Toy Report 2014 – Toys by category, from 8+

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

Active Play

★★★
Birthday
Nerf Rebelle Heartbreaker Bow (A6130)
Hasbro
8 +

Do you think Cupid had such a pretty bow and arrow? To use this plastic bow with pink and purple designs, girls load the Nerf darts in the front of the bow, then pull and release the bowstring. With a nice size and weight for the target audience, this toy was used in imaginative play, such as acting as hunter, princess, witch, and characters in The Hunger Games. But it missed the mark with some of our testers who found that it required quite a bit of strength to pull back the bowstring, which would also rub against the arm holding the bow and cause discomfort. While this toy is aimed at ages 8+, our testing families found that 5- to 7-year-olds were able to use and enjoy it, although they could not shoot the arrows very far.

★★★ Children's Choice
Space Scooter
Space Scooter
8 +

Cool ride, dude! This innovative scooter can be ridden like a regular kick scooter or propelled forward by an up and down teeter/totter motion. Our pre-tween and tween testers got a kick out of the sleek and sturdy design (including hand break, kick stand, and a great grip pad on the base). They liked how easy it was to learn how to use it and were soon zooming around and able to keep up with their family on bikes. Families appreciated that the scooter is adjustable to different heights, is collapsible for easy storage and portability, and encourages active outdoor play. Safety is paramount, so families are encouraged to follow all instructions, have children wear appropriate safety gear, and keep the scooter lubricated. Maximum weight is 90 kg. Said one appreciative tester, “This scooter is way cool!”
Arts & Crafts

★★
Bead Studio (23-4087)
Crayola
8 +

Create your own unique beaded jewellery with this attractive craft kit. Kit includes a bead roller, a drying stand, glitter pendants, design buttons, shape cutters, clasps, strings, ribbons and a plastic needle. This kit has a lot of variety and creative potential. Our testers loved the modelling clay with its bright purple, pink, yellow and blue colours. However, they found the bead roller frustrating, as clay would often get stuck in it, or it would produce lopsided beads.

★★★
Birthday
Fashion Angels Tapefetti Headband Kit (11748)
Fashion Angels
8 +

Heads up! This is one cool craft! Young fashionistas will love this craft kit, which that comes with seven headbands of two different widths and 12 rolls of colourful decorative tape. Kids can decorate the headbands any way they like or follow the patterns in the design guide. Our testers fell head over heels for the vibrantly coloured, stylish headbands they created. The activity is easy to do, and there are lots of options and plenty of materials provided.

★★★
Birthday
Imaginista D.I.Y. Tie Dye (3661214)
Orb Factory
8 +

Turn a plain white t-shirt into a colourful bag and matching bracelets. No sewing required—just a pair of scissors and a bit of creativity. Kit has everything you need, including the t-shirt, instructions, and more than 75 beads to decorate the fringes of the bag. Our testers thought this was a cool craft and loved the vibrant colours of the dyes. Some parental assistance may be required to help with the cutting and dying.

★★★
Birthday
Imaginista Decoupage Jewelry (66918)
Orb Factory
8 – 10 yrs

Design your own jewellery in funky decoupage style. This craft kit allows children to get creative while decorating bracelets, headbands, earrings and pendants with colourful paper, ribbon, feathers and glitter. Kids follow easy step-by-step instructions to create designs with as much complexity as desired. Our testers enjoyed the plentiful supply of materials and liked the attractive pieces they created, especially the headband and earrings. However, the busy, collage-style pieces did not hold universal appeal. Sometimes the paper became unstuck, especially if it was not properly glazed upon completion. Many testers expressed disappointment that only one headband was included and were less interested in completing and wearing bracelets.

★★★
Travel
Birthday
It's All About Us (…Especially Me!) (978-0-545-49280-5)
Klutz Inc.
8 +

Offering a new spin on the classic journal, this colourful book will unlock writer’s block and secrets too. The spiral-bound journal has more than 300 questions in surveys repeated three times in purple, pink and yellow, so friends and family can contribute to the same book. The pages are attractively designed, and the durable book cover includes a pen and holder. Even though some subjects (like prom dates) are a little old for our testers, they enjoyed the creative, unique questions, which open up conversations with friends and family members. Compact and portable, this book can be taken on road trips, holidays and sleepovers.

