Smyths Toys list of top toys for Christmas 2016

What are the top toys for Christmas? Smyths Toys – who kicked off the Christmas 2016 toy rush in style with this great TV ad that defied traditional gender stereotypes – have revealed their list of top toys for Christmas 2016.

In common with many retailers, and the toy industry in general, they still have some work to do in how they present toys to boys & girls – it’s often still boys playing with superheroes & bikes, and girls with dolls & prams.

But their Christmas ad shows that they’re evolving their offering. For that they should be applauded and I look forward to how this develops in the future.

For now, here are my highlights from their best toys of 2016. The full list features a range of toys – some of which I’m more of a fan of than others!

Smyths top toys for Christmas 2016

1. LEGO Dimensions Starter Pack


We love LEGO Dimensions. It is the perfect marriage of LEGO and LEGO video games and to my mind one of the best toys of 2016.

This starter pack comes with everything you need to get cracking with it (ok, apart from the console. And the TV). There are 3 minifigures (Batman, Wyldstyle, and Gandalf), a mini kit of the Batmobile, plus the game pad with buildable platform, and the game itself.

Each figure & minikit (that you get instructions how to build in-game) has a special base that the game pad can read, and then place a virtual version of that figure/vehicle in the game. The figures also unlock extra worlds to explore in the game, so these three open access to DC world, LEGO movie, and Middle-earth.

There are dozens of expansion packs, featuring LEGO versions of some great pop culture icons, ranging from the Wicked Witch to the all-female Ghostbusters.

Highly recommended, and unlikely to disappoint any child who loves LEGO and video games.

2. Imaginext Remote Control Transforming BatBot


Exclusive to Smyths Toys, this Batman toy is part of the Imaginext DC line. It is basically a huge exoskeleton for the Batman figure, which transforms between a robot and a tank (sounds familiar?) either manually or by using the supplied remote control. It also fires discs and has over 100 sound effects and phrases.

It does look pretty cool, and I like the Imaginext line of DC superheroes – who are much better at including female superhero characters than most Marvel lines.

3. Nerf N-Strike Elite Hyperfire Value Pack


Hasbro’s Nerf has for too long been seen as a boys brand. I know from experience that girls love running around shooting things too – so why not add this to your little girl’s Christmas list?

This Nerf Elite toy – also exclusive to Smyths – is a beast of a toy gun, with its Gatling Gun-like barrel that fires 5 darts a second! Each barrel holds 25 darts, and this also comes with a spare fully loaded drum – so that’s 50 darts, to fire off in 10+ seconds (depending on how fast you reload). Each dart also fires up to 27m, so perfect for long range NERF attacks.

This is the kind of toy I wish existed when I was a kid – we had to make do with cap and potato guns.

4. LEGO City Volcano Crawler


The LEGO City range has made great improvements in their inclusion of female minifigures in recent years, and we’re seeing most sets featuring at least one – and in increasingly non-stereotypical roles.

This Volcano Crawler set features two male and one female minifigure. The finished set has a larger articulated ‘crawler’ as well as a smaller ATV. It has 324 pieces, and while it is recommended for ages 6-12, it would be a fun project with a younger child too.

5. BMW GS Motorcycle 12v Electric Ride On

151111-bmw-motorcycleThere’s always one kid at the park, who everyone else stares at with envy because they have the coolest toy.

Your child can be that kid with this BMW ride on bike.

It looks sleek, has accelerator sound effects, and LED headlights. It’s powered by a powerful 12v twin engine, and will turn heads wherever your child goes.

If you have a daughter and want to smash gender expectations early, then this gift will announce to the world that ‘Girls love bikes too’.

To check out the rest of Smyths top toys for Christmas, head to their website.


This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Smyths Toys.

Wonder Woman movie footage recut to 1970’s TV show theme is glorious

The theme tune to the iconic 1970’s Wonder Woman TV show, which starred Linda Carter (currently playing the US President in another female superhero TV show Supergirl), is the stuff of legends.

We are unlikely to see such four colour exuberance in the more dour looking Wonder Woman movie starring Gal Godot – and more’s the pity as this brilliant mash up of the seventies theme tune and footage the movie demonstrates.

It’s gleaned from footage of Gadot’s Wonder Woman taken from the two trailers plus her appearance in Batman V Superman.

Check it out – it’s likely to be the best thing you see today.

Thanks to YouTube user Sebastian Hughes for creating this.

Appreciating Autumn #MySundayPhoto

This photo is from a recent trip to Waddesdon Manor, a National Trust property in Buckinghamshire. It was a lovely autumn day, t-shirt weather as you can see from the picture.

My relatively newfound love of autumn is a classic case of  ‘You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone’.

I never paid much attention to autumn. It was a time of year when it began to get colder and darker. It was often wetter. The leaves fell off the trees. It was simply a transition from the glory of summer to the desolation of winter.

That was until we moved to New Zealand. There, most of the trees are evergreens. While in autumn (March to May just to confuse things more) it still became colder and darker, it simply looked just as green as summer – and as it does all year round.

So the leaves didn’t turn brown. Or yellow, red, orange. It was here that I finally realised that autumn in the UK was actually pretty glorious, an explosion of colour that heralds the onset of winter.

We lived in New Zealand for 4 years, but since we returned to the UK I have made it a point to take the time to pay attention to autumn. It’s a season to be celebrated as something magical, and the fleeting appearance of all the wonderful colours make it even more precious.

