| Sarah Kaplan |
WASHINGTON (WP-BLOOM) – Which toys do children like? That’s a question toymakers ask every year when coming up with new products.
We think the best way to find the answer is to ask kids themselves.
So we sent more than 100 of this year’s top new toys to 10 Washington-area schools.
Pens in hand, thinking caps — er, toy-testing caps — on, those children tried them out and wrote down what they thought.
We’ve selected the following toys that our testers liked best. There are brain games and building kits, stuffed animals and science experiments. There are toys that drive, fly, sing and light up.
Most of all, these toys are the ones that let children use their imaginations, whether they were building a car, designing jewellery or coming up with a strategy.
Check out the winners, and see which of these toys would pass your own toy test.
(Tested by fifth-graders. Blue Orange, US$28. Ages seven to 15.)
Sharpen your strategy skills for this game! In Aztack, players race to build temples out of different coloured tiles.
Children found this game challenging but fun, and they said that they learned a lot in the process.
(Tested by third-graders. Blue Orange, US$28. Ages six to 15.)
It takes strategy, imagination and lots of drawing to play this game. Children enjoyed drawing their way through different underwater scenes, and lots of testers said they would like to play Doodle Quest with their whole family.
“It is fun and adorable,” one tester wrote. She liked the game so much that she said she would still be playing it in six months.
(Tested by fourth-graders. Think Fun, US$30. Ages eight to 15.)
This game is like a cross between a marble run and a logic puzzle.
Build a towering path for your marble to move through, and see if you can get the marble to reach its target.
“I liked that it was a maze,” one tester wrote.
(Tested by third-graders. Spin Master, US$20. Ages six to 11.)
There’s no time to waste in this speedy board game.
Players roll dice to collect gold coins and move around the board.
But at any minute, a shark fin could appear and knock your piece out.
“I like how the shark chased you,” one tester wrote.
(Tested by sixth-graders. Hasbro, US$20. Ages eight and older.)
In this electronic version of “Simon Says”, you push or swipe coloured buttons to repeat a pattern of lights and sounds.
You can play by yourself or with a group of friends.
Testers liked that the game gets faster and more difficult as you go: “It helps your memory skills,” one tester wrote.
(Tested by fifth-graders. Air Hogs, US$45. Ages 8 to 10.)
This remote-control helicopter is encased in a special frame so it can roll on floors, up walls and along the ceiling without damage or crashing.
“Super fun and exciting,” one group of testers wrote.
(Tested by fourth-graders. Hasbro, US$15. Ages six and older.)
These mini versions of Furby Boom make the same noises as the original toy and come in six colours. (If you have a Furby Boom, the two can talk to each other.)
Testers found the Furblings cute and funny, and said that they would definitely still play with the toys in six months.
(Tested by third-graders. WowWee, US$100. Ages eight and older.)
The MiP robot is “just like a pet”, one toy tester wrote — a pet that can do tricks, respond to hand signals and doesn’t need to be fed or taken for walks.
It can also be linked up with a smartphone or tablet to unlock even more activities, making this a good toy for children who are interested in technology.
Playmobil Secret Dragon Fort
(Tested by third-graders. Playmobil, US$100. Ages five to 12.)
This castle has everything it needs to be well defended: A high turret, a gate that swings open and two brave knights.
But testers’ favourite thing about this toy? The two dragons that come with it.
Pom Pals Owl Kit
(Tested by second-graders. PomTree, US$13. Ages five and older.)
This no-mess kit lets you create your very own stuffed owl and a baby owl to match.
Testers called this toy “soft and cuddly” and said they’d be very excited to have it as a present.
(Tested by fourth-graders. Spin Master, $100. Ages five and older.)
This robot dinosaur is about as close as you’ll ever get to meeting a real Tyrannosaurus Rex.
The Zoomer Dino moves around and roars in response to your commands — and you don’t have to worry about him eating other animals, like a real T-Rex would.
Lots of children who tested this toy said they would even spend their own money to buy it.
“It’s fun and amazing,” one tester wrote.
(Tested by second-graders. OgoSport, US$39. Ages six to nine.)
These foam darts are specially designed to fly straight and land head down, making them great for competitive games outdoors.
“I liked it all,” one tester wrote. “It is a very good toy.”
(Tested by fifth-graders. Spark, US$10. Ages seven and older.)
Channel your inner Sherlock Holmes with this fingerprint detective kit.
Black powder lets you collect prints, and instructions for three experiments will help you analyse them.
“I liked that it’s less of a toy and more of a science project,” one tester wrote.
Another said, “It’s fun to act out crime scenes and drama.”
Headband and Bracelet Studio
(Tested by third-graders. Creativity for children, US$22. Ages seven and older.)
Use stamps, beads, glitter and glue to decorate stretchy headbands and bracelets.
Testers say that these accessories would make good gifts for friends.
“It is useful because you get to make stuff and make people happy,” one tester wrote.
Minecraft Papercraft Kit
(Tested by fifth-graders. Minecraft, US$9-$25. Ages six and older.)
Do you wish that the virtual world of Minecraft could exist outside the computer?
With this craft kit, you can construct 3-D characters, buildings and environments out of folded paper.
“It is very addicting because once you build one thing, you can’t stop,” one pair of testers wrote.
(Tested by sixth-graders. Spikeball, US$53-$59. Ages eight and older.)
Spikeball is a cross between a game and a sport — small enough to play indoors, but intense enough to get your heart pumping.
The rules are similar to those in tennis: Players rack up points by bouncing a ball off of a trampoline-like net in a way that prevents the other team from returning it.
“You can have a lot of fun with it,” one tester wrote.
Spirograph String Art
(Tested by fifth-graders. Kahootz, US$20. Ages eight to 15.)
Create beautiful, complex designs out of only string.
By wrapping colourful strings around various cardboard shapes, you can create all kinds of patterns. Testers say this kit can be confusing when first starting out, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll never get bored.
Virtual Design Pro Car Collection
(Tested by sixth-graders. Crayola, US$30. Ages six to 15.)
Design your own creative car on paper and then watch it drive onscreen.
Even testers who weren’t interested in cars said that they would ask for this kit as a gift: “I like that it has a lot of colours … and I like to draw” one tester wrote.
The kit works with smartphones, tablets and iPod touch.
K’Nex Hyperspeed Hangtime Roller Coaster Building Set
(Tested by fourth-graders. K’Nex, US$70. Ages nine and older.)
Aspiring architects and amusement park enthusiasts will love this building kit.
Starting with more than 600 tiny K’Nex pieces, children can construct a roller coaster that’s more than two feet tall.
The kit also comes with a battery-operated car that runs along your newly built track. “There wasn’t anything bad about it,” one tester wrote. “It is creative and awesome.”
Laser Pegs Indy Car Building Set
(Tested by third-graders. Laser Pegs, US$30. Ages five to eight.)
“I would buy this toy with my own money because I really think it’s a great toy, and it is worth it,” wrote one tester.
She was not alone. Toy testers loved this multi-coloured build-your-own-car kit. Twenty of the see-through pieces that make up the car have built-in LED bulbs that light up.
The set also can be used to make a starship, a tractor and other vehicles.
Lego Friends Jungle Bridge Rescue
(Tested by third-graders. Lego, US$30. Ages seven to 12.)
This Lego set has nearly everything a child could ask for: A helicopter, cliffs and trees, an off-road truck, a monkey and two figures. The children also liked that the structure could be rebuilt in tonnes of different ways.
“It’s something that you can be really creative with, which I like,” one tester wrote.