Toy Report 2014 – Toys by category, from 6+

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

Active Play

★★★
Ogo Sport RAQ (RQ001)
OgoSport LLC
6 +

These innovative handheld trampolines take games like catch to a whole new level! Players can throw and catch these trampolines like disks or use the included flux ball to toss back and forth. Our testers enjoyed using the colourful, durable disks in solo or group play and tried tossing other objects like water balloons, which work really well. Families liked how lightweight and easy to hold the trampolines were, although the handle was a bit thick for some young testers’ small hands. Parents also liked how the flux ball can be customized to control speed. “I love it because it can be used for a lot of different outdoor activities!” said one.

★★★
Birthday
RingStix Lite (RX-1003)
System-Enterprises LLC
6 +

RingStix is an innovative variation of the most common game from everyone’s childhood—catch. The plastic Stix are shaped liked inverted swords, and players use them to propel and catch the plastic ring. Our testers loved the bright Stix and enjoyed hours of fun playing with them. While some younger testers had trouble learning how to use the Stix, older testers and even adults quickly got the hang of it and could toss rings almost 30 metres. Parents liked how play improves hand–eye coordination and gets everyone outside and active.

★★★
Spooner Boards: Pro (28") (PR28)
Spooner Inc.
6 +

This “board trainer” simulates board sports such as skateboarding, snowboarding and surfing, allowing kids to develop skills like balance, core strength and coordination. The colourful, curved board is strong and very durable and has a gripping surface for feet—like a skateboard without wheels. It can be used outdoors or indoors on smooth surfaces like laminate, but our testers found it best to avoid snow. The Spooner Boards website has lots of ideas for tricks and board uses. A great toy for kids interested in skateboarding and snowboarding, the Spooner Board Pro is designed for kids over 122 cm (4 feet) tall.

★★★
Birthday
Wave Runner Beach Ball (WR125B)
Flash Sales
6 +

This soft, squishy ball floats, bounces and skips on water. Our testers enjoyed using it for a variety of beach games (like Monkey in the Middle) or just for tossing around. With its great size for small hands, this ball was even enjoyed by a 2-year-old tester, who would toss it into his pail of water. Testers liked that it never got waterlogged, and even though it faded over time, it remained durable. Designed for use on water only, the toy was described by one testing family as “the best water ball we ever had.”
Arts & Crafts

★★
DIY Lava Lip Gloss Craft Making Kit
Kiss Naturals
6 +

A lip-smacking good time! This easy-to-use craft kit allows kids to make their own all-natural lip gloss. The kit includes a bottle of safflower oil, a bottle of castor oil, 4 bottles of coloured glycerines, 2 bottles of essential oils, and 8 empty roll-on containers. Our testers thought this was a really interesting project, liked the choices of colours and mild scents, and were happy with the lip gloss they made. It was a great activity to do alone or with a friend, and it worked well at a party, too.

★★★
Birthday
Imagine I Can Crafty Eraser Creations (149750)
Manhattan Toy
6 +

Create your own unique erasers with this attractive craft kit. The kit comes with 12 brightly coloured squares of eraser clay, 2 plastic moulding tools, and a tray of 12 moulds. Kids knead the clay and then shape it in the moulds or by hand. Once shaped, pieces must be boiled or microwaved to set; then they’re ready for use. Although it is tricky to remove the clay from the moulds, plenty of materials are provided for lots of colourful creations. Our testers enjoyed crafting the erasers and liked that they actually work. Parents said that the craft encourages creativity and fine motor control, and they appreciated that everything stores nicely in a handy tin.

★★★
Birthday
Imagine I Can Creative Color Sticker Clings (Boy) (150270)
Manhattan Toy
6 +

Decorate your windows with this easy-to-complete craft project. The kit comes with 8 boy-themed templates for stickers that will cling to windows and other smooth surfaces, 5 coloured glue sticks, and black outlining paint, plus a (too) small plastic working mat. Our testers liked the variety of designs, the many supplies, and the reusable templates, as well as the box to hold everything. Parents appreciated that the craft helps develop fine motor skills and patience, since children must wait for the outlines to dry before they can colour in the designs. Our testers were proud to display their completed crafts on windows and mirrors.

