It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for. Well, not really, but it’s kind of exciting: The American Specialty Toy and Retailing Assocation (ASTRA) recently released the winners of the 2013 Best Toys for Kids awards. (Warning: Don’t read this in front of said kids; they will want everything.)
So, what do these toys have that other toys don’t? According to the press release, they “promote open-ended or creative play, incorporate innovative design features and maintain exceptional safety standards”. That last bit is pretty great news in our book, especially after we came across the list of product recalls from Toys “R” Us.
Finding the right toys for your kids is a daunting task, though many don’t believe it. There are just too many to choose from. It’s a similar experience to eating at an amazing restaurant: How the heck do you choose just one thing on the menu? Sure, you could buy your little ones absolutely everything, but that would make quite the dent in your bank account. That’s why this list is so useful: It tells you not only what toys your kids are going to enjoy, but also what toys are beneficial and education. These toy retailers deserve a pat on the back.
Without further ado, we present you with 21 toys in 13 categories:
RingStix Lite by RingStix-System Enterprises LLC
“This game is a simple and innovative variation of everyone’s favorite outdoor past time: the game of catch! Each game contains four stix, each different colors. Play with multiple players or even solo. 6+ years, $14.99.”
Y’all Ball by Joint Merchant
“Incredibly bouncy, super soft, hand washable and safe, this ball comes in different sizes for open-ended fun! 3+ years, $39.99.”
Classic Play (0-7 years)
Skwish Classic by Manhattan Toy
“This classic, innovative wooden rattle provides hours of infant entertainment by introducing the concept of cause and effect while encouraging grasping and reaching skills. Features a water-based, non-toxic paint finish. 6 months-1 year, $15.99.”
Classic Play (8 years +)
Original Spirograph® Deluxe Kit by Kahootz Toys
“This classic design kit features all the iconic wheels and rings of the original drawing toy re-engineered and updated for today. The new Spiro-Putty holds the Spirograph® pieces securely on the paper so that you can create intricately beautiful designs with no holes in the paper! Features a high quality, durable carrying case with snap-in storage and built-in drawing surfaces. 8+ years, $29.99.”
Q-BA-MAZE 2.0 Mega Stunt Set by MindWare
“Experiment to see what kind of zany, zigzagging action is possible with this innovative marble run! Ingenious pieces interlock in endless configurations, while double-exit cubes keep you guessing which way the marbles will go. Includes 108 cubes, two Cascade Stilts, two Coaster Tubes, one Marble Vortex, one Pivot Trampoline, two Universal Connectors, 30 steel marbles and color instructions. 6+ years, $79.99.”
Squigz by Fat Brain Toy Co.
“This imaginative construction set uses ‘suction construction’ and a little creativity for hours of building fun. Play pieces stick to virtually any flat surface and leave behind no residue. Made from high-grade silicone, features eight intriguing shapes! 3+ years, $24.99.”
Creative Arts Play
Potholder PRO by Harrisville Designs
“Make larger, more practical, beautiful potholders! Kit includes sturdy metal loom, two hooks, illustrated instructions and enough cotton loops to make two eight-and-a-quarter-inch multicolored potholders in eight beautiful colors. 3+ years, $29.99.”
X-treme Sticker Maker Set by Faber-Castell USA Inc.
“A favorite among crafters, this high quality sticker maker set is versatile and super easy to use. It includes 40 feet of sticker tape, more than 80 sticker designs with features such as velvet and glitter, and a sticker book and markers. 6+ years, $24.99.”
Early Play (0-3 years)
Green Toys Seaplane by Green Toys Inc.
“This buoyant yellow and green floatplane, made in the USA from 100% recycled plastic milk jugs, features a spinning propeller and chunky, oversized pontoons perfect for coasting into any port. Specially designed to float when taken into the bathtub or pool. No BPA, phthalates, PVC or external coatings. Packaged with recycled and recyclable materials and printed with