also encourages conversations with adults in the family about the importance of taking care of our planet and the need to care for our oceans, coral reefs and the various animals that depend on them. The addition of the clock also means there’s a potential for an additional educational element with this toy,when it comes to children learning how to tell the time. It’s also gender neutral so both boys and girls in the family can play together with a toy like this, this would be great for encouraging siblings to play together. For all these reasons, this is a great all-rounder toy. It has many potential benefits to assist with cognitive development but also social and emotional developmental opportunities too.

£42.49 from eBay seller the-biggest-toy-store

7. Baby Alive Real as Can Be

Baby dolls in general provide lots of opportunities for children to engage in role play and care-giving activities that can help develop social and emotional intelligence. With Baby Alive, her life-like features, facial expressions and reactions can really initiate a sense of love and care. There’s intrinsic social reward for doing so as young children’s positive interactions with the doll are rewarded and reinforced by her giggles and smiles.Children can benefit from a sense of social responsibility and a feeling of being of valued by playing at care-giving games with a baby doll. Such games can help foster empathy and social engagement and Baby Alive has the added benefits of problem solving and experimentation needed to satisfy her desires for play, interactivity and care. For parents seeking an opportunity to engage their child in conversations about babies, where they come from or what they need from the adults who care for them, Baby Alive would be a great way to sustain a young child’s interest as she’s so very life-like and rewarding to play with. 

£74.99 from eBay seller the-biggest-toy-store

8. Nerf Laser Ops Deltaburst

The Nerf Laser toy is particularly suited to more physically inclined children who have lots of energy to expend. Many children love an opportunity for rough and tumble play, or particularly exciting and energetic play. This toy fosters all that and could also help to improve a child’s hand-eye co-ordination and motor skills. Many toys are primarily designed for indoor play whereas a toy like this could also encourage out-door play and physical activity, encouraging some children to engage in more active play. Because typically adults will put in place boundaries and rules when it comes to playing with such toys, for example telling children where they are allowed to aim and what they’re allowed to do with it, playing with toys like this, can help develop self-discipline, an understanding of boundaries and safety, and the need to play fair.

£49.99 from eBay seller the-biggest-toy-store

9. FurReal Friends Ricky the Trick Loving Pup

Cute and cuddly toys like Ricky are always very popular with children as they make great virtual companions. They canprovide psychological benefits through the comfort and familiarity they bring and some children will take solace in a companion like Ricky at times when they’re under stress or feeling lonely or sad. These emotional states are all a part of childhood and life in general, so for children learning how to move through such times a toy like Ricky can offer a great self-soothing opportunity and a friend to reach for. Studies have shown that robotic and artificial animals do provide great psychological benefits when it comes to companionship and social interaction and there may be particular benefits available to children who struggle with social skills which could come from engaging with a toy like FurReal Friends Ricky the Trick Loving Pup.

£134.99 from eBay seller the-biggest-toy-store

10. Barbie Careers Care Clinic Ambulance Play

While Barbie is a character that many children, and even their parents, know and love, there has sometimes been debate in the past about the messages she conveys to developing girls. This Barbie Careers Ambulance toy takes Barbie to the next level and conveys some hugely beneficial messages to young girls about the kind of careers that are both open to them and also potentially positive and fun for them. The medical nature of this toy allows children to explore themes of care-giving and nurturing in a way that’s also empowered and has status in society. Barbie gets all the equipment she needs to take care of animals and humans in need in this Ambulance toy.  Medical themed toys also have the potential to provide other benefits for social, emotional and cultural awareness since they allow for conversations to take place about the typical things you might see in a hospital or medical setting. This can help reduce anxiety for children requiring medical care or witnessing people they’re close to receiving medical treatment. Because her patients need her to help them, and she has all the equipment she needs, Barbie becomes a hero and this can be vicariously gratifying to girls who project their own person-hood onto her and want to feel empowered too.

£48.58 from eBay seller fresh_grind 

11. Hot Wheels Corkscrew Crash

The Hot Wheels toy offers a great opportunity for children to engage with something that’s both complex and challenging in the setting up but then gratifying and exciting in play. A great toy to get the interest of parents and older adults in the family who can help a younger child set it up, it has the potential to engage and delight the whole family. The competitive nature of the racing part feature of the toy also allows children toexercise their natural competitive natures and gain a sense of accomplishment and pride when they win. Playing with other children in a competitive and exciting way can help children learn emotional skills such as emotional control and impulsiveness, and can help them negotiate relationships and conflict and resolve their own disappointment when perhaps they lose from time to time.

£49.99 from eBay seller Argos

12. Shimmer and Shine, Shine and Zoomdust

Shine and Zoomdust is a toy that engages a child’s interest through fantasy and magic. Another unicorn themed toy, this really taps into the current trend for this magical and fantastical beast so encourages children to engage with one another in shared imaginative play. When two or more children come together to agree that this is a unicorn or that this animal flies, for example, they are learning valuable benefits to social relationships and gaining a sense of belonging from their shared beliefs in this imaginative world. A toy like this gives them a great opportunity to explore a fantasy world where everything is magical and exciting yet also safe. The escapism and fantasy that such a toy can provide a child offers them fun and relaxation following a day of learning at school, and it can also provide them with a magical world to escape to in their own minds when the real world becomes a little overwhelming or over-stimulating at times.

£44.99 from eBay seller the-biggest-toy-store

About Monica Costa

Monica Costa founded London Mums in September 2006 after her son Diego’s birth together with a group of mothers who felt the need of meeting up regularly to share the challenges and joys of motherhood in metropolitan and multicultural London. London Mums is the FREE and independent peer support group for mums and mumpreneurs based in London https://londonmumsmagazine.com and you can connect on Twitter @londonmums

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