★★★
Birthday
Imagine I Can Creative Color Sticker Clings (Girl)
Manhattan Toy
6 +

Decorate your windows with this easy-to-complete craft project. Kit comes with 8 cute designs that will cling to windows and other smooth surfaces, as well as 5 coloured glue sticks and gold outlining glue, plus a bag of glittery confetti. Our testers liked the variety of designs and the nice quantity of materials. Parents appreciated how the craft helps develop fine motor skills and patience, since children must wait for the outlines to dry before they can colour in the designs. Our testing families also noted that while the recommended age is 6+, children as young as 4 could successfully complete this craft with some parental assistance.

La Décoratrice (DC00)
Toga Paris
6 +

This lightweight machine is designed to cut or emboss paper using die cuts and plates. Sandwich a piece of paper between two plastic plates and run it through the machine by turning the handle. The paper should come out cut or embossed and ready to use in craft projects. Our testers liked the idea and the machine’s appealing colours, but they were hard-pressed to reproduce the crafts shown on the box, since the handle was too hard for them to turn, the instructions were unclear, and the paper kept ripping when they tried embossing it.

★★★
Birthday
Make Your Own Glitter Chalk (1201308)
Orb Factory
6 +

With this attractive craft kit, children can make their own colourful chalk in a variety of pretty shapes. Our testers liked making unique pieces of chalk. They were excited to be able to not only choose from 8 different moulds, but also combine colours however they liked. They enjoyed doing the craft with friends and siblings, as there was plenty of material provided to make sharing easy. Some even put their handiwork to use in decorating sidewalks and stone patios. Although the chalk they produced was not as pretty as examples shown on the box, our testers were still happy with the outcomes. The activity takes about 15–30 minutes to complete, although chalk needs to dry overnight before it can be used.

★★
Moon Crate
MyHibou.com
6 +

This crate is packed and ready for take off. Children can use the materials in the crate to complete a variety of space-themed activities. Families appreciated the well-laid-out, detailed parent guide, which has lots of educational information and extension activities. Although our testers enjoyed some of the activities (such as making a rocket ship from paper and craft sticks), they noted that several supplies were missing from the crate, were not the same as those listed in the instructions, or did not work (glue had dried up, for example). Some activities were not successful (unless the greenhouse is supposed to grow mould?), while other activities were too complex for the target age group.

★★★
Birthday
My Beastly Book of Twisted Tales (978-1-926973-00-5)
Owlkids Books
6 +

This humourous activity book takes a twisted spin on classic fairy tales. For example, one page has a picture of a whale with Pinocchio sitting inside and the instructions “Pinocchio’s candle has burned out. Colour everything black.” Great for kids with a sense of humour and developed reading skills, the book was enjoyed by boy and girl testers alike. They appreciated the large graphics, the variety of silly pictures, and the robust construction of the book, which held up well throughout the testing period.

★★
Padaboo Modeling Clay Kit (Helicoptor) (PMZ501)
Teo & Zina
6 +

With this colourful, creative craft, boys can cover Styrofoam moulds with coloured modelling clay to create attractive model helicopters. Our testers thought this was an interesting activity and especially liked the googly eyes. They found the clay to be light, easy to work with, and nicely scented. Families appreciated how the activity makes minimal mess. However, testers were disappointed that the rod, axles and wheels don’t fit together well and that helicopters fell over easily. They also would have liked more clay, as the amount included had to be stretched quite thin.

