Toy Report 2014 – Toys by category, from 7+

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

★★★
Y-Fliker F1 Scooter (F1)
Yvolution
7 +

Now that’s one smooth ride! With this innovative, 3-wheeled scooter, kids can move without peddling or pushing. By swinging their legs back and forth in a skiing motion, kids can make this strong, sturdy scooter easily roll forward on paved surfaces. Hand brakes and a small turning radius give lots of control. Our testers loved the appealing design and that this scooter was not as tippy as regular scooters. They enjoyed racing against plasma cars and other scooters and learned some cool tricks. Their parents liked how it encouraged active, outdoor play and gross motor development.
Arts & Crafts

★★★ Best Bet
Bigmouth Beaver Project Kit (209621)
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).

★★★ Best Bet
Birthday
Glitter Boards Butterflies (DJ09503)
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.

★★★ Best Bet
Ma Boîte à Carte (KT46)
Teo & 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.

★★
Oh! Les Perles. Beads and Bows (DJ09802)
Djeco
7 – 10 yrs

Ooh la la! Les beaux bijoux! With this attractive craft kit, children can use several types of beads, pendants and bows to create their own necklaces, bracelets, anklets and other items of jewellery. Our testers were impressed with the large variety of quality beads and cords. They found the instructions easy to follow and liked that they could choose to make either simple or complex designs. They were also proud of what they made and enjoyed learning new beading techniques. Parents appreciated that the little containers for beads kept everything in place.

★★
Paper Doll Dress-Up (9781908862730)
Ryland Peters & Small
7 +

Discover the simple pleasure of paper dolls with this nostalgic activity. This educational craft book comes with 2 paper dolls and over 60 different outfits to cut out. The beautifully rendered costumes show how clothes have changed throughout history, from ancient Egypt, the Elizabethan period, to recent decades. Our testers appreciated the quality illustrations and thick paper, but they found cutting out the clothing quite difficult and wished the pages were perforated to make cutting easier. Several testers preferred simply looking at the pictures and did not want to cut up the pages.
Bath, Sand & Water

★★★
Birthday
Waboba Ball Big Kahuna (100060)
Waboba Inc.
7 +

Catch a wave with this engaging water toy! This 10 cm (4”) diameter ball bounces only on water. Throw it like you would a skipping stone and it will leap across the surface. The brightly coloured ball is lightweight and well-sized for kids, although our testers’ parents liked to try bouncing it too. Our testers took it to pools and various beaches (lakes, rivers, ocean) and found that since it needs to be thrown with some force so it will bounce, keeping it in a contained area like a fenced pool made retrieval much easier. Although not all testers could make the ball skip along the water, they still enjoyed playing with it as they would a regular ball.
Games

★★★
Birthday
Crazy Office (HUT-CRAZY)
Foxmind Canada
7 +

Try to prevent office mayhem by correctly situating the boss, the employees, and various office equipment according to the clues and challenges provided. The game includes 10 office pieces and 10 playing pieces, as well as a book of challenges with over 50 logic puzzles of increasing difficulty. Some puzzles have more than one correct answer, but all can be solved. Our testing families found this was most enjoyed as a solitary game, although younger children required some assistance.

★★★
Birthday
Flash! (00600)
Blue Orange Games
7 +

In this dice game for 2–6 players, each player has a set of dice and races against others to roll various sequences. The first person to complete a challenge shouts “Flash!” and everyone must tally their score for that round. Testing families reported that the game does not take much time to learn or play, so it worked well when kids were in the mood for a quick, easy game. Testers also liked how compact and portable the game is. Parents liked how the game enhances math skills while being entertaining enough to hold kids’ interest.

