Toy Report 2014 – Toys by category, from 5+

A description of the categories will be coming soon.
 
Download report as PDF.
 

Active Play

★★★
8' Single Jump Rope (Green Rainbow)
Just Jump It Toys
5 +

Skipping rope never goes out of style. This bright green, 2.4 m (8 foot) jump rope is made of quality materials and has a nice, sturdy weight for a more even, consistent skip. The rope is knotted at either end instead of having handles. The simplicity of design encouraged imaginative play, and testers not only used the rope for skipping, but also turned it into a pulley, a tug for ride-on toys, and a leash for stuffed animals. Testers also tied the rope to others so that children could skip together, and they used it in games of tug-of-war.

★★
Giant Outdoor Coloured Bubbles (55-3841)
Crayola
5 +

Blow big beautiful bubbles with this engaging outdoor activity. With a tall bottle of purple bubble liquid and a tall oval wand kids can make large purple bubbles. While our testers were excited to use this toy and had fun with the colourful bubbles, they quickly had purple hands and couldn’t get the wand far enough into the container to reach all the liquid. Families also had to be careful where and when this toy was brought out, as they found it could stain clothing and some surfaces.
Arts & Crafts

★★
Barbie Fashion Design (X7892)
Mattel
5 +

Get ready, little fashion designers. Here is your chance to design and decorate dresses for Barbie. This attractive kit includes a Barbie doll, 6 double-sided fashion plates, 3 dresses, 4 markers, 3 sheets of charcoal paper for design transfers, a sticker sheet, tool and base. Our testers liked how well made the provided materials are and how well everything worked, although the charcoal smudged a little. Patterns fit nicely together, and the fabric can be washed and reused. The pink and purple colour theme was also widely appealing. Parents appreciated how this quiet activity encourages creativity.

★★★
Birthday
Forest Friends (3201205)
Orb Factory
5 +

Create a whimsical forest scene with this cute mosaic craft. Kids enjoy decorating the five animal and plant designs with a variety of sticky foam pieces, fuzzy tiles and jewels. Numbered spaces on each picture show kids which piece to use, although some colour matching may difficult because of similar tones. This toy is good for practising fine motor skills. Our testers enjoyed the final product and were proud to display it on the provided stand. Parents appreciated this quiet craft that children can do independently or with friends. The craft can take an hour to complete, so several children may work on it in multiple sessions.

★★★
Birthday
John Deere Tractor Wood Painting Kit (21009)
Masterpieces Puzzle Co.
5 +

Paint your own John Deere tractor! Kit includes a hand-crafted wooden tractor, six paints in classic John Deere colours, two quality acrylic brushes, and realistic sticker decals. It is best for children with good manual dexterity and fine motor skills. Our testers took approximately 20 minutes to complete this craft, and some required parental assistance for the tricky small areas. With its solid construction and rolling wheels, the tractor can also be used as a toy or placed on display.

★★
My Town – A Little World for You to Build (978-1-926973-78-4)
Owlkids Books
5 +

This attractive, imaginative craft kit is a book filled with perforated buildings and animals that can be punched out, decorated and arranged. There is plenty of variety, with 17 colourful paper buildings (house, grocer, florist, etc.), each with several pieces to be assembled, as well as additional small animals. At the back of the book is fold-out map on which kids can arrange their “town”. Although glue (not included) is recommended for building, some testers had better results with tape. Testers that were old enough to have the manual dexterity for this craft were not necessarily interested in playing with it once assembled, while those interested in this type of imaginative play were too young to build the houses.

★★★
Birthday
Batteries
See Thru Light Designer (04-4088)
Crayola
5 +

Light up your world! With this innovative drawing toy, kids create illuminated, transparent pictures on a screen. The toy comes with a lightweight but sturdy plastic frame that can hold 2 removable templates; it also has build-in storage for the 4 markers. Once the child has coloured the front and back screens above the templates, the templates are removed. The drawings that are left on the screens can be easily lit up by pressing buttons on the frame. Our testers thought this toy was really interesting and enjoyed drawing, illuminating and animating their pictures. Pictures can be created without the templates, too. Families appreciated how easy this toy was to use and like how it encouraged independent, creative play. Requires 3 AA batteries.

