All present & correct

Expectations are high and everyone’s claiming that they’re on Santa’s nice list this year. Seriously, there haven’t been so many little angels around since St. Winifred’s School Choir topped the charts. 

Between home schooling, travel bans and restrictions on kids’ activities, many parents and relatives are planning to make Christmas a little special this year. Other families will be reining in their spending thanks to furlough and redundancies. It’s all about finding toys which engage, which will be played with and which will be loved and that doesn’t necessarily mean the most expensive playthings. Whether you plan to spend a fiver or a few hundred, here’s our pick of the best toys from tots to teens this Christmas. 

BABIES
Babies can be quite difficult to buy for. They already have piles of toys, cot mobiles, rattles and baby gyms all received as New Baby gifts and it can be a while before they really interact with toys. It’s tempting to buy something extravagant for a toddler instead, but this just leads to storage problems for the parents. 

Look for things that can be treasured as they grow up. Charles Michies on Union Street stock Steiff soft toys while Hape, Melissa & Doug and brands like Fisher-Price and Lamaze have lots of simple toys, some of which can be used from birth. Specialist baby shops are the best place to look for good quality playthings with safety in mind. 

Alternatively, a collection of picture books can start a lifelong interest in reading or you could seek out a personalised gift with the baby’s name on it. 

PRE-SCHOOLERS
There are tons of imaginative role-play toys for this age group. Look for wooden kitchens and play food, shops and market stalls, or puppet theatres. Dressing up clothes and career-based toys like doctors’ kits generally go down well, as will toys connected to their favourite TV programmes, like Peppa Pig, Paw Patrol or any number of Disney Princesses. 

Some children become obsessed by dinosaurs, space, princesses or even vacuum cleaners at this stage, so it’s easy to find a miniature version that should bring hours of delight. Ride on cars and rocking horses are also popular and toy musical instruments, whether it’s a drum kit, miniature piano or a colourful xylophone, can make great gifts depending on how much space and patience you have. If you’d prefer something quieter, go for a balance bike. 


AGE 5-7
The animatronic Baby Yoda is the hot ticket this year, if you can find one. Animatronic pets are becoming ever more realistic, so look for puppies, kittens, rabbits, dinosaurs and dragons that combine cuteness with lots of interesting actions. 

Kids this age become quite brand conscious, so letters to Santa are likely to be crammed with requests for Marvel Superheroes playsets and figures, NERF guns, spin-offs from video games like Call of Duty and Fortnite and stuff from LOL Surprise. Arts and crafts materials go down well, but choose washable paints in case Picasso Junior decides to redecorate. 

Look for games the whole family can play and that kids can easily cheat at. Anything with a theme of dubious bodily excretions that comes with rude sound effects is considered hilarious. 

Sometimes having private own space is important, so indoor play tents and tepees make a thoughtful gift, or go with a den making kit for outdoor types. Bikes also allow a degree of freedom. 

AGE 7-10
Children this age range tend to be beguiled by creative and imaginative toys. Lego kits, particularly those that show locations from a favourite book or film tend to go down well. Both Smyth’s Toys and Toy Town in the Trinity Centre offer a wide range of LEGO kits for all budgets and interests as do Strachan’s in Inverurie. Harry Potter kits remain popular and The Mandalorian is a new favourite this Christmas. 

If your child’s an apprentice wizard, just waiting on a letter from Hogwarts, or just a bit of a performer, then Marvin’s Magic do a great wooden box packed full of tricks for £29.99 from marvinsmagic.com. They have a wide range of tricks and kits, with prices starting at under £6. 

Sports equipment, bikes, scooters and outdoor toys like trampolines or climbing frames as well as gifts like tablets and video cameras combine fun with fitness and developing useful skills. 

Educational toys can be a bit hit and miss, but there are lots of STEM toys and kits out there for future scientists or you could go with a games console the entire family can use. 


AGE 10-12
This is where present buying becomes more awkward, as kids this age tend to think of themselves as grown-ups. They particularly tend to think of themselves as grown-ups who need the latest iPhone, a PS5, pierced ears and their own channel on TikTok. 

Big ticket items which will win you some brownie points – at least for an hour or two – include mobile phones, headphones, video games, laptops, gaming PCs and stuff to create a gaming setup such as large monitors, chairs and desks. Vouchers or cash are also acceptable.

Sometimes an experience they can share with friends is the way to go. Consider wrist bands for a trip to Codona’s, vouchers for a trampoline park or horse riding session, concert tickets or a trip to the cinema when it reopens. 

TEENAGERS
Teenagers often prefer to choose their own gifts, so cash or vouchers for their favourite stores, games consoles or the app store is generally appreciated. They’ll still need something to unwrap, so cute stationery from Flying Tiger, Paperchase, Typo or Smiggle as well as journals, books and board games can be a winner here. Try Pass the Pugs £9.99 from winningmoves.co.uk or encourage musical skills with something like this Build it Yourself Ukelele kit, £26, which is available from Amazon. 

Most of the major cosmetics brands do good value gift sets if your teenager fancies themselves as make up guru and both Superdrug and Boots have a series of gifts of the week that can help stretch the budget.


If you’re looking for presents that the whole family can enjoy, John Lewis, Argos and Waterstones all have Richard Osman’s House of Games at £25. It’s a good one because there are so many games, everyone will find one they’re good at. You could also try a jigsaw puzzle from Carnovsky which features overprinted images in different colours and special glasses to help you solve the puzzle. You’ll find the range on Amazon for £15. 

All you have to do now is work out how to wrap everything and find a place to stash it away from explorative little eyes. 

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