Best Bets 2014

A Best Bet toy is one that testers have consistently rated as top notch in areas of assembly, design, function, durability and safety. But most importantly, a best bet toy has sustained play value. This isn’t a toy that will be outgrown in a few months or left to gather dust on a shelf. Best Bets are quality toys that our testers enjoyed throughout the testing period.

PDF versions of the report follow.

Tranquil Turtle (BGA50)
Cloud b
0 mos +
This peaceful blue turtle will help to lull your baby to sleep. His durable , clear aquamarine shell can project a blue wave pattern onto the ceiling of a darkened room , and he’ll make soothing sounds (music or waves) for bedtime. Our testing babies enjoyed the relaxing sounds and oscillating lights. Older tots engaged with the turtle as a plush toy and enjoyed being able to operate the turtle’s functions , since buttons on the turtle’s back and belly make it easy to control the sounds , lights and volume. Parents liked that the toy is safe for all ages and engaging over a long period. Requires 3 AA batteries.
Twilight Carz – Red Lightning (BGA60)
Cloud b
0 mos +
Star light , star bright. This cute red car projects blue or red stars onto the ceiling and walls of a darkened room. During the daytime , the sturdy car can be rolled around and played with as a toy. This toy was easy for our tester tots to use and became a favourite in many homes. The tots liked how the wheels roll smoothly and the headlights and taillights turn on. Parents appreciated that the stars will turn off after 45 minutes. In one testing home , parents credit this car , and their son’s fascination with its stars , with giving them “the easiest bedtime ever.” Requires 3 AAA batteries.
Walkness Monster
B. toys by Battat
10 mos +
The Walkness Monster roams the halls , gobbling up colourful balls as it goes! With this sturdy toy , little tots can practise walking with growing confidence. The rubber wheels grip well and don’t turn too fast , although our testers found that they also don’t turn corners. The toy comes with nine brightly coloured balls that can be fed through the handle’s chute so they will spin around in the open bowl base. The chute doubles as a convenient storage space for the balls. Testers used the bowl base in imaginative play as a stroller , shopping cart , wagon , etc.
Little Tikes Activity Garden Plant & Play
Little Tikes
12-36 mos
Baby’s got a green thumb! This cute play area is a colourful garden wall with several engaging and interactive accessories. Our testers enjoyed “planting” the veggies in the shape-sorting garden, picking fruits and flowers off the trellis, and listening to the bee’s buzzing sound. They also liked pulling the hanging spider and watching it scurry back up the wall. Sounds can be activated in various ways, such as by “watering” the garden or pressing on worms. Families loved how the various aspects (light, sound, motion, texture) engage tots in different ways and how the toy can accommodate shared play with multiple children. Requires 3 AA batteries.
Mon Premier Bébé Bath Doll & Accessories
Corolle
18 mos +
Time for a bath! This cute baby doll is ready to accompany your child into the tub. So light that she floats , she is made of quick-drying materials and can be hung to dry from a little loop on her back. She comes with several swim accessories (flippers , snorkel , goggles and arm waders) that , while not always easy to attach , added to our testers’ imaginative play. They also liked her pretty face and eyes that close when she is laid down. And she is a perfect size and weight to be easily carried around.
Toy Nation Fire Engine
Realtoy International Limited
18 mos +
Fire! Fire! Have no fear , this bright red firetruck is ready to respond. Our testers loved the 7 interactive noises the truck makes (such as siren , backing up beeps , and engine starting). They also liked the truck’s multiple functioning features , such as sliding panels that reveal tools , a spinning fire hose , and a ladder that pivots and extends. The truck comes with a friendly looking fireman figure that can fit into the cab and the ladder bucket. “Used daily and loved by all ,” was one family’s comment. Requires 2 AA batteries.
Little Tikes Clearly Sports Baseball
Little Tikes
24 mos +
Come out swinging with this colourful toy that is a great introduction to t-ball and baseball. Set includes a base , a ball tee , a baseball bat , and 3 colourful balls. Our testers had a ball playing with this toy , and they developed coordination and gross motor skills too. It’s an attractive way to encourage kids in active outdoor play , and the plastic balls won’t get soggy or heavy if they get wet. Parents liked the quick setup and how everything fits neatly together for easy storage. “We loved this toy from the start ,” said one testing family.
Barbie Train & Ride Horse
Mattel
3 +
Barbie and her little pony are ready to go for a ride. This pretty-in-pink playset comes with a Barbie in sparkly riding gear and a white horse. She can sit on the pony while it walks on a flat , hard surface. Raising or lowering Barbie’s right arm makes it kneel , walk or stop. Our testers loved this toy’s theme and its colourful , detailed pieces. They liked how easy it was to use and loved that Barbie could actually ride! Requires 4 AAA and 3 LR44 batteries.
