Toy Report 2014 – Toys by category, from 4+

A description of the categories will be coming soon.
 
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Active Play

Chalktrail for Scooters (FA087-1)
Fat Brain Toy Co.
4 +

This green plastic chalk holder is designed to attach to the back of a scooter. As the child scoots around, the makes marks on smooth pavement. While our testers loved the concept and had fun trying it out with their scooters, they were disappointed that the chalk line did not show up very well, and they could not make the multi-coloured lines and shapes shown on the box. They also found that assembly was quite difficult. Only one piece of chalk is included (and regular chalk cannot be used because of the unique size of the holder), and this was used up in 45 minutes. Parents were concerned that their children were looking behind themselves instead of at the road ahead.
Arts & Crafts

★★★
Birthday
Colour-a-Cape Princess (83019)
Creative Education Of Canada
4 +

Decorate your own princess cape with this enticing craft. Kids use 8 bright permanent markers to colour an attractive picture (unicorn, castle, stars, hearts and rainbows) on the back of a pink satin-trimmed cape. Our testers loved colouring the fabric, and several worked on it together because it is so big. Once completed, they used the cape in imaginative play—princesses and super heroes sprang to life. Parent appreciate that the Velcro attachments are easy for most kids to use and that the cape is machine-washable but the colours stay fast.

★★★
Birthday
Colour-a-Crown Pirate (83022)
Creative Education Of Canada
4 +

It’s your kingdom; it’s your crown! Our testers enjoyed colouring this pirate-themed fabric crown and then wearing their creation. The white crown with black outlines of pirate pictures is durable and machine-washable, and it has an easy-to-use Velcro clasp. Families liked how the pictures are an appropriate size for the target age group (and not too detailed), but they noted that they had to help children colour because the fabric is slippery. The crown comes with 4 permanent markers.

★★★
Construct Your Own Robot (9781908862990)
Ryland Peters & Small
4 +

Children can build 15 little cardboard robots with this engaging craft kit. Colourful robot pieces are pre-cut and easy to assemble with a basic number matching format. Testers liked the variety of colours and shapes, as well as the detail on the cardboard pieces. Once the sturdy robots were constructed, the testers enjoyed using them in imaginative play, creating scenarios for plays, cars and construction sites. If a piece fell off, one tester would remark, “Oh no, I’ve lost a leg! Repairs needed. Go to repair station.”

★★★
Birthday
Batteries
Lumi Lite (37300)
Tech 4 Kids
4 +

Create your own 3-D nightlight with this attractive arts and crafts toy. Using a “magic reveal pen”, kids scrape film to reveal colourful aquatic designs that light up when placed on the sides of the glow cube. Put on the 3-D glasses and the scene acquires another dimension. Scratching the film to reveal the picture is rewarding. Our testers enjoyed the interesting combination of craft and nightlight, with an end product that is nice to use and display. A handy storage for glasses and scraping tool is included with the glow cube. Light has two levels of brightness and turns off automatically after 10 minutes. Requires 3 AAA batteries.

★★
Batteries
MagnaColor (37161)
Tech 4 Kids
4 +

Create colourful 3-D pictures with this innovative arts kit. Insert a stencil into the Magna Color Design Station and apply colour with Magic Dot Pens. Put on the 3-D glasses and the image comes alive. To make a new picture, clear the screen with a special swiper. Each kit comes with tracing templates and 160 reusable dots in four colours. Because the dots are quite small and the pens are hypersensitive, our 4-year-old testers needed parental assistance to complete the activity. Requires 4 AA batteries.

★★★
Birthday
Pet Rock Pals
Manhattan Toy
4 +

Our testers rocked out with this cute craft kit for making pet rocks. The kit includes 2 packages of stone clay that dries rock solid; 20 precut felt pieces in shapes like noses, bushy moustaches and floppy ears; 8 colourful pipe cleaners; 4 pairs of googly eyes; and a little container of glue. With lots of materials, our testers were able to make several creative “pets”. Parents liked the nice tin package the craft came in. They also liked how the activity produced minimal mess. Our testers took 20–60 minutes to complete the activity and were generally happy with the results.

