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New take on old favourites at annual Hot Toys of Summer showcase

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TORONTO - Whether you covet traditional toys or favour pop culture playthings, there's a flavour of familiarity among the latest items aimed at engaging children during the warmer months.

The seventh annual Hot Toys of Summer event held by the Canadian Toy Association on Wednesday offered an extensive array of games and activities catering to both classic and contemporary tastes.

Dozens of children gathered at the Toronto Zoo to try their hand at testing out the latest in summertime toys, with a fair share of offerings delivering a twist on tried and true summer pastimes.

For those who like to sketch out a hopscotch grid on the sidewalk or create colourful drawings on concrete, a kaleidoscope chalk set from Crayola allows artistic youngsters to create drawings in 3D. The company also infused an ample dose of colour in another classic summertime activity — blowing bubbles — giving youngsters the option of creating their own or using a motorized machine to blast out the colourful globes.

Some of the low-tech toys with a pop cultural touch were among the favourites among the kids on hand.

Popular video game Angry Birds has been translated into Splat Strike, allowing kids to recreate the digital experience by using a slingshot to launch birds at pig targets on a wall.

Many youngsters also gravitated towards Fun-Tiles. It allows kids to apply self-adhesive shiny foam stickers to colour-coded designs of storyboards of such Disney favourites as Lightning McQueen of "Cars" or Ariel of "The Little Mermaid."

Motorized vehicles were a big draw for boys and girls alike, as were other summertime classics such as skipping rope, water guns and shooting hoops into a miniature basketball net. Other traditional favourites that continue to be popular — particularly among boys — include diggers and dump trucks, said Canadian Toy Association spokeswoman Kerry George.

Among more than 100 toys, games and activities featured on Wednesday, George said 60 per cent retail for under $30.

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