★★★ Children's Choice
Birthday
Make Clay Charms (978-0-545-49856-2)
Klutz Inc.
8 +

This attractive craft kit offers hours of entertainment. Kids can produce cute, colourful clay charms to attach to the included bracelet. Kit includes clay in nine colours, finishing glaze, shaping tools, charm loops, jump rings, and a drying and display stand. There are more than enough materials to complete a bracelet. For those who like to follow directions, there are easy-to-follow step-by-step instructions. Others may want to take inspiration from the illustrations and instructions to create their own unique charms. Our testers enjoyed both the creation process and the end result. “There’s no end to what kids can do with this craft”, said one testing parent.

★★★ Children's Choice
Marker Maker (04-4086)
Crayola
8 +

Create your own unique markers with this cool and colourful activity. The kit comes with red, yellow and blue ink, as well as measuring tubes, a mixing chart, tweezers and 16 ready-to-fill makers. Our testers loved creating customized colours, thinking up unique names for each one. They also appreciated the quality materials and liked putting their creations to use. There is plenty of ink, and more can be purchased separately. Parents appreciated that everything is self-contained for quick, easy storage, and there is very little mess.

★★
Melt & Mold Factory (04-4085)
Crayola
8 +

Make your own unique, multicoloured crayons. This melting “factory” lets kids easily melt crayons and pour the wax into two ring moulds. The set comes with 24 crayons, but kids can also use broken and leftover bits of other crayons. While it took our testers a few tries to become factory pros, they enjoyed the process and the wearable, “drawable” rings they created, even if the results were not as dramatic as shown on the packaging. Parents appreciated the toy’s design that allowed kids to safely melt the crayons and mould the wax without getting burnt.

★★★
Birthday
My Studio Girl Make-Your-Own Sew Cute Bear (67074)
Grant Studios
8 +

It’s almost unbearably cute! With this easy-to-use craft kit, children can sew their own soft felt bear. The kit comes with a bear’s front and back, nose and buttons, as well as a plastic needle, thread and stuffing. Pieces have stitch holes for easy assembly, and the instructions are nicely illustrated, so our testers had little trouble completing the activity. They really enjoyed making and playing with their bears. Said one 11-year-old tester, “I was addicted to finishing it.” After completing the kit she went on to repair another bear and her dog’s halter!

★★★
Birthday
My Studio Girl Sew-Your-Own My Best Friend (67133)
Grant Studios
8 +

Sew cute! This adorable house-shaped craft kit has everything you need to create a little doll. Using needle and thread and precut holes, children sew together the fabric pieces and fill the doll (and her pet) with stuffing. Our testers were impressed that their completed doll looked like the picture on the packaging, and they enjoyed playing with her. Parents appreciated the valuable sewing skills that the activity teaches, and they noted that plenty of materials are included. While younger testers needed adult help, all were able to complete the craft in 1.5–3 hours. Dolls are available with different coloured yarn hair (4 choices).

★★★ Best Bet
Project Runway Tapefetti Fashion Design (78696)
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.

★★
Spiral Workshop (DJ09540)
Djeco
8 +

This beautifully packaged drawing craft comes with 5 different-sized wheels, a marker for making patterns, 6 coloured pencils, a metal board, 2 magnetic frames, and a high-quality illustrated instruction book. Kids decorate pictures by placing one of 20 pretty printed sheets (or regular blank sheets) on the board, securing it with the magnetic frame, and using the cogged wheels to create spiral pictures. Our girl testers liked this new twist on a classic craft and appreciated the quality of materials provided, although they found it tricky and even frustrating at times to keep the frames from slipping. Parents noted that the activity developed creativity and patience.

★★★
Birthday
Batteries
Techno Art Audio Handbag (Pink) (35011)
Bo-Jeux Toys Inc.
8 +

This pretty pink handbag can be decorated with paint and comes with 2 built-in speakers that can connect to an iPod or MP3 player. Our testers thought this was a very cool, creative activity and appreciated the speakers’ clear sound. While some preferred to use their own paintbrushes because the one provided was not quite fine enough for detailed work, they enjoyed colouring the designs and customizing their bags. They also liked the sturdiness of the fabric bag and using the nice shoulder strap for easy wear. Requires 2 AAA batteries.

★★★
Birthday
Techno Art Beat Box (Boy) (35006)
Bo-Jeux Toys Inc.
8 +

Assemble, paint and decorate your own beat box speaker. This cool craft didn’t skip a beat with our testers, who had fun painting and using stickers to create unique speaker boxes. Not only was it easy and enjoyable to make, but our testers loved that it comes with quality speakers they could use. The kit also comes with plenty of quality materials and lots of decorative stickers in themes that appeal to most boys.

