Every year the Toy Retailers Association publish a list of 'dream toys' for Christmas and I have just been looking over the list for 2011. A world away from what I do here at Cottontails, it is a list rich in plastic and electronics - in at number one is 'Doggie Doo', a pooing plastic dog.
But I'm not too worried about this - after all I am not trying to compete with Argos or Toys r Us - what I try to do is offer an alternative to the mainstream - and thank goodness - I have just returned from a shopping trip to the dreaded Tesco where children's toys are piled high as you walk in. It's a relief not to be going head to head with that.
However, I'm not completely out of touch and I know that lots of children will really love a pooing dog or Full-auto Long Range Nerf-Disc Blaster (yes, really). These toys are bright, active, instant. The have big box packaging appeal and are doubtlessly being promoted all over children's tv.
But maybe there is room in the stocking for something a bit more traditional too? And, with this in mind, I have put together some alternatives. Here are five toys from the original list along with some rather more traditional, quirky and charming alternatives...
1. Doggie Doo vs Philbert the velvet sausage dog
Doggie Doo (£34.99) - the aforementioned plastic pooch produces his own poo. Philbert (£19.99) is a velvet sausage dog who lives in his own little cardboard kennel. He has Liberty print ears and he does not poo. (This is a good thing, right?)
2. Fijit Friends vs Bunny & Mouse Little Wardrobe
A 'Fijit Friend' (£55) is a funny dancing robot doll billed as "your interactive BFF". As an alternative I have selected a couple of more traditional 'best friends'... The Bunny and Mouse Little Wardrobe (£55) play set includes two little soft toys in their own carry case (wardrobe) along with a whole host of outfits - perfect for plenty of 'interactive' playing.
3. Milky Bunny vs oooh too many to choose from!
Milky Bunny (£59.99) is from the 'Emotion Pets' series and has batteries so she moves, snores and makes little noises. Scary eyes though. We have so many alternatives at Cottontails, where rabbits are our forte, that I couldn't choose just one. A few favourites though include the lovely French bunnies Lola, Sylvain or Jeanette who comes in her own a sturdy gift box. Or for something more interactive how about a handmade wooden hutch from Ostheimer with some wooden bunnies and a bag of hay.
4. Moshi Monsters Moshlings Treehouse vs Maileg Mouse House
The Moshi Monsters Moshlings Treehouse (£20) is a plastic moulded tree which opens up to reveal a place to play with and store your Moshlings (small plastic collectible things, I think). Maileg make two homes for mice. There is a wooden home (£35) fashioned on a cheese which also includes some furnishings and a little bell on the doorway*, or there is a much larger sturdy cardboard home based on a milk carton (£43). It might be nice to buy some mice to live in the house too - how about these little babies that come in their own matchbox bed with blanket? (£20)
(*Sorry I have sold out of wooden mouse houses.)
5. Let's Rock Elmo vs Moulin Roty Orchestra in a Bag
'Rock out' with Let's Rock Elmo (£69.99) - a plush toy who sings and comes with his own plastic drums and tambourine, or play percussion with Moulin Roty's Orchestra in a Bag (£73) - a cloth carry case full of eight traditional wooden instruments including xylophone, tambourine, bells, and whistle. Either way, it's not going to be a peaceful Christmas!