Child's play

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 October, 2007, 12:00am

Walking into a toy shop can be an overwhelming experience, even for an adult.

The selection can be dazzling and, while there may be toys such as spinning tops and rubber ducks that you remember from your youth, there is a whole range of new toys that change with the season.

Many parents know what their children like, especially as Christmas is an opportunity for them to write a wish list to Santa Claus, but for those who want to surprise their children, Teresa Ho Wai-har, retail general manager of ItsImagical, has a few suggestions.

'A great toy for children of all ages is the Kiko Nico,' she says, referring to the cuddly toy that appeals from birth up.

This soft toy, with mismatched ears and a big smile, is one with a difference because the lack of perfection aims to teach children that beauty is not always the most important thing. Something fondly remembered by those of us who had a beloved but battered teddy bear.

Argha Sen, of Toys LiFung (Asia), which operates Toys 'R' Us in Asia, sees four broad trends in the most popular new toys. 'There are the items that are driven by hot TV shows and movies; video and handheld games; educational brands such as Lego, VTech and Leapfrog products; and new and innovative items such as Mio Pup, an electronic robot puppy and Fur Real Parrot, a realistic talking parrot,' says Ms Sen, who heads the marketing and customer relationship management divisions in the region.

Some toys that have been around for decades such as the Transformer characters and Barbie dolls have new impetus this year due to the release of Hollywood movies.

The perennial Barbie has a new look as Barbie Island Princess with associated toys and extras following the movie of the same name. Japan's Masked Riders are still favourites as are the figures based on the Japanese animation series Pretty Cure Max Heart.

Video and handheld games that children are after are Nintendo DS Lite, PlayStation Portable, PlayStation 3, Xbox and Wii, but some parents worry that all that concentrating on the small screen is not good for children. Ms Ho suggests that some age-range specific toys for parents who want their child to develop intelligence and social skills while they are having fun.

For those aged one to three years she recommends the colourful megactiocubo, which has more than 14 activities fitted neatly in a box.

There are shapes, letters, numbers, a clock and balls that encourage children's fine mobility skills, eye-hand co-ordination and sense of memory.

For children aged three to eight there is Gua! Farmy - a brightly painted wooden toy from which children can construct a farm from more than 50 pieces that include animals, a tower, bells, channels and marbles. The toy encourages creative and constructive thinking.

Safety is also another consideration for parents, especially since Mattel's huge toy recall in the United States and the recall of Thomas the Tank Engine products in Hong Kong because of concerns that lead-based paint had been used.

Ms Sen and Ms Ho are keen to stress that their stores put safety as their top priority and they have rigorous safety standards.

'We work with our suppliers to ensure that all products on our shelves meet the required safety tests and are 100 per cent safe,' Ms Sen says.

Another problem can be when parents buy toys that are too advanced for the child's age in the vain hope that this will propel the child's intelligence.

The toy will either be a dull present for the child, who can't understand it, or dangerous, such as one from which a child could gain access to the batteries or could choke on small parts.