★★★
Birthday
Techno Art Beat Box (Girl) (35005)
Bo-Jeux Toys Inc.
8 +

Assemble, paint and decorate your own docking station beat box. This creative and unique craft was a hit with our testers, who had fun painting and using over 250 stickers to create unique speaker boxes. Not only was it quick, easy and enjoyable to make, but our testers loved that it comes with quality speakers they could use. The kit also comes with plenty of quality materials and lots of decorative stickers in themes that appeal to most girls.

★★
Batteries
Techno Art Messenger Bag (35022)
Bo-Jeux Toys Inc.
8 +

This attractive craft kit comes with a sturdy, bright pink messenger bag with outlined illustrations and 2 round speakers to which kids can connect their iPod or MP3 player. Six paint colours and a paintbrush are also provided, although most of our testers preferred to use their own brush, as the provided one is too thick for the illustrations. Paint would also smudge and blur (especially for younger testers), and testers found the small amount of paint was insufficient to complete their artwork. Testers appreciated the zippered compartment that separates speaker wires and electronics and the adjustable shoulder strap. Many testers were disappointed with their end product because the picture on the box was impossible to re-create. Requires 2 AAA batteries.

★★
Techno Art Urban Headphone (35008)
Bo-Jeux Toys Inc.
8 +

Groove to your own beat! With this cool craft, kids can use paints, markers, stickers and paper discs to decorate a real pair of headphones. Our testers liked the assortment of stickers and decals and thought it was neat that they could use the headphones with their iPod or other music devices. However, the paint caused some problems, as it took a long time to dry and tended to chip off. While the stickers and decals seemed to be designed for boys, most of our boy testers were not interested in this activity, while the girls wished the stickers had more themes for them.

★★★
Birthday
The Book of Impossible Objects (978-0-545-49647-6)
Klutz Inc.
8 +

This educational arts and crafts kit with 25 easy-to-follow projects teaches children about illusions. Kit includes a colourful, eye-catching book with instructions and scientific explanations, as well as the required plastic pieces and cardboard parts. (Some household items are also needed.) Our testers liked the variety of experiments, which did not require too much time to complete. Parents appreciated the gender-neutral theme, the quality of materials, and the fact that children could use the kit independently or with someone else.

★★★
Birthday
The Original DoodleArt Mini Kit 1 Colouring Poster Set (DAKIT11100)
Plasmart
8 +

This art kit has hours of fun for colouring enthusiasts. It comes with four detailed black and white posters (in dolls, kites, butterflies and flowers themes) and 12 dual-tip, long-lasting, washable markers. The intricate pictures spark creativity as children determine what colours, designs and patterns they want to use. With no need for instructions, our testers enjoyed working on this project on multiple occasions and were proud of the colourful and pretty results. The kit has a limited set-up time and can easily be taken along on vacations or trips.

★★★
Birthday
The Original DoodleArt Mini Kit 2 Colouring Poster Set (DAKIT21117)
Plasmart
8 +

With hours of fun for colouring enthusiasts, this arts kit comes with four detailed black and white posters in truck and car themes, as well as 12 dual-tip, long-lasting, washable markers in appealing colours. The intricate pictures spark creativity as children determine what colours, designs and patterns they want to use. With no need for instructions and little set-up time, testers enjoyed working on this project on multiple occasions. They were proud of the detailed, colourful results. Compact packaging allows for easy storage and protection of posters.

★★
Threadz Make a Purse Kit (TZ003)
Plasmart
8 +

Well suited for children with yarn crafting experience, this cute kit has everything kids need to weave their own purse out of vibrant, attractive yarn. Our testers were excited about this craft and jazzed that they could use what they made. However, the project took longer than indicated. Our testers spent between 2.5 and 4 hours on the craft, and some did not complete it. Younger testers needed adult assistance and did not have the patience to see it through, although others liked it that the project could easily be paused and picked up later.
Bath, Sand & Water

★★
Batteries
Hot Wheels: Terrain Twister (X2875)
Mattel
8 +

Get those engines revving! Kids will enjoy the challenge of trying to navigate this brightly coloured ATV on a variety of surfaces: grass, sand, and hard packed snow. It can even move through water. Testers liked how the vehicle can move forward, backward and sideways, precisely guided by a remote control that operates in a 20-metre range. The carrying handle made it easy for the testers to carry their ATV around. Parents appreciated how this toy encourages outdoor play year-round. Remote requires 2 AA batteries, and the ATV batteries need a 4-hour recharge.
Games

