I’ve been ranting (I know – big news, right?) recently about toys.
But that’s only because I think toys – and play – are so important to children. In a world where everything is measured and so many products, services and activities are geared towards capturing our kids from the earliest ages and turning them into tiny consumerist worker bees, I’m always looking for toys that just let children be.
Pah. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I see absolutely no benefit in trying to teach a two-year-old pre-literacy skills or wondering about whether a toddler’s got effective mathematical awareness. Just let kids play. The other stuff all comes in time.
One of my favourite toy ranges, as regular readers will know, is Playmobil. These toys are entirely focused on letting children be immersed in imaginary play, and having a particularly imaginative child means we have invested in a lot of Playmobil in recent years. As Playmobil reviewers, we’ve also been many of the toys to try at home, and one of my all-time blogging highlights was visiting Playmobil HQ in Germany.
Last week, Playmobil invited us to attend the Toy Fair in London, which is an opportunity to see what the toy industry has planned for 2012, including new ranges from all the big toy manufacturers.
There were a couple of sets I don’t personally think are for us. The new fairy castle is very expensive, (although it comes with furniture) and it is absolutely enormous. I also was unconvinced by the new retro-styled Western set – it’s absolutely adorable, but I’m not sure Flea knows about cowboys and Indians, and would want to play with this sort of set. That sentence makes me feel very, very old.
However, I did think a lot of the new Playmobil for 2012 was very exciting. Some of my top recommendations that will be available in shops between now and October include:
The Future Planet Range
This is a new range based on the idea of eco-rangers who live in a future world where energy is provided through mysterious crystals. The crystals power lights in the buildings, make vehicles work, and instruments glow in the science lab. There are baddies who can try and steal the crystals and all sorts of neat technical wizardry. Especially loved the turbo-jet spacecraft and landing station, and the e-Ranger headquarters.
Playmobil is going head to head with other companies providing pocket-money ranges, and 2012 will see a new set of the collectible figures, but also collectible sets of figures with horses and figures with motorcycles (very cool indeed). I love this kind of thing for taking to birthday parties – not too expensive (they’ll retail from around £3 to £10) and they’re not going to make another Mum roll her eyes at the thought of giving some piece of tat house room.
With a summer of sport, Playmobil have ramped up their offerings to include a load of single figures based on different sports – everything from judo to swimming and weightlifting. Alongside this is a brilliant folding football pitch that includes a goal, score board and football players – as well as a stretcher and medical team for inevitable injuries! I love that this is really big when kids play with (at a metre long) but folds up to keep everything inside when not in use. And you can buy players in colours matching most of the major international teams, too.
Also worth looking out for: the nifty little red sports car in the new harbour range (available this month), the brand new pirate set complete with a memory-game to unlock treasure caves, the new large rally cars that have swappable body panels, engines and special features, and a brand new stone age, complete with a mammoth skeleton that kids can build.