OLM Christmas CalendarMaximize Play with these Hot Holiday Toys

Maximize Play with these Hot Holiday Toys

Maximize Play with these Hot Holiday Toys

All photos by Ali Matthews.


Welcome to Day 7 of our
25 Day Ottawa Life
Christmas Calendar

We’ll be updating with a
new treat daily so be sure
to keep checking under the
OLM Tree to see what’s new.
And don’t forget our big Light
Up Your Ottawa Life Contest

As a child nothing beats the joy and magic you feel on Christmas morning when you finally pry your parents out of bed and get to see what Santa brought you! No matter how big or small the pile of presents, there was always that one thing you were hoping to unwrap.

For those parents (or aunts or uncles or grandparents) still looking to complete their Christmas list I recently recruited a group of discerning toddlers, little kids and big kids to try out and break down (figuratively) some of the most buzzed-about toys this season.

Check out our kid-approved list to get the low-down on that one toy the special child in your life won’t stop talking about and learn how to maximize the whole family’s holiday playtime!

Don’t just take my word for it! Scroll below for our interview with Scott Yaphe, Canadian actor and comedian best known as host of YTV’s “Uh Oh!”, who took the time to chat with us about all things toys and fun!

(Our kid-testers included Georgia (1), Rowan (1.5), Charlotte (2.5), Theo (3), and Luke (3), Adrian (3), Nicolas (5), Sophia (7) and Joshua (8).)

rowan-pulling-block-scooping-wagonMega Bloks First Builders Block Scooping Wagon (1-5Y) $39.99

Mega Bloks has always been a favourite for little hands (and big ones) to develop motor skills and bolster creativity. However, like any block set, they have a tendency to scatter. Everywhere.

Introducing the Block Scooping Wagon! A unique and fun answer to this perennial parental problem.

Our group ‘baby’ was thrilled with loading the wagon manually and the easy grip made it fun and easy to pull around the house. But the true benefit came when our toddlers took control. When you push the wagon (with light force) over blocks, a scooper mechanism in the back, shuttles them into the wagon, ready for transport!

The wagon comes with blocks for your new builders and is compatible with all Mega Bloks First Builders sets for those already swimming in them.

Final Word:
Great toy for infants, especially those in the throes of experimenting with ‘empty’ and ‘full’, but really shines with toddlers!

like-theo-and-charlotte-building-the-codeapillarFisher Price Think & Learn Code-a-Pillar (3-6Y) $59.99 

When you think of ‘smart toys’, the Code-A-Pillar is the hallmark. This caterpillar-of-the-future has 9 easy-to-connect segments that preschoolers can arrange and rearrange to "tell" the toy how to move forward, left, right, or play songs – just for fun or to hit targets and other challenges.

With some early guidance, our preschoolers quickly figured out how to make the code-a-pillar ‘go’ and reconnect the different segments. It was amazing watching them experiment and problem solve – the focus they had in figuring out the toy was intense.

We eventually had to remove the younger ones from the picture, as not to interrupt the ‘process’ - reinforcing that age category of 3-6 years is spot on. Our younger perschoolers enjoyed it (turn it on, watch it go), but our oldest preschooler was best able to fully grasp the concept and manipulate it.

The Code-a-Pillar has expansion packs for more sounds, directions and tricks at about $20 each.

Final Word:
This toy brings the wow factor and will grow with your curious preschooler!

sophia-looking-at-different-barbiesBarbie Fashionistas  (3Y+) $11.99

The first Barbie was made in 1959 and while her profession has changed an infinite amount of times, her physical appearance has not. Now, this classic toy is getting a modern makeover. Mattel has released a line of Barbie Fashionistas that embody all the fun and ambition of the original but have updated physiques, diverse skintones, hair colours, and hairstyles.

Our kid testers had a chance to play with #33 Fab Fringe Tall Doll (the look: a dark complexion, red curly hair, and a black top with floral print with denim fringe shorts) and #23 Love That Lace Petite Doll (the look: light complexion, a dirty blonde bob, and a white and gray striped top with a shiny red skirt).

Throughout our morning of play, both Barbies were thoroughtly loved. They took turns riding dinosaurs, checking out hot wheels and of course being un-dressed and re-dressed over and over.

Barbie is for years 3+, so if you have toddlers and babies in the house, don’t forget to remove small accessories.

Final Word:
These Barbies will be a hit with any doll lover on your list and make you feel proud of the progress Barbie has made. P.S. You will covet her outfits.

 setting-up-hot-wheelsHOT WHEELS® CRISS CROSS CRASH (5Y+) $49.99

Not sure how they do it, but Hot Wheels seem to get bigger and better every year! The Hot Wheels Criss Cross Crash is no exception. This set features a quadruple loop with two vehicle launchers so kids can launch multiple cars until they eventually crash in three different crash zones.

The Hot Wheels Criss Cross Crash was a blast! It was clear from the first moment that this Hot Wheels set was going to be a hit. In fact, it was on one of our tester’s Christmas list for months, so it could not come out of the box soon enough.

Despite only having a couple cars on hand, the crashing was epic! Just watching the cars zip around the track could have kept our group of testers busy for days and it took our kids (and parents) all of their restraint to politely take turns while launching cars.

Batteries are NOT included and only comes with one car, but it is compatible with other Hot Wheels sets and cars.