★★★
Birthday
20 Express (00610)
Blue Orange Games
8 +

All aboard! In this quick, entertaining game, players try to create the longest ascending number sequence on their 20-car train. Skill and strategy are involved in play, but luck is also a factor—which levels the playing field among players of different ages. The game can accommodate an unlimited number of players, making it a good fit for large family gatherings or kids’ parties. Some testers were initially put off by what they considered a juvenile-looking box, but after trying out the game, testers of a wide variety of ages found they enjoyed the game and wanted to play it repeatedly. Parents liked how play supported math and logic skills.

★★★
Birthday
Boom Boom Balloon (20062920)
Spin Master
8 +

Don’t pop the balloon! In this exciting game, players place an inflated balloon in the stand and then advance sticks by clicking through holes in the stand to poke the balloon, trying not to be the one to make it burst. The roll of a die determines how many clicks a player must make. Testers of all ages enjoyed this game and found there was some strategy in choosing which sticks to push. While some testers were scared of the loud noise the balloon makes when it pops, many liked the suspense. The game comes with 12 balloons that are thicker than regular varieties.

★★★
Travel
Batteries
Bop It Tetris (A2013)
Hasbro
8 +

As the name suggests, this toy is a combination of two familiar games: Bop It! And Tetris. Players use the handheld Bop It! device to match Tetris shapes in a grid by turning and “bopping”. Games can be played by 1 or 2 players, and there is an option to turn on the Bop It! voice (which eggs the players on). The toy has hundreds of puzzles to play, and our testers got lots of use from it. They liked how the games are quick and easy to learn and can be played anywhere. Some found the voice annoying and offensive and were glad they could turn it off.

★★★
Birthday
Clubs (NSG-400)
North Star Games
8 +

Deal ’em out! This card game challenges players to get rid of their cards as fast as possible and win tricks with clubs. Once our testers understood the rules, they could play the game quite quickly, using a combination of strategy and math skills to beat their opponents. Families also liked the 60-card deck of sturdy, brightly coloured cards and noted that the game’s compact size made it easy to take to places like the cottage. Games for 2–6 players take about 30 minutes.

★★★
Batteries
Draw Something Party (A4605)
Hasbro
8 +

In this team game, players choose a word on a card and try to draw it on the lightweight, illuminated tablet. If a team member guesses the answer, your team wins the coin value of that word. But if your team can’t figure out what your drawing is, your opponents have a chance to steal. The first team with 15 coins wins. Our testers enjoyed the tablet’s cool design and the easy-to-play guessing game, which is similar to the Draw Something app. With 100 cards to play with, our testers also liked the variety of words and had fun using their imaginations for their illustrations. Games for 4+ players take about 20 minutes. Requires 3 AA batteries.

★★
Dung Deck (CHT-599)
Outset Media
8 +

Ever wondered how smelly a panda’s poop is? Well, even if you haven’t, this card game has the answer for you. The 53 cards are packed with scatological trivia. Players battle each other with statistics, such as the length and smell of various species’ feces. Although some of our testers loved the game’s malodorous theme and played it almost daily, others dumped the game for being more educational than engaging. The playing cards were also pooh-poohed for being muted in colour and written on in too-fine print. Games for 2+ players take 20–60 minutes.

★★★ Children's Choice
Birthday
Even Steven's Odd! (EI-3415)
Educational Insights
8 +

This fast-paced dice game requires quick hands and quick math skills—with a dose of strategy and luck to boot. Players race to compete the challenge shown on 1 of 40 challenge cards. The first player to do so grabs the “Steven” figure. Clearly written instructions are printed on the inside of the box, so they never get lost. Testers reported that the game’s design was well thought out, that all materials are durable and perfectly sized, and that there was lots of laughter during play. Families also liked the different levels of play, so the game can grow with kids. Games for 2–4 players take about 10 minutes.

★★★
Travel
Freeze Up!
Educational Insights
8 +

Quick! What is an animal that starts with T? A fruit that starts with M? In this fast-paced game, players try to keep their cool while answering questions about categories and letters. The electronic game piece comes with more than 170 think-quick categories, a built-in timer and a scorekeeper. Our testers gave this game thumbs up for keeping them on their toes and thinking fast. They also liked the easy-to-hold device with cool colours and details. It works well on road trips too! Games for 2–4 players take 10–15 minutes. Requires 3 AA batteries.

