I’ve taken a look at the big new toys coming this Christmas and these are my top tips
The world can be safely divided into two types of people – those who think September is too early to even think about Christmas and those who love everything festive and are happy to talk tinsel long before the big day. But especially when you’re buying gifts for kids, planning ahead not only spreads the cost across a few paydays, it also ensures you don’t risk missing the boat on something popular that sells out before you can order one.
This week London hosted the big Christmas press show. Thousands of journalists, influencers and fans of all things festive flocked to the Business Design Center to get their first glimpse of some of the things expected to be big for Christmas 2023. Mirror Choice sent Naren Flanders from The Secret Elves Club to see it all.
While these aren’t full reviews since we didn’t have a lot of time with the games, I was able to experience everything mentioned firsthand and was impressed enough to add them to our lists as potential gifts under our trees. Plus, with prices starting from £7.99 and options for all ages, there’s something here for everyone from stocking stuffers to key gifts.
What’s at the top of your wish list so far? Let us know in the comments.
X Shot Insanity Motorized Rage Fire from Zoro
What is this? Think next-level Nerf. The X Shot Insanity Motorized Rage Fire comes with 72 darts in an auto-feed belt with a tripod and scope.
Where can you get it? The best price available right now is at Very where you can get it for £44.99, but it’s also available at Amazon, Argos, The Entertainer and other retailers.
Why did we like it? This was by far one of the toys that caused the biggest buzz at the show, as the noise and speed of the darts as they were fired was incredible to watch – I know my son will be reckless about unwrapping one this Christmas. However, as a parent on the receiving end, I was pleased to realize that they are actually painless if you take a single hit thanks to the construction of the darts – they are made of foam and contain an air pocket to reduce the force of impact.
Meanwhile, the fact that the Rage Fire is part of a range of different sized By hand for storage first to see what they make of it. At a price point between the two is the Mad Mega Barrel, which is £10 cheaper but still has the wow factor and enough darts that you’ll find it in corners for weeks.
Also on our radar: For kids who are older but in the same vein, gel blasting weapons charge water using tiny gel beads. Both the Gel Blaster and Nerf have options, although the beads aren’t very messy, they give more impact than the softer X Shot darts.
Cookie maker oven play set
What is this? Perfect for play kitchen lovers, these cute pets are made by mixing a special recipe and “baking” them in the mini oven. When you open the door once the timer rings, your new pet will be revealed.
Where can you get it? The bunny, dog and cat are available for £39.99 from retailers including Amazon, Boots, Very and The Entertainer now. Each type conveniently comes in a different box, so you don’t have to worry about whether a lucky dip will mean your child will end up without their favorite pet on Christmas Day.
Why did we like it? They’re nice, warm and smell surprisingly amazing – my favorite was the cinnamon scented dog. They make cute sounds when you pet them, making them irresistible to plush-loving little ones.
But as a parent, I was really impressed with the replay value. These kind of magical surprise toys are exciting when they’re opened, but oftentimes once the toy comes out of the bulky package, kids lose interest very quickly. I loved how the recipe box and mixing bowl were designed for such an interactive experience, but what’s even better is that kids can repeat the process over and over again.
Also on our radar: Toys with a mystery element are always very popular with children, but it was great to see that these weren’t the only ones where the packaging could be reused once the surprise was revealed. The world’s first inflatable stuffed toy, Biggies, looked fun right out of the box and is huge for its £20 price tag – so huge that the fact it can be deflated as needed will be a big sign for many parents. Meanwhile, Beast Lab was an impressive (again, repeatable) reveal game with a different and very interactive way of unpacking the beast within, but at £89.99, it would be a game I’d have my eye on on toy sales. Magic Mixies has also released some smaller Pixling dolls which are cheaper than a lot of their usual range even before you factor in them being currently a third of their price on Amazon and perfect for small gifts.
MindMeld: Party Game
What is this? Whether you’ve heard of this word challenge and the associated hashtag #MindMeld will depend in part on how much time you spend on TikTok, but if you’re of a certain age (or buying for someone who fits the age range) this action-packed game could be a funny way to spend your post noon. Both players are given a starting word and then have to come up with connecting words until they both choose the same word at the same time.
Where can you get it? Both Argos and Amazon already have this product in stock, with the latter currently offering a 10% discount.
Why did we like it? What’s Christmas without a new family game or two to tempt everyone away from their screens? The appeal of this game is that it relies on word association rather than general knowledge or dexterity which means it is a great leveling tool when playing with mixed age groups.