★★★
Birthday
Padaboo Modeling Clay Kit Collector (Dinosaur) (PMZ303)
Teo & Zina
6 +

Hello dinosaur! With this attractive craft kit, children can make a cute green clay dinosaur, complete with spikes and googly eyes. Our testers liked how easy it was to mould the nicely scented clay, which set well. They also found the instructions easy to follow. Several were proud to display the dinosaurs they made. Parents appreciated how little mess the activity makes. They also noted that while there is enough clay provided to complete the craft, there is not enough to share, so the activity worked best for just 1 child.

★★★
Birthday
Star Wars Thumb Doodles (978-0-545-49284-3)
Klutz Inc.
6 +

A great activity for Stars Wars fans, this attractive art book has kids making cute and realistic figures from the movie series. The book comes with 40 doodling pages, as well as blue, black, green and brown inkpads, a marker, and a dual-tipped red and blue “light sabre” pencil. Children follow illustrated step-by-step instructions to make pictures of favourite Star Wars characters in humorous poses (Yoda standing on his head, for example). Kids make finger and thumb prints with the inkpads and add details with the marker and pencil. The kit is self-contained, and the materials are of good quality. Pictures are easy to do, and there’s lots of room to doodle and be creative. Testers were proud of the results, which often looked just like the cover illustrations.
Construction Toys

★★★
Birthday
Combat Dragon (BC-20002)
Bloco Toys Inc.
6 +

Defend your lair with a dragon of your own making! This appealing construction toy is made of foam pieces and plastic connectors. The pieces are precut, so they easily slot together. Instructions are included for making the combat dragon, but children can reuse the pieces to build whatever they want or take inspiration from some of the suggestions on the box to build other fanciful creatures. Our testers liked the colours, details and accessories provided, and they thought the dragon looked realistic. Young builders may require parental assistance to understand the instructions and remove all the foam pieces.

★★★
Lego Friends Heartlake City Pool (41008)
Lego Group
6 – 12 yrs

Stay cool by the pool! This highly detailed construction set has more than 400 pieces kids can use to build a pool and slide, hot tub, canteen, lounge chairs, and patio set—and add lots of pretty, decorative touches. Testers found the instruction manual well written and easy to follow, even without parental assistance, and the quality pieces snapped together easily and held well. The two girl figurines (included) inspire imaginative play once everything is built. This set was most popular with our young female testers, who loved all the detailed pieces and attractive pool layout.
Dolls, Houses, & Accessories

★★
Batteries
Monster High 13 Wishes Party Lounge & Doll (Y7720)
Mattel
6 +

Fans of Monster High will dig this ghoulish playset. The purple, black and pink party lounge comes with a doll, a detailed DJ table, and a few additional accessories that fold up into a nice carrying case for easy storage and portability. Kids can easily plug their MP3 player into the set to bring tunes to the party, although several testers noted that the sound quality was not monstrously keen. Our testers enjoyed creating imaginative scenarios with this playset, even while their parents questioned the appropriateness of the lounge party theme.

★★
Phoebe From Hair to There Hair Grow Doll (BD37020Z)
Battat Ltd. (Maison Joseph)
6 +

This doll has long, blonde hair that is ready to style. She comes with comb, clips, a hair extension and a cute little outfit, as well as a hairstyle guide book. Turning a knob on her back will lengthen her hair. Our testers thought this 46 cm (18”) doll was very attractive and liked the accessories she came with. They appreciated the detailed instruction booklet, which shows how to create many different hairstyles, but most found those styles too difficult to actually create—and it didn’t help that Phoebe’s hair would easily tangle. Some of our testers chose to simply play with her like they would any other doll, and some used the style guide for ideas for their own locks.
Games

★★★
Katamino Duo
Gigamic
6 +

This engaging game comes with many variations in type of play. It can be competitive or solitary or used as a game or simply as building blocks. To play, kids arrange brightly coloured geometric shapes to perfectly fill their playing board surface or create a 3-D stack. They can race against each other or simply challenge themselves. Great for introducing geometry and developing spatial awareness, this toy can accommodate players of different skill levels, so parents and children can play together. Puzzle-minded testers played this game over and over. Parents noted that while the pieces are appropriate for children ages 3+, the game itself worked best with kids over 6.

