Canada’s Most Popular Toys

Playing with Mia Casa Dollhouse

The toy business in Canada is very big business !

And we’re not talking about video games. The electronic and mobile gaming industry is forecast to hit $2.4 Billion in sales all by itself in Canada by 2017.

We’re talking traditional toys, for younger kids: dolls and action figures, toys for dress-up play, puzzles and games, plush, construction toys… toys that we grew up with, toys our children and grandchildren still have lots of fun with today.

What’s all that traditional toy “fun” worth to our economy ?

In 2012, Traditional Toy Sales topped 1.8 Billion in Canada. Surprised ? If you thought video games out-sell traditional toys by a big margin, you’re wrong. In 2012, video and mobile game sales were just 25% higher than traditional toy sales. Which makes us say “Yay !!”

It’s not that we don’t like video games. Our 25-year-old son is a professional video game Environment Artist, working with one of the industry’s best studios, Ludia in Montreal.

We loved playing Mario Bros. and Sonic the Hedgehog with our kids when they were young, and there are some truly awesome and wonderful video games today. Our son helps make those magical worlds come to life !

PLAYING SOCCERBut it’s clear that active, imaginative “hands-on” play will always be a huge part of every child’s life. It’s natural… running, jumping and climbing… taking the doll that’s your best friend everywhere you go… on your knees in the grass in the backyard, building forts and acting out adventures with action figures…

Early childhood experts have known for years that play is an integral element of young children’s lives, and that the ability to play, both alone and with others, is a key indication of healthy development. Interactive play enhances children’s physical, social, emotional, and creative growth; play-based educational programs are engaging children in day-cares and kindergartens around the world.

But which toys do Canadian children – and parents, who mostly do the buying – like best ?

ARTS AND CRAFTSGames & Puzzles are #1 in Traditional Toy Sales in Canada, worth $235 million in 2012, which isn’t surprising when you think about the wide age range and different skill levels encompassed by “games and puzzles”. Arts & Crafts sits in 2nd place… traditional, “creative” play that also includes all ages and skill levels.

Model Vehicles are in 3rd place, with Dolls & Accessories and Action Figures & Accessories very close together in 4th and 5th, respectively. But… if you combine Dolls and Action Figures into a single category, it jumps up to 1st place, with annual sales hitting a whopping $280 million in 2012.

Dolls have been toys primarily enjoyed by girls for centuries, but Action Figures – traditionally toys for boys – are largely gender-neutral today, equally popular with girls and boys. Here at The Toy Factory, we stock more than 200 different “action figure” characters, including knights, pirates and fairy tale characters, as well as dozens of horses, farm animals and wild animals.

Here are the Top 10:

Traditional Toy Sales in Canada in 2012


(CAD $ Millions)

  1. Games & Puzzles ($235)
  2. Arts & Crafts ($198)
  3. Dolls & Accessories ($145)
  4. Action Figures & Accessories ($135)
  5. Pre-School Toys – for 3 to 4 year olds ($134)
  6. Construction Toys ($129)
  7. Scientific & Educational ($123)
  8. Dress-Up & Role Play ($101)
  9. Outdoor & Sports ($56)
  10. GIRL WITH DOLL AND FLOWERSInfant Toys – for 19 – 36 months ($55)

Clearly, there will always be a place for traditional toys in the lives of our children and grandchildren. And here at The Toy Factory, we believe carefully hand-crafting our sturdy wooden toys, and searching the world to discover the most wonderful new and old-fashioned toys is a very important job… because helping a child grow and learn through play is the beginning of a lifetime of creativity. We think more creativity and fun make our world a better place for everyone… kids and grown-ups !


Sources: “Traditional Toys and Games In Canada”- Euromonitor International, September 2013; “Let’s Play! Using Play-Based Curriculum to Support Children’s Learning” – / Photo Credits:;; Adam Jones @;; Derrick Mealiffe – Wikipedia Creative Commons

Video Game Gift Guide

The video game world is literally a “world” – a unique, world-wide community expected to be worth over $91 Billion ($US) in video game sales by 2015.

That’s $91 BILLION. That’s a big world !