★★★
Travel
Birthday
Pop Up Colouring Set (Barbie) (04-5843)
Crayola
4 +

This is the perfect activity for girls who love Barbie. The portable set comes with 8 markers, 46 stickers, 5 stencils, and 20 colouring pages, and 10 blank pages. Our testers enjoyed the pretty illustrations. They also liked how compact the set is and the strong carrying handle on the box. Testers used it as a quiet-time activity, and families also took it along to restaurants and doctors’ offices (it didn’t work as well in the car). Parents liked how this kit engages children in developing their fine motor skills.

★★★
Travel
Birthday
Scribble Down Wild Adventures Transfer Activity Pack (SS003)
Plasmart
4 +

The animals are thirsty! Bring them to the waterhole with this animal transfer activity set. This appealing kit includes a 30 cm x 22 cm (75 inch x 56 inch) sturdy background picture of a waterhole and a sheet of 37 brightly coloured animal transfers. Children use pens, pencils or coins to scribble over the transfer and stick the image to the background. Lightweight, portable and mess-free, this activity can easily be taken on the road. The scribbling process builds fine motor skills. The activity takes about 30 minutes to complete and provided our testers with opportunities to talk about wild animals and make up stories. Some parental assistance may be required for younger children.

★★★
Birthday
Washable Sidewalk Chalk (51-3556)
Crayola
4 +

The canvas—any piece of sidewalk or stretch of driveway. The tools—24 brightly coloured pieces of chalk. The results—creations as unique as each child. Our testers enjoyed these crayon-shaped pieces of sidewalk chalk that are perfectly sized for little hands. The attractive colours were used to make lots of scribbles and doodles that stood out well on the sidewalk and pavement. Parents appreciated how easily the chalk washes off hands and clothes, and they liked how well the chalk promotes creativity.
Construction Toys

★★★ Best Bet
3D Racetrack Educational Construction Kit (112001217)
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.”

★★
Mega Bloks Smurfs – Smurfette's House
Mega Bloks
4 +

Build and furnish Smurfette’s pretty mushroom-shaped home with this cute 47-piece play and construction set. Our testers liked the toy’s pretty colours and wide variety of pieces (table, bed, armchair, ladder, and so on) and the posable Smurfette figure. But while they found the instructions useful, testers were unable to make the house fit properly on the green building plate, copy the configuration shown on the package, or keep the house from falling apart. Some of the accessory pieces (such as the flower, cupcake, and purse) were cute but too small for our 4- and 5-year-olds to manipulate.

★★★ Children's Choice
Robot Invasion (BC-25009)
Bloco Toys Inc.
4 – 10 yrs

Create an army of robots! This building toy has more than 200 foam pieces for kids to create their own sci-fi creatures, either by following instructions or using their imaginations. Our testers delighted in this attractive, made-in-Canada toy and had tons of fun making stand-alone robots. The illustrated instructions are easy to follow, and testers enjoyed using their robots in imaginative play and then taking them apart to build others. Families liked how the toy has enough pieces for multiple children to play together and create up to 5 robots at once. Some testers set up a “robot parts shop” and would trade in body parts for other ones. Said one testing parent, “ I have never seen a toy that had this level of longevity and was so loved by kids from as young as 15 months to 8 years.”
Dolls, Houses, & Accessories

★★
Lalaloopsy Loopy Hair Doll (522065 )
MGA Entertainment
4 +

This attractive Lalaloopsy doll has long hair made out of real yarn that is soft and easy to comb. She comes with 6 colourful hair clips and a wide-tooth comb. Our testers were very attracted to her and her colourful outfit. However, because of her large head, she doesn’t sit up very well and tends to topple over. The clips also tended to come apart easily and fall out of place, so our testers soon lost interest in putting them in her hair. Several testers still enjoyed engaging with the doll in imaginative play.