★★★
Birthday
Korner'd
Endless Games Inc.
6 +

It’s more challenging than you’d think! This game requires players to match their tiles to the coloured squares on the game board. Each thick, durable tile has 4 coloured quadrants and only one correct placement on the board. Players take 3–6 tiles, depending on their challenge level, and then compete at the same time to be the first to correctly place them all. Our testers appreciated the clear instructions and liked how they didn’t have to wait for their turn, since everyone plays at the same time. Games can be played with up to 6 people or independently. Playing time is approximately 10 minutes.

★★★
Birthday
Batteries
Magic Jinn Animals (A5308)
Hasbro
6 +

Can you stump the Jinn? Think of an animal, any animal, and Magic Jinn will ask you questions about it, to which you must answer “Yes”, “No”, “It depends”, or “I don’t know.” Our testers enjoyed this one-player game and liked trying to stump the Jinn. They also enjoyed the Jinn’s sense of humour and his eyes lighting up when he talks. Parents appreciate how this game gets children thinking about animal habitats, features, and so on. Requires 3 AAA batteries.

★★★ Best Bet
Travel
Birthday
Spot It! Basic English (00522)
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).

★★★ Best Bet
Travel
Birthday
Spot It! Basic French (00523)
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.

★★★
Vampires of the Night (10121101)
Drei Magier Spiele
6 +

This unique game has an appealing vampire theme and an exciting glow-in-the-dark play option. Players use a magic wand and vampire (reverse magnets) to try to move “garlic” through the ruins of a castle without letting the pieces drop through the holes into the crypt below. Our testers were intrigued by this game and were willing to invest the practice and patience required to play well. Families appreciated the game’s well-thought-out design, liked that it was played within the game box, and enjoyed the illustrated instruction book that’s written like a story. “Great for family game night!”
Imaginative Play

★★★
Batteries
Max Steel Turbo Battlers Turbo Strength Max Steel (Arena & Battler, Dredd/Cytro) (Y1399/Y9506)
Mattel
6 +

Ready for battle! Turbo Battlers have a spinning base that is activated by a rip cord. Launch them into a curved action arena and watch them spin and hit each other around. Knock your opponent off his base and you’ve won the fight. Our testers liked how the toy lights up as it spins, and they enjoyed watching the figures run into each other. Testers especially enjoyed this toy when two more children played together. Additional figures can be purchased separately, and all bases, figures and rings are interchangeable. Requires 3 button cell batteries.

★★
Mega Bloks Skylanders Giants Tree Rex Smash Hands (957493U)
Mega Bloks
6 +

These giant foam fists look like Tree Rex’s massive hands. Fans of Skylanders Giants enjoyed their realistic appearance and had fun creating roleplay scenarios. Our testers also liked the easy-to-grab elastic inside and found out that their hands don’t hurt after striking something. However, a blow from these foam fists can be painful, and parents were concerned that play brought out aggression in kids and encouraged punching. Families also noted that the colour was starting to wear off the gloves during the testing period.

★★★
Birthday
Mega Bloks Skylanders Giants Trigger Happy Dart Launcher (95490U)
Mega Bloks
6 +

With this golden handheld gun, children can pretend to be Trigger Happy and blast away their 6 bullets. Our testers liked how well this toy gun shoots and how easy it is to hold and carry. The yellow and gold bullet darts fired quickly and travelled quite far; they were also easy to find and reload. Parents appreciated how the softness of the bullets prevented anyone from getting hurt, and they loved it that this action toy did not require batteries. This toy was especially popular with fans of Skylander video games.

