The Tot Testers are getting excited, its Christmas in a mere 50 days and so they've been having a great time as Toyologists trying out some of this years must have toys, courtesy of Toys R Us! What are their top tips for Christmas?
Top of Big Tots must haves this season is the Annabell Tween doll. The doll is the grown up version of the classic Annabell baby doll, beloved by girls for many years.
The new doll, available in different types depending on the child, is a larger size than the baby doll, but thankfully not as heavy as the original.
Unlike the original baby doll, this doll doesn't make a noise, or move of its own will (making it to a parent slightly less creepy), and not to scale- people aren't going to confuse this doll with a real sized child. It does have long hair and well made outfits which can be removed.
As usual, other items can be purchased separately, and as yet there are no added extras- one thing that put me off the Baby Annabell was the extras available which made the doll as expensive in the longterm as having a newborn in the house.
At 42cm, she's just right for hugging, and Big Tot liked to brush the hair and change her clothes- which in essence teaches the child how to dress and undress themself if they aren't already confident enough to do this.
At £24.99, I think its a better option for those with less of a budget to buy toys at Christmas, as its at least £30 cheaper than Baby Annabell.
Next up is old favourite Barbie, with the Fashion Fairytale Transforming Doll.
Released along with other dolls and accessories to tie in with the latest movie release, the doll is not your average Barbie.
Unlike regular Barbies, you are unable to remove her clothes and swap with newer items as they appear on the shelf, or with clothes you already have, which to me was one of the things I loved about Barbie as a child. With this doll, you simply pull part of the dress down and spin it round to create a second pink outfit.
Its a bit fiddly for Big Tot, and she got quite frustrated with it, as she prefers to be quite independent. It does however capture the child's interest as it lights up at the front on the more garish dress, and with a press of a button the front, it plays music (a box is hidden beneath the skirt). The music box element does make the doll heavier than classic Barbie dolls, less able to be posed too.
I would probably say this is more of a collectors piece than a doll for everyday play, due to the weight and being unable to dress her up at will with other clothing. At £16.49 she is quite expensive too.
I wouldn't recommend this for a child of Big Tots age (3 1/2) or as a first Barbie doll, I think its one for the shelf of collectors.
Bratz dolls, the alternative to Barbie for the Noughties in the same way as Sindy was back in the 80s, are now ten years old, and have released a collection of 10 new dolls to join the original clan.
The new dolls are just as sassy and fashionable as their original friends, with interchangeable outfits, faces full of make up, and hair ready to be played with. They are priced at £9.97 each, and are ideal stocking fillers at that price.
The one thing which puts me off the Bratz doll in general is the feet. Unlike Barbie or Sindy dolls who have different shoes, with Bratz the whole foot comes off to change from heels to boots or trainers, and these are just right for being lost or vaccummed up, which then leaves the doll minus feet. That's exactly what happened with this doll, and whilst it obviously is a feature so as the skinny jeans the dolls wear can be taken off and not mean the shoes are plastic and tiny, it is a feature which I'm not a fan of- with Barbie's and Sindy's if you have choking concerns then you hide the shoes with no problem to the doll, with Bratz its more obvious to the child that the dolls shoes are missing.
We tried the Chloe Celebration Party Doll, £19.97, which came with two separate outfits, so this range of the dolls are also quite expensive, and not all parents will appreciate the look of the doll either.
However, Big Tot did find this doll more user friendly than the Barbie doll, and enjoyed mixing and matching the outfits. She especially liked that the doll had a funky hat and bag, as she's quite into dressing up with my old hats and handbags herself.
However, looks wise, I prefer the Barbie's lack of make up and sassy look, so would recommend buying for slightly older girls if the gift will be given to a child of a friend.
We also tried to move away from dolls for a moment to try out the Animagic New Born Puppy Scamp £9.97.
The cute puppy dog is just the right size for hugs with our Big Tot (and Little Tot was quite the fan too) and it makes a great compromise if you're not keen on actual pet ownership! Its very furry, soft and cuddly, and comes with a bottle for the child to "feed" it. So in that respect it is kind of on a par with a Baby doll but in dog form.
When the bottle is placed in the dogs mouth it barks and yaps. So the boredom factor isn't great as it does do no more than that, and its quite frustrating to play with as the bottle really has to be pressed in quite hard for it to make the noise- meaning more than a few tantrums. I even had some trouble making it make noise on occasion.
As a cuddly toy its quite expensive, but if you can get it to bark, then this does make it more worthy of the price tag. Just not, tech-wise, very well made.
Little Tot loves everything that means he can make sounds like a car, digger or train, so we had fun testing out the Tonka Chuck Deluxe Stunt Set (£34.99).
The chunky and easy to use stunt track, which can be slotted together practically however the child wants, was very easy to get to grips with. Whilst Little Tot didn't quite have the idea of stunts for the truck to pull off as the manufacturer intended, he had enormous fun with it.
What I liked about Chuck was that he doesn't just work on the stunt track part, he can taken off and used anywhere, which considering this is quite an expensive set is an added bonus. Due to the chunkiness of the set and car, I think this would be fun to use outdoors too. He did have a tumble down the stairs too- possibly the stunt action we showed Little Tot the car could perform may have sparked the "lets see how I can make it do a stunt", but the truck survived with no more than a slight scratch!
It does require batteries which aren't included, so worth bearing this in mind.
A bright, colourful and fun item which little boys (and their Dads) will love.
Or for boys who enjoy putting things together, we tried the Trio Crazy Creatures, £9.97
I personally remember using something very similar at school, and having a great time making all sorts with them, we actually used to use them for maths lessons!
Little Tot is a fan of Lego, so this was met with some looks of concern. That was until I showed him how they click together to make any stuff you like, and then he was more than happy clicking the blocks together to make towers, and, er, towers actually!
There are some great bits and pieces, like eyes, legs and scales to make monsters, but really it can used to make whatever the child wants. Its very easy to use too, and no adult help is required. The chunky bits and pieces are just right for little hands which lack co-ordination. And the under ten pounds price tag is certainly welcome too. Another great stocking filler.
We also tried Tomy Mr Colour Maker, £19.99.
As you'd expect from Tomy, the toy is chunky and colourful, whilst educational, and the idea is that the paint pot teaches the child their colours.
It has 50 sayings from the 3 colour pots it comes with, which are the primary colours. The child "dips" the paint brush in one of these little pots (in very robust child friendly plastic) and holds it over the main Mr Colour Maker pot, and it tells them all about the colour, whilst lighting up in an array of colours.
To say Little Tot liked this toy was an understatement. He is at the repeat everything he hears stage, so had fun copying the toy, and we found he needed no help at all to play with the toy once we fitted the batteries (again, not included). We've also found that he has been pointing out colours to us when out and about, so its definitely served its primary purpose in teaching colours to our Tot.
Considering the amount of phrases and the fact our child loved it, I think its well worth the price tag. It appeals in my mind to the child because it looks so jolly, and the attention to detail in the toy is great too, even the smaller paint pots have differing faces.
A great fun but educational toy.
Prices are from Toys R Us.