It’s that time of year again, when Father Christmas’s jingly bells can be heard in the distance and people around the country start to think about the gifts that they want to buy for the young people in their lives. The bad news is that toy manufacturers are pointing to the global shipping crisis and problems created by the state of health around the world as reasons why their toys will be harder to find and more expensive to buy this year.
The advice of the biggest toy makers is to get your shopping done early, so this page will hopefully help you to identify the things that you want to get stocked up on well in advance of the rush. Make sure you’ve saved up though, given that shipping companies are charging nearly ten times what they were last year and toy makers likely to pass those added costs onto you, meaning this Christmas might well be a pricey one.
Top 2021 Dolls & Critters
Dolls are toys that are evergreen in terms of their popularity, though it’s fair to say that they’ve changed a bit from the terrifying things that you would have found in your grandma’s attic. They’ve also been joined in terms of the ‘must-have’ nature of them by critters, which are essentially dolls based on animals, both real and imagined, that add a degree of grunginess to toy selections.
Galactic Snackin’ Grogu
If any franchise is likely to dominate the toy market when a new offering comes out, it’s bound to be Star Wars. Grugu, better-known to most as Baby Yoda, is the adorable addition to the Star Wars universe that no one knew we needed but is everyone is glad we’ve got. This particular iteration is animated and comes with four different accessories. Not that exciting alone, but put them in his hand and he’ll interact with them.
Big-eyed and fluffy, Present Pets are the self-unboxing phenomenon that kids are falling in love with. There is a surprise nature to them, insomuch as you won’t know which one you’ve got until you pull the gift tag and they reveal themselves. With 100 sounds and actions on board, they’re sure to keep kids annoyed and adults reaching for their ear muffs, which really is the true meaning of Christmas when you think about it.
Peek-A-Roo: Panda-Roo and Baby
Peek-A-Roos are furry, interactive toys that are adorable to look at, even if the notion that they’re based on a panda requires a bit of mental gymnastics. This year, Panda-Roo comes with a small pouch in their belly, hidden within which is a baby that you can play with. There are three different types of baby, which adds to the suspense when you open Panda-Roo’s pouch to discover which one you’ve got joining your family.
My Garden Baby
No, this isn’t a cross between Gardener’s World and Dirty Dancing. Instead, it’s a classic baby doll that allows for feeding and changing, but offers its own unique twist on what you’ll have experienced in the past. They all come with soft butterfly wings of different shapes and sizes, as well as a bottle that can be filled with water with which you feed the baby. Once they’ve eaten too much, you’ll need to change their reusable fabric diaper.
Barbie Puppy Party
The Barbie universe is ever-expanding and this year puppies have been added to the mix. There are two colours of dough that you can add to a cake mould before watching it ‘rise’ and reveal a cake that is shaped like a bone. The treats can be decorated with a number of different things before being served to your doggy in a bowl. Larger doggies can even chew the bone when you press on their tail.
The word ‘extra’ might make you think of people on a film set that are supposed to blend into the background, but these barbie dolls do anything but that. She is confident, brash and ready to impress, offering 15 pieces that you can mix and match to create a unique style. They also come with a pet unicorn pig that has a removable horn, just in case they want to go undercover or be a little bit less ostentatious for some reason.
LOL Surprise Dance Dance Dance Doll
LOL Surprise Dolls have been the…well…surprise hit of the past few years and 2021 is no exception. There are eight surprises to discover, including a blacklight that will not only reveal some bright surprises but also how much you need to clean the carpet. The dolls perform their own dances, complete with a card that shows you how to carry out the moves courtesy of a holographic image that shines bright like a diamond.
Barbie Dreamhouse 2021
Barbie is a high-maintenance woman, so it’s no surprise that her dream house comes fully-furnished. There are ten indoor and outdoor areas in which she can play, with a working elevator providing her with the means to get around. There’s a slide going from the second floor straight into a pool, though it can be moved somewhere else if so desired. There are sound effects and customisations available to bring it to life.
Top 2021 Action Toys
Typically speaking, toy manufacturers like to be quite sexist and will aim the dolls at girls and the action toys at boys. If you want to please the little person in your life then you’d do well to figure out which type of toy they like and go from there. Action toys are, as the name suggests, a chance to get involved in some out and out action, aimed at those that love a bit of physicality in their play in one form or another.
