As Christmas nears it can be easy to run into the shops and buy the most popular toys to give as presents but experts say we need to give more thought to what we buy children.
For the most part, toys on this year’s top Christmas lists are harmless and even help children develop but toys that promote domestic duties, beauty, and violence can have a negative impact.
Christmas is also a key opportunity for toy brands to capitalise on the buying market with brands and franchises using sneaky marketing tactics to get children begging for the latest toy this Christmas.
Here are 10 of 2022’s top Christmas toys that The West investigated.
Bluey Family Home Playset
Bluey has been a favourite among Australian families since it first aired in 2018 with it fast becoming the most-viewed show on ABC iView.
Children have fallen in love with the inexhaustible six-year-old Blue Heeler and her family so they are sure to want toys from the franchise for Christmas.
The Bluey Family Home Playset is on Ebay’s must-have toys for Christmas and to make sure the toy gets on the top of your child’s wishlist the program is using crafty marketing tactics.
Children are being bombarded with fewer advertisements than ever before as they turn to streaming services rather than free-to-air TV to watch their favourite shows.
This means franchises are now turning to persuasion within the show to convince children to buy its latest toy.
ECU business professor Claire Lambert said children’s shows like Bluey utilise the characters to make them want to buy its latest toy.
“Kids are watching less and less commercials so what we are seeing more is the advertising is actually happening within the show,” she said.
“It is through the shows and the movies that the children are getting engaged and then they’re forming that emotional link with those characters.
“These characters are being promoted through the show and there is more of a persuasive way about doing that now.”
Dr Lambert also said the familiarity of Bluey had made it an easy buy for parents.
Just like their children parents have enjoyed putting their feet up and watching the show, which contains plenty of nods and winks for adults.
“License price products really have an edge – they already have that great customer appeal, great brand awareness and it’s an easy buy for a parent to just pick out that product that they’re already familiar with,” she said.
“Bluey has done that fantastically especially because it’s an Australian brand and everyone loves an Australian winner.”
Peppa Pig Roller Disco
More than 18 years after its first episode, Peppa Pig is still one of the most popular children’s shows.
It has been translated into 40 languages and broadcast in more than 180.
Much like Bluey its popularity lies in its emphasis on family, which is one of the few concepts that makes sense to young children.
Popularity comes with the desire for toys of the characters with Google searches for Peppa Pig toys rising 40 per cent in the last month.
Dr Lambert said similarly to Bluey the show used the same tactics to get children to want toys from the franchise – making them fall in love with the British icon Peppa Pig.
Gabby’s Purrfect Dollhouse
Gabby’s dollhouse is also expected to be a big hit this Christmas with the Purrfect Dollhouse a dream gift for children who watch the show.
The show follows Gabby as she unboxes a surprise every episode, sharing her excitement with her stuffed animal pal Pandy Paws.
In the last month, Google searches for Gabby’s Purrfect Dollhouse increased by 70 per cent, however, the show’s creators would have been thinking about selling the dollhouse as a toy since its conception.
Dr Lambert said when Gabby’s Dollhouse was pitched the show’s appeal would have been leveraged with the opportunity to sell the toy dollhouse too.
“When you think about little girls they love to model themselves on these characters and want to roleplay in their own world,” Dr Lambert said.
“To have the dollhouse at their home they can re-enact the whole series in their own little word – it makes the dollhouse a must-have for children who watch the show.”
Pokemon Battle Figure Packs
Other products that get priority on children’s wishlists will be toys from the Pokemon franchise with the Pokemon Battle Figure Pack expected to be popular.
First created in 1998, the franchise continues to be a success among children.
Dr Lambert said Pokemon toys continued to be desired as the franchise had created a community.
“One key marketing tool is if a brand can create a community amongst the target market – Pokemon did that really well with its cards.”
She said the long-standing franchises always bring out new products around Christmas to extend the brand and cater to the current target market.
Pokemon did this just this week with the release of the Violet and Scarlet video games on November 18.
They are sure to be a hit among children, teenagers, and adults alike.
Minecraft Ultimate Builders Collection Gift Box
Last Christmas, supply issues were on brands’ minds but this year it is all about the pressure on parents’ wallets as the cost of living continues to rise.
Many parents’ money won’t stretch as far as it has for previous Christmas presents but brands have thought of this, according to Dr Lambert.