Because of my late appreciation for autumn, I have been at pains to encourage our daughter to see it this way from an early age too. This is backed up at school where the classroom autumn display sent many a child foraging for multi-coloured leaves and assorted autumn artefacts.

So when we’re out and about these months, I make sure to talk to her about all the colours, and how special they are because their appearance is so brief. How lucky we are to live somewhere that has autumn.

I often write about encouraging my daughter to revel in the range of colours there are in the world, not just pink as many girls are directed to. Autumn is a wonderful time to celebrate colours.



My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Bedding and Curtains

This set of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic bedding and curtain will be adored by any young fan of the hit toy line and cartoon.

One thing about fandom, whether it’s sports, movies, or toy ponies, is that you like to wear your fandom with pride. That includes in your own room.

The My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic TV show has become a firm favourite in our household – mostly with our daughter, but I’ve been pretty taken with it too. It’s the perfect mainstream antidote to divert girls from damaging princess stereotypes.

Character World sent us these exclusive items for my daughter’s bedroom. The My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Bedding features 3 of the 6 central characters – Rainbow Dash, Twilight Sparkle, and Fluttershy. For some reason, these seem to be the most common ponies you find on merchandise (and for some reason, Apple Jack appears to be the most frequently excluded. Let’s get #WheresAppleJack trending on Twitter).

Luckily, Twilight Sparkle is my daughter’s favourite character. Less relevant, but I’ll tell you anyway – Rainbow Dash is my favourite. My daughter has much more solid reasons – she likes Twilight’s love of books & study, that she’s wise, and people look to her for leadership. On the other hand, I simply think Rainbow Dash looks cool.

Anyway, the duvet is reversible, and thankfully so. One side is VERY pink, and we both agreed this is very un-MLP like. However, the other side is fine, featuring the 3 ponies, a rainbow bridge, and the kingdom’s castle Canterlot (see what they did there?).

The pillow is from the same fabric design as the pink side of the duvet, but combined with the reverse of the duvet, that’s ok.

Some may not like the fabric of this My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic bedding. It’s not cotton, but breathable polyester microfibre. While obviously not as nice as cotton, I don’t mind and neither does our daughter – but my wife is only 100% cotton will do when it comes to bedding, so this was a big cross against it for her.

I can’t really say much about the curtains I’m afraid, as we have blinds in our house. They are unlined, which in my experience lets in more light than wanted, and are made from the same pinktastic fabric and pattern of the bedding of which we were not fans – but I’m sure a pink loving MLP fan would love them hanging in their room.

As it is, our daughter is rather taken with her new duvet.


These items are exclusive to Argos in the UK. We received them free of charge for the purposes of this review.

Family Fever

A child’s imagination can be a lonely place without an imaginary friend

Reading Eoin Colfer & Oliver Jeffers charming children’s book Imaginary Fred, the tale of a lonely imaginary friend, brought to mind my daughter and her own version – Ahsoka.

Star Wars fans will likely recognise the name of the famed Jedi knight and rebel fighter from cartoons and books. She has enthralled my daughter since first seeing her in The Clone Wars.  As a powerful, independent, confident, and loyal character, I couldn’t ask for a better imaginary companion for my daughter. 

My daughter’s friend is not the teenage or adult female version of Ahsoka. She is Ahsoka when she was a little girl, just like her. She is a part of our family, sitting with us at meal times, accompanying us when we’re out & about, sleeping in her room at night. Sometimes, my daughter leaves her home with me to look after.

She can also misbehave, which my daughter complains about because it annoys her. Ashoka often objects to things that we ask our daughter to do. For instance, me: “Do you want to come to the shops with me?”. Her: “Well, Ahsoka says she’s too tired to go.” When she can’t get to sleep, she blames Ahsoka who keeps talking to her. It is a real friendship, full of intrigue and dynamism.

Their relationship has evolved into becoming sisters, and we are her adopted parents. In context, all of this makes sense.

My daughter, unlike most of her friends, is an only child. And, much to her disappointment, she is likely to remain so. But she is a very social person, who loves spending time with her friends, and is constantly wanting to arrange playdates. She adores school because she gets to spend all day with them.

We do our best to play with her, crafts, LEGO, Star Wars, video games – but she has an emotional need for a playmate. With Ahsoka, they play dolls together, board games too. Sometimes they run around and chase each other.

In Imaginary Fred, the story develops that Fred (the imaginary), fades away into the clouds when a child makes a real friend – because he is not needed any more. But what has been an interesting development in my daughter, is that Ahsoka is becoming part of her playdates.

The other week we were in a playground with her best friend – her actual best friend, not the imaginary one. They were having a great time playing together, and when the activity turned to the imaginative, Ahsoka was brought into the game by my daughter. What really surprised me was her (real) best friend was going along with it too by involving Ahsoka in the game, and making sure she was ok.

I have worried – as parents are want to do – whether this focus on her imaginary friend is healthy. But this is only a fleeting concern. There have been many times when I have called her bluff on an Ahsoka excuse, and she has retorted “But Ahsoka’s only imaginary daddy…!”

I love our daughter’s imagination, fuelled by wonderful stories such as Imaginary Fred. Such an imagination is a wonderful thing, but it could be a lonely place to be in for too long – without an imaginary friend to share it with.


‘Imaginary Fred’ is out now, and has an RRP of £12.99 hardback, or £7.99 paperback.

This is a sponsored post in collaboration with publisher Harper Collins. 

Family Fever