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We offer some advice on what to look for and consider when selecting toys as gifts this festive season.

As the festive season approaches, parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents and family friends are preparing to buy toys as gifts for the children in their lives. To help in the decision-making, we have put together some ideas and suggestions on selecting the most suitable toy. Plus, we give you a rundown of the predicted trending toys this festive season.

Sharon Moore, HOD: Cannons Creek Pre-Primary School, suggests gift-givers focus on play-based learning toys, designed to help the child learn while playing and having fun. Choosing the correct toy for a child is essential for their development, engagement and safety. It supports their cognitive, physical, social, and emotional growth while providing fun, exploration and learning.

Read more about learning through play.


When choosing toys as gifts, she says, there are several things to consider:

  1. Who is doing the most work?

If the toy is battery-operated and the child merely needs to push the button to mobilise the toy, the toy is doing the most work. While there’s a place for that, something that requires the child to use creative and critical thinking while playing or setting up the toy is a far better option.  For example, LEGO or a marble run.

  1. Can the toy be used in different ways?

The toy needs to be flexible and multi-purposed to engage the child and contribute to their overall development by stimulating creativity, promoting problem-solving skills and enhancing motor skills, for example.

  1. Will the toy be used?

Will it encourage the child to use their body and to think? Toys that promote movement and thinking provide an opportunity for active learning. When children actively participate and engage with the toy, it results in an immersive learning experience. If they are interested in a toy, they are likely to spend more time with it, explore its features, and derive maximum benefit from the play experience.

  1. Is the toy suitable for play?

Toys that promote maths and literacy skills, for example, teaching colours, numbers and shapes, have their place, as children need to have these academic foundations. However, manipulative toys that require twisting and turning will help develop motor skills.

  1. Does the toy allow for different attention spans?

The toy/game must allow for shorter and longer periods of success – there must be sufficient challenge for those children who like the challenge and are able to work on it, redesign it or restructure the game.

  1. Durability and safety

The toy needs to be durable to cater for different ability levels. If it’s too flimsy and breaks at the third use, the child will get irritated and frustrated. A good toy should also offer longevity and environmental sustainability. For safety reasons, ensure the toy’s parts aren’t too small and the toy is designed specifically for the child’s age group.

Read our article on suggested toys for different age groups.

What’s trending?

Toys R Us predicts that some of the toys and trends set to be the most popular for this year’s festive season include family play, interactive, collectables and imaginative and role-playing toys.

“This year’s festive season has more ways to play with new entrants and brands as well as different targeted age groups,” says Catherine Jacoby, marketing manager at Toys R Us. “We recognise that the holiday season is about bringing the family together – this has been one of our key focuses. The range of family play on offer brings life back to basics with games and puzzles,” she says. “The Twister Air involves family play – getting the  the body moving with technology while honing gross motor skills and keeping the mind and body active.”

“Consumers are driven more than ever by experiences and parents are looking for value and toys that give their children memories outside of the digital world,” she says. “We’re seeing kids of all ages most interested in quieter or stress-relieving toys that transcend age, and those that allow the child to create, for example, the Kenwood Mixer, which is just like the real thing and allows kids to partake in daily meal preparation and learn about healthy living, and the Cool Maker Stitch ‘n Sew Style Fashion Studio.”

This year, parents can also expect screen-free toys to top the list of trends. Toys that encourage hands-on play and skill-building are also popular.

Top toys

Other top toys on Toys R Us’ predicted best-seller list that align with the play-based learning philosophy are:

  1. Bitzee Interactive Digital Pet
  2. LEGO – the City Explorer Diving Boat 60377, Friends Dog Rescue Centre 41727 and Rainbocorns Mermaidcorn Surprise Assorted
  3. Barbie Pop Reveal, Barbie Juicy Fruit Series Assorted
  4. Carrera Go Sonic Battery Slot Racing Set
  5. Transformers Beast Mode Bumblebee
  6. Paw Patrol Movie Marine HQ
  7. Gabby’s Purrfect Dollhouse
  8. Magic Mixes Magic Genie Lamp
  9. LOL Surprise Bubble Surprise Deluxe
  10. Squishmallows Plush Range

For those looking for more inspiration to buy toys as gifts, you can view the retailer’s digital catalogue of top toys and trends for 2023 here.


Child Magazine