Lalaloopsy Mix 'N' Match Workshop (522577)
MGA Entertainment
4 +

Assemble your own Lalaloopsy dolls with this attractive kit that comes with everything needed for 2 brightly coloured dolls. Our testers liked the idea of mixing and matching the parts to make unique little dolls, but they found it much too hard to actually put the pieces together. Even if they could get the pieces assembled, the legs and arms would often fall off during play. Testing families agreed that this toy should go back to the workshop for improvements.

★★★
Polly Pocket Tropical Party Yacht (Y6717)
Mattel
4 +

This colourful playset is both a yacht and a vacation island. Closed, the set looks like a boat, but when opened it becomes an island where Polly can play and relax. Our testers enjoyed hours of play with this toy and its many accessories (hammock, grill, slide, fins, etc.). Parents reported that testers never became bored with this toy and played with it extensively alone and with friends. Families also appreciated that the little pieces could be stored in the yacht when not in use.
Educational Toys

★★★ Children's Choice
Mental Blox Critical Thinking Game (LER 9280)
Learning Resources
4 +

Stacks of fun! This colourful game comes with 20 plastic blocks in 4 different shapes, 3 patterns, and 4 gender-neutral colors. The 20 activity cards prompt strategic thinking as players try to re-create an arrangement either by observing the illustration or by listening to verbal instructions. Our testers enjoyed manipulating the pieces and liked that there is more than one way to play with them. Families found that while the suggested methods of play are designed for ages 3+, even 1-year-olds could practise making patterns and stacking. Parents appreciated how the games are flexible enough to allow for increasing skill development.
Games

★★★
Birthday
Cupcake Race (665)
Endless Games Inc.
4 – 6 yrs

This snazzy, colourful board game comes with all the makings for 4 “cupcakes”—including sprinkles, wrappers, frosting and cherries. Players use the spinner arrow to move their party hat pawn pieces around the board to the different stations (mix, bake, frost and top), with the goal of being the first to make it to the party with a completed cupcake. A good introduction to board games, Cupcake Race also builds skills in counting and colour matching. Our testers loved the theme and the well-made, realistic looking cupcakes. Some of them also used game pieces in imaginary play. Games for 2–4 players are easy to play and take about 20 minutes.

★★★
Birthday
Equilibloc (J02012)
Janod
4 +

Steady, steady! Can you pull a block from the tower without knocking everything down? In this colourful game, players first build a tower, then take turns pulling out pieces, trying to be the last person to remove a block without making the tower fall. As an extra twist, this game comes with coloured dice that dictate which colour block you must remove. Our testers young and old enjoyed this challenging game and the well-build colourful blocks. Parents appreciated how this game helps children develop fine motor skills and logic. They also found it is best played with an adult to help set up the tower.

★★★
Birthday
Navy Family (DJ05140)
Djeco
4 – 7 yrs

Sail away on a sea of fun! The cute game has 28 cards: 7 adorably illustrated 4-member animal families (mother, father, sister, brother). Players take turns asking each other for cards or drawing from the pile to try to make a complete family set. The player with the most family sets wins. Our testers found the game instructions easy to understand, and the children developed strategy and memory skills during play. Families also liked the portability of this small game and the shape of the cards, which makes it easy for little hands to hold. Games for 2 or more players take approximately 10 minutes.

★★★
Birthday
Parrot Pile Up (Y2551)
Mattel
4 +

Pile up the fun with this cute and colourful balance game. Game comes with a sturdy raft, a comical parrot, 20 stacking pieces in appealing variety (such as pineapples and crates), and 4 cards. Players carefully stack their items and push the raft to the next player without making the stack fall, trying to be the first to get rid of all their cargo. Kids enjoy the cute, detailed pieces and the challenge of stacking things on the raft. Difficulty can be moderated by tilting or leveling the raft, so multiple skill levels can be accommodated or games can be made more challenging. Play helps develop fine motor and problem solving skills. Games for 2-4 players take approximately 10 minutes to play.

