At the stroke of 4 p.m. on Saturday, Santa Claus ambled into the Depot Civic & Cultural Center outfitted in his customary red flannel, red stocking cap and flowing white beard.    

There was already a small gathering of children ready to sit on his lap, convey their wishes and pose for a picture snapped on their parents’ smartphones. It was day two of the Christmas Under the Stars Festival, and Santa was ready for another four hours of smiles.   

Santa was unequivocal when asked about the number one most-requested toy this holiday season. “Hatchimals,” he said. “They want Hatchimals.”   

Hatchimals have been in-demand since last Christmas, but it appears their appeal hasn’t lessened in 2017. According to the Hatcimals website, the toy involves stuffed animals that come tucked inside eggs and then “hatch” after children nurture them adequately. Every Hatchimal goes through five life stages: egg, hatching, baby, toddler and kid, and each stage introduces new abilities, games and tasks for the interactive creatures.    

The Hatchimal egg, for instance, flashes different colors to indicate what the animal needs to be properly nurtured and eventually break through.   

As toy manufacturers struggle to compete with the interactive smartphone and tablet games that kids enjoy, the Hatchimal perhaps provides a blueprint for how physical toys can find success with the youngest generation. And with a giant “snow mountain” slide, kick darts, big wheel races, cookie decorating, snowman building, live music and more, Christmas Under the Stars offered kids many more opportunities for off-screen fun.