For Good Housekeeping’s first annual Best Toy Awards, the editors looked at hundreds of playthings for ages 3 to 14, evaluated 51 favorites, and then let dozens of kids loose to play and choose their top picks. The result: 14 safe, creative, and fun finds.
Robots, unite!The Disney Pixar U-Command Wall-E($60, ages 6+) is this year’s hottest cartoon come to life. Kids loved programming their beloved “actor” to follow a sequence of commands or just driving him around by remote control. WowWee RS Tri-bot ($100, ages 8+) is so multifunctional, you’ll wonder if he has a mind of his own. Like Wall-E, he can be steered via remote or “taught” to act out a series of commands. Tri-bot also has built-in stories, jokes, and games for seemingly endless play. And there’s good news for you if his chatter becomes less endearing: volume controls.
A need for speed
Safely indulge his inner Evel Knievel with Mattel Hot Wheels Trick Tracks Power Loop Stunt Zone Set ($30, ages 4+). A child can send Hot Wheels on the death-defying Power Loop. The cars didn’t always make it around, but our testers thought crashes were half the fun.
Combine the Scientific Explorer Magic Science Kit ($20, ages 6+) with a few household ingredients like ice cubes (plus adult supervision), and presto: potions that bubble, change color, or even glow in the dark.
All aboardFor a child who aspires to be a conductor of the locomotive or musical variety, Melody Express Musical Train by Learning Resources ($43, ages 3+) is just the ticket. The track’s tiles double as musical notes to be laid in any order. As the train rolls over, a song plays. While it has a 3+ rating, even 6-year-olds loved it.
Out of this worldThey’ve landed — on your kitchen table! With Hasbro Martian Matter Alien Maker ($18, ages 5+), kids mold extraterrestrials from slime (a gel) and putty. And not to worry — in our tests, the mess was pretty well contained in the base station.
Run(a)way hitFor the fashionista in training, Mattel’s Barbie iDesign Ultimate Stylist CD-ROM Game ($30, ages 5+, PC only) lets little ones plan fashion shows — clothes, music, lighting, and more — by scanning garment cards with the included scanner.
Construction zoneThis new entry from Lego, Creator Cargo Copter ($20, ages 7+), comes with pieces and instructions to build a boat, plane, or helicopter — all with a power winch to provide action.
Off the wallOne glimpse of Air Hogs Zero Gravity Micro car ($30, ages 8+), and kids and parents alike wondered, “How’d it do that?” The secret to the car’s Spidey-like ability to climb walls and drive on the ceiling: air suction.
Top chefThe tastiest toy of the test, Jakks Pacific Girl Gourmet Cupcake Maker ($30, ages 8+) had kids “baking” up tons of just-add-water microwaved cupcakes. Not all results were perfect, but testers didn’t mind as they gobbled down their creations.
Hot pursuitNot just another remote-controlled car, the Wild Planet Spy Video ATV-360 ($99, ages 8+) is rigged with a video camera that transmits audio and video to a separate headset in real time — and was a huge hit with all our testers.
Good clean funGirls really got into Elmer’s Totally Glamorous Spa Kit ($20, ages 9+), a chemistry set that turns everyday household ingredients, like table salt and honey, into fizzy, fragrant soaps; easy at-home facials; and soothing bath salts.
Cranium Family Edition ($20, ages 8+) is age-rated lower than the original, but it’s lost none of the fun factor. Players sketch, sculpt, solve puzzles, act, and answer questions to make their way around the board.
I spy… everything!
With the infrared Jakks Pacific Night Vision Goggles ($80, ages 8+) switched on, our testers couldn’t believe their eyes: They could see perfectly, even in our pitch-black, light-sealed room. Wow!
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