Around this time of year our weekends include trips to the toy store where we let the kids loose — willingly. Call it a form of parent market testing. They run up and down the aisles touching all the buttons, pulling things off shelves.
They make the truck sounds, try on action figure costumes, stare and point at lego boxes and more. It is the world’s biggest toy buffet and we let the kids have at ‘er. For my wife and I, it’s the best way to see what they actually like. Sure, they can see a commercial or a flyer and say they want it, but when they actually get to ‘play’ with it, we can see if we both want it.
The Canadian Toy Testing Council conducts similar experiments with focus groups of kids and hundreds of toys. Then, just before Christmas, they come out with the best testing for each age group. It’s perfect for when you have to buy for cousins and friends that aren’t in the same age group as your children.
(BTW, Yes I am totally trying to find out how to sign my kids up to be on the panel of testers next year.)
Here’s an overview of their Child’s Pick for each age group, you can see the full list of toys tested and more detailed breakdown here.
6m+ Little Tikes: DiscoverSounds Activity Garden 1 of 9"This attractive, brightly coloured infant-size playhouse has four walls that can be arranged in a square or in zigzags. When set up like a square, the doors and windows let kids use it like a house. The toy has lots of attractive details to engage kids door chimes, a small tunnel to crawl through, a telephone that speaks in four languages. With so many things to discover and play with, testers are engaged for hours. Children of different ages can play together. Parents like this toy because it encourages motor development, standing, crawling and manipulation skills. The toy does take up a lot of space, and assembly can be time consuming. Requires three "AA" batteries." [via CTTC]
Available from Little Tikes for $79.99
2yrs+ Fisher Price: Servin Surprises 2 of 9"Dinner is served! The two cooking surfaces on this interactive kitchen play centre have realistic sound effects. The set comes with place settings and cutlery, as well as four cookies and a realistic looking pizza with customizable toppings. The stove and oven components can be removed so the table can be used by itself for others activities, such as arts and crafts. The centre of the table has storage for place settings, utensils and food accessories. Testers love placing food on the serving tray because it responds with sound effects and songs. Parents like this kitchen centre because it promotes sharing and creativity. Some families would have liked more instructions for assembly and table height adjustment. Requires six "AA" batteries." [via CTTC]
Buy it from Fisher Price for $70.00
3yrs+ Ed Creator Davinci Block 3 of 9"Budding engineers and inventors love these innovative plastic building blocks. The blocks have non-repelling, rotating magnets, which our testers use to click, twist and connect pieces into imaginative creations. The box provides lots of ideas for things to build: rocket ships, towers, trains, cars, spacecraft and machines. Children learn about magnets and gears while their imagination and creativity are being stimulated. Parents describe this toy as "ingenious" and "brilliant" and report no frustration during play. Testers appreciate the variety of pieces, which come in different shapes, sizes and colours. The toy has lots of creative play value." [via CTTC]
Get it from Creative Kids Stuff for $56.00
4yrs+ Yago Pool: The Strategic Finger Billiard 4 of 9"This popular tabletop billiards game comes with a felted pad, rubber bumpers and nine pots (holes). Place a triangular rack on the board and fill it with 10 red and yellow balls. Remove the rack and use your fingers to flick a blue cue ball at the other balls, trying to sink all of your own balls into pots. This strategic game has multiple levels of play, ideal for a wide age range. Our testers and adults all enjoy this game. Parents also like it for the great quality of the materials and the fantastic play value. The game includes easy-to-follow instructions and storage for balls." [via CTTC]
Get more info, including pricing, at Yago Pool. Sets start at about $200.00
5yrs+ Bill & Betty Bricks 5 of 9"This attractive, popular logic game comes with two figurines and colourful wooden building blocks. The blocks have a variety of shapes. A beautiful challenge book shows structures you can build. With five complexity levels from beginner to expert, this is a toy that can grow with the child. No reading is needed to follow instructions. Answers for all 60 challenges are provided. Testers play alone or in groups, helping each other and taking turns. Everything fits together in a handy carrying case. Parents say that the game has excellent play value." [via CTTC]
Purchase at Smart Games. Sets start at $24.35
6yrs+ DiY Lip Balm / Glycerine Soap / Bath Fizzie Kiss Naturals 6 of 9"Make your own bath fizzle with this all-natural, easy-to-do craft. The kit gives you three containers of powder and comes with grapefruit, orange and safflower scents. Mix the powder and scents together, put it in the mould, and 12 hours later you have bath fizzle. This game is attractive to children in the target age group. The craft comes with easy-to-follow instructions, and more information and refills are available on line. Testers enjoy doing a craft that can be used once it's made. Some parents note that there's too much product to fill the only mould provided, but not enough to make two batches." [via CTTC]
Find a Canadian retailer at Kiss Naturals
7yrs+ Future Planet: E-Rangers Headquarters 7 of 9"You're in command! This headquarters building is part of the retrofuturistic Future Planet series. Send your E-Rangers into the building through a rotating gate and elevator. The building is equipped with a swivelling LED spotlight, a cannon and a functional solar fan. You also get a jet racer and power packs. The set includes four E-Ranger figurines, one robot and many other accessories. Testers enjoy assembling the 181-piece set and creating imaginative play scenarios. Parents like the excellent design and details and note that the toy engages kids for extended periods of play. The toy is also interactive with the Dark Rangers Headquarters (sold separately). Requires three "AAA" batteries." [via CTTC]
Get your set at Playmobil for C$129
8yrs+ Mine Shift Mindware 8 of 9"Don't get trapped in the mine! In this two-player game, kids move gems and walls inside a mine to free their own gems and block their opponent. The game includes 10 red and blue glass jewels, as well as 27 thick cardboard tiles with four quadrants on each. Endless set-up possibilities make each episode unique. Testers enjoy it and find it easy to learn and quick to play. Parents like it because children learn how to develop strategies with repeated play. The game comes with a sturdy tin storage case. The game is fun for everybody, and playing time is about 20 minutes." [via CTTC]
Buy it from Mindware for $19.95
10yrs+ Pick n Choose Mhr GAMES 9 of 9"Guess my word! This laughter-filled game challenges your teammates to correctly guess the word you're animating. You can choose how to animate your word: sculpt with modeling clay or wire, draw, hum, gesture, or clown around. You can even offer one-word or trivia hints. The points you earn depend on which method you choose. The variety of approaches appeals to different personality types. The games works best in larger groups, say parents, and it is good for team building, development of communication skills, and laughter. Testers have lots of fun with this game." [via CTTC]
Pick up your Pick N Choose Games at Grand River Toys for $34.99