Simon says: "Put your hands in your wallet". Simon says: "Put it on the credit card". Simon says: "It's only seven weeks to Christmas".

Simon costs $45. At No3 on The Warehouse's Top 10 toys this Christmas is Simon Swipe, described as "a touch-screen version of the classic memory game". The classic memory game that costs . Simon says, "Buy it."

And we probably will. As Juliet Rowan reports in today's edition, although it feels like we are barely out of winter, the countdown to Christmas is full on. Shops have stocked up their Christmas displays and Christmas flyers are jamming our mailboxes.

Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without toys. While children may still hold dear the fantasy of Santa's snow-capped workshop, for parents the North Pole is the cold hard reality of Fraser Cove Warehouse toy department.


Coming in at No1 in this year's most wanted is the Nerf range. Anyone with children will surely already have been struck in some body part at some point by the orange sponge of a Nerf dart. Almost every child I know is armed with some sort of Nerf weapon.

Not content with fleecing you once for one overpriced pistol, the manufacturer seems to be luring kids to get a whole Hunger Games arsenal. For Christmas, there is every Nerf version you can think of. Capitalising on the zombie trend is the Nerf Zombie range, and for aspiring Katniss Everdeens there is the Nerf Rebelle range of crossbows and darts. In pink, of course.

My dread of the hype around Christmas toy lists stems from a Scrooge-like fear of the mounting cost. Not whether they are "good" for children or not. As long as they are not dangerous, and not too expensive, then I leave it for the children to choose.

Children's lives are now saturated with consumer culture, which has influenced their toys. There is often a narrative of "harm" around this, with boffins claiming a whole array of medical effects.

The truth is we do not know how technology and electronic toys affect children. What does being good or bad for children mean anyway? Anything in excess can be bad. Playing Candy Crush all day is not ideal. But being outside alone all day by the river with nothing but a stick for company is also not my idea of an idyllic childhood.

An older generation might yearn nostalgically for the days when children just played with this mythical stick and a ball, but despite the fact that toys are more electronic these days, they still encourage good old-fashioned play and imagination.

The dolls may now be commercialised to the uber-successful Frozen franchise, (No5 on the list in our report today) but kids still play with them in exactly the same way that Victorian children played with ceramic dolls. The Victorian ones may not have been able to break out into Let It Go but the principles of open-ended play are the same.

While toys these days are undeniably commercial, the only thing they are really hurting is parents' pockets. The toys to me are no more or less violent or sexist than they were back in the days of fairy tales and traditional children's playground games.


But what does make me worry in the trend for electronic toys is the way they have the potential to replace real life. Three of the toys on the top 10 list are pseudo pets - Little Live Pet, Tekno Puppy and Zoomer Dog.

Designed to move, feel, act and sound real, they will respond to voice commands and physical gestures. Being the main pooper scooper and dog walker in our household, I can see a huge advantage in budgies that don't poo and dogs that don't beg for a walk at daybreak, but it is a bit sad that children fall in love and talk to these pre-programmed animals rather than have the real experience of growing up with and caring for a pet.

One of the most tragic electronic toys I have seen is a battery-driven teddy bear that reads to a child. Marketed as an educational toy, it encapsulates a modern phenomenon, the absent parent.

Far more damaging than electronics, robotics, Nerf guns or even an annoying battery-driven version of Simon Says, is a future vision of children playing solitary without the interaction of parents, siblings or friends.

Technology has not just changed children's toys but their whole landscape. As much as some people like to think they keep up with their children, they are inevitably far removed. I'm all for technological advances but like to think children still value and learn most from time spent playing with others.

Perhaps the most precious thing we can give children this Christmas is more of our time.

Or is this just another parental fantasy?

With this thought playing on my mind (and the thought of $45 for Simon Swipe), this week I tried to teach my children the old-fashioned verbal game of Simon Says.

I told them it would be better than Simon Swipe as it relies on imagination guaranteed to last longer than the batteries.

My 11-year-old daughter looked at me aghast,

"Stop being weird, Mum. That is so dumb," and retreated to her room to Snapchat her friends and watch YouTube.

My 7-year-old daughter said: "Don't worry, Mum, I will play it with you if you want to. On condition you still get me Simon Swipe."

Simon says: "Back to The Warehouse for me then".