★★★
Birthday
Ghost Blitz
Zoch GmbH
8 +

Time for some ghostly fun! This spirited game will test your reflexes and powers of observation. Players try to be the first one to grab 1 of 5 wooden playing pieces (blue book, white ghost, grey rat, red chair, green bottle) related to the card that has just been flipped over. Testers liked how the game is easy to understand, but challenging to play. They also enjoyed the colourful game pieces and cards and liked how everything fits nicely into a compact box. “We laughed all the way through”, reported one testing family. Games for 2–8 players take 20–30 minutes.

★★★
Birthday
Hockey Fans (20071)
Filosofia
8 +

Great for hockey fans, this unique game is designed to be played while a hockey game is on television. Two to four players set down action cards that match what happens in the game, with the goal of playing the most cards and scoring points. The 60 colourful playing cards are made out of durable plastic, have fun graphics, and are easy to read. Testing families found that play encouraged a new and engaging way to watch a hockey game together. Play can be adjusted to one or several game periods.

★★★
Morphology (MPH001)
Plasmart
8 +

Guess the word your teammate is building using the game props—items like felt, beads, string and wooden pieces. Correct guesses allow teams to advance along the game board. More than 200 cards give players words to illustrate, and the roll of a die determines the type of play (pieces to use). Our testers appreciated the quality materials and appealing game design. They also had fun with the props, as game play encourages creativity and imagination. Cards have easy and difficult options, and testing families easily adapted the rules to accommodate different ages (children under 8 could play with some help). Games for 2 or more teams take about 30 minutes.

★★★
Birthday
Nox (HUT-NOX)
Foxmind Canada
8 +

Come out and play with Ramon, Alphonse and Jack, the friendliest skeletons this side of the grave. The skull designs on the game box and cards appealed to our testers, who found them funny and cool. The game, played with 90 laminated cards, is easy to learn and straightforward to play. Essentially, it involves collecting more points than one’s opponents. But strategies develop as kids become more familiar with the game, and our testers found it surprisingly engaging and challenging. One testing family described this as a “good family game that brought out the competitive side of us!”

★★★
Ovo (GIGGSOV)
Gigamic
8 +

The eggs are done! This unique game has players moving their egg-shaped pieces across the board and back. But here’s the catch—on the way back, the eggs are flipped over and the symbol identifying your egg is hidden. Anyone can move a flipped egg. Can you keep track of all your eggs and get them back home first? Our testers appreciated the game’s clear instructions and cute, well-made pieces. With play, strategies develop and improve. Parents appreciated how play helped kids develop their memory, concentration, and problem-solving skills. Games for 2–4 players take 10–20 minutes.

★★
Professor Tempus (130152)
Gigamic
8 +

It’s time to save time! In this interactive card game, players compete to collect the most hourglasses. Our testers liked the unique premise of the game and the game’s easy setup. They also reported that play was unlike that of any other card game they had tried. With practice, they were able to develop strategies or adapt the game with house rules to fit different abilities. Parents liked how play helps kids practise their numeracy skills. However, families found the instructions quite confusing and needed to read them several times to figure out how to play. Once the rules were understood, games for 2–5 players took 15–20 minutes to play.

★★★
Travel
Birthday
Quarto Pocket (GIGGYQA)
Gigamic
8 +

In this game of deductive reasoning, players compete to see who can create a row of “quarto” (4). The game comes with a foldable board and 16 white or red plastic pieces, each with 4 characteristics. Each player tries to make a line of 4 matching characteristics, but it’s the opponent who chooses the piece to place. Our testers liked that the game is quick but challenging and is also portable. Families liked how play develops logic and problem solving, but noted that older kids had a definite playing advantage. Parents appreciated the drawer for storing pieces under the playing board, even though the drawer would often stick.

★★★
Birthday
Quoridor Pocket (GIGGYQO)
Gigamic
8 +

Good fences make good neighbours—and good game strategy. In this engaging game, players try to move their pawn across the game board while also setting up fences to block their opponent(s). Our testers were immediately attracted to the sleek and eye-catching board and playing pieces that they thought looked “cool” and “futuristic”. The instructions and illustrations were easy to understand, and families found that while the game is straightforward, every round is unique, and it’s engaging for multiple ages. Testers enjoyed developing strategy and liked that up to 4 family members could play together. Games for 2–4 players take 10–15 minutes.

