For speed fanatics
For ages 8 to 16 .
Doubling as both a kit and model shop, a glass case full of towering landmarks made of card (from 10RMB) and metal (from 58RMB) greets visitors. Here, a giant DIY card Houses of Parliament will set you back a mere 158RMB – and take your kids about four hours to build. Towards the rear of the shop lies a child’s paradise of die-cast collectables by CC and the Franklin Mint, ranging from basic Volkswagen saloons (350RMB) to a Swarovski crystal Mercedes (15,800RMB). But the real find is a stash of Japanese Kyoko RC cars (from 2,000RMB, with cheaper Chinese alternatives available). You can even buy separate chassis (200RMB), which your kids can customise themselves – or alternatively the shop charges a 100RMB fee (plus 60 RMB for each pot of paint). Take your pick!
We love… The RC racetrack in the back . It’s free to play on and the staff will gladly jam a controller in your hand and leave you to be humiliated by an eight year old.
For little builders
For ages 1 to 12.
With in-store desks for kids (and parents) to get their hands dirty, this g iant toy store has plenty of building blocks , games and puzzles to keep little ones happy. But forget Lego: we liked the look of the magnetic building shapes (480RMB-2,500RMB per set) known as Cilijian Zhoubian. The pieces are simple for kids to use, and you can build cars, houses and even, er… empty shopping malls out of them. Elsewhere, the Zoob! (from 200RMB) is a series of joints and links that can be moulded into just about anything – although we just made a mess!
We love… The wooden build-it-yourself dinosaur kits (200RMB) range from T rex to brontosaurus; best of all, once you’re done, watch them come alive as you hit the remote control and send them tottering around the living room.
For jigsaw fiends
For ages 5 to 16.
To hell with technology! Amid the razzmatazz and new openings (Muji, Sony, Disney English etc) at You-Town mall’s recent extension, far less attention has been focused on the humble Wai Jiu, a small, likeable jigsaw shop on the second floor. Prices start from 160RMB for a 500-piece kids’ set, up to 550RMB for the larger 2,000-piece poster-sized monsters – although our eyes were fixed firmly on Heye’s glow-in-the-dark jigsaws.
We love… That the store also sells frames (428-528RMB) for the larger sets (1,000-2,000 pieces), so your child can memorialise their achievement – and decorate their bedroom at the same time.
For model nuts
For ages 10 to 16.
Old-fashioned Airfix model kits, Warhammer sets and Japanese Gundam robots aplenty litter the shelves of this modeller’s haven. A Trumpeter Chinese FC-1 fighter plane kit goes for as little as 58RMB, with paints (25-35RMB), varnish (18RMB) and even an air -spray booth (510RMB) all available. Warhammer 40,000 starter sets (it’s like Dungeons & Dragons but with lead figures!) begin at 650RMB. But we were blown away by the huge array of Bandai Gundam
robots (50-2,000RMB). If your kids are hardcore model fanatics (with the patience of an 8,000-year-old robot samurai), these will make them explode with joy. We love…
The illustrations on the Airfix kits. The Dampflokomotive BR86 (590RMB) not only sounds unpronounceable, but looks stunning . Of course , inside is a load of fiddly bits of plastic, but that’s all part of the fun.
For mini mechanics
For ages 1 to 16.
Pirates of the Caribbean, Star Wars and all the usual cash-ins can be found at this flagship branch; browse the in-store guide for all the latest products. For one-to-five-year-olds, the Duplo sets start at 69RMB, with the Big Zoo kits a wallet-busting 1,199RMB. The new Creator series starts from 1,299RMB – by Lego standards a bit of a bargain, since they can be made into three or more different models. And for older kids, the Lego Technic series is the ultimate challenge, with motors and controls galore to be installed.
Lego’s Mindstorm series, although, at 3,999RMB for a comprehensive set , this build-your-own robot is a bit pricey. But given that the ultimate test of any toy is how much fun you will have in helping your kids to play with it, then this passes with flying colours.