Toy shopping can be a stressful time for moms — they search high and low for the hottest new fad toy, only to find their kids having more fun with the wrapping paper than the toy itself! So Parenting magazine not only enlists the help of kids across the country to select their toys of the year — they look to moms for the final stamp of approval. This means the magazine editors don’t include toys with annoying jingles without an off switch, nothing with a mess of little parts that you’re going to be finding hidden in your carpet for months to come, and nothing that requires a 150-page instruction booklet to assemble! Lisa Bain, the executive editor of Parenting magazine, was invited on “Today” to discuss the publication’s mom-tested toy list. Here are some toys that got their seal of approval:
Toys of the year
Birth to 18 months
My Giant Floor Puzzle (Suggested Retail Price: $25, Alex)This play mat’s tough enough to withstand drooling, chewing, and spills. But wait, there’s more: One day your little explorer will figure out how the farm images (which are chunky cutout pieces) pop out of the mat and fit back in. Presto! He’s mastered his first puzzle.
Baby Beach Band (Suggested Retail Price: $23, Infantino)Your child’s the conductor of an under-the-sea symphony with the help of five soft, googly-eyed critters that moonlight as instruments: a jingling lobster, fishy tambourine, and more. Four of the pieces fit inside the octopus drum for take-along play (and easy storage).
Peek 'n' Play Discovery Dome (Suggested Retail Price: $50, Playskool)This play hut has far more features than most, with its rattles, shape sorter, and ball chute. Your baby will love crawling through the front gate and ringing the doorbell; once he’s inside, use the built-in puppet and the peekaboo flap to play with him. Bonus: The dome collapses shut for stashing.
4-in-1 Ride On Car(Suggested Retail Price: $75, Chicco)The grows-with-your-tot ride starts out as a sturdy rocker. With the footrests off, you or your baby can push it around. When she’s ready, take off the armrests and she’s riding solo. The “dashboard” makes fun car noises, and assembly’s a snap (look, Ma, no tools!).
18 months to 3 yearsDragonstone Castle With Inhabitants (Suggested Retail Price: $35, HABA)You'll admire this soft activity book for its utterly charming looks; your toddler will adore its detail-packed pages, with parts she can squeeze, slide, and pull. But the real adventures begin when you stand the book up to create castle walls. Then the princess, knight, and rattling dragon give your little princess the chance to act out as many royal escapades as she can dream up.
Wheel Pals Triple Track Tower (Suggested Retail Price: $15, Playskool)Toddlers, start your engines! Place the three cars at the top of the track; push the red button to send them barreling through the finish line, to the sounds of motors revving. Kids'll play again and again to see who wins — there's a different champ each time. When the race is over, the wheels can be "parked" at the back of the play set.
For a complete list of Parenting’s Mom-Tested Toys of the Year,