Jump Fury is both an instruction to the fella wearing an eyepatch in the Marvel films when he’s on the edge of a building and an exciting car-themed toy for 2021. The toy comes from the Airhogs team and promises the ability to jump 60cm in the air. Their big wheels ensure that they’ll land softly enough to avoid causing any damage, with crazy stunts, such as a 360-degree spin being the thing that sets them apart.
Imaginext DC Super Friends Transforming Bat-Tech Batbot
Batman has many enemies, probably because he’s a multimillionaire that uses his wealth to build crazy new toys rather than helping the NHS. Regardless of the reason, they’re going to want to get him and the Batbot provides the Dark Knight with the perfect way to defend himself. There’s a small hold for Batman to sit in, after which the Batbot can go into flight mode, launch missiles or make noises that will amuse and delight.
Nerf Fortnite B’AR Motorised Dart Blaster
Fortnite continues to be a popular game with younger people, so a team-up with Nerf makes all sorts of sense. This replica of the blaster from Fortnite comes with its own darts, allowing it to fire ten in a row if you put it in blast mode. In truth, there’s not a huge amount you can say about the blaster other than the fact that it comes with a clip for you to put your foam darts in and that it looks really cool.
Paw Patrol Movie Ultimate City
Chase and his four-legged friends are determined to keep their local area safe, with that area now coming in the form of the Ultimate City. Standing at 91cm tall, the tower comes with six collectible figures as well as a toy car, with sounds and lights adding to the sense of adventure. There are elevators to move the pups and their vehicles to the top of the tower, whilst the three projectiles that come with it keep our doggies safe.
Hot Wheels Toxic Scorpion Attack
A ‘toxic scorpion attack’ might well sound like something that Janine from accounts suffered from that time she went to Mexico with her boyfriend, but is in fact the new toy from the Hot Wheels stable. You can launch cars onto the track via the scorpion’s swinging claws, with the tail of the animal being a bendable one. This allows for a sense of control of where you’re sending the car off to, at lightning speed.
Space Jam “Lebron James” Shoot + Dunk Playset
The two-inch Lebron James action figure that comes with this playset is only mildly less believable than the real person’s performance in Space Jam: A New Legacy, meaning you can tell your kids you got the real person to turn up if you want. Sold as ‘action figure meets skill game’, you’re presented with a net and a Lebron James action figure, as well basketballs that you’re going to try to score with. There’s even a scoreboard too.
Scalextric Batman vs Superman
On the one hand, Scalextric sets are fairly uniform in how they work, allowing you to build a circuit that cars will race around ad infinitum. On the other hand, it’s really good fun to see cars take corners too fast or attempt the loop-de-loop too slowly and suffer the consequences. In this case, you’re pitting Batman up against his arch nemesis in the form of the Joker, plus you can change the circuit into multiple different layouts.
Top 2021 Creative, Tech & Learning Toys
In years gone by, getting a young person a learning toy would be seen as some sort of punishment by the person on the receiving end, given they really just wanted something they could shoot their sibling with. Nowadays, however, learning toys have come on leaps and bounds and they’re genuinely great fun to play with to the point that you might well find yourself using them once you’ve put the kids to bed.
VTech Feathers and Feelings Peacock
Imagine a bright blue peacock that looks a little bit more like a toy duck and you’ll have some sense of what to expect with VTech’s Feathers and Feelings toy. It’s a brightly coloured extravaganza thanks to the different colours that the feathers are, with the interactive nature of the toy meaning that you’ll get sounds and phrases emitting from the peacock when you press different parts of it. Learn, explore or play; the choice is yours.
VTech KidiZoom Creator Cam
How young is too young to teach your kids about selfies and photo manipulation? Whatever age you said, the chances are you’ve gone too high because the young person in your life already knows all about it. With the KidiZoom Creator Cam, VTech have created a solid looking camera that comes with a green screen, meaning that backgrounds can be changed and magical effects can be added to photographs with ease.