★★★ Best Bet
Birthday
Shelby's Snack Shack Game (EI-3408)
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.

★★★
Birthday
The Great Cheese Chase (GMC4)
Peaceable Kingdom
4 – 5 yrs

Cheese please! Work together to get little mice up into the attic for a cheese party before the cat catches them. This feel-good, cooperative board game comes with 3 mice, a cat, 4 catnip tokens, and a spinner. Our testers liked the whimsical playing pieces and attractive game board. Our testing families liked how play fosters team building and early strategy development. Since the game does not require reading, it worked well with pre-literate kids, although it works best with at least 1 adult involved. Families also appreciated the quick set-up and play times. Games are for 2–6 players and take around 10 minutes.

★★★
Birthday
Zoopanic (660)
Endless Games Inc.
4 +

It’s chaos at the zoo! Cages were left open overnight, and animals have gone into the wrong places. Players must find the animals and bring them back to their own cages, competing against each other to bring home the most and secure the win. Game includes a game board, 4 zookeeper pawns, 22 animal cards, 2 car pawns, 22 trophy cards, a die and instructions. No reading is required. This simple concept, attractive game appealed to testers in multiple age groups. Games for 2–4 players can take up to an hour.
Imaginative Play

★★★
Birthday
Batman Power Attack (Blade Attack) (Asst.W7256)
Mattel
4 +

Batman is ready for action. This plastic Batman figurine comes with a handheld weapon and a cardboard “bad guy” figure. Twist Batman’s torso and his arms will punch and swing the blade to knock down his opponent. Testers who enjoy action heroes liked engaging in imaginative play with the figure, and they found it easy to clip the weapon into its hands. They also liked the figure’s ability to stand on its own. Parents appreciate the durability of the toy and the fact that it doesn’t have any small parts to lose.

★★
Cars Dinoco Stunt Set (Y1329)
Mattel
4 +

Fans of the Disney–Pixar Cars movies will enjoy this large-scale track and stunt set. Our testers were attracted to this playset, its bright colours, and its familiar theme. The crank-up launcher can send cars racing around the track and into the stunt area, although many of our testers needed adult assistance to make this work. Testers were disappointed that they could not reproduce the tricks advertised on the box, although some were quite happy with the tricks they managed to do. Parents reported difficulty with the assembly process, but they appreciated an action toy that doesn’t require batteries.

Cars Micro Drifters TV Track Set (Y0994)
Mattel
4 +

Lightning McQueen wants to race! With this adjustable gravity-propelled track set, children can create seven track layouts on which to race micro cars—no batteries required. Up to nine cars can be raced on the track at once, although the set only comes with one, so others must be purchased separately. Our testers were attracted to the Cars theme, but their expectations, as well as the track set up, quickly fell apart. The tracks were flimsy, and cars would easily get stuck at corners or roadblocks. Testers were given three additional cars to test on this track and noted that if they hadn’t had these, racing one car alone would have been quite dull.

★★★
Batteries
Children's Club with Disco (5266)
Playmobil
4 +

This 57-piece Playmobil set allows kids to create their own disco dance party. Set includes a dance stage with disco ball that actually lights up, as well as 3 figurines, palm tree, game pieces, hula hoops and plenty of other interesting pieces. Children can play recorded music or connect the toy to an MP3 player to play their own tunes. Our testers enjoyed the lights and music and liked making the little figurines dance. Testing families spent 15–20 minutes in assembly and appreciated the easy-to-follow instructions. Requires 2 AA batteries.

★★★ Best Bet
Hotel (5265)
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.

