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Technology, construction among toys highlighted by Canadian Toy Association

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TORONTO - Boys and girls may find toys they can build themselves under the Christmas tree this year, along with some classics enjoying a resurgence, including Furby, Elmo, Tigger and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

"In toys there's always that nice ability to bring back things that were once popular because as kids grow and change, then that one toy could be popular again," said Laura Wiese, a spokeswoman for the Canadian Toy Association, which showcased about 100 items in its 10th annual Hot Toys for the Holidays event Thursday.

The toys shown were predicted by manufacturers to be among the "hot" sellers this holiday season.

So-called "construction toys," which require assembly, targeting girls range from castles to stables to playgrounds.

More and more electronics are being wired into toys for preschool children and right on up through the age groups, Kerry George, president of the association, told the media gathering.

Smartphones, touchscreens, built-in cameras, downloadable apps and links to iPads are all being incorporated into toys for children of all ages, George added.

Janine Brisbois said her children are into anything iPad-related.

"So the technology toys, if it interacts with an iPad or it's an iPad app, they really love that and it's a treat for them to be able to use it in our house."

Her three-year-old daughter Molly was intrigued by iTikes Canvas. By pairing an iPad and free app with the device, children can access artist tools, magic colouring pages, sound effects and interactive learning games.

Brisbois said she looks for good-quality toys for Molly and her brothers, Max, 8, and Fisher, 5, who was mesmerized by a Playmobil Pirate Ship.

"Something they're going to play with for a long time, that they can play with, then come back to, then play with again," she said.

She said a popular toy in her house is Lego.

"They love it because they build it, play with it, then they pull it apart, then they build something else, so you've got constant play value in it."

Durability is another key for Brisbois, who is vice-president of sales for toy company MJ Entertainment.

"I love to buy something for my eight-year-old and know that in a year or two his five-year-old brother will play with it and then maybe the three-year-old will play with it as well."

There were plenty of activities to provide a break from technology, including board games, card games and craft sets priced at under $30 that the entire family can play.

Children at the event were thrilled when the biggest toy expert of all dropped by.

Santa Claus asked a few questions from a Canadian Trivia game and demonstrated the sound effects of an item — that he said was put together by his elves — called "Meet the Farties." It's the first in a series of children's books about a family of cartoon "Butts" and their gassy adventures.

He also pointed out a recycling truck, which he said is a great environmental toy to teach everyone in the family what to recycle and when.

A spokesman was on hand for Toys for the North, a non-profit initiative in its third season that collects toys and gets them to children in northern communities. It's spearheaded by the RCMP and the Toronto Santa Claus Parade.

"We police those northern communities so it's a natural partnership where toys are given by corporations and the public and we get them to these northern communities where children can enjoy them," said RCMP Insp. Todd Gilmore, adding that the Canadian Forces also assist in distributing the toys.

The Canadian Toy Association is a not-for-profit trade group whose members include manufacturers, importers and distributors of toys, games, seasonal and hobby products.

The full list of hot holiday toys can be found at http://www.cdntoyassn.com.

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