Thinking of buying toys for your kids this Christmas? That's so last year

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It's enough to make Rudolph the Reindeer stop dead in his tracks. The sad fact is: children don't want toys this Christmas.

It's enough to make Rudolph the Reindeer stop dead in his tracks. The sad fact is: children don't want toys this Christmas.

Toys, according to a new report, are uncool because the lack of "street cred" puts children off playing with them.

Children as young as eight would rather receive a mobile phone or DVD player for Christmas. Even toddlers are becoming picky. By the age of two or three, says the study, children have an understanding of "brand awareness".

The problem is children are growing up faster than ever, turning their noses up at the type of toys and games their parents would have played with happily a generation ago. The study by Mintel, the consumer analysts, concludes: "Competition for children's spending continues to increase as pressure from other entertainment markets vies for attention. This is particularly apparent with children from eight years onwards.

"Children over 10 are no longer interested in buying toys – or at least do not want to be associated with what they think of as 'children's toys'."

The challenge for the toy industry, says the report, is "to produce and market toys and games that have street cred to entice the tweenagers [eight to 12-year-olds] back into traditional toy shops".

The report shows the fragility of a toy market, which, although showing healthy sales during the past five years, is vulnerable to children's fickle tastes. While sales of toys for younger children rose by more than 10 per cent to £300m over the past four years, more "traditional" toys have declined in real terms. Sales of male action figures, for example, are stuck on £135m. The run-up to Christmas is critical to the success of toy shops with more than 55 per cent of sales in the year's final quarter.

A look at the top-rated toys of the past 40 years shows how toys are, on the whole, both becoming increasingly sophisticated while being sold to younger children. The first winner of the British Association of Toy Retailers' award in 1965 was James Bond's Aston Martin die-cast car. It was followed in 1966, 1967 and 1968 by Action Man, Spirograph and Sindy. By the late 1990s the winning toys – Teletubbies, Furby and Furby Babies – were all aimed at much younger children.Last year's winner was a robotic dog called Teksta. Predicted top-sellers this Christmas include Nutcracker Barbie and all things Harry Potter.

That older children are less interested in toys has not gone unnoticed in toy shops. Gary Grant, who owns Britain's biggest independent toy chain The Entertainer, said: "We find that from the ages of eight, generally speaking, we [the toy trade] get overtaken by music, videos, sports gear, electrical equipment and clothing. What is on the list is a DVD player, television or hi-fi."

Adults, unlike their teenage offspring, are not too embarrassed to play with action figures and dolls. According to Mintel, one in five Virgil Tracy Thunderbirds dolls was bought by grown-ups. For themselves.

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