★★★
Birthday
Nada! (00590)
Blue Orange Games
7 +

This fast-paced dice game comes with 18 orange and 18 white brightly illustrated dice. Players roll a prescribed number of dice and race to be the first to call out a match (the same image on at least one die of each colour). If there are no matches, the first to yell “Nada” wins all remaining dice. But if you call it wrong, you’ll have to sit out the rest of the round while other players keep collecting. In the end, the person with the most dice wins. Our testing families liked how easy this game is to learn and play and how many variations of play are available. One mom kept it in her purse for time-fillers at restaurants and doctor’s offices. Games for 2–4 players take about 10 minutes to play, and a convenient bag stores all the pieces when you’re finished.

★★★
Birthday
UNO Power Grab (Y2316)
Mattel
7 +

A new take on a classic game! UNO is a familiar card game in which players try to be the first to get rid of all their cards by matching numbers or colours to the discard pile. In this version, players collect any number of four plastic tower pieces, which block the effect of specific specialty cards (such as pick up 1 or skip-a-turn). Collect all four towers and you can immediately declare UNO, enabling you to discard all but one of your cards. Our testers liked the recognizable UNO colours, design and strategy, but with an exciting added dimension. Said one testing family, “It’s amazing how much fun this classic game can be with just a simple twist.” Winning requires a combination of luck and strategic planning. Games for to 2–6 players can be played to a fixed score (500, for example) or as determined with house rules.

★★
Voodoo Mania (HUT-VOODOO)
Foxmind Canada
7 +

Don’t be spooked by this game—it's easy to learn and quick to play. The goal is to be the first to get rid of all one’s cards. Players race to find a card in their hand that matches a missing voodoo ingredient (purple potion bottle, for example). Play is fast paced and good for developing observation skills. While the game is best played with players of similar cognitive ability, with play and practice some young testers became faster than their parents. Some testers found the game too stressful or frustrating, while others found it lacked any strategic play. Some parents were also uncomfortable with the voodoo theme. Games for 2–6 players take about 20 minutes to complete.
Imaginative Play

★★★
Birthday
Headlight with Spy Team Agent (5290)
Playmobil
7 +

Are you ready to be a top-notch spy agent? This attractive 11-piece playset comes with a headband to which 2 flashlights can be attached (one that shines UV light) as well as a Playmobil figure and accessories (flashlight, gun, helmet, etc.). Our testers found this toy’s theme to be very attractive to boys, who liked the various attachments and enjoyed using the flashlights, both with and without the headband. The testers also liked the sleek and realistic design of the toys and used them in imaginative play. Requires 1 AAA battery.

★★★
Mega Masters Razor-copter (5287)
Playmobil
7 +

This sleek, black military-style helicopter can shoot missiles and has rotating propeller blades—features our testers really enjoyed. The 54-piece set is easy to put together and also fun to play with. It comes with 2 figures that children can use in imaginative play, and testers liked how the copter opens and the figures fit inside. The toy was most enjoyed by children who still engage in imaginative play; one 7-year-old pretended to fly the copter around, shooting missiles all over the house.

★★
Mega Masters Robo Blaster (5289)
Playmobil
7 +

Blast away! This quality toy includes a mobile robot that can bend his arms and legs, is sturdy on his feet, and comes with a functioning rocket launcher. A Mega Masters figure and other accessories are also included. Plastic pieces are easy to assemble, and our testers especially liked the energy ball and rocket launcher. The toy’s theme was popular with those who still enjoy imaginative play and have other Mega Masters spy-themed toys, but other testers lost interest after assembly and did not find it very engaging.

★★
Spy Team Command Vehicle (5286)
Playmobil
7 – 12 yrs

Get ready for a top-secret mission. This spy-themed Playmobil set comes with an elaborate vehicle filled with spy essentials, like a secret compartment, a functioning safe, and a detachable glider. The set has 3 Spy Team figures and 1 Mega Masters figure to animate imaginative play. Our testers were very attracted to this theme and to the detailed design and accessories. They loved how the toy lights up in UV light, and the locking compartment for “secret spy stuff” was also a huge hit. The vehicle has a rocket launcher on the roof, but this gave testers some trouble, as it did not function well. Younger children also required adult assistance to assemble the vehicle, and some testing families reported that it did not stay together well.