★★★
Birthday
Hotel Shop (5268)
Playmobil
4 +

Don’t forget to bring back a souvenir! This 51-piece Playmobil hotel shop has everything a vacationer might need to purchase, from postcards to sunscreen, seashells to snorkelling gear. Set includes a salesperson figure, cash register and coins, and lots of attractive items for sale. Our testers liked how realistic the pieces looked and enjoyed pretending to run their own little store. This toy is good for developing fine motor skills, since the items are small and arranging them on the store shelves requires a delicate touch.

★★
Matchbox Dino Break Out Playset (Y9256)
Mattel
4 – 7 yrs

There is a dinosaur on the loose! He’s stomping on streets and chomping on cars. With this colourful playset, children release a car-devouring dinosaur and then use ramps and activation points to try to conquer the beast. Our testers liked the compact size of this toy, making it easy to carry, but they lost interest in playing with it because the car would often get stuck inside the dinosaur and the mechanisms did not always work as expected. However, the toy did have more appeal to our boy testers than to the girls. Testers liked that it can be used with other Hot Wheels cars.

★★
Batteries
Max Steel Power Orb (Max Steel) (BCK35 (Y9508))
Mattel
4 +

Take on the universe! This durable action hero figure comes with a “power orb” that can be wound up and released. Our testers enjoyed using this toy in imaginative play, especially with other action figures. They liked how the toy lights up and looks just like the muscular character in the TV show. However, testers found that it was hard to keep the orb in Max’s hands and also to move his arms backwards to launch it. One testing family noted that “this toy can take a beating and still look good.” Requires 3 AG13 button cell batteries.

★★★
Birthday
Batteries
Max Steel Rip Launch (Max Steel) (BCH12 (Y9507))
Mattel
4 +

Create your own Max Steel adventures with this 6-inch play figure. He comes with a backpack launcher, rip cord and three flying “wheel blade” disks. The wheel blades shoot up and travel about 8 feet before hitting the ground and spinning. The backpack also has light effects that our testers really enjoyed. They also liked the figure’s his ability to stand on its own and its resemblance to the character on the Max Steel TV show. Figure and launcher can be played with separately; for example, some testers liked to set up targets to hit with the spinning disks.

★★★
Batteries
Max Steel Sword (Y1409)
Mattel
4 +

Unlock your inner superhero with this role-play sword. Based on the TV series Max Steel, this toy has phrases, lights and sound effects that appeal to kids who like action-packed adventures. Kids can attach the Steel piece to their t-shirt, attach it to the sword, or play with each piece separately. Testers liked it that the sword is durable but light enough to be easily manoeuvred. Parents may need to help attach Steel to the sword and may wish for volume control. Requires 3 AAA batteries.

★★
Polly Pocket Wall Party Mall on the Wall
Mattel
4 +

This colourful playset can attach to the wall, creating an interesting way for kids to engage with little Polly Pocket. The mall includes a boutique, a turning Ferris wheel, a food court, an elevator, an escalator, and an electronics store, as well as a doll and some accessories (and command strips for attaching to the wall). Our testers had fun playing with this attractive set and enjoyed the many activities it offered. Families like how it doesn’t take up much space and can be moved and re-attached. Although some of the moving parts did not always operate smoothly (for example, the elevator was choppy), this toy really held the attention of many testers and several of their younger siblings.

★★★
Birthday
Porter with Baggage Cart (5270)
Playmobil
4 +

This cute little baggage porter is ready to be of service. The colourful Playmobil figure comes with 3 suitcases, a purse, and a luggage trolley that rolls nicely on flat surfaces. Our testers played with this toy while also playing with the Playmobil Hotel and thought it was a great accessory for that playset. They also incorporated it into play with other toys. “Perfect for little hands and fine motor skills”, commented one testing family.

★★
Batteries
Power Rangers Deluxe Battle Gear (35046)
Bandai America Inc.
4 +

Become a mighty Power Ranger with these sturdy weapons that can be used individually or in combination. When two battle gear sets are put together, you unleash the ultimate Ranger weapon—the Megaforce Blaster. Battle sets come with cards that unlock phrases and sound effects of the Deluxe Morpher. Testers enjoyed combining toys and liked the gear’s cool sounds, but some kids were unable to pull the trigger on the heavy toy and did not appreciate the toy’s violent theme. Requires 2 LR44 batteries.

