Avoid festive tears by snapping up must-have Christmas gifts for kids now
The DreamToys list of predicted top-selling toys for Christmas could give parents the seasonal inspiration they really need... but don't leave it too late to buy them, urges Lisa Salmon
Nothing is more important to an excited child than Christmas Day and the glittering presents waiting for them under the tree. But if you're one of the two-thirds of parents who admit they aren't sure what to buy their children for Christmas, the pressure to accurately predict their most-wanted toy can be a nightmare.
And that's where DreamToys comes in.
DreamToys is a list of toys that an expert panel of toy sellers from the Toy Retailers Association has decided will be the most popular toys this Christmas. The list has been broken down into eight categories, and from these, the 12 Top Toys are selected.
Toys in this year's Top 12 range from a train set, Nerf gun and giant garage, to an interactive puppy, a cuddly hatching animal and a karaoke microphone.
"The 2016 Top 12 list is incredibly diverse, with familiar names appearing alongside some clever innovations that will ensure these toys will be on Christmas wish-lists," says Gary Grant, chair of the DreamToys selection committee.
Grant points out that a few of the Top 12 toys are in short supply, and advises parents who know their children want the toys to buy them as soon as possible. In particular, he says Hatchimals - eggs containing tiny interactive pets that hatch when the egg's cuddled - are likely to be in short supply for Christmas.
"Hatchimals have taken the UK by storm and demand is at least double the availability, so we really are struggling for supplies," says Grant. "You probably can't walk into a shop at the moment and find a Hatchimal."
Another DreamToy that's likely to be out of stock before Christmas is the laugh-a-minute game Speak Out. It features a mouthpiece which makes your lips square, and players then need to clearly say certain phrases on a card so their teammates can correctly repeat them. The game has an age suitability of 16 plus.
"The reason I think Speak Out's doing so well is that it's widened the game-buying age-group to any age over 16. It's just hilarious good fun," says Grant.
Supplies of Speak Out are coming through quicker than Hatchimals, he says, because the game is easier to make. But he warns: "It's still going to be an item you aren't necessarily going to find on most shop shelves for the whole of the festive season. It'll be in and out of stock."
While children have always loved collecting, this year it's a real craze and there's a whole DreamToys section dedicated to collectables. Indeed, Grant says £1 in every £4 currently spent on toys is going on collectable items.
"It's driving repeat returns to toy shops - this is where the volume is and what pocket money's being spent on," he stresses.
Shopkins, a range of diverse little collectable pieces, ranging from tiny plastic burgers to jewellery, features in the Top 12 list with the Shopkins Chef Club Hot Spot Kitchen. But while the playset costs £24.99, individual items in the Shopkins Chef range start at just £2.50. There are four Shopkins playsets on the DreamToys list, as well as other collectables including Puppy in My Pocket, My Little Pony and Trolls.
As well as plenty of high-tech interactive toys and clever learning systems, there are plenty of old favourites in this year's DreamToys, including Lego, Thomas and Friends and Star Wars, as well as Barbie, Baby Annabell and Monopoly.
"Toys reinvent themselves," explains Grant, adding that many of the DreamToys can be enjoyed by the whole family, particularly the games, of course - and even the Nerf guns.
There's a Nerf gun in the Top 12 list - Nerf N-Strike Elite Hyperfire - and Grant explains: "You're just as likely to give it to your husband as you are to your six-year-old child.
"You'd give them one each - it's about interaction and families playing together and having joint battles."
While prices of toys on the DreamToys list range from the £11.99 Beanie Boo Buddies to the interactive Zoomer Chimp at £119.99, the average price of a DreamToy, which is meant to be a child's main gift, is £40.
"It's great to see that, in these uncertain times, this is a very affordable DreamToys list," says Grant, who confirms there's good availability for most of the DreamToys.
But he warns: "That doesn't mean parents can be complacent. If you know what your children want, then don't leave it until mid-December to buy it, because things do go out of stock."
Top 12 DreamToys (in no particular order):
Shopkins Chef Club Hot Spot Kitchen (Flair Leisure Products, £24.99).
Snuggles My Dream Puppy (Character Options, £49.99).
Nerf N-Strike Elite Hyperfire (Hasbro, £49.99).
Speak Out (Hasbro, £19.99).
Silly Sausage (John Adams, £19.99).
Friends Amusement Park Roller Coaster (Lego, £89.99).
Star Wars Rebel U-Wing Fighter (Lego, £69.99).
Hot Wheels Ultimate Garage (Mattel, £89.99).
Thomas & Friends TrackMaster Sky-High Bridge Jump (Mattel, £99.99).
Hatchimals (Spin Master Toys, £59.99).
Paw Patrol Air Patroller (Spin Master Toys, £39.99).
SelfieMic (Worlds Apart, £19.99).
To see the full Dream Toys list, visit www.toyretailersassociation.co.uk/dreamtoys-2016 or download the DreamToys 2016 app