Also on our radar: There are plenty of great game options already announced for this year and we’ll be revisiting some of the best options in separate board games as Christmas approaches. Our top lists include the old version of Ticket to Ride and although it’s so steeply priced (although it’s currently 25% off for pre-orders at Zatu Games) we’ll hold off on actually recommending it until we’ve tried it, Ravensburger’s Lord of the Rings is an episodic co-op Adventure Book game that lets you play Throughout the entire trilogy in individual parts as well as Who Killed Mia? – A murder mystery game aimed at players aged 17+ that involves discovering who killed a notorious social media influencer and has a distinct escape room atmosphere.
Bluey Hammerbarn Playset
What is this? Bluey fans know how exciting Hammerbarn is, an epic craft store for the family to visit and filled with all kinds of fun things from the pizza oven they went to to everything else besides. This massive four-story playset brings the store to life with a working elevator, lights and over 45 sound effects plus 15 different play pieces.
Where can you get it? This is one of those rides that will be available everywhere in the lead up to the big day, and for young kids at least, it’s likely to be as popular as last year’s best-selling Bluey Playhouse. It’s currently available from Very, Amazon, Argos and The Entertainer for £69.99. But with The Entertainer already warning of limited stock and high demand expected, this is the gift parents may need to keep their fingers crossed – do you wait to see if the price drops or just buy it to reduce the risk of disappointment?
Why did we like it? If you have a young child, it’s inevitable that at some point you’ll end up having some sort of giant house/headquarters type playset on their wish list. But while some may have lower build quality or leave you having to spend a fortune on additional figures and accessories to actually make them worth playing with – I still have flashbacks to the night I was wrapping up a PJ Masks headquarters that cost a grand and realized it literally came With one figure and nothing else and had to make a panicked last minute dash to Argos to assemble it – this is sturdy and the bits don’t seem to break off once little fingers start playing with it. There’s also enough to play with including Bluey and Bingo characters.
Also on our radar: If you don’t have the space or budget for such a huge toy this Christmas but still have a die-hard Bluey fan in your house, don’t despair. We also took a closer look at the Bluey Beach Cabin, which comes in at half the price and is much smaller but with lots of items to play with.
Newborn babies crying
What is this? The perfect reborn doll for little ones who are keen to play as caregivers. Connie cries real tears, makes a range of different sounds from laughing to crying, sleeps when you lay her down and comes with accessories including a custom blanket, feeding bottle and soothing doll. But there is also a very modern touch. Connie also comes with an interactive bracelet that kids can wear so their doll knows they’re nearby.
Where can you get it? Amazon, Argos and Very – the latter currently offering £5 off.
Why did we like it? Cry Babies Magic Tears have been around for a while but the addition of an interactive bracelet adds an extra dimension to the much-loved classic toy that keeps kids eager to care for an entertaining doll for hours.
Also on our radar: Just Play’s newest Elmo collection also caused quite a stir on the show floor. Elmo Potty Time is perfect for little ones who are getting ready to start toilet training, including brushing and hand washing.
What is this? A collection of character-based games centered around encouraging children to be more interactive and involved during screen time. The four upcoming launch characters teach four different subjects each with a series of games and activities. It works with iPads, Android tablets, and the virtually indestructible Kindle Fire for kids.
Where can you get it? It will launch on October 1st and will be available on Amazon and from several other retailers.
Why did we like it? As a family of long-time fans of Osmo educational games, this works in a similar way but for a slightly younger age group. It also comes with the added benefits of being a slightly cheaper price point and also comes with a stylus which means little ones can learn the all-important pen grip before they go to school.
Also on our radar: Tonies Smart Speakers are a great way to enjoy stories with your kids away from screens with a squishy speaker that you can sit on for a magnetic character to tell a story. There are over 200 different characters available ranging from Paddington to The Gruffalo to Batman and beyond, alternatively record your own story, perfect for grandparents wanting to give a personalized gift to a little one. There’s also a special Advent character to be released who will tell a new part of the story each day in the lead up to Christmas.
Beano Build-a-Comic Collection
What is this? Another legendary comic that is a multi-generational favorite The Beano is about to celebrate its 85th anniversary. Meanwhile, The Beano Annual has been the UK’s best-selling annual program for 12 of the past 14 years, and Dennis and Gnasher are more popular than ever thanks to the CBBC show Unleashed. The Build a Comic Kit provides everything needed to draw three complete comics, including ink pads, stencils, stamps, and lots of inspiration.
Where can you get it? The art collection, plus a range of Menace-approved practical jokes, Dennis and Gnasher plush toys and trouble-making legend Minnie the Minx will soon be available online as well as in Sainsburys stores from mid-November.
Why did we like it? It’s the perfect stocking stuffer for creative kids and something a little different from the usual craft and art kits. Perfect for putting in the closet on rainy days.