★★★
Power Rangers Deluxe Megazord (Gosei Great Megazord) (35095)
Bandai America Inc.
4 +

Be part of the Power Rangers Universe! This brightly coloured action figure is made of five separate Zords (animals) that can be combined into one large robot. Zord heads are removable and interchangeable, and this toy can also be combined with others in the Zordbuilder collection. Assembly is intuitive and easy for children. Our testers discussed what they were creating with each other and used the Zords in interactive, imaginative play. Their parents liked how the toy stimulates imaginative play and also works well for shared play.

★★★
Birthday
Power Rangers Training Gear Set (Red Ranger Training Set) (35050)
Bandai America Inc.
4 +

It’s all the gear you need to become a Power Ranger. This attractive, easy-to-wear roleplay set includes a good-quality plastic ranger mask, a “morpher”, a belt buckle, a plastic blaster that shoots missiles, and a card holder with action cards that can be read with an iPhone or iPad. Our testers played imaginatively with this set and liked how the set looks like the gear seen on the Power Rangers TV show. They especially enjoyed putting on the mask, which immediately inspired role playing.

★★★
Birthday
Batteries
Switch & Go Dinos Sliver the T-Rex (80122100)
Vtech
4 +

This is one fierce dinosaur! Part of the VTech Switch & Go Dinos crew, this green toy transforms from race car to dinosaur. Our testers liked the little customizable LCD screen that comes to life as either a driver or dinosaur eyes. The toy also comes with over 50 phrases and sounds, many of which respond to movement (such as the wheels turning). While some testers were a bit intimidated by the aggressive voice (“Cower in fear!” “Eat my dust!”), others thought this feature was pretty cool. Testers also liked how easy it was to transform the toy and found it to be highly portable. Requires 2 AAA batteries.

★★
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Secret Sewer Lair (20055124)
Spin Master
4 +

Cowabunga! This detailed 3-level playset stands more than a metre high and has lots of cool features, like trap doors, a zip line, and a tire swing. Our testers appreciated all the details and created imaginative scenarios while playing with it. Its size meant that it took up quite a bit of space in testing homes, but it also meant that it could be played with by more than one child at a time. Testers wished that it came with Ninja Turtles and that the set would stay together better. Parents found assembly very time consuming and noted that the zip line is a strangulation hazard.

★★
Toydozer (02-02)
MarchFive
4 +

Toy pieces are scattered all over the floor. But not to worry, the Toydozer makes it easy to scoop them up and tidy them away. This brightly coloured plastic toy (solid red or blue) comes with a dustpan-like main piece and a sweeper that can be attached inside with Velcro for easy storage. It is efficient at cleaning up little plastic toy pieces and is easy to hold and use. Parents loved that it encouraged kids to clean up. But our testers were wise to the fact that it’s more of a cleaning tool than a toy, even though one family thought up games to play with it. Testers found that it was not very effective on cars, trains or Barbie clothes.
Interactive Electronics

★★★ Best Bet
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.

★★★
Travel
LeapPad Ultra (33200)
LeapFrog
4 +

Our testers couldn’t wait to get their hands on this personal tablet. The sturdy, portable toy is a Wi-Fi enabled touchscreen device that comes loaded with applications. Our testers found it very intuitive to operate, and they enjoyed the included educational and entertaining applications. The touchscreen was responsive to fingers and to the included stylus. The toy can withstand being dropped on the floor, and our testing families certified it as completely kid friendly. Parents also liked how they could set up individual accounts for each of their children, tailored to the child’s age and grade level. Additional applications are available for purchase.