★★★
Birthday
Sticky Mosaics Enchanted Forest (67205)
Orb Factory
5 +

Step into a magical forest with this sparkly mosaic craft. Kids enjoy decorating the four fanciful designs with more than 2300 brightly coloured jewels and tiles. Cardboard pictures are strong and durable, and the kit also includes plastic hangers and stands for displaying the finished product. Pictures can be completed individually or by a team, and our testers were proud of the end product. Instructions are easy to follow, and most testers completed the craft independently. Parents appreciate that this quiet, easily portable craft doesn’t take too long to complete.

★★★
Birthday
Sticky Mosaics Fairy Forest Jewelry Box (67175)
Orb Factory
5 – 9 yrs

Create your own sparkling jewellery box! Our testers enjoyed creating pretty little boxes from this kit that has over 575 sparkling jewel stickers and sticky tiles. Instructions are easy to follow, and most of our testers were able to complete the craft independently by matching colours and numbers. Younger children may need some help removing stickers and identifying the colour and number matches. This is a quiet, craft that doesn’t take too long to complete, which our testing parents appreciated.
Construction Toys

★★★
Batteries
Laser Pegs 8-in-1 Land (9000)
Laser Pegs Ventures
5 +

This creative building toy really lights up kids’ imaginations! Using clear building blocks (including wheels and parts with twistable connections), a triangular power base, and 10 laser pegs, children create models that light up. Kit comes with an instruction manual, and more directions are available on-line, but many of our testers enjoyed building their own freeform creations. Even testers who don’t normally enjoy building toys were enticed by this innovative activity, and everyone liked how the models look cool in the dark.

★★★ Best Bet
Lego City High Speed Chase (60007)
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.

★★★
Mega Bloks Smurfs – Smurfs Beach
Mega Bloks
5 +

Smurf and Smurfette are having fun at the beach. This construction playset includes everything our little blue friends need for their beach vacation, such as a patio table, lounge chair, leaf hammock, surfboard, slide and other cute and colourful accessories. The set also includes a blue “water” building plate, a “sand” building plate, and a mushroom house with opening hinges. The Smurf theme was a big hit with our testers, and they liked the realistic and attractive accessories. While some younger testers needed help with assembly, all could easily engage with this toy in imaginative play.
Dolls, Houses, & Accessories

★★★
Birthday
Barbie I Can Be… Career of the Year Doll (Mars Explorer) (X9073)
Mattel
5 +

Zoom, zoom, zoom! We’re going to the moon! Get ready for a trip into outer space with astronaut Barbie. The doll comes in a pink and white jumpsuit and has a removable space helmet, air tank, and moon boots. Our testers liked the doll’s attractive outfit, which was easy to get on and off, although the helmet gave some young testers a bit of trouble. They also enjoyed the interesting space facts provided on the back of the box and created imaginative scenarios about space travel and discovery. Testers easily incorporated astronaut Barbie into play with other dolls.
Games

★★★
Birthday
Angry Birds in Space 2 (Y2556)
Mattel
5 +

You’ve played the video game; now see how well you stack up in the “real world”. In this game, players use well-designed plastic girders, cubes, pigs, birds and a catapult to construct scenarios from the popular video game Angry Birds. Space Mission cards tell players what structure to build as well, as the number and of type of birds to use to knock down structures and pigs. It’s easy to build the structures, but like in the video game, mastering the catapult takes some practice and finesse, so testers with fine motor skills had advantages in play. Testers enjoyed the birds’ expressions and how closely the game pieces resemble the video game. Some testing families used house rules for younger players. Games for 2–4 players take about 30 minutes to complete.

★★★
Birthday
Buzz! (GM110)
Peaceable Kingdom
5 +

In this attractive board game, players follow the path and collect nectar drops, trying to beat the bear back to the hive. Testers of a variety of ages enjoyed the theme and the cooperative nature of play—everyone wins or loses together. Older testers would help younger kids with strategy, and even three and four-year-olds could play with some assistance. One tester particularly liked the anxious excitement of seeing the bear creep closer. Games for 2–4 players take about 15 minutes to complete.

