top toys

Really top toys…

I barely dare think about the amount of toys that have passed through our house in the 8 (nearly 9) years of having children. They have been incredibly lucky, spoilt by relatives and since I started writing this blog the products we’re sent to review. I enjoy this opportunity, I love watching how seriously the older two take it, looking things over and passing comments back to me that I should take note of. I believe in ‘learning through play’ and watching them discuss, work through puzzles, use their imagination, refine their motor skills and lots more through interaction with a toy; regularly get to experience this in action.

When I first realised and was asked to review toys I was quite expecting to tell you how quickly my children could break it, take it to pieces or how many random pieces of tiny plastic I was getting sick of finding discarded in random locations around the house. This has rarely been the case though and I wonder are they getting better in quality or are my children’s choices improving?

I regularly tell them they can select whatever they want with their birthday/pocket-money only to talk them into returning the first 3 or more choices to the shelf. I feel guilty but want to see them get value for their money from a toy that will last the distance.

Here’s what I’ve learnt does…

Imaginary Play: We’ve got a variety of play-sets from Fisher Price Little People, ELC’s HappyLand, Playmobil and now VTech’s Toot Toot drivers. Individually or together with a variety of other vehicle, people and animal models we can create entire imaginary worlds. The older children still enjoy putting these together, getting far more creative and C plays for hours moving animals or cars around and creating stories.

Role Play: Dressing up items, play kitchens, shops and a whole host of other products that can be used to act out real and fantasy stories. There are lots of wonderful quality items that can be bought in this category like the lovely play food we were given but just as much more that can be used with second-hand items. Handbags, old clothes and jewellery, plastic kitchen utensils and more can often make the most popular accessories for role play and can usually be found from a quick clear out of your own room or pennies in a charity shop.

Craft: In my opinion you can never have enough pens, crayons, pencils, paper, paints, glue etc. Craft kits are nice and we’ve had some really lovely ones recently but I do always carefully consider if it’s an easily created activity dressed up in fancy packaging. Sometimes you will be able to make more and get better value for money buying items individually from a craft shop and putting them in a pretty gift box yourself.

Building: I am a huge fan of Lego and Duplo and I’ve not come across many children that aren’t either. There are lots of other great building toys too MegaBloks, Kre-O both make fun and good quality sets and you can’t beat a bucket of wooden blocks!

Board Games and Puzzles: We have shelves full of board and card games each goes in and out of popularity, sometimes being played for days on end only to be dumped for another but later rediscovered. You really can’t beat the classics where games are concerned, Monopoly, Top Trumps and Mouse Trap probably remain overall favourites. Madam is very fond of the ‘Yes or No’ game, I am not! “Mummy would you like to play yes or no?”


“Haha you loose.”


Outdoors toys: Small things like bats and balls, large things like slides and swings all of these are well worth buying. Unfortunately they can take up a lot of space so we’ve gone through a lot that we just couldn’t store. Now we’re lucky enough to have a shed large enough to keep them all and if we hadn’t moved so often I would’ve invested in good storage.

Technology: I think we have to embrace or at least accept that this is here to stay, in ways it is updated far too often to count as a toy that will last the distance although when carefully looked after it doesn’t necessarily lose appeal. Master E has his Dad’s old Game Boy Advance, Nintendo 64 and Super Nintendo and enjoys them as much if not more so because the games are simpler than some of the newer models.


That’s an awfully long list; what don’t I like!?

I am very wary of anything character driven, of course there are some lots we are fond of that have stood the test of time but I get annoyed when they’re stamped onto anything and everything and then a premium charged. The latest must haves and sets with lots of tiny plastic pieces are also treated with suspicion. Argos’s top toys for Xmas is a mixed list; it includes popular classics Lego, Monopoly and Nerf, quite a few battery eating gadgets and then things like Furby and Teksta. These are very clever but I would not rush to buy them unless I was entirely sure it was what they really wanted because they are quite expensive if not. Big Hugs Elmo which we were sent to review is much the same.

Big Hugs Elmo

Elmo is pitched at children from 18mth-4yrs so Lil’F and C are perfectly within the target ages. He is incredibly soft and can move his arms to actually give a hug, says over 50 phrases, sings and moves his mouth whilst he’s doing so. Lil’F enjoys dragging him around even though he’s nearly as big as her and trying to shove things in his mouth but looks incredibly concerned if we try to get him to give her a hug. C enjoyed playing with him for a short while and like F trying to feed him but now seems mostly disinterested. They only watch Cbeebies so Elmo is not a character they’d be familiar with but I think a good toy should appeal regardless. He does everything he’s meant to and is clever knowing how hard you’re hugging, when you’re moving and requests a dance and when he’s being held upside down. He may be worth it to a huge Elmo fan but to me £49.99 is too much for children in this age group who’d probably be just as happy with a standard soft toy.

~ We were sent Big Hugs Elmo to review, all thoughts and opinions are our own ~