★★★ Best Bet
Travel
LeapReader (21301)
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.
Wheel Toys

★★★
Birthday
Doodle-Track Car
Daydream Toy LLC
4 +

Create your own racetrack with this innovative toy. Use the marker to draw a track on a large piece of paper. Place the car on the track and it will follow the line. This elicited squeals of delight from our young testers. There is a creative process of discovery as kids learn how sharply they can draw the turns. One tester enjoyed drawing figure-8 patterns to test the car’s abilities. An additional web feature allows kids to print off colourful racetracks. Requires 2 AA batteries.

★★★
Hot Wheels Dragon Destroyer Track Set (X9300)
Mattel
4 +

Can you escape the fire-breathing dragon? This circular Hot Wheels track set challenges kids to navigate around a car-chomping red dragon and through a “ring of fire”. Kids enjoy facing off with the dragon and even having a car eaten is not so bad when you get to rescue it afterward by shooting another car from the launcher. Set includes a vehicle, launcher, lift, dragon and tracks that can be incorporated with other Hot Wheels sets. The dragon and truck launcher can be removed from the set and played with separately. Parental assistance may be required to set up the track and position the dragon.

★★★
Hot Wheels Monster Jam Mighty Minis Showdown Stadium (Y6749)
Mattel
4 +

These detailed, colourful little monster trucks come with a set of ramps and tracks for mighty thrills and spills. Our testers liked to configure the tracks however they wanted and loved making the vehicles crash and perform stunts. “The cars move really fast and do lots of cool tricks”, said one 9-year-old. Testers found the well-made tracks easy to assemble, although not quite as portable as the packaging claims, and they noted that significant space was needed for play. Parents appreciated that this turnkey action toy requires no batteries.

★★★
Hot Wheels Monster Jam Triple Blast Arena (X9105)
Mattel
4 +

Get ready to crash, jump and race in this action-packed Hot Wheels arena. The playset includes an exploding tanker truck, 3 crushed cars, and a die-cast truck. Kids explore properties of physics as they figure out the best angles for effective crashes. Kids can also incorporate this toy with other Hot Wheels vehicles. Our testers found the pieces easy for little hands to use. During the testing period, the front axles on 2 of the 5 models bent, making the truck a bit wobbly, but play value was not affected. This is an action toy that doesn’t require batteries, which parents appreciated.

★★
Hot Wheels Wall Tracks Auto Motion Speedway Playset (X9320)
Mattel
4 +

You’re off to the races with this wall-mounted racing track. This entertaining speedway has a wheel that sends cars spinning down to a bridge and a jump. It also offers other high-speed track action. Kit includes a wall-mounted poster and 3M command strips to attach the sturdy plastic tracks to the wall , although our testers needed more strips to keep the tracks in place. Our testers did enjoy sending cars through the colourful track, but they would get frustrated when the car got stuck or the tracks fell apart. Set also includes a Hot Wheels die-cast car.

★★★
Batteries
Tagamoto Enforcer Road Set (640-2420)
Innovation First International
4 +

Budding engineers and car enthusiasts will enjoy this unique road set that allows kids to program car actions. Set includes 2 little cars (police and racer), over 65 easy-to-connect road pieces (tracks, intersections, sights, cones, etc.), and more than 30 bar-codes to which the cars respond with lights, sounds and movements. Kids control where the cars go and how they interact with the road—stopping at intersections, drag racing, activating sirens, and so on. Testers enjoyed setting up different configurations and coding the road. Set comes with 2 AG13/LR44 button cell batteries, but testing families found that battery power was consumed quickly.

★★★
Birthday
Toy Story Zing Ems Rocket Rumble Playset (X9505)
Mattel
4 +

Take Buzz Lightyear on a rolling adventure with this colourful set that includes a Zing’Em launcher with three tracks, an “asteroid field”, and a Buzz Lightyear Zing’Em. You can roll Buzz around the set or crash into obstacles or other Zing’Em figures (sold separately). Lightweight and portable, this toy is easy to set up and play with. Testers found that the launcher works well and the figure rolls smoothly, although the toy doesn’t perform all functions with only one Zing’Em.