★★
Deer in the Headlights (53720)
Front Porch Classics
5 +

You look as stunned as a deer in the headlights! In this fast-paced game, players have to watch out for “cars” that will freeze them in their tracks. Our testers found the card and dice game easy to learn and to play. Families noted that while it is simple enough for kids to understand and play (and the rules might need to be consulted), adults can still enjoy it too. However, they found that without house rules, games for 2 players were very long (up to 1 hour) and it was much more enjoyable when played with 4 or more players.

★★
Don't Rock the Boat (6949)
Patch
5 +

Penguins, ahoy! This game comes with a brown plastic ship and 16 pirate penguins that must be carefully balanced on board their wobbly craft. Who can carefully place the most penguins without letting any of them fall? Our testers thought the penguins were “super cute”, and the game held immediate appeal. Parents liked how play encouraged strategic thinking and fine motor skills. However, enthusiasm wavered because the boat wobbled so much that play was often frustrating. Some testers preferred to simply use the penguins separately for imaginative play.

★★★
Birthday
Go Piggy Go! Game
Mattel
5 +

This little piggy went to… the food! In this cute and colourful game, players race their 3 little pigs to the fresh food, moving them with the roll of a die. But more than that, they can catch piggyback rides on an opponent’s pig if they land on the same square, and they can also fire hay bales from the wolf’s tractor at other pigs, sending the pigs they hit back to one of two mud pits. Our testers liked playing this quick, entertaining game, and it worked especially well among players of similar strategic skill abilities. Children as young as 4 can also play, but they will need help with things like shooting the bales of hay. Games for 2–4 players take 15–20 minutes.

★★
Batteries
Maze Racer (MM4212D)
Tradeopia Inc.
5 +

This handheld, portable game challenges children to move a little ball through a colourful 3-D maze. The steering wheel design helps players twist and turn to the finish line. A battery-powered timer records how fast you complete the maze and keeps track of your best score, allowing you to compete against yourself or others. The game takes about 5–10 minutes, depending on the ability of the player. Our testers found it difficult to position ball at the starting point, and parents would have appreciated volume control for the electronic music.

★★★
NHL Fastrack (HX1205)
CSE Games
5 +

He shoots! He scores! This tabletop wooden hockey game scored points with our testers for looking like a real rink and for having lots of little NHL logo pucks to fire onto the opponents’ side with an elastic cord. The pucks slide well on a glossy surface that looks like real ice. But our testers handed out penalties for unclear instructions and games that took too long to play (about half an hour).
Imaginative Play

★★
Kawaii Crush Hyper Happy Mall (20057957)
Spin Master
5 +

This colourful plastic playset is a shopping centre with various stores, such as a pet shop. The set comes with 40 pieces, including a doll and 3 animals. Our testers liked the variety of locations, created imaginative shopping scenarios, and integrated other small toys into their play. But while they found this set attractive and nicely detailed, the many small pieces were hard to manipulate and very easy to lose. Testers also wished that the doll could stand independently and that she was interested in more than just shopping.

★★★
Birthday
Batteries
Mega Bloks Skylanders Giants Ignitor Flame Sword (95491U)
Mega Bloks
5 +

Become your favourite Skylander hero with this role-playing sword. Our testers found the fiery orange sword (made of plastic and foam) to be lightweight, safe and easy to use. The motion-activated noises it makes were also a big hit. Those familiar with Skylanders immediately recognized the sword and found the theme appealing. Requires 2 AAA batteries.
Interactive Electronics


Batteries
Flutterbye Flying Fairy (20060245)
Spin Master
5 +

This fairy can really fly! Our testers were initially wowed by this pretty, delicate fairy whose fluttering wings allow her to actually float in the air. She is designed to be controlled by hand position, although our testers discovered that she had a mind of her own and preferred to take her own route. But she would often crash into things or get stuck on the ceiling, and she would fall apart after hard landings. Testers also did not like her loud whining sound and thought she took too long to charge (30 minutes for about 5 flights). Her spinning skirt also stung children’s fingers. Requires 6 AA batteries.