Final Word:
If you (and the kids, of course) are looking for straight-up thrills on Christmas morning, this is your toy!

 sophia-is-batmanBatman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Voice-Changer Helmet (3Y+) $49.99

Dressing up as your favourite super hero is one thing, but becoming them is quite another. The Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice helmet is truly deluxe! Not only does it repeat phrases and create sound effects at the push of a button, but it acts as a voice changer as well.

All of our kid testers, and even the toddlers (and yes, parents), got a thrill from putting on the mask and hearing themselves as Batman. The integrated voice changer’s microphone picked up everything within the mask that even a giggle would turn creepy.

The helmet is easy to function right out of the box and straps adjusted to everyone’s head perfectly. The light-up eyes were also a cool touch. Needless to say, everyone wanted a photo doing his or her best Batman pose!

Not just for kids, this helmet would also be a great gift for the superhero-obsessed adult in your life!

Final Word:
If you are looking for something that will get everyone in the family, from baby to grandpa, in on the fun, this helmet is a sure-fire winner!


Want to know more? I caught up with Scott Yaphe to get his take on this year’s hottest toys!

Ottawa Life: When you were hosting ‘Uh Oh’ as Wink Yahoo, getting ‘slimed’ was the ultimate thrill for most kids of the ‘90s. Sadly, most parents had a hard time getting on board with the mess at home. For good, clean thrills Hot Wheels has always been on the top of the Christmas list. On a scale of 1 to Slimed, how much fun is the Hot Wheel Criss Cross Crash?

like-theo-and-charlotte-building-the-codeapillarScott Yaphe: Yeah, sliming kids was the best! Ah, those were the days... But, it's true. As a parent to 2 kids myself, we like to keep the mess as minimal as possible, while keeping the fun factor up high! On a scale of 1 to slimed (slimed being a 10), I give the Hot Wheels® Criss Cross Crash™ Track Set a SLIMED!!

When you're able to feel the thrill this track gives you, you'll understand why I rated it so high. Every twist and turn the cars take, as they narrowly miss each other through the intersection, is such a blast! You totally feel it! And when they CRASH!? Well, let's just say it brings me back to the thrill of the Punisher dumping goop on the contestants on my show. AWESOME!!

putting-batteries-in-hot-wheels-setHot Wheels are a classic, but the smart toy is on the rise. The Fisher Price Code-a-Pillar not only looks futuristic, but I feel smarter just looking at it. What can kids and parents expect from this latest offering? (read: will they be able to build a website?)

I wish it could build a website! That would be brilliant!! But to be honest, while the Fisher-Price® Kidtronics Think & Learn Code-a-Pillar may not be able to do that, it's the next best thing for the developing child's mind. For the parent, there is nothing more we love than to see our kids have fun and develop critical thinking skills at the same time. The Code-a-Pillar does just that. It allows the child to program and sequence – in many different ways – the route which the Code-a-Pillar takes by interchanging the various parts of its body. This toy literally develops your child’s skills so they begin to think critically while, having a blast doing it. And what can your child expect? Fun, fun, FUN!!!

Combining this idea of classic toys with modern thinking, the Fashionista Barbie comes to mind. Their updated physiques, diverse skintones, hair colours, and hairstyles define these Barbie dolls. Do you think this will alter or affect the doll-lovers imaginative play?

I love that Mattel is all over this. We need more of this in our world. More authenticity. Mattel bringing Barbie® Fashionistas to market allows children to identify with their toys by having a true representation of their looks. In turn, this bolsters their self -acceptance. What a way to make imaginative play more authentic!! And – again – me being a parent who strives to set a positive environment for my kids' playtime, I couldn't be happier with Barbie’s progression!


From feeling more represented in play to wanting to completely disappear in a character, the Batman vs. Superman mask looks like it can get the job done. How does this mask set itself apart from the typical superhero costume?

Oh man, the Batman V Superman™ Batman™ Voice-Changer Helmet is such a hit in our house! I think this is the first mask ever made that the parent will want to play with just as much as their child (I did!!) because of how much fun it is! The voice-changer function on the mask, plus the light-activated eyes totally allow you, as the superhero wannabe, to embody your character and BECOME your own superhero! Its pre-programmed Batman voices also take your child's superhero play to the next level and allows your young one to feel like they can fight crime with the best of them!

We have covered a lot of toys for the older-kid crowd but it is time to think of our toddlers. Mega Blocks are a wonderfully simple creative outlet for toddlers – and the parents helping them build – but of course, clean up is a drag. Tell me more about the Block Scooping Wagon and what type of skills it will help little hands master?

georgia-with-block-scooping-wagonOne of the best things about my job as host of Uh Oh! was just the plain old fun I had as the host. But right next to that was the fact I didn't have to clean up the slime!! As a parent, I love that clean up doesn't have to be mine with Block Scooping Wagon because it makes it fun (yes, I said FUN) for your child to clean up. This teaches them a great skill and habit, to clean up after oneself, and to have fun with it while you go!! And of course, that isn't even the best part – it’s building with the blocks and creating something new.

You are a father of 2. What top toy are you hoping Santa brings your kids (or you know, you) this year?

Santa, if you're listening... and I know you are, or at least your little spying elves are... we are asking for the Barbie® Starlight Adventure RC Hoverboard; it's so fun, it’s ridiculous! One touch operation, easy to maneuver, and you can fly it inside your very own living room! Please, no coal this year. We've been good.

All toys listed are available now at Walmart, Toys “R” Us, and Amazon.ca

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