Retail therapy

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The Independent Online
JANUARY may seem an odd time to be thinking about toys, but this is the month when toymakers reveal their latest creations. And you may be surprised to learn that they are not all hi-tech video games and moulded plastic. Next Saturday sees the opening of the British Toymakers Guild Toy Fair '93 which will sell traditional toys made by craftspeople. Up to 6,000 visitors are expected to have a look at what is new from the 58 exhibitors.

There should be something for everybody, from the child who wants a pocket-money toy to the adult collector prepared to pay up to pounds 15,000 for the very best in doll's houses.

Expect to find rocking horses from four different makers (APES, Stevenson Brothers, Trojan Horses and White Horses), doll's houses and miniature furniture including the 1 12 -scale Shaker furniture and room settings from Simply Shaker. There will be automaton-makers including witty designs from Mike 'Titch' Waters such as his moving karaoke singer (which, thankfully, does not sing). And, of course, there will be teddy bears, including collectors' mohair bears from Only Natural. However, the biggest hit with the children for the past two years have been the plush animal glove-puppets by Mon Toys.

(The hi-tech/moulded-plastic industry is having its big trade bash on the same day: the British International Toy & Hobby Fair at Earls Court, 30 January- 3 February.)

British Toymakers Guild Toy Fair '93, Kensington New Town Hall, Hornton Street, London W8. Open to both public and trade 30 January-1 February. Saturday 10am-6pm, Sunday 11am- 5.30pm, Monday 10am-4.30pm. Children pounds 1, Adults pounds 3 and Family ticket pounds 5.

PLAYING 'dens' is always popular until the makeshift props fall down. A company called Three Bears Playthings offers the expensive way out for people who have a set of bunk beds. An ordinary set can easily be turned into an ambulance, a fire-engine, train or cottage, using fabric attached to the sides of the bed.

The playhouses come in heavyweight machine-washable cotton/polyester twill. They fit standard bunk beds (2ft 6in and 3ft wide) but it is important to state whether you require a left- or right-facing version. The playhouses are pounds 62.50 each, with name plaques a free optional extra.

Three Bears also sells dressing-up clothes. Each outfit is free from buttons, Velcro or ties, and comes in two sizes. All the usual subjects are available, including fireman, policeman, Robin Hood, pirate and clown. Prices range from around pounds 10 to pounds 35 to fit children aged from two to eight years. For a mail- order brochure, telephone: 0669 20315.

ANOTHER goodie for the children is a Panda Chair and Panda Table Set. Elizabeth Watson of Young Discoveries hopes to fill the market between ultra-cheap plastic moulded children's furniture and exquisite but very expensive hand- painted furniture from the likes of Harrods.

The animal images are screen-printed in child-safe inks and designed for one- to six-year-olds. They come in flat- packs to be put together 'easily' by adults, for pounds 34.99 including delivery and VAT. Available by mail order from Young Discoveries (0202 745531).

FOR ANYONE concerned about the safety of toys, a booklet launched by the National Toy Council gives advice on using and choosing toys safely. For a free copy write to: Mary Caldecott-Smith, National Toy Council, 1 Chelsea Manor Gardens, London SW3 5PN.

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