Youngsters give old-fashioned toys a gold star

By Stephanie MacLellan

With the Christmas season drawing near, one list will help predict which toys end up under the tree, and it has nothing to do with who’s naughty or nice.

Every year, the Canadian Toy Testing Council ranks the best toys in the market based on factors such as safety and durability, according to Leigh Poirier, the council’s executive director. For 50 years, local toy stores have been helped or harmed by the report’s findings — released Nov. 4 — before their most crucial sales season.

“There are quite a few people who will literally not do any shopping until they announce the winners,” says Chris Carroll, the assistant manager at Mrs. Tiggy Winkle’s in the Rideau Centre.

“After it comes out, some people come in with just a copy of the list.”

This year’s toy report rated approximately 300 toys and games, giving them one, two or three stars or a rating of “not recommended.”

The report is based on extensive testing by children.

According to Poirier, this year’s list shows a resurgence of old-fashioned toys.

“The traditional type of toys seems to have come back, but with more sophisticated technology,” says Poirier.

One example is the Groovy Girls line of stuffed dolls, recommended by the toy council for their durable materials and wide range of accessories, including clothes, pets and transportation.

“They come with all different ethnicities and a lot of different accessories, so you can customize the doll for your daughter,” says Melanie Lackey, a sales associate at Go Toys on Sussex Drive.

Lackey says “Groovy Girls” are some of the store’s biggest sellers, and customers like that they’re more personalized than most dolls.

Another traditional type of toy the council recommended was Beyblades.

Children spin these miniature tops by pulling a ripcord instead of twisting them. Beyblades can also “fight” with each other by colliding at high speeds.

Toy shopper Dan Killens bought a similar toy for his six-year-old son, Mark, from the Mrs. Tiggy Winkle’s store on Bank Street.

“It was a low price, and it’s a knock-off, and it’s what he wanted,” says Killens. “We’re careful buyers. There’s too many toys out there.”

Poirier says keeping parents informed about toys is the major reason for producing the report.

“It’s important for parents and consumers because there are thousands of toys out there and a lot of them don’t say what they’re going to do,” says Poirier.

“A lot of parents know their kids will get suckered in by the trends,” says Carroll.

“It drives parents wild because they know the toy they buy will end up under the couch in two months,” she says.

Carroll says this is starting a trend towards educational toys, like kits for making soda at Mrs. Tiggy Winkle’s or for building rockets at Go Toys.

“It’s like, ‘Let’s go build this,’ rather than, ‘Here’s a marketed piece of plastic,’” says Carroll.

Poirier says toys that keep children entertained long after Christmas morning score well in the report.

“We look at play value,” says Poirier. “That means how often a child plays with a toy, and whether they can incorporate it into play with different toys.

“The children choose the toys and they know what they like.”

Young Mark Killens says this is what mattered when he picked out his latest toy.

“I just like it.”