“You will see now more and more brands looking to offer a range of products at different price points,” she said.
“This means they can offer the cheapest small offerings for the stocking stuffer and then you have the more sizeable expensive toys.”
One brand that has done that this Christmas is Minecraft – offering toys in every price bracket.
On the Big W website, Minecraft has 28 different toys up for grabs. The cheapest is nano figures that come out at $3 each while the most expensive item is a BMX bike for $199.
There is plenty in the median price range as well with several Minecraft toys costing $20 to $50.
Le Toy Vanity Table with Stool
According to eBay, the Le Toy Vanity Table with Stool should be on young girls’ Christmas lists.
It is marketed towards girls with all the images portraying a little girl pretending to do her hair and makeup in the mirror.
ECU diversity and inclusivity professor Helen Adam said marketing beauty toys solely to girls can impact their identities even into adulthood.
“There’s research that suggests that toys that promote beauty and body image when marketed solely at girls can cause the development of body issues,” she said.
“These can contribute through to adulthood and this can also promote notions among boys about how girls should look and behave.”
She said toys emulating beauty practices didn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing as long as the child had a variety of toys.
“It’s really for adults to sort of question am I only buying a particular kind of thing for the girls in my life and a particular kind of thing for the boys in my life?”
Barbie Dreamhouse Playset
Dr Adam said people choosing to let their children play with a variety of toys had become the norm but there was still less of an acceptance for boys to play with toys traditionally classed as girl’s items.
“Adventurous, outdoorsy, kind of things are increasingly seen as being suitable for either gender but I think the issue is that there is a lot of stuff that is still marketed just for girls,” she said.
This is the case for the Barbie Dreamhouse Playset, which is expected to be a popular item for Christmas.
Although the toy explains itself as for all kids rather than just girls the packaging paints a different picture.
It comes in all pink packaging and has an image of a girl playing with the dreamhouse. A quick Google image search also comes up with never-ending photos of girls playing with the toy.
Dr Adam said this type of packaging and advertising stop many adults from wanting to buy toys like Barbie for the boys in their life.
LeapFrog Clean Sweep and Mop Bucket
Toys emulating adult life continue to be popular among toddlers and this Christmas is no different with the Leap Frog Clean Sweep and Mop Bucket expected to be a favourite.
The toy looks seemingly innocent, however, Dr Adam said toys relating to domestic duties could contribute to developing gender roles.
“If we’ve got toys relating to domestic duties that can really contribute to a sense of how women should look and what women’s work is,” she said.
“It can develop this sense of gender roles and expectations and even career aspirations from a really young age.”
To counteract this, Dr Adam said we should be buying toys emulating domestic duties for boys and girls and allowing them to play with a variety of toys.
The clean sweep and mop bucket has done this well – advertising itself as a gender-neutral toy by showing all kinds of children playing with it.
Nerf Elite 2.0 Ranger PD-5 Dart Blaster
Nerf guns have been a popular toy for children for decades but Dr Adam said with the target market being boys it could be a problem.
The Nerf Elite 2.0 Ranger PD-5 Blaster is on all the top Christmas lists this year as it boasts an easy to use priming slide and trigger, and customisable attachment for “each mission or battle”.
“If we’re only buying boys Nerf guns and similar toys we might not realise that we are promoting a sense of power and domination,” she said.
She said parents should be mindful of how their children play with a violent toy, however, they shouldn’t be concerned children playing with toy guns.
She said research suggested playing with Nerf guns didn’t cause violent behaviour towards others as an adult.
Marvel Black Panther Wakanda Battle FX Claws
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is arguably the single most dominant force in pop culture right now meaning toys from the franchise are on many children’s, particularly boy’s, Christmas lists.
The latest movie to be released Black Panther: Wakanda Forever saw the launch of new toys at the same time with the Black Panther Wakanda Battle FX Claws expected to be a popular choice this Christmas.
But has the Marvel mega-popularity and toys correlating to fight scenes in the films made boys too violent?
Dr Adam said the research suggested it didn’t correlate with violence but parents should be watching their children’s behaviours for warning signs.
“Adults always need to look at how children are playing with toys and others,” she said.
“Is this child also bullying kids or is this child also being aggressive and hurtful?”
If the answer is yes, Dr Lambert said parents should steer their child away from violent toys.
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