With hundreds of thousands of video games to choose as possible gifts for a child or grandchild, I’m going to try to simplify it for you…



There are essentially 6 “kinds” of video games – based on the way the game is played, and the goals and strategy of the player(s):

1ST PERSON “SHOOTER”: Just like it sounds, the main goal of the player is to kill as many enemies as possible. (1ST Person means you are playing the game as the key game character.)

ROLE-PLAYING GAMES (RPG’s): These are “questing” games where each player controls a single character in the game.

The sophisticated on-line collaborative RPG game “World of Warcraft” now has more than 7 million players world-wide.

“PLATFORMERS” or PLATFORM-BASED GAMES: These are the video game “standards”, like Nintendo’s Mario Brothers. They are played only on a specific game device platform and the typical goal of the game is to get from Point A to Point B, overcoming obstacles and gaining “coins” or “extra life” along the way.

STRATEGY GAMES: These are more complex games, where the player is basically “God”, controlling a whole army or host of characters, and endeavoring to beat the computer using more involved planning.

SPORTS GAMES: No surprises here – hockey, basketball, football, soccer, skateboarding – and then there are the sports “simulation” games for the Nintendo Wii game platform, where you swing controllers to imitate playing golf or tennis.

SOCIAL GAMES: These are the games you play on “social” media, like Facebook and mobile devices like Smart Phones, IPads and tablets. “Farmville” and “Angry Birds” are two very popular games in the Social Game category – which has 2 basic types:

“BUILDER” Social Games Facebook’s Farmville is a great example, where the player owns/controls a large number of game characters, and must assign tasks and create opportunities over time to “build” a world.

– “ARCADE” Social Games Angry Birds is a good example. These games typically involve shooting-gallery-style scenarios.



In general, most “platform” games are good for children – games like Mario.

A game called “Little Big Planet” has just coined the term “co-op-etition”, where players must cooperate by working together to get through levels of play, but whichever player has collected the most “coins” at the end of each level also gets rewarded.

Some parents will let even younger children play games like World of Warcraft, although it’s likely the children don’t really understand what they’re doing.

Puzzle games are also good choices for younger children. A great kid’s game should have a simple story line, fun characters, a low difficulty and colorful graphics.

In recent years, games like Mario have been adapting their difficulty levels to the “maturity” or age of the player. If a child repeatedly has trouble getting through one spot, the games will either show the child how to do it, or give them a button to click to do it for them.

The Social Games world is open to all ages, and has every imaginable level of sophistication and simplicity in hundreds of thousands of games.

Some Facebook games can be deceptively complex, appearing to be quite simple at first. Then the players discover they must expend a whole lot of time and “resources” to get anywhere worthwhile in the game.

Simple, fun mobile games like Angry Birds are enjoyed by everyone – even little kids love this shooting gallery game where you shoot birds at various targets.



1) Ask the kids which games they’d like to have, and what “kind” of games they like best… and which games their friends are playing.

2) Use sensible “parental” discretion. Grand Theft Auto looks amazing, but it’s a game where the players are car thieves, roaming around a city in speeding cars, trucks and hot rods, escaping police and cruising 18+ neighborhoods – this is not a good game choice for a 10 year old !

3) Pay attention to the game “Rating”. In general, the video game industry has done a very good job establishing age guidelines for video games.

The Video Game Ratings are:

C Early Childhood


E Everyone

E 10+ Everyone 10 years old and up.

T Teen

M Mature

AO Adults Only

You can get more details on each rating from the Entertainment Software Rating Board.

If your child (or grandchild) is 13 or 14 and emotionally mature, it’s OK to get them “Mature” games – but you need to pay attention to what’s going on in their lives too, and recognize the kind of impact a game can have on a young person. For example, if your son or grandson wants to play Grand Theft Auto, and all of his friends are playing it, you don’t need to “ban” it and embarrass him. But you can talk to him about it, or better yet, play it with him, and discuss the issues it raises.

4) Don’t just buy whatever they want – and don’t use video games as a babysitter.

5) Ask. At video game specialty stores, everyone on staff will be very knowledgeable, but even at electronics and big box stores, you can usually find an 18 28 year old sales associate in the video game dept. who will be familiar with the most popular and newest games, and the various game and mobile platforms.