Kinetic Sand Scents Ice Cream Treats
Kinetic Sand is a brilliant present that kids who love to get their hands dirty will really enjoy playing with. This year the company behind it has figured out a way to add a scent to the sand, meaning that you can use it to create your own ice cream treats. Whether you fancy a strawberry-scented ice cream sundae, a chocolate smelling ice cream sandwich or a vanilla waffle, you’ll be able to mix and match to your heart’s content.
The Leapfrog Scoop + Learn Ice Cream Cart
The ice cream cart from LeapFrog comes with 20 different play pieces, meaning that children get the chance to learn about patterns, numbers, colours and matching all whilst having a really fun time. There are six hungry characters that want feeding, whilst the LeapFrog Scoop and Learn activity cards present challenges that will test the mind of even the most inquisitive youngsters. Once the order’s ready, you press the magic bell then pay at the till.
Top 2021 LEGO Sets
If there’s one type of toy that never goes out of fashion then it is surely LEGO. First released in 1949, there’s an argument that it is more popular now than it has ever been, thanks in no small part to the development of the design techniques that allow you create virtually anything. From cities to scenes from films via submarines and mini-figures, LEGO is a toy that kids of all ages will almost certainly enjoy.
In terms of the development of LEGO since its launch, perhaps nothing demonstrates this quite as much as the LEGO VIDIYO series. You build your own video background with various scenery choices on offer, then you use augmented reality to bring the scenes to life. This is a toy that works on several levels, but it’s the use of augmented reality that really helps it to stand out from the crowd.
LEGO Advent Calendars
LEGO advent calendars are a really fun way to provide someone with a wealth of different LEGO pieces that they can open on a daily basis in the build-up to Christmas. What makes them so enjoyable is the fact that they come in all sorts of different versions, from Marvel to Harry Potter via Star Wars and Pokémon. Each set contains various interact toys that you build and then combine together for the purposes of fun and amusement.
LEGO Super Mario
Super Mario is almost as long-lasting a genre as LEGO itself, so it’s perhaps no surprise to see the two genres team up. You can buy all sorts of LEGO sets based around the Mario universe, including power-up packs and a piranha plant. Perhaps the most exciting of all is the Super Mario Master Your Adventure Maker Set, which is an expansion pack that allows you to build your own Mario-themed game.
LEGO Raya and the Last Dragon
One of Disney’s big hits of 2021 was Raya and the Last Dragon, so of course there’s a LEGO set that you can buy to delve further into that world. There’s a posable Sisu Dragon, as well as the warrior princess Raya herself. Add in a sword, a straw hat and other details from the film and you can see why the toy will prove to be a winner. It will be as popular as the film itself for those that enjoyed their advent ure watching the movie.
LEGO’s Ninjago TV series was released to coincide with the launch of the company’s construction toys of the same name. As you might imagine, there are a wealth of different sets released by LEGO from the Ninjago franchise, allowing you to build the characters and the machines that you’ll have encountered before. With Jay, Nya and Lloyd being available in numerous different guises, there are plenty of options available.
Top 2021 Board Games
Games are probably the best thing in terms of involving the whole family. Who hasn’t enjoyed a game of Monopoly with the family, up until the moment that someone tips the board over because gran has been slipping herself some money from the bank when she thought no one was watching? That’s the sort of fun provided by games that you don’t necessarily get from individual toys, so are you buying this for a kid or for yourself? Either’s fine…
Not Parent Approved
An award winning party game that can be played by everyone from kids through to adults? The winner of Scholastic’s Gold Star Toy Award, this could easily have been in the ‘learning toys’ section, such is the extent to which it kills several birds with one stone. Think of this as being like Cards Against Humanity but a version that you can play with grandpa and you’ll have some idea of what you’re in for. Nice and a little bit naughty.
The Haunted Mansion: Call of the Spirits
Based on Disney’s The Haunted Mansion, this game asks you to move around the mansion in question by rotating the Endless Hallway around Madame Leota’s Séance Room. As you do so you’ll be in with a chance of collecting sets of ghost cards, each of which is worth a different value. You’ll go into all of the classic rooms of the mansion, including the attic and graveyard, but watching out for hitchhiking ghosts.