★★★ Best Bet
Birthday
Roll 'n Bump (S1010)
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.

★★
The Yes No Game
Adventures Edition
8 – 14 yrs

Do you like playing games? Can you answer that question without saying “Yes” or “No”? This colourful board game has players trying to advance by answering questions without using the words “Yes” or “No”. Our testers liked how a variety of ages can play together, and some families reported lots of laughs during play. However, other testers thought the box looked juvenile and did not find the game very engaging. Games for 2–6 players take 20–40 minutes to play.

★★★ Children's Choice
What’s It? (GMF1)
Peaceable Kingdom
8 +

In this non-competitive game, players try to guess what image is shown on a doodle card. Collective points are scored for matching answers, but lost for differing ones. No spelling or counting required, so this is a good game for 2–6 players of different ages. Our testers quickly grasped the concept of play and enjoyed the imaginative, fast-paced game.
Imaginative Play

★★★
Gross Magic (590104)
Hanky Panky Toys Thailand Ltd
8 +

Eeew! My eyeball is melting! And where did these cockroaches come from? With this 30+ piece magic kit, kids can do all sorts of yucky tricks. The “gross” theme had a definite appeal for young boys who tested this game. Tricks range from simple to complex. Materials are colourful, realistic, and appropriately disgusting. The instruction booklet is designed like a comic book, which was attractive to our testers, although not always easy to follow. Children ages 8–11 may need adult help with instructions.
Interactive Electronics

Not Recommended
Airhogs Atmosphere
Spin Master


This unique sphere can hover above any object, such as your hand, and is controlled by changing where your hands are in relation to the sphere. Our testers liked how the sphere is made of plastic ribbing, so they could see the rotor and spinning fan blades inside, but they also got their fingers stung by the spinning blades when they picked up the sphere. The sphere is charged on a battery-operated charging unit, which also has a button to stop the blades from spinning. While this lightweight toy intrigued our testers, the required 6 AA batteries in 5 of the 6 testing copies either exploded or leaked. This toy is not recommended for sale.

★★
Spy Gear Panosphere 360 Spy Cam (20062268)
Spin Master
8 +

I spy with my little eye… or in this case, with my little hidden camera. This spy cam can record in all directions and captures 2000 photos or 15-minute videos with audio. Connect it to your computer and use the provided software to view and edit your pictures and videos. Our testers were attracted to this “cool” camera and were impressed with the quality of images it captures, with an interesting fisheye perspective. They loved the many mounting options (Velcro strap, suction cup or glider) and enjoyed finding places to hide it. However, with the complicated instructions and small activation button, it was difficult for some of our younger testers to operate it. Kids were also disappointed that they had to plug it in to view what they had captured.
Science & Discovery

★★★
Batteries
Catch the Thief (LAB-266)
SmartLab
8 +

Do you have what it takes to solve 3 crimes? You’ll need a keen eye and investigative skills to identify the criminals and solve each case (a stolen diamond, a missing crown, a vanished race car). The 40-page procedure and evidence book explains the crimes and the collected evidence. Children use authentic-looking tools, such as an ultraviolet scanner and a microscope, to sift through the evidence. Our testers enjoyed this educational and engaging activity and thought that everything looked very real and “spy-like”. The extensive reading required provides opportunities to learn new vocabulary and technical terms, but some children may need parental assistance.

★★
Dinosaur Fossils (630416)
Thames & Kosmos, LLC
8 +

Dig this dinosaur! With this educational activity kit, our testers enthusiastically buried dinosaur bones in layers of plaster. They then chiselled out the bones to construct a dinosaur. Kit includes everything little paleontologists need, including plaster, moulds, safety goggles, chisel, spoon, hammer, paintbrush, sponge and realistic dino bones. The phases of the activity require several sessions to complete. Our testers enjoyed this hands-on lesson in fossils and dinosaurs, but they also discovered that digging for bones is hard work! Some small pieces were difficult to find, plaster removal was messy, and bones sometimes broke. Patience, perseverance, and parental assistance were required.