★★
Zoomer (20059779)
Spin Master
5 +

This adorable robot puppy can learn tricks just like a real dog. Our testers immediately fell for this puppy and loved his realistic behaviours (barking, whining, sniffing, and even peeing!). They were excited to show this toy to their friends and were very impressed with his multilingualism (English, French, Spanish). But they were also frustrated when Zoomer did not understand them and found it difficult to train him to do more complex commands. Two of the six tested toys had one leg stop working, which affected function. One family did not appreciate it that children are taught to tap Zoomer on the head to get his attention. Requires a 3.7 V LiPo battery (included) that can be charged with the included USB cable. It needs charging (for 1 hour) after 20–30 minutes of play.
Wheel Toys


Batteries
Ballistiks Rapid Fire (Y0070)
Mattel
5 +

Blast Balistick vehicles into targets with this cool looking plastic car blaster. The toy is easy to assemble, and cars travel smoothly through the loader and barrel. Kids enjoy using the LED tracker to help aim at their targets. But our testers reported that cars did not open on impact, and the side loader kept coming off. They also found it awkward to pull the trigger. Requires 2 AA batteries.

★★★
Hot Wheels Ballistiks Full Force Battle Wagon
Mattel
5 +

This transformer changes from a ball into a wagon that carries and launches up to 5 Ballistiks cars. Kids hit the centre launcher to shoot out a Ballistik, and the vehicle will also automatically fire if it’s hit on the side. Our testers thought this colourful toy had a cool design and liked how it could roll up into a compact, easily portable ball. They also liked how well the wheels roll and enjoyed trying to activate explosion points with bouncy balls. This action toy doesn’t require batteries, which parents appreciated. The toy comes with 1 car; others are sold separately

★★★
Batteries
Hot Wheels Spin Shotz Super Boost Spinway (Y0569)
Mattel
5 +

We’re off to the races! With this colourful toy, kids can send disks spinning around the track. Our testers liked that the disks’ magnets allow them to be stacked, the speed can be varied, and the racing direction can be changed. Families also appreciated the easy track assembly, but they reported that it needs to be located somewhere safe, as spinners will go flying off the track (which is part of the appeal). Families noted, too, that the track comes with only 1 spinner and that the toy is much more fun with 2 or more spinners to race against and crash into. Requires 3 C batteries.

★★★
Batteries
Hot Wheels Triple Track Twister (X2874)
Mattel
5 +

We’re off to the races! This action-packed, brightly coloured toy includes 3 power-boosted racetracks, 2 controllers, and a crash zone. Our testers enjoyed watching cars go zooming around the tracks, and sometimes go flying off. Great for solo play or for shared entertainment, this toy sustained our testers’ interest and kept them coming back. Testers also loved the booster that made the cars go “super fast”, and they liked being able to control which track a car used. Kids have the option of attaching their own iPad for an added background setting. Requires 4 D batteries.

★★★
Hot Wheels Wall Tracks Roto Motion (X9321)
Mattel
5 +

Roll out the fun! This colourful, wall-mounted track has motorized arms that will move Hot Wheels vehicles from the bottom to the top, creating a continuous loop of action. Our testers were immediately attracted to this toy and were keen on setting it up and playing with it. They liked the 2 options for manoeuvring the vehicles and enjoyed watching the cars race along. Families appreciated the easy-to-follow assembly instructions and flexible, quality pieces, and they noted that quite a large dedicated wall space is required. Requires 2 D batteries.
Winter Play

★★★
Birthday
Sno Sculptures Tool Kit (OC8328)
Ideal
5 +

This outdoor winter building kit includes two lightweight but durable, brightly coloured moulds, a shaping tool, a squirt sno-crayon, and a colour packet for painting snow. A great toy for encouraging outdoor play in the winter, it comes with weather-proof instructions that show kids how to build robots, dinosaurs and castles, although most of our testers preferred to build freestyle. Our testers loved the circular mould, which is great for making heads and feet (when halved). They had a blast teaming up with friends and family to make imaginative designs in the snow.

★★★ Best Bet
Zipfy Freestyle Mini Luge (ZIPFY-001-RED)
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.