★★★
Travel
Birthday
My Studio Girl Taggles Stick, Stack & Re-stick (Dance Girls) (67045)
Grant Studios
6 +

Stick, stack and re-stick! This attractive, colourful playset has 2 cardboard rock and disco scenes and 98 puffy stickers to animate the scene and to clothe and accessorize the 3 figures. Our testers were attracted to this toy. They loved how the stickers were reusable, but they found that with repeated use, some stickers were loosing their adhesiveness. With 2 scenes and so many stickers, this toy worked well for shared and imaginative play. Parents liked that the playset is portable and self-contained. “This kept my 7- and 8-year-olds highly engaged”, reported one testing parent.

Not Recommended
WWE Power Slammers Starter Kit with Action Ring (Y7072/Y0008)
Mattel


This wrestling-themed action figure toy did not win over our testers. Within the limbs of these figures are elastics that can be tightened with a wind-up crank on their backs. If you release the tension by pressing down on their heads, they will flail about—either separately or with each other. However, our testers found it difficult to understand how to make the toy work, and it was hard to join the wrestlers together—even parents had trouble. Their fingers also got pinched in the joints, and they were wary of the sudden force and erratic movement.
Interactive Electronics

★★★
Barbie Digital Dress Doll
Mattel
6 +

Light up the world of fashion with this imaginative Barbie and her digitally designable dress. “I never knew that Barbies could be so cool!” said one excited tester. Using the provided stylus, or simply their own fingers, testers could decorate Barbie’s black dress in brightly coloured LED lights. Designs could then be animated and activated to respond to music and sound, features that were easy to produce by pressing the buttons on Barbie’s necklace. All our testers enjoyed this doll and played extensively with her. Parents appreciated her auto shut-off function. Requires 2 AAA batteries.


Batteries
Pac-Man Connect & Play (88460)
Bandai America Inc.
6 +

This retro yellow Pac-Man-shaped controller comes with several classic games that can be played on your television to create your own home arcade. Games include Pac-Man, Galaga, Xevious, Dig Dug and eight other old school favourites. Our testers were eager to try this out easy-to-set-up, bright and attractive game. But while their parents waxed nostalgic, our testers were less than impressed. The joystick is not sensitive enough for accurate control and created frustration for young players. Games are difficult, and many were not very engaging, although some of our testers found ones they enjoyed. Without auto shut-off or a power-off reminder, the controller can easily drain batteries.
Science & Discovery

★★
Tidal Wave Super Magnetic Putty (PWTD020)
Crazy Aaron Enterprises, Inc.
6 +

Now that’s an attractive toy! This thinking putty can be moulded, stretched and shaped like regular putty, but it will also exert a magnetic charge when close to any magnetic surface. Our testers were drawn to the putty’s nice, soft texture and its compact design. They also liked how it has magnetic properties and never dries out. However, they were slightly repelled by the residue that the putty sometimes left behind, as well as by all the dirt and pet hair that stuck to it. And they wished the magnet were stronger.
Wheel Toys

★★★
Batteries
RC Module (4856)
Playmobil
6 – 12 yrs

This remote control module can be used with many Playmobil vehicles to add an extra dimension to play. Our testers appreciated the precise control they could get with the handheld remote. They were also impressed with the wide range of communication it was capable of. As testers became more familiar with the remote they could manoeuvre vehicles through tight spaces indoors, around corners, and through obstacle courses they set up. They also appreciated the reversing switch that allowed them to switch perspectives (forward or reverse). Requires 1 AA battery. Vehicles sold separately.

★★
SpinShotz Circuit Track (Y0097)
Mattel
6 +

Send colourful disks flying and spinning with this launcher, magnetic track and spinning platform. Easy to set up, this toy looks really cool and is immediately attractive to kids. Our testers enjoyed the flexibility of launching disks from different positions, but they preferred to use this toy without the track, since it was difficult to get the disks to stay on the track and land on the spinning platform. Our testers had three disks (including the one in the package) to test with the toy and found that multiple disks increases play value—they enjoyed launching disks on top of others or seeing which disk would spin the longest. Note: The playset has one disk; additional disks are sold separately.
Winter Play

★★
Ultimate Flyer (47") (FL-0401-11)
Mountain Boy Sledworks
6 +