Obviously what we all need to unwind this Christmas is a bit of escapism in the form of a game set in a world suffering from a global pandemic… What sets this game apart from many similar ones is the fact that you need to work alongside each other if you hope to win. It’s a cooperative game in which everyone needs to team up in order to save the world from the rising tide of infection, so pop your mask on and do as you’re told.
With one sun, four sun markers and 56 different trees available, it’s far to say that Photosynthesis is something of an educational board game. You need to figure out the best place to plant seeds in a forest where they’ll be able to find sunlight and avoid shade, otherwise the trees won’t grow and photosynthesis won’t be able to happen. A beautifully illustrated game, it’s as much a piece of art as a board game.
Articulate is an old favourite in the world of board games, with the new iteration adding a twist to keep things interesting. As well as needing to describe things to your fellow players, the game also comes with a jigsaw that needs to be completed if you hope to win. You’ll get a new piece of the jigsaw for every correct answer given and the first team to finish their jigsaw will be victorious. Fun for all the family, as the old cliché goes.
Advent Calendar | The Mystery of the Ice Cave
This is the perfect present insomuch as it gives the receiver 24 riddles to solve on their way to Christmas, stretching out the fun. As well as 3D rooms to explore, there are also other riddles that will keep people entertained for hours. Each puzzle should take around ten minutes to solve, coming together to form a sort of ‘Escape Room’ in a box that promises a wealth of different challenges for those attempted to complete it.
Top 2021 Stocking Stuffers
One of the problems with Christmas is that it’s not just the presents under the tree that Father Christmas has to take care of. Many families also engage in the tradition of having stockings hung up that the jolly old fella has to fill, doubling the workload of his elves. The good news is that we’ve picked out a few stocking fillers that are sure to help you get the job done and ensure that the little one in your life has eyes lit up like… well… Christmas on December 25th.
Disney & Pixar Luca Action Figures
Luca was one of the big hits for Disney on Disney Plus this summer, so getting one of the action figures from the film to put in someone’s stocking is sure to be a winner. The Luca Scooter can be built and crashed, whilst Alberto Scorfano is also available to collect. Every time the scooter crashes it falls apart, allowing it to be rebuilt time and time again. You can even swap the characters over to turn them into their under-sea forms.
Smashers Lava Light-Up Dino Mega Surprise
The brilliant thing about Smashers is that they provide entertainment before you’ve even got your hand on the toy involved. That’s because you need to smash open the egg to get at the dinosaur inside, along with a wealth of other surprises. You can build either a t-rex or a spinosaurus, whilst the light-up scratch map will provide clues to finding other treasures that are hidden inside the compound.
Fortnite is made up of a wealth of different characters, so you’ll need to decide which ones you think will best suit the person that you’re buying for. Whether it be Shadow, the Scientist, Cyclo or another option, they come with the accessories you’d expect to find with toys to make them come alive. These figures are filled with detail, to say nothing of the fact that there is all sorts of articulation on offer when you play with them.
L.O.L. Surprise! Present Surprise Series 2
How does a star sign themed glitter doll sound to you? That’s the sort of thing on offer from L.O.L. with their Series 2 Surprise! presents. There are eight different collectible dolls on offer, promising all sorts of fun and, of course, surprises and you play with them. If you feed your doll or give it a bath then you’ll get a water surprise, which includes the ability of the doll to change colour entirely. Glamorous and fun and complete with themed accessories.
Pop It Fidget Toys
Pop It Fidget Toys are ideal for youngsters than need a sensory relief for whatever reason. They are bright, fun and interactive, thanks to the small pops that you can push in and watch pop back out. Anyone with a fidgety youngster in their midst will know how good it is to keep them occupied, so the Pop It toys come in various different shapes in order to allow you to pick the one that you think will be the most suitable.
The Blume Petal Pets
These plastic flowers are bright and eye-catching, even before you’ve added water via the tiny watering can that comes with them. Once you’ve done that, though, you’ll see the flower come to life and bloom in front of your very eyes. Once the flower has bloomed you can reveal the pet that comes with it, which is stored under the plant, as well as the charm bracelet that accompanies it. Not only that, but you can bloom (or should that be Blume?) your plant again and again.