Some presents consistently make it to the top of Santa’s list – your bikes, your games consoles, your reasonably priced pony.
But there are certain years when one toy manages to transcend all others to become the ‘It’ toy of the moment – the one which sells out everywhere, all the children want, and the possession of which ensures a solid playground rep for at least a couple of months thereafter.
These ‘must-haves’ tend to fall under one of three categories – merchandise, collectibles, or substitutes. Get ready for some major nostalgia as we revisit the ghosts of Christmas past….
2015 – Kylo Ren Lightsaber, 2014 – Frozen Snow-Glow Elsa, 1997 – Teletubbies, 1992 – Thunderbirds Tracy Island
Films and TV shows love their merchandise, and every year there is one big entertainment juggernaut that successfully captures the imagination like no other. Studies show that kids perversely tend to learn more from having a familiar story read to them repeatedly instead of having a different story read to them each time. As their familiarity with the story grows they grow to better understand both the characters’ motivations and interactions, becoming increasingly engrossed in the fantasy world. The natural progression is that they then look to put themselves in the story – whether to relive it or perhaps to create their own version of the adventure. And that dream can be excitingly facilitated with, say, a £34.99 Elsa doll or Lightsaber.
2012 – Skylander’s Giants, 2003 – Beyblades, 1995 – POGS, 1986 – Merlin/Panini Football Stickers
Curating a collection can be one of life’s small pleasures. Whether it’s records, stamps, shoes or tattoos, it’s also a pastime that can prove addictive (not to mention expensive). Children are particularly susceptible to its lures, with their collections serving as an easy currency of comparison amongst their peers. Every few years schools up and down the country fall prey to a new collectibles craze. Beyblades and Pokemon managed to manufacture this demand through an animated series – whereas the popularity of something like Football Stickers tends to peak around major tournaments. All that’s needed is something that’s broadly the same – say a card or a disc, that has the capacity to feature many different designs. Of course, a key component of the whole charade is that some designs will be much scarcer than others – inciting some suitable hysteria and bartering when a rarity is unearthed.
2009 – Go Go Pet Hamster, 2006 – Robosapien, 1998 – Furby, 1997 – Tamagotchi
Children crave companionship but can sometimes find the compromises of building a friendship challenging. It turns out that other people can’t always be relied upon to do exactly what you want and exactly how you want it. Crazy. As a result, kids can end up seeking a substitute for a friend – an animal, a doll, a teddy etc. These proxies allow children to experiment with the vagaries of language and emotion without the potential fear of ridicule or rejection. Furthermore, they can also garner a sense of pride from making their Furby happy or keeping their Tamagotchi alive – no mean feat if memory serves me correctly.