★★★
Birthday
Forensics Fingerprint Lab (8658410)
Thames & Kosmos, LLC
8 +

This all-inclusive kit has everything kids need to find, take and decipher fingerprints. The kit includes an ink pad, small bellows, dusting powder, a magnifying glass, 36 transparency stickers, 10 fingerprint file cards, and 10 finger print collection cards, as well as clear instructions with helpful illustrations. The theme of this kit really appeals to sleuth enthusiasts, and our testers appreciated the quality of materials provided. Adult supervision and assistance are required, and a bit of practice is needed to get a good print, but our testers had fun taking family prints and then finding prints around the house. Parents and testers appreciated the opportunity to learn about some of the science behind it all.

★★★
Birthday
Hydraulic Robotic Arm (D-20)
Pathfinders Design And Technology
8 +

With this engaging and educational construction kit, children can build a functioning hydraulic arm. The materials provided (primarily plywood pieces) are lightweight but still sturdy and strong. The instructions are clear, easy to follow, encouraging, and humourous. Our testers were thrilled with this project and proud of their accomplishment when the model was complete (about a 2-hour process). They enjoyed experimenting with the arm and picking up toys and other objects. Families found that the educational claims made by this product—development of visual and spatial skills, fine motor development, critical thinking, problem solving and reading—were fully met.

★★★
Batteries
littleBits Starter Kit (LB-KIT-k1-STARTER-v03)
Littlebits
8 +

Our testers were drawn to this colourful electric circuitry kit. The 10 colour-coded pieces and 9-volt battery magnetically attach to make electric circuits that work no matter how they’re assembled. Testers played with it alone and with their friends, building the 3 circuits suggested in the illustrated step-by-step instructions or designing their own creations. It can be used anywhere: at the table, in the car, on a bed, etc. “Endless potential for fun”, reported one testing family. Parents were attracted to the kit for its excellent presentation of serial circuitry. They also liked how everything store neatly in a compact, portable box.

★★
Nancy B's Science Club Moonscope & Skygazer's Activity Journal
Educational Insights
8 +

I see the moon, and the moon sees me! This science activity kit includes a moon scope with 18x to 90x magnification, a moon filter, and a tripod with built-in red LED for night journaling. The activity journal has educational activities for learning about things like moon phases. Our testers thought the journal was full of great information but that the moonscope would easily lose its focus and tip over. Requires 2 AAA batteries.

Periodic Quest Basic Card Games (696859069253)
Yathi Enterprising Solutions
8 +

This game uses atomic numbers of the periodic table for card values and atomic groups for card suits. Families can play versions of common games (Rummy and Go Fish, for example) or play sequence and memory games. For those with someone in the family who is knowledgeable about the periodic table, the cards could be useful and educational. However, as a game, it fell flat with our testers. The cards were busy and unattractive, and the games were not fun. The set lacked instructions about the periodic table to support the educational goal, and the nature of the cards and structure did not lend themselves well to the games.

★★
Physics Discovery (665067)
Thames & Kosmos, LLC
8 +

With a hands-on approach to learning physics, this construction toy allows kids to build models to learn about forces and simple machinery. Each of the 12 models demonstrates an element of mechanical physics, such as leverage, pulleys, gears or centripetal force. Kit includes colourful, high-quality gears, connectors, and wheels, as well as an educational 32-page instruction booklet that explains each concept. Our testers found that the final results stayed together well and clearly demonstrated the corresponding physics concept. Instructions are also available on-line, but parental assistance may be required, especially for interpreting diagrams.

★★★ Children's Choice
Batteries
Snap Circuits Light (SCL-175)
Elenco
8 +

This circuit board was a real “de-light” with our testers. The neatly packaged kit comes with over 55 parts to build more than 175 fascinating projects. Our testers lit up with excitement over features like the spinning strobe light and the glow-in-the-dark fan. Seeing the circuit light up was rewarding, and they were very proud of their creations. The background and technical information provided in the booklet added to the educational value of the toy and was especially appreciated by those studying the electricity unit in Grade 6. Testers who had parents with technical backgrounds particularly enjoyed this toy.
Wheel Toys

★★
Beyblade Beywarriors Shogun Steel (A2459)
Hasbro
8 +

Use ripcords to spin BeyBlade characters and have them battle inside the octagonal stadium, where they can circle and smash into each other. The last BeyBlade standing wins. Our testers thought this toy was cool looking, and they liked how they could launch their BeyBlade from either of the arena’s 2 entrance ramps. Battlers can also be customized with different heads and arms. However, our testers found that the blue warrior almost always wins. Parents appreciated the easy assembly but noted that the toy had little sustained play value for their kids.