Popular culture

The world’s most popular Christmas toys

This is the time of year when kids around the world will frantically tear up gifts, parents will curse toy makers for not providing batteries, and Uncle Charles will have purchased a massively inappropriate gift for her. age. Again. Yes, this is the time for painful smiles and youthful laughter but also disappointed grunts and forced smiles. It’s when the wrapper of hours and days is gutted in seconds by the chocolatey little hands of impulsive children.

In many ways, the ceremony and the act of giving gifts are little different across the world. But there is always a surprising degree of difference in the gifts and toys that children have enjoyed from place to place, country to country. In a globalized and interconnected world, many of these toys are spreading rapidly and are now commonplace everywhere. Under most Christmas trees is a collection of gifts from all over the world. So what are the most popular toys for children around the world, Christmas or otherwise?

Sophie the Giraffe

If you know someone who has a baby or toddler, there’s a good chance they’ve heard of a squeaky little giraffe called Sophie. Sophie is the plastic offspring of a Paris-based toy company in the 1960s, and since then it is estimated that she has been sold to over 70 million new parents. It’s consistently featured in the “Top 10 Most Popular Toys” on most Amazon pages around the world, and in her native France, Sophie is a bit of a national icon – sales of the rubber teething ring match. almost exactly at France’s birth rate. If you have a baby in France, you will be have a giraffe.

To celebrate its 50 years, a multitude of artists and jewelers – from Swarovski to Gauthier – recreated and reinvented Sophie, and the gilded and jeweled giraffes were sold in an invitation-only auction.


Pokémon is huge. Whether you are the type who can list the 151 of the original generation or the type who vaguely remembers the average Detective Pikachu, you probably know this Japanese cartoon monster. The game was released in Japan in 1996 and has sold 34 billion Pokémon cards since. And while card collecting rivals like Magic the Gathering or Yu-Gi-Oh! sold in similar numbers, neither have dominated the Weltgeist as thoroughly as Pokémon.

There are over 120 Pokémon computer games, a cartoon TV show, an augmented reality phone app, a Hollywood movie, a Upcoming Netflix Live Action Series, and a Monopoly board. In Japan, Pokémon is everywhere. There are Pokemon themed parades, hotels, department stores, vending machines, ramen, cars, drinks and even weddings.

Let’s go fly a kite

Across the water from Japan is the land of soaring kites. China today is considered a paragon of technology and gadgets, but for most of its 1.4 billion people, these aren’t Huawei phones or Alibaba gadgets, but kites. If you find yourself in one of the many parks across China, you will see a whole cornucopia of kites. Some can be huge – over three hundred feet long – while others are as small as your finger. Chinese kites often depict mythological creatures, and it is not uncommon for a child to receive a kite in the mold of their favorite heroic character or legendary icon.

The kite has a long tradition of two millennia and is often used in religious and festive ceremonies. Most Chinese children will have flown more kites by the age of ten than children in other countries would have flown in their lifetime.

Bean there, do that

There are times in history that make you wonder if humans aren’t wired a little bit crazy – the Dancing Plagues of the Middle Ages, an eight-bit-style pixel art piece that sells for 10 million dollars, and, of course, the Beanie Baby craze. Ty Warner was once an American actor, then a businessman, then a toy maker. Ty first created his plush toys in 1993, hoping they would be popular with children. And they sold well.

But, something strange happened: Moms started to really like them, and they didn’t trust their brat kids to take care of them properly. In 1998, Beanie Babies were almost exclusively traded by upbeat and fairly obsessive men. The first generation of “No.1 Bears” was selling for $ 5,000 apiece, and at one point, Beanie Bears accounted for 10% of all eBay traffic. Beanie Babies made Ty Warner a billionaire.

Lego with all your money

A toy truly unites the world. Again and again, polls tell us that LEGO is considered the best and most popular toy of all time.

LEGO was first made in Denmark in the years following WWII by toy maker Ole Kirk Christiansen. (He coined the word LEGO from leg dildo or “play well. ‘) But it wasn’t until 1958 that the design and’ interlocking principle ‘we know today got started (where any LEGO part, anywhere in the world, got started). will fit together with others). This is due to its uniform design. Indeed, a 2021 LEGO part can adapt to those made over 60 years ago.

Every major cultural or historical icon you can think of has its LEGO counterpart. In 2009, British presenter James May (closest to an adult-child) made a house entirely in LEGO. Many families around the world will have LEGOs somewhere, and billions of barefoot parents hate it.

A round toy around the world

Of course, for many children expensive toys and elaborate gifts are a distant dream. For most of the world’s children, the best (and maybe the only) toy will be a ball. From the dusty fields of Kenya to the windy slopes of Argentina, boys and girls all over the world will be kicking or throwing a ball. And, despite the billions spent each Christmas, the fact is that many children will find the sheer pleasure of soccer, cricket, or just a game of wrestling with friends or family.

There is solace in this. Children will be children no matter who or where they are. The laughter and fun that comes from just playing with friends resonates around the world.

Jonny Thomson teaches philosophy at Oxford. He runs a popular Instagram account called Mini Philosophy (@philosophieminis). His first book is Mini Philosophy: A Little Book of Big Ideas.