Top Picks for 2013: Best New Toys for Ages 8 and UpJoslyn Gray
The best toys of the 110th American International Toy Fair were either completely novel, or brought a really cool twist to something classic. From a new Twister game that will work up a sweat, to a fresh take on the simple flying disc, there were some great choices for kids age 8 and up.
Although I think my picks for the Best New Toys for Ages 5 to 7 will probably appeal to kids over that range, the toys here are intended specifically for kids age 8 and up. One toy, the new LEGO Mindstorm, is for kids 10 and up.
Some of these items are available now, and some won’t be out until later this years. I’ve provided links for all.
Top Picks for 2013: Best New Toys for Ages 8 and Up 1 of 16Reporting from the 110th American International Toy Fair in New York City, here are my picks for the best new toys for kids age 8 and up.
LEGO Mindstorms EV3 (View 1) 2 of 16Let's be clear: this isn't a typical toy. In fact, I hesitate to call this high performance robotics set a toy at all. For the 15th anniversary of LEGO Mindstorms, the company has launched a new system that makes it easier to get started, while still keeping the complexity and challenge of the original Mindstorms. Also, don't worry if you've got earlier sets: all are compatible.
One of the main differences in this new line is that users can build, program, and play with the starter robot in less than 20 minutes. After that, kids can keep making it more and more advanced, as well as build several different models with the kit.
Why I Picked It: I was incredibly impressed with the smooth motion and responsiveness of the robots built with this set. For smart kids who don't want to wait until high school or college to do hands-on robotics, this is the way to go.
Ages 10 and up. Available from LEGO in the second half of 2013, $349.99.
LEGO Mindstorms EV3 (View 2) 3 of 16Here's another look at the new LEGO Mindstorms set. The snake can sense when someone is nearby, and will attack. Control the motion with the included remote control, or even from a smartphone.
At $349.99, LEGO Mindstorms represents a serious investment. One option would be to ask aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc. to chip in for this as a major present. The other thing that occurred to me is that it's about the same cost as a two-week summer robotics camp in my neck of the woods--but in this case, your kid gets to keep the set and continue to learn and grow with it.
Ages 10 and up. Available from LEGO in the second half of 2013, $349.99.
Gibbon Slackline 4 of 16You know what your backyard needs? A tightrope. More specifically, a slackline. Originating in the climbing world, slacklining has evolved into a cross trainer, backyard activity and sport all of its own. Read more about it at Gibbon's super-helpful website.
Why I Picked It: So fun, your kids won't realize how much they're working their core strength and balance.
Available from Gibbon, $74.99 for this configuration.
Bop-It Tetris 5 of 16This all-new light game challenges you to match the iconic Tetris shapes as the challenges get faster and faster. Offers hundreds of puzzles and both solo and social play.
Why I Picked It: Bop-It + Tetris = marriage made in heaven. I really didn't want to put this one down.
Ages 8 and up. Available from Hasbro August 2013, $24.99.
LEGO Ninjago: The Golden Dragon 6 of 16Dragons are a big deal, especially Asian-style dragons. Not those stuffy Knights of the Round Table-looking dragons. Later this year, LEGO will be re-launching its famous "Castle" series, and that line will incorporate at least one dragon. It's red and black and super-fierce; think more Harry Potter and less Puff the Magic Dragon.
Why I Picked It: This set hits the mark for picking up on the dragon trend, which fits in easily with the Ninjago theme. I also like that this set looks simple, but with 252 pieces, is actually very rich in detail. The claws are particularly awesome.
Recommended for ages 8 to 14. Available from LEGO, $29.99.
Lay-n-Go Storage Solution 7 of 16Created by a mom seeking a better solution to controlling the chaos of her three sons' LEGO collection, this is one of those things that's brilliant, yet so simple I can't believe no one had ever thought of it before. In the larger size, the storage bag lays flat as a 5-foot play circle, making it easy to spread out bricks. When playtime is done, instead of scooping up all the bricks to go back into a bin, simply pull the cord to contain all the bricks in a bag. The bag is made of high-quality rip-stop material, has a carrying strap, and has little pockets for minifigs and other special pieces. There's also an 18-inch size for travel, which has a lip to keep bricks from spilling out at restaurants and in waiting rooms.
If you're sitting there staring at this, mouth agape at the freaking awesomeness, that's exactly what I was doing when I spotted this at the Toy Fair.
Why I Picked It: Totally brilliant, incredibly well-made, and applicable to every tiny little thing in my house. This would work for my kids' massive Beanie Baby collection, their Littlest Pet Shop critters, their Polly Pockets, little cars, you name it. Mine are already on order.
Available in multiple colors, through Target.com (online only), $58.99 for the original large size and $23.89 for the small size.
Pocket Disc 8 of 16I love absolutely everything about this brightly-colored flying disc. They're fun, soft, easy to throw and catch, and fly really far. Also, the people that bring us Pocket Discs are committed to fair trade and creating minimal impact on the environment. The 100% cotton discs are handmade by indigenous artisans in Guatemala. They're available in the Indoor Edition, the heavier-weight (and farther-flying) Sports Edition, and a nighttime version called Luna Disc, that contains LED lights.
Why I Picked It: A great choice for older kids due to the high performance, but also great for little kids because it's so soft. This is the only thing I've ever handed to my kids and said, "here, you can throw this around inside the house."
Available from Pocket Disc, $9.99 for the Indoor Edition; $16.95 for the Sports Edition, $24.95 for the LunaDisc.
