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I have a confession: when I started compiling this gift guide, to help me select some of the ‘must-have’ gifts for kids this Christmas, I went straight to the source: my own.
Yep, I sat down with my four and eight-year-old to write their Christmas lists, reminding them this year’s celebrations are likely to be quite different, not least because our area is currently in a tier 2 lockdown.
They were anxious it might mean Santa couldn’t come – but even though money is tight for everyone at the moment, I reassured them Santa would likely find at least one special toy in his workshop.
So with their help – plus some diligent research – here are 15 toys for kids generating the biggest buzz in 2020.
Jigsaw Puzzle For Rebel Girls, Amazon, £10.49
A great choice for a Covid Christmas, as you can do it indoors and get Granny involved, too. My daughter loved the book, which celebrates queens, activists, scientists, artists and sporting champions throughout history, and picked the puzzle version out immediately. Best for slightly older kids.
Trapped: Escape Room Game Packs, Argos, £10
An ‘escape room in a box’ sounds like perfect fun for older kids (8+) – it’s an action-packed escape room experience for families that promises to, “turn any room into an escape room”. With clever clues to crack and puzzles to solve, you can choose between Carnival (easy), Art Heist (medium) and Bank Job (hard). Each one takes 1-2 hours to complete depending on your level of cunning.
Smart Ball Speed Football, Golden Bear Toys, £24.99
This innovative football measures how fast you kick the ball. Simply place the Speed Ball on the kicking tee, switch on the in-built sensor, listen for the countdown then kick the ball as hard as you can. The speed you kick the ball will register in kilometres per hour. You can even challenge friends and family to see who has the fastest kick. The challenge is on!
Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit – Mario Set, Nintendo, £99
It’s time to turn your home into a race track. You can drive a kart in the real world using the usual controls, while watching all the action from the kart’s on-board camera, via your Nintendo Switch or TV screen. Basically, your home will be transformed into the bottom of the ocean, a sandy desert and more... it’s the priciest item on our list, but my kids are already obsessed.
Musical Doctor Checkup Set, Smyths, £24.99
A musical doctor kit? In a global pandemic? Topical, relevant and, in this case, fun. Check. The set is inspired by nursery rhymes from the popular YouTube series, CoComelon, which means your little one can sing the “Doctor Checkup Song” – accompanied by 9 different doctors’ office sounds. Lie down and sneak a nap while your child checks your heart with the stethoscope, your temperature with the thermometer, and gives you a (hopefully, painless) shot with the syringe.
Live Gotta Go Flamingo, Argos, £33
This interactive flamingo wiggles and jiggles his neck – and repeats what you say. He even tells you he needs a “poop” after he’s fed, and sings the hilarious ‘Uh Oh Gotta Go!’ song. My kids already want one each. Oh, no.
KidiZoom Studio, Argos, £60
Your kids can be the star of their own videos – this kit comes complete with green screen to create special effects, too. Set up the included tripod to film videos, or use the flip-up lens and handle to capture selfie videos.
No gift guide is complete without a Lego toy, right? For kids aged six and over, this Lego Super Mario Starter Course features a highly interactive Lego Mario figure – with colour sensors and LCD screens in his eyes, mouth and belly to display more than 100 different instant reactions to movement.
Little Tikes First Washer-Dryer, Argos, £50
Little Tikes First Washer/Dryer is an interactive toy designed to be as realistic as the real thing, so kids can pretend to do laundry like the grown ups – lucky, ahem, them. Tots can turn dials to hear wash/dry cycle sounds, and there’s more than 10 laundry accessories. For ages 2 and over.
Power Treads, Smyths, £19.99
Power Treads is an all-surface vehicle that flips, rips and roams all over your home. Create your own custom course using the Power Treads modular track set with interchangeable pieces. The bigger the scale, the more epic the trail!
Horrible Science Germ Attack!, Amazon, £19.99
This year’s most topical game, Germ Attack, teaches children valuable lessons about beating germs whilst having fun. The latest game in the best-selling Horrible Science range, children can play as either the shrunken scientist or gruesome germs as they race through the body, aiming to be the first to get to the heart.
Large Dino Research Station, Amazon, £75.11
MAXX, the ringleader, has lots to do at the dino research station from Schleich Dinosaurs. In addition to the command centre, the station also has a viewing platform with swivelling tranquiliser dart gun and a crane. Underneath, there’s a quarantine room for newly captured dinos... sounds perfect for a Covid Christmas.
Drone Home Game, Argos, £16
Drone Home is the first ever game to feature a real drone! Launch each of your aliens down the ramp and into the drone. Once an alien is inside, it will lift off and the alien can flee to safety. But if your family are competitive, watch out – other players can sabotage your mission by knocking your alien out with their own. The goal is to be the first to get all your aliens safely home. Age 6+.
Eco Gelli Play, Pound Toy, £2
It’s time to dive into some sensory, squishy fun, by sprinkling a bag of Gelli Play powder into some water, where it’ll turn into eco-friendly Gelli. The unique texture of Gelli Play, the manufacturers say, along with the bright colours, encourage sensory development. Safe from harsh chemicals! Age 3+.
NASA Retro Galaxy Lamp, ThumbsUp, £34.99
The Galaxy Lamp is perfect for all ages, from space loving toddlers who want an awe-inspiring room to star-glazers and those who love a little retro style. Stands 50cm tall with NASA branding throughout. Perfect for a wannabe astronaut!
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.