Kids try out the season's hottest toys

What's catching fire this Christmas?

LUCY TOWNEND
Last updated 12:00 19/12/2013
Erana Hargroves, Lucy Townend and Brooke Townend
DAVID UNWIN/Fairfax NZ

ALL CHARGED UP: Reporter Lucy Townend and nieces, Erana Hargroves, 3, and Brooke Townend, 7, put the Micro Chargers Time Track through its paces.

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A kid in a candy store? Pfft, that's nothing compared to three kids in a toy store.

With less than a week until Christmas and no festive forethought into what to get the critters for Christmas, I was hoping Toyworld would provide me with a merry muse. The toy retailer has put together its annual list of favourites that it believes will top the Christmas wish list for 2013.

And who better to test the toys than kids themselves, so I took my nieces, Brooke Townend, 7, and Erana Hargroves, 3, on the promise of a free dinner and a free-for-all in the store.

Decked out on the testing table were seven of the top 10 toys - the three missing were the Lego Dolphin Cruiser, Leapfrog LeapPad Ultra and Disney Infinity Starter Pack, because they had all sold out or the testers were recharging - not that it mattered.

Erana made a dive for the Cabbage Patch Kid, dragging it around the store the entire evening and even dislodging a pigtail in the process.

She wasn't interested in the Big Hugs Elmo, even though it's aimed at her age group; it seemed I was more amused than she was by the concept of a furry red friend hugging you back, doing ABCs and counting 1,2,3s with me.

The Robo Fish kept her entertained as she kept trying to snatch the small scaled techno toy from its tank.

Brooke, on the other hand, had eyes only for the Nerf Centurion - a foam projectile-firing bow which must be inspired from movies like The Hunger Games and heroine Katniss Everdeen.

She took aim at anyone passing and would pounce on you from behind shelves. The annoying thing was she's a sharp shooter and she clocked me in the face a few times.

A winner with us all was the magnetised, motorised Micro Chargers Time Track, because the three of us could race together and get a bit of banter going.

Asked what they liked best, the girls both said the Robo Fish, then changed their minds five minutes later to another toy.

Even though the LeapPad and Disney Infinity packs weren't available, it was easy to tell they are all the rage among the kids.

Brooke was quick to spout what friends from school she knows who have them and all the different things you can do on them.

There were a handful of the old-school favourites among the foam projectile-firing bows, mini motorised cars, cuddly toys and hi-tech fish.

The Furby, now more hi-tech than ever, can hatch babies through an iPhone app, the MGP scooter was a smooth ride and managed to hold my weight no problem, and the Cabbage Patch Kids are clearly timeless - in fact I still have mine at my parents' place.

Toyworld buyer Repeka Haurua said that in many cases "old is new again with nostalgic characters and brands re-emerging". It seems that way with this year's list, which makes me wonder - have toy designers run out of ideas?

However, since my day, which wasn't that long ago, it seems technology is playing a bigger part in the evolution of toys.

The new ones are flash and fancy but they come with a price tag that, not being a parent, I didn't expect.

The registers must be ringing at a rapid rate as families seek to secure the most sought-after gifts.

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Toyworld Palmerston North store manager Danny Walker said people had been calling ahead to order Furbys in bulk and more stock was ordered on the Robo Fish, as well as other popular items.

My parents must have cheered when all I wanted for Christmas was something as simple as a slinky or a koosh ball.

But now the pockets must be feeling pinched as the next generation of digitally-driven technology-savvy small ones plead for PlayStations, iPhones and X-Boxes.

The problem, which I was quick to see with my nieces, is what might be the hot item one moment can become quickly out of favour. And although it was fun to play with the toys, and the girls undoubtedly had a good time, when Santa flies over the Townend house next week, I'm not sure his sacks of presents will be packed with the treats we tested.

I love those little critters, but this aunty's budget doesn't stretch quite that far.

I'll leave that one for their mums and dads.

A LIST FOR SANTA

Cabbage Patch Kids Fashionalities Complete with a birth certificate and adoption papers – cost $49.99, RRP $79.99.

Disney Infinity Starter Pack A video game starter pack with play sets and web codes to connect with content online – cost $109.99, RRP $129.99.

Furby boom Shape its personality or hatch and raise digital Furby Furblings via a phone app – cost $79.99, RRP $129.99.

Leapfrog LeapPad Ultra Seven-inch hi-res tablet with kid-safe wifi and a library apps, games, ebooks, videos and music – cost $229.99, RRP $299.99.

Lego Dolphin Cruiser Boat-themed building block set equipped with mini characters – cost $99.99, RRP $129.99.

MGP Scooters:Stronger, smoother-riding scooters – cost $159.99, RRP $179.99.

Micro Chargers Time Track: A fast magnetised, motorised mini car track – cost $29.99, RRP $59.99.

Nerf Centurion: A long-range bow and arrow which fires foam projectiles – cost $49.99, RRP $59.99.

Playskool Big Hugs Elmo: Learn the ABCs, numbers, shapes, colours and cuddles with Elmo – cost $79.99, RRP $149.99.

Robo Fish:Small techno-toy which replicates the movement of fish – cost $29.99, RRP $49.99.

Prices are from the Palmerston North Toyworld store, with all toys on special until Christmas.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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