Another Christmas done and dusted.
For many of us, it is the only time we see certain far-flung or reclusive relatives, just a time to get together and exchange gifts, and a special time for the kids.
Most of my siblings are closer to 60 than 40 but I’ve got one much younger brother, and he’s got one daughter he had later in life. So she is the baby of the family, not only cosseted by adoring parents but also surrounded by doting aunts, uncles, grandparents and friends.
I think even she was overwhelmed by the number of presents under the tree with her name on them.
As she opened one novel item after another, I became aware of the huge industry invested in designing and manufacturing playthings for youngsters. Toys marked “surprise” were big this year.
My niece got a pink ball about the size of a grapefruit and inside was a doll and in separate packages, her dress, a pair of ice skates, a black beret and a bottle which, when you fill it with water and place it in her mouth, makes tears come out of her eyes.
The doll is made by the LOL company in China and with some models, when you put their heads in water, their hair changes colour.
The Chinese capacity for innovation and out-of-the-box thinking is unending, it seems.
And as ridiculous as a child whose hair changes colour, who wears a beret and cries when she drinks water may sound to you, it made sense to some toy designer and is raking in millions for the LOL company.
Looking at these toys, you wonder why you hadn’t come up with something like this yourself.
PJ Masks, for example, is such a simple idea: Three children become superheroes at bedtime, when they put their pyjamas on, and take off in a glider to save the planet from scheming villains.
As usual, the TV show has spawned characters, cars and all sorts of installations to play with, and the bright red PJ Masks Owl Glider was zooming around the living room, playing its catchy theme tune. Another sure winner is Paw Patrol, with its hero pups.
Again, a simple but genius idea, because kids love dogs, on the whole. Looking online at the ranges both of these manufacturers offer, I was gobsmacked.
Apart from the figurines, there is everything from mugs and bowls to bath squirters, hovercraft, games and swimming goggles. They are a licence to print money – and for parents to spend it.
You’ve got the added impetus of a brand kids go dilly for and virtually no end to the products you can bring out.
As for the educational value, they seem to spur the imagination but may be limiting because there is a limited script they can stick to.
Once the PJ kids and the hero pups have caught the villains a few times, what’s next?
Still, my niece showed no danger of boredom and she is a lucky, lucky girl – she had lots of gifts to choose from and many loving adults to show her how they work.