BrickStix 9 of 16BrickStix are repositionable decals that cling to plastic bricks like LEGOs and Mega Bloks. Invented by a 9-year-old boy who was frustrated by how darned permanent regular stickers were, the brand has been out there for a couple of years. New this year are Mod Stickers, which offer increased detail. Mod Stickers adhere to plastic bricks like regular stickers, but leave no icky residue behind if you choose to remove them.
Why I Picked It: BrickStix bring even more creativity to the already-awesome LEGOs my kids adore. The company offers a great selection of themes, from "Home" and "Pets" to "WWII" and "Zombie." I also love the educational applications of the stick-on letters, words, and numbers.
Available in specialty toy stores and directly from BrickStix, $5.99 a pack.
Magnatab 10 of 16One of those rare toys that makes something dull (handwriting practice) into something fun. This handwriting practice tools utilizes safely-contained magnetized balls to form the letters. To "erase" them, simply push the beads back into place. Available in both lowercase and uppercase for print and cursive.
Why I Picked It: Sometimes you need a little something extra to get kids to work on basic skills, especially as they get older and get into cursive handwriting. The magnet balls bring a novel and fun touch that might be just what your messy writer needs to motivate him or her to practice. Also, I love that in this age of the digital and the battery-powered, this toy is neither. A great option for fine motor skill work.
Available in specialty toy and teaching stores, and online at Amazon, $13.66.
Pocket People 11 of 16Ever wonder what happens to those missing socks? Crafter Rita Ross turns them into hands-down the most adorable toy of the year. Ms. Ross has made thousands of unique dolls from socks, previously only selling her handmade creations from a Facebook page. The dolls sold on the larger market won't be hand-made, but they retain the charm and handmade look of the originals.
Why I Picked It: Adorable but not babyish, simple but not plain, these dolls are just quirky enough to appeal to both little kids and tweens. The small size (each doll is about 3-1/2 inches tall) is perfectly irresistible.
Coming soon to stores and websites; follow Pocket People on Facebook and Twitter to find out when they're available. Expected to retail for about $10-$12.
Think-Doh 12 of 16Think-Doh is a silicone clay that's very different from anything else I've used. Pliable, doesn't crack, brightly-colored and glossy, you can make very detailed little projects. In particular, it's great for making miniature anything.
Why I Picked It: My 11-year-old daughters and their friends are obsessed with making tiny things. This would allow them to make things in much finer detail than any other clay we've used.
Hopefully coming to stores soon, but right now the only place I can find it is direct from the manufacturer on eBay, $48.53 for the large, 9-color set.
Q-BA-MAZE 2.0 13 of 16Marbles are making some kind of mega-comeback. For the advanced marble ramp stuntperson, this Q-BA-MAZE 2.0 is a great choice. This giant set includes 108 cubes, 2 Cascade Stilts, 2 Coaster Tubes, 1 Marble Vortex, 1 Pivot Trampoline, 2 Universal Connectors, 30 steel marbles and color instructions.
Why I Picked It: High-quality and able to be built in an infinite number of shapes, this maze is worth the money if you've got a serious marble fan. Also, the trampoline is epic.
Looking for a marble maze for younger kids, or at a lower price point? Check out my recommendation in 2013 Top Picks: Best New Toys for Kids Ages 5 to 7.
Available from Mindware, $79.95 for the Mega Stunt Set; smaller sets available.
Nerf Rebelle: Heartbreaker Bow 14 of 16Nerf's new line of toys marketed specifically to girls, Rebelle, is obviously capitalizing on the archery trend inspired by The Hunger Games and Brave. What I like about the line is that in taking input from thousands of girls, Nerf put together something that is genuinely appealing in terms of both design and quality. My favorite item from Rebelle line, this Heartbreaker Bow, shoots foam darts, not arrows. I was really impressed with the performance of this toy: darts fly up to 75 feet, and the bow is surprisingly accurate.
Why I Picked It: Say what you will about pink and purple, but this is not a dumbed-down toy, nor is it a "boy's" toy with some glitter slapped on. The performance was impressive, and if the packaging gets more girls to play outside, then I'm all for it. Props to Nerf for making this bow so high-quality. Super-fun and weirdly empowering to play with.
Ages 8 and up. Available from Nerf in Fall 2013, $19.99.
Nerf Super Soaker Artic Shock Blaster 15 of 16You know what would make your summertime water pistol fights more refreshing and/or hilarious? Making the water ice-cold. The newest Super Soaker has a wide mouth 25 fluid ounce clip that can fit ice cubes, which strikes me as both devious and brilliant at the same time.
Why I Picked It: Dude, we don't have a pool. It gets hot here and I'm only going to run the sprinkler for but so many hours a day.
Available from Nerf Super Soaker in Spring 2013, $19.99.
My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic: Minifigures 16 of 16Yes, I see that it's clearly printed on the box that this is a toy intended for kids age 3 and up. Except I'm also very much aware that the people who really, really want to collect these are actually more like 12 and up, which is why I'm including these in this list. My Little Pony fans can look forward to new figures and deluxe collections in Fall 2013, including (squee) the loveable Pound Cake twins, and Pumpkin Cake. Creatures such as a sea serpent and a manticore are also to be featured.
Why I Picked It: Because of all the tween birthday parties I've been to this year featuring these figures as the fave presents.
Check out 2013 Top Picks: Best Toys for Ages 5 to 7 for my other MLP pick.
New sets available Fall 2013; current sets, like this one, available from Hasbro, $7.99.
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