Last but not least –


The new WiiU game console (platform) features a touch screen tablet on the controllers to interact with the game, as well as interacting through the TV screen. Note: the new WiiU will also play old Wii games – but not vice-versa – the Wii won’t play new WiiU games.

The new Play Station 4 (PS4) and XBox One are launching this fall*. Both have amazing graphics and incredible realism. But they’re both basically just the next steps forward along the same paths, and good games are more than just breathtaking graphics – there’s story line and plot, character development, unusual twists and surprises.

(The new PS4 launches on Nov. 17, with XBox One on Nov. 25)

Insider tip: The new Play Station 4 (PS4) will have a large number of small “Indy” games designed for it – games designed by small teams at small studios. They can take much bigger chances and risk trying out new ideas in game development, because they don’t have huge amounts of money invested in their games. Which means some of the most interesting and fun new games are “Indy” games ! By comparison, the latest version of Grand Theft Auto was 5 years in development, employing more than 1,000 artists and programmers, and cost millions of dollars. Of course, when it launched earlier this year, it set a world all-time sales record, with sales of $800 Million in the first 24 hours.


Toy Factory Hot Tip:

A lovely little game called Pikmin for the Wii and WiiU is a wonderful game for children. You are a little astronaut, and you collect little plant-like creatures called “pikmin” to help rebuild your spaceship so you can go home. It has lots of exploring, and encourages “resource” and “time” management as you play – be back at your ship by the end of the day, for instance, or you lose !

Happy Father’s Day !

Happy Father’s Day to all our father and grandfather friends !

You are more important to your children and grandchildren than you will ever know.

And just “being there” for your kids counts… everything doesn’t need to be special all the time.

If you’re relaxing on the couch watching TV, listening to music, or driving a child to and from music or dance lessons or soccer practice, you’re “there” for them. If they want to talk, they know where to find you… if they need encouragement or a hug, they know where to get it.

Super Daughter !

We think “quantity” time is just as important as “quality” time.

Cherish your children. They’ll be grown and gone from your daily life far too soon.

And… have a very Happy Father’s Day !

(Photo source:

Welcome to The Toy Factory

Santa Kathy  Dan at The Toy FactoryMy gosh, we’re so lucky ! To be friends with one of the greatest toy-makers of all time, and to have had his advice and encouragement for so long. We first met Santa just a few weeks after we took over The Toy Factory from his brother “Al” in the late spring of 1990.

Santa is an amazing fellow, and he takes a nice picture, doesn’t he ? He stopped by for a cup of tea a few weeks ago, and you know, he looks just the same today – although we can’t say the same about us !

Launching our website and “on-line store” as we celebrate our 23rd Christmas with The Toy Factory, it feels like we’re taking our delight in wonderful toys – and toy-making – to a whole new level.

It’s been a lot of work. So far, we’ve chosen more than 600 toys, games and play sets to offer to you, our customers, here on our website. To do that, we’ve photographed, measured and described all of our Toy Factory wooden toys and games. We’ve found our favourite fairies, taken their pictures and told their stories – and there are a lot of them, because we love fairies. We don’t have as many fairy t-shirts and tank tops, but we think they’re all really beautiful, and we hope you will too.

It’s been fun organizing all of the toys, “people”, castles, pirate ships, dollhouses and play sets from our favourite toy-makers – Le Toy Van, Papo Toys, Budkins and Lion Touch.

It turns out our Toy Factory Royal Family is quite a big clan. There are 12 different Royal Princesses living in our Fairy Tale & Fantasy world – although from the point of view of every little girl that has visited our Prince Edward Island toy store and workshop, it’s clearly not possible to have too many princesses !

Interestingly, on the man side, there are only 4 princes. Although all 4 of them are quite stylish and adventurous. There are also 33 knights, all of whom will point out, if asked, that they’re potentially available to be “in shining armour” for the right Princess.

Do we have too much fun with this ? We think not. It is, after all, a toy store – and we think it’s perfectly OK for grown-ups to have great imaginations, and at least a little bit of space in their lives for magic and fun.

We hope you like our website. We’ve worked really hard, with some very creative people helping us, to make it more than just an on-line toy store. If you’ve visited us in Prince Edward Island, you’ll know that’s the way we like to do business – it’s about making friends, telling stories and having fun, and if you’d like to buy some wonderful toys, that’s awesome too !