Hexbug Nano V2 Helix 180°
Innovation First International
3 +
This bug isn’t creepy at all! It’s downright cool. The micro-robot Hexbug can scurry up clear plastic tubes , navigate around fixed pegs , and pirouette through a spiral tube in this multi-level playset. Our testers were immediately attracted to this toy and delighted in watching the tiny bug climb around the set. The nice assortment of pieces allows kids to build a variety of structures , and while younger testers required some help with building , kids would often work together to design new habitats and see what the Hexbug could manage. Requires a button cell battery.
Little Tikes Farm Memory Match-Up
Little Tikes
3 +
The farm animals are hiding under the stack of hay. Test your memory and see how many animals you can find and put back together. This cute and colourful game comes with 10 animal tops and bottoms , 20 haystack cups , and a unique egg-carton-shaped storage case. Our testing families liked how easy it was to understand and play the game. It worked well as an introduction to games for little tots while still engaging their older siblings. Testers also has fun playing with the plastic animal pieces and incorporating them with other toys. “A super popular game ,” said one testing family. Games for 1 or 2 players last about 10 minutes.
Manon Duo Memo at the Farm
Sardine Productions
3 +
Help Manon get all the animals back to the barn. This attractive memory game comes with 44 cards and two varieties of play for 2–6 people. The most popular version with our testers was one in which players try to get all the animals into the barn before the storm hits by finding matching pairs. And they loved the cute barn boards on which to store matching pairs. Testing families also thought the number of matching pairs (14) was just right: not overwhelming , yet challenging enough for 3-year-olds to grow into.
My Box of Punches Boxed Set
Téo & Zina
3 +
This cute craft includes 5 decorative hole punches (circle , swirl , square , flower and clover) , an activity booklet and glue—all neatly packaged in a lovely little box with a flip-up lid and sliding drawer. Our testers thought the box was “super cute” and enjoyed using the high-quality punches in the activity book and on other pieces of paper. While some of our younger testers (aged 3–5) needed adult assistance , this activity and craft set was enjoyed by a variety of ages. Parents liked how play helps develop fine motor skills and shape recognition and how everything stores nicely in the box.
Spot It! Alphabet
Blue Orange Games
3 +
This compact letter recognition game is so much fun that kids don’t even notice it’s also educational! The game comes with 31 round cards in a handy little tin storage case. Each card has several colourful letters and symbols on it. There is always one , and only one , match between any two cards. With three game varieties to play for 1–6 players , there is a wide appeal for players of multiple ages. Our testers found this works equally well as a game for individuals as it does for groups , and everyone found its compact size perfect for road trips.
Super Moose
Hape
3 +
In this quirky game of balance , players take turns trying to balance moose antlers on the wobbly head of a moose without tipping everything over. Bamboo and felt pieces are attractive and durable. Play encourages the development of fine motor skills , although testers also enjoyed the anticipation of the crash. The objective is easy to understand , and games can be played alone or with up to 6 players. Games take 10–15 minutes to complete.
Symphony in B.
B. toys by Battat
3 +
Step right up , Maestro! Orchestrate your own symphonies with this innovative and colourful musical toy. Kids can choose up to 6 of 13 instruments (from woodwinds , brass , percussions , keyboards and strings) to build their orchestra and explore music in an extraordinary way. Toy includes a portable console , 13 detailed instrument figures , and 15 songs and symphonies. Kids learn how different instruments make up parts of a song and the difference between melody and harmony lines. Our testers loved the clear , professional sounds of each instrument and enjoyed creating unique musical combinations. Requires 6 AA batteries.
Thinking Putty (Hypercolor Sunburst)
Crazy Aaron Enterprises , Inc.
3 +
This imaginative toy takes putty to a whole new level by adding innovative features like glow-in-the-dark and heat-sensitive colour changes. Our testers moulded , sculpted , bounced , ripped , popped , and pressed this toy , discovering endlessly imaginative ways to enjoy it. Some of their parents noticed that playing with the putty helped kids focus by keeping their hands busy. Putty comes in a compact , 10 cm (4 inch) diameter tin and makes for a handy travel toy.
3D Racetrack Educational Construction Kit
Modular Toys
4 +
Add another dimension to your creativity! This innovative toy has kids developing their 3-D perception and planning to create thousands of track layouts. The kit comes with 46 detailed construction pieces , 2 cars , a track extractor , decorative stickers and various accessories. Our testers loved to stack the durable building parts vertically and used them to make bridges , interchanges and other cool road features. Families appreciated the opportunities for trouble-shooting and problem-solving when parts of the track didn’t “work”. Said one testing parent , “We appreciate toys that keep our kids occupied and that encourage creativity and endless possibilities.”
FurReal Friends Cuddles My Giggly Monkey
Hasbro
4 +
Our testers went bananas for this adorable plush monkey that responds to touch and motion with a wide variety of sounds and actions. They were delighted by the ways she would interact with them. For example , swing her by her arms and legs and she’ll make a “whee!” sound. Put the banana bottle in her mouth and she’ll make sucking motions and sounds , then want to be burped like a baby. Rock her to sleep and she’ll close her eyes and start to snore. Toy comes with a banana bottle that can fit in her hand and a removable diaper. Requires 4 C batteries.
Hotel
Playmobil
4 +
Enjoy 5-star luxuries with this detailed hotel playset. Our testers loved the wide variety of pieces that fully furnish multiple rooms (bedrooms , café , toy room , check in and balconies) , the working components (elevator and doors) , and the many guest and staff figures to animate play. Children played independently and with their friends , and all families thoroughly enjoyed this toy. Many other toys and playsets were integrated into play: for example , zoos were set up nearby as vacation destinations. The pieces are sized perfectly for small hands , although some families with 3- and 4-year-olds put aside some of the smallest accessories for kids to grow into.
LeapReader
LeapFrog
4 +
This easy-to-use electronic pencil is designed to help children learn to read and write. The pen provides feedback as kids learn to sound out words , trace letters and numbers , and write words. Our testers loved the clearly delivered vocal feedback , and most of them enjoyed using it to independently practise their early literacy skills. The brightly coloured pen held their interest throughout the testing period , and several wanted their family to buy additional books to use it with (it can be used only with Tag interactive books). Parents liked that it can be charged with a USB cable.
Shelby's Snack Shack Game
Educational Insights
4 +
Little puppy Shelby has buried her bones in the beach , and now she can’t find them. In this engaging game , players use counting and fine motor skills to help Shelby find her bones. Game includes a colourful board/box , a cute Shelby “squeezer” (tweezers) for picking up bones , 40 bones , 4 bowls , and a double spinner. Players spin to see how many bones they will try to collect or steal from another player. Families loved that play teaches counting and early math in an engaging way. (Some tester siblings would collaborate to steal parents’ bones so kids would win.) Playing time for 2–4 players is 10–15 minutes.
Lego City High Speed Chase
Lego Group
5 +
Stop , thief! Kids have everything they need to stage a high-speed chase and stop the burglar from getting away. The 284-piece set comes ready to assemble in separate bags so kids can build objects , such as the police car and motorcycle and burglar’s sports car , one at a time. With easy-to-follow instructions , our testers felt proud that they could assemble the pieces themselves. The also liked all the interesting accessories , like handcuffs , money and a gold bar. The licence plate of the police car has a game code for accessing on-line activities on the Lego website.
Zipfy Freestyle Mini Luge
Great Circle Works
5 +
This innovative luge takes sledding to a new level. The attractive sled has a hard plastic seat with a large handle in the middle. Sliders sit on the seat , straddling the handle , and can steer their luge as they slide over the snow. Sturdy , but light enough for children to carry up the hill , the luge can accommodate anyone from 18 to 113 kg (40–250 lbs)! With practice , testers were able to get their luge to go faster and straighter , and even to make jumps. Testing families found that this toy offers a great way to encourage active play during the winter.
Spot It! Basic English
Blue Orange Games
6 +
You’ll need a quick eye and keen mind. This educational game boosts word recognition and matching skills. Each of the 55 round cards has one matching symbol with any other card: could be word–word , word–picture , or picture–picture. The object of the game is to be the first to find a match. This portable game is great to travel with , and some testing families used it at restaurants while waiting for food to arrive. Pictures have enough detail to engage older kids , but any child with basic reading skills can play. Games for 2–8 players take 10–20 minutes to play (testers report that playing with 2–4 players is best).
Spot It! Basic French
Blue Orange Games
6 +
Formidable! This colourful card game is so much fun to play that kids will forget it’s educational. Each of the 55 round cards has one matching symbol with any other card: could be word–word , word–picture , or picture–picture. The object of the game is to be the first to find a match. As this game comes in a handy , very compact tin , it could be stashed in mom’s purse for fun on the run. Our testers found the words easy to read and the pictures easy to identify. Some Francophone testers found it too easy , but it worked well with those learning French in school. Best played among kids of similar reading abilities , games for 2–8 players take 10–20 minutes to play.
Bigmouth Beaver Project Kit
The Clay Teacher
7 +
This project will keep kids as busy as a beaver! Using the Canadian clay provided and an instructional DVD , kids can create a cute little clay beaver with a big , wide mouth. There is enough material for two beavers , which our testers liked , so the activity can be done with a sibling or friend , or kids can make another one to improve on the first. The easy-to-understand instructions on the English-only DVD teach kids how to work with clay and use humour and little rhymes to keep kids engaged. Some adult help may be required when kids are working with the clay , but testers were proud to be able to do much of the project on their own and thought the end product was “pretty impressive.” Activity requires about 2 hours over the course of about a week (to allow for drying time).
Glitter Boards Butterflies
Djeco
7 – 13 yrs
This beautiful , sparkling craft was a huge hit with our testers. The kit comes with 4 lovely butterfly art boards , 6 glitter tubes in attractive “girlie” colours , a scraper to peel back the paper to reveal the sticky surfaces (no glue needed!) , and a brush to spread around the glitter. Illustrated instructions are easy to follow , and for the most part our testers were able to do this craft on their own. They liked both the process and the end product. Parents liked how everything is self-contained in the box and that the activity builds fine motor skills. Crafts take about 20–30 minutes to complete.
Ma Boîte à Carte
Téo & Zina
7 +
This attractive and engaging craft has everything needed to make pretty pop-up cards. The kit comes with a lovely , sturdy box that contains 20 cards , envelopes , and pop-ups of quality stock , as well as lots of alphabet stickers , die cuts , stamps and other decorative supplies. Our testers thought the pop-ups were impressive and enjoyed the creative process of making their own cards. They liked being able to use the plentiful supplies to do the activity with friends and siblings and were eager to show and give away the cards. Families liked how the craft is challenging enough for older kids to enjoy and helps with fine motor skills while fostering creativity.
Project Runway Tapefetti Fashion Design
Fashion Angels
8 +
Calling all fashionistas! This creative craft allows kids to make and decorate 15 dresses , using 24 rolls of decorative tape (2.74 m each) , stickers and gems. Our testers loved the large variety of dress designs and materials for hours of crafting fun. The final products look great and can fit on most fashion dolls (like Barbie) for display. Instructions are easy to understand , and kids can choose whether to keep things simple or do something more intricate. Our testers proudly showed off their completed outfits.
Roll 'n Bump
Jouets Boom!
8 +
Shake , roll and bump with this engaging game. The object is to roll dice to claim and collect coloured point cards. Different cards are laid out , providing a variety of challenges for players (for example , runs , sets , specific numbers). Players can bump opponents' dice if a higher roll is obtained , and new challenges are revealed as cards are collected. Games are quick to complete , and strategy develops with play , adding to the enjoyment. Children already familiar with dice games may have an easier time mastering play. For those less familiar with dice games or younger testers (8–12 years old) , the game was often played cooperatively , with older players helping younger ones figure out roll options and point calculations.
PicWits
Mindware
9 +
Match pictures to witty captions in this humourous game. The game comes with more than 500 weird and unusual pictures that our testers found quite funny. There are also 144 caption cards. During play , players try to match one of the 8 picture cards in their hands with a caption. The player whose turn it is to be the judge determines who has the best fit and is thus the winner of the round. Testing families liked how play inspired creative thinking. Best played with a big group , games for 4+ players take over 10 minutes to play , depending on the speed of picture selection.
Scheming and Skulking
Grandpa Beck Games
9 +
Aargh! If ye be a schemer , matey , this be yer game. A trick-taking pursuit played with an attractive deck of pirate-themed cards , this game challenges players to bid the exact number of tricks they will take in a round. Bidding is simultaneous and precedes each round , which adds to the challenging dynamics of the game. Our testers enjoyed the pirate theme and strategic play , and there were reports of lots of shared laughter during family game nights. Games for 2–6 players take 30 minutes.
Duple
Everest
10 +
This fast-paced contest of symbol matching and word finding is both enjoyable and educational. Players flip over cards with large letters and clearly drawn symbols. When a symbol match is found , players face off to be the first to call out a word that contains the associated letters in the category shown (food , animals , verbs , nouns , adjectives). “C” is for challenging! Our testers found that the category and wild cards add variety and liked the rule that they did not need to know how to spell the whole word , but simply that certain letters are contained in it. Testing families found that the game is best played with people of similar levels of spelling ability and vocabulary. Games for 3–6 players take about 20 minutes to complete.

Download 2014 Best Bet report