FOR parents it’s the stuff that nightmares are made of - that all-important toy, which has been top of their child’s Christmas list for weeks, is out of stock at every shop between Middlesborough and Matlock.
So to try and avoid tears on Christmas morning, each year the Toy Retailers’ Association (TRA) predicts its top 12 “Dream Toys”, to give stores the chance to stock up and parents the opportunity to get their orders in early.
Yesterday, that wish list was revealed at the Meadowhall shopping centre in Sheffield, at an event where youngsters were also given the chance to put the toys in question to the test.
Meadowhall’s centre director Darren Pearce brought along his children Harry, six, and Giorgia, four, to try and decide what would be top of their Christmas lists.
He said: “This is a great opportunity for parents to come down over the next three days and look at the top 12 toys for Christmas, while their children have the chance to try them out.
“It’s interesting for me, as a parent, because the kids are instantly polarised towards certain things.
“Harry’s gone for the ninja Lego as he’s really into constructing and deconstructing, whereas Giorgia’s picked out the fluffy white bunny.”
Retailing at £91.99, the Fire Temple from Lego’s Ninjago range is the most expensive item in the Dream Toys list and was, perhaps unsurprisingly, one of the most popular choices of the young testers at Meadowhall yesterday.
The set is made up of a Japanese-inspired temple, an army of warriors and a fearsome dragon.
But while their brothers were eagerly waging a battle between ninjas and a skeleton army, most of the little girls at the shopping centre were distracted by Milky The Bunny, a large fluffy white rabbit with the ability to wiggle its legs and blink its eyes.
“This is always the event that signals the start of the Christmas period”, added Mr Pearce.
“It’s a great opportunity for parents to get that list sorted out and spread their expenditure over the next few weeks.
“You can’t really test things out in most of the toy stores, so I’d encourage parents to come down to Meadowhall to see what the toy industry recommends.”
Expenditure will certainly be a concern for most parents in these recession-hit times.
With even the cheapest item on the Dream Toys list coming in at a far-from-cheap £18.99, ticking off every item on the list to Father Christmas will be an expensive task.
Steve Town, secretary of the TRA, said that despite the advent of modern technology children’s choices haven’t changed too much during his five decades in the toy industry.
He said: “I’ve been in the toy trade since 1954 and there’s certainly some constants running through. Lego, for example, came out round about 1966 and it’s still at the top today.
“At the end of the day, toys are still toys, even though they’ve got more sophisticated.
“But there’s a lot more interaction these days, it’s no longer enough to give children a toy doll that doesn’t do anything.”
Gary Grant, chairman of the TRA’s Dream Toys selection panel, said: “This year we’ve seen some amazing technological advances from the toy industry.
“This doesn’t mean to say that the toys are ‘techy’, rather that technology has been used to enrich the experience of play.”
While technology might be state-of-the art, however, what children want can be reassuringly simple.
Picking out Milky The Bunny as her toy of choice, four-year-old Giorgia said: “I think she’s nice, and she’s cuddly.”