RON: I'm Ron Corning for Howdini.com. If you're shopping for children during the holidays it seems that everywhere you turn there's a list of this year's best toys. And kids, of course, have their own list as well. All of this, all of this information, all of these toys, all of these lists, can make shopping for playthings a lot of work. Well, Chris Byrne the toy guy is here to put the fun back in toys. He is the editor-at-large for Toys & Family Entertainment, Royalties and also a contributing editor for Toy Wishes. Chris, it's nice to have you here.
CHRIS: Thank you.
RON: I know a lot of parents are wishing there might be fewer choices out there. And they have equally as many choices when it comes to information on which toys might be best for their kids. Where do they start?
CHRIS: They start by looking at the list. There are about 160,000 toys on the market at any given point in the United States. So the lists really do help. Starting in August and going right through December, magazines have lists, TV shows have lists, organizations that are designed to review toys have lists, so there's lots of information out there. But in many cases I've noticed if you pick up a magazine, it looks as if it's a review of the toys; if you look very closely it says “Special Advertisement.”
RON: How do you know if the stuff that you're seeing is unbiased, and not the manufacturer’s own advertisement?
CHRIS: Well, I think you have to look very carefully and see the range of toys covered, the age of toys, the source that it's coming from, what the testing methodology is. That's always very important because sometimes they'll give kids a toy, and kids really like toys when they get them and there's no other context for reviewing them. So, it's important to look for that special advertising section and again use your gut instinct and see what makes sense to you. I would think the best toy list, any list that you might go with, is only a guide, and that really it comes down to what your child wants as well. Because they have their own ideas about things that they've heard about, seen, tried out at a friend's house.
RON: Sure. Right, we always say that the hot toy is only hot if it's hot for your child.
CHRIS: Every toy is different. So this year's hot Barbie doll, for example, is not going to appeal to a 9-year-old boy. Ah, though it may have made every single list out there, so it's really important to know what your kids are into. What they like. What they like to do in their leisure time. How they like to interact with their friends.
RON: And then, what are the toys they like to use when they have those experiences?
CHRIS: Well, then it comes down to parents having to make some really crucial decisions so that they aren't dealing with an upset kid during the holidays. A lot of parents aren't going to be able to buy everything on the list, so how do you sort of prioritize and decide if given a choice between this one or this one that my child's going to be happier with this toy than the other. You know, it's great to manage expectations. One of the things my mom did was she would say to us, “Well, Santa's sleigh is really big, but he has to carry toys for all the boys and girls in the world. So, you know, you got to really pick the ones you want the most.” And it's good to sort of sit down with your kids, talk about what's on their list. If you can, look at the TV commercials with them, and really begin to talk about what the kids want, so they begin to refine for themselves, what it is they most want to find under the tree. You might be surprised to find that in some cases your child likes the same toys that you liked. Everything old is new again. Sometimes a classic is the best way to go.
RON: And the newer stuff is sort of played with for a few days and then ignored?
CHRIS: Absolutely. I mean classic toys are classic because they've engaged kids. They engage their imagination. I like to say it's not complete without the child. You really need that child's imagination to bring the toy to life.
RON: Chris Byrne, thank you. Good information here. Chris is the editor-at-large for Toys & Family Entertainment, Royalties, and also a contributing editor of Toy Wishes. And I'm Ron Corning for Howdini.com.