With Christmas ’round the corner, we’re finally at that point where influencers show you the hottest toys and what you should spend your money on this Christmas. You’ll see posts full of affiliate links galore as we sell our pound of flesh… but I don’t want to take that route.
Christmas is a strange time for my Christian family.
While we don’t want our kids to feel like outcasts in school when we choose Christ over Claus this December, we find it essential to make Christmas a time to spend with family, friends and our church community as we get ready for another year of challenges and celebrations ahead.
But you’d better believe we’re still going to get them some toys.
This Christmas marks the first year we can start moving from toddlers’ toys to ones I might want to play with, and I plan to take full advantage of it!
Despite Sarah’s qualms over the space in our home versus how much I review, I’ve been blessed to check out many of this season’s new toys up close and personal these past few months. From tech to STEM to collectables and more, I’ve hand-picked some toys that I think you’ll find dope for the little people in your life.
So let’s get to it!
(And don’t you worry—for those of us in a rush, I’ve created links to all the product below for easy access!)
Xbox One S Minecraft Limited Edition Bundle
The VTech Kidizoom Smartwatch DX2
VTech Zoo Jamz Stompin’ Fun Drums
VTech 4-in-1 Stroll & Grow Tek Trike
#StikBot Farm Movie Bot
The PAW Patrol Sea Patroller
The Etch A Sketch Freestyle & The Etch A Sketch Joystick
Hatchimals Glittering Garden
Mayka Toy Block Tape
The Original Fidget Cube by Artsy Labs
1) Xbox One S Minecraft Limited Edition Bundle (1TB)
And suddenly, Casa de Palmer was the place to be.
A couple of months ago, Microsoft held an Xbox Together event to showcase its new Xbox One S. While I was honoured to be invited, going so far as to make it a boys’ day out with my eldest son, but adulting happens, and I needed to be elsewhere to support a friend.
And I thought that’d be the end of it—shame I couldn’t attend, but maybe we’d connect sometime in the future so I could see what the Xbox One S has to offer!
That is… until they got in touch to send me one instead.
That time the Palmer fam got their game on.
So for context, I’m not much of a gamer. I sometimes hang out with gamers, but I hung my controllers up some years back, giving a couple of consoles and thirty or so games to a friend who’d make better use of them than I could.
It made this a bit troublesome at first, with Sarah believing we’d changed our lifestyle to one more minimalist than before… but that was until she saw the joy on the faces of our son and other kids who came by, checking out games like Minecraft and Rush: A Disney Pixar Adventure!
In fact, since they sent us four controllers, I got Rocket League this past weekend so we could use them all at the same time! I’m still getting used to it, but the Xbox One S makes for a very different experience from what I’m used to, with features like:
- The option of downloading games directly to your Xbox One S—even while it’s turned off.
- Built-in multitasking so you can do things like Skype while you game and do it side-by-side
- And for those of you who are all about the multiplayer (i..e who aren’t me, trying to keep my children’s innocence as long as possible), Microsoft’s working hard to continually improve their Xbox Live service, backed by 300,000 servers, an extensive reputation system to keep the jerks at bay, and smarter matchmaking to give you opponents that’re fun to play against!
The Xbox One S — The Verdict!
I can see the Xbox One S being a household staple for some years yet—doesn’t hurt that it’s the only Blu-Ray player in the house—and it’ll take us one step closer to building an environment where our boys and their friends can feel comfortable just being themselves!
The Xbox One S—it just might change the way you game!
- 1) Xbox One S Minecraft Limited Edition Bundle (1TB), MSRP $499.00 CAD
- 2) Xbox Wireless Controller — Minecraft Creeper, MSRP $84.99 CAD
- 3) Xbox Wireless Controller — Minecraft Pig, MSRP $84.99 CAD
- 4) Xbox Wireless Controller, MSRP $74.99 CAD
- 5) Disneyland Adventures, MSRP $38.99 CAD
- 6) Rush: A DisneyPixar Adventure, MSRP $38.99 CAD
- 7) Super Lucky’s Tale, MSRP $38.99 CAD
- 8) Zoo Tycoon: Ultimate Animal Collection, MSRP $38.99 CAD
A little while back I found myself in the Royal Ontario Museum’s RBC Foundation Glass Room with Maureen Dennis, Marc Saltzman, and some of VTech’s finest as we previewed their best new toys for the upcoming holiday season!
They may be young at four and two, but I’m already getting to know their personalities! The older guy’s all about using his hands and experimenting with new actions, while the younger one’s all about scribbling and dance. And with birthdays in November and January, I can’t just get them Christmas gifts—here’s a look at what tech they can expect in their futures!
2) The VTech Kidizoom Smartwatch DX2
For his birthday, my older son got a Kidizoom Smartwatch DX2. I’d noticed his fixation with my Samsung Gear S2, playing with the screens and notifications on my wrist. So why not give him one of his own?
The Kidizoom Smartwatch DX2 comes armed with more features than you find in most adult smartwatches:
- two cameras with photo effects
- a built-in video camera to let kids record on the fly
- more than 55 watch faces on both analogue and digital displays
- a touch screen just like your smartwatch
- games and active play challenges that keep things fun while keeping kids moving
- and it’s splash- and sweat-proof, too!
So far it’s one of his favourite toys, and though he can’t quite tell time yet, he’s happy to explore the world through his approach—and all kids should have the chance to do so, right?
- Ages 4-12
- MSRP $69.99 CAD
3) VTech Touch & Learn Activity Desk Deluxe
Sometimes I’m that parent. The one who’d rather get the kids something educational than something “fun.” I’ve got high standards for these boys, and believe you me—I’ll do everything possible to give them a competitive edge where sharp wits can often take you farther than just the letters after your name!
Which is why I submit for your consideration VTech’s Touch & Learn Activity Desk Deluxe, a 3-in-1 learning desk with interactive cards that can teach your child all sorts of things! With five learning pages included and eight expansion packs (sold separately), it covers letters. Numbers. Music. Colours. Nursery rhymes, reading skills and animals if you’re keen! Heck—it even transforms into an easel and chalkboard with plenty of storage space for art supplies, too!
And that’s not all:
- Its LED display help little ones with letter and number stroke order and how to draw basic shapes
- The toy telephone lets kids use their imaginations to chat with whoever they’d like
- And the music player comes loaded with fun tunes to keep the good times going!
If you’ve got a kid like mine who’s often stubborn about their extracurricular learning, give VTech’s Touch & Learn Activity Desk Deluxe a try! Who knows—your kid might surprise you!
- Ages 2-5
- MSRP $79.99 CAD
4) VTech Zoo Jamz Stompin’ Fun Drums
Drums are easily one of the most enjoyable instruments to learn, but parents often shy away from them because they’re too noisy.
But that need not be the case! VTech’s come up with Zoo Jamz Stompin’ Fun Drums, a way for your mini musician to find their inner rock star without waking up the neighbours!
The Zoo Jamz Stompin’ Fun Drums has many features, including:
- drumsticks to enhance creative thinking and motor skills
- four made modes—counting, catch the lights, follow the leader and creating compositions
- a stool for them to sit on and an elephant bass pedal they can step on to hit the drum and create a fun bass sound effect
If you want to bring out your wee one’s inner superstar, VTech’s Zoo Jamz Stompin’ Fun Drums is a great first step. (#DadJoke.)
- 1½ – 4 years old
- MSRP $ 49.99 CAD
- Available at Toys “R” Us, Walmart, Amazon, Loblaws, Mastermind, Indigo
5) The VTech 4-in-1 Stroll & Grow Tek Trike
Do you remember your first bike?
I remember my chrome blue Sears-brand bike from when I learned to ride, making my way from training wheels to family rides along the nearby ravine some years later. In ’90s Mississauga—when there were almost half as many people as there are today—biking took up good chunks of our summers as we learned the law of the land and risked our lives a bit more often than I should admit.
But what if that first bike grew with you? Help you with your directions and remind you about road safety rules? What if your bike could take those frustrating years of learning to ride and make it enjoyable?
That’s precisely what VTech’s doing with their 4-in-1 Stroll & Grow Tek Trike, an interactive tricycle for children aged nine months through six years that grows with them as they develop.
It has four modes:
- a parent-controlled stroller mode
- a training mode for early riders
- a trike mode once their motor skills and confidence grow
- and finally a drifting style for the kids who want to show the sidewalk who’s boss.
So if you’re looking to expand your child’s world like I am for my toddler, check out the VTech 4-in-1 Stroll & Grow Tek Trike!
- Nine months – 6 years old
- MSRP $149.99 CAD
- Available at Toys “R” Us
6) #StikBot Farm Movie Bot
People laugh when I say it, but one goal for my boys in the next few years is to teach them how to be influencers themselves. Parents often talk about teaching their children the value of hard work and make them understand the true worth of a dollar… but why do they have to flip burgers to do it?
In 2017, there’s a myriad of options available for any youth with an idea and a phone, and StikBot’s looking to develop that with an app and toys designed to bring your budding filmmaker’s visions to life!
The StikBot Farm Movie Set comes with everything you’d need to start building scenes—characters, animals, a playset and a green screen that can take creations from amateur to auteur in mere moments!
We parents fuss and fret over the screen time our children get, but why not turn what time they do get into useful time by helping them develop a skill? As someone who had art school ambitions when he was younger, I know if I had half the resources kids have today to express themselves, maybe I could’ve made something of it.
Definitely a gift idea to check out!
- MSRP $25 CAD
Alright, so there’s no way I expect my four-year-old to get the hang of this, but Tumblstix are small, weighted sticks that challenge your sense of balance! Built with LED lights providing awesome visual effects, Tumblstix are designed to sharpen focus and hand-eye coordination by gently rolling them around!
Think of them like modern Devil Sticks in your hand—you can balance them and catch the Tumblstix smoothly, using 360° rolls and 180° flicks to keep the momentum going!
So simple yet so complex—Tumblstix are a great way to pass some time!
- MSRP $10 CAD
8) Spin Circuits
If you’re gonna fidget, make sure you fidget right—Zing’s Spin Circuits offer twenty different light patterns and stackability with other Spin Circuits to keep things interesting!
Select your pattern, press a button, spin! Boredom begone!
- MSRP $14.99 CAD
We—the parents of young children—can usually tell whether you’re one of us depending on if you think PAW Patrol is a show about a father who just happens to live under a bridge.
Spin Master, the Toronto-based juggernaut who no one seems to know is from Toronto has kept a solid track record when it comes to dominating kids’ hearts and minds at Christmastime. PAW Patrol’s on deck for a fifth season; last year this time had Hatchimals in every conversation about toys; and with brands like Meccano and Etch A Sketch added to their roster, Spin Master’s no slouch when it comes to creating toys that your kids will want under the tree!
For this Christmas, I’m featuring a few items that speak to my sons’ sense of creativity and their love for the PAW Patrol pups!
9) The PAW Patrol Sea Patroller
If you rely on Netflix as much as we do in the post-cable world, you likely noticed PAW Patrol’s fourth season show up on Canadian Netflix this past week! It takes the pups to new places with new adventures and abilities, and of course you know that means new gear.
The PAW Patrol Sea Patroller—introduced in “Sea Patrol: Pups Save a Baby Octopus”, the last of season four’s episodes available on Canadian Netflix so far, so you’d better hop to it, so your kids know what it is—has a unique sea-to-land transformation that takes the pups’ rescues to an entirely different level, going wherever the action is!
Except for the bathtub—please keep it out of the tub! Ironically, it is not waterproof!
The Sea Patroller has a boatload of features built in:
- lights and sounds just like the PAW Patroller, and Air Patroller before it
- a working crane and a life-saver launcher to help out with the heavy-duty rescues
- and storage for basic vehicles so your pups can always be at the ready!
It comes with an exclusive Ryder figure with his ATV, an exploration cage for him to help the pups out, and a baby octopus figure… I guess to put in trouble?
Anyway—if PAW Patrol’s your jam, help take your pups from Adventure Bay to Barkingburg and back with the PAW Patrol Sea Patroller! Your little ones will thank you!
- MSRP $59.99 USD
10) The Etch A Sketch Freestyle & 11) The Etch A Sketch Joystick
So we all know the Etch A Sketch, a classic toy that lets kids explore their imaginations, shaking them to erase when they’re ready to do it all over again!
But why stop there?
The team at Spin Master’s come up with two new takes on it—the Etch A Sketch Freestyle and the Etch A Sketch Joystick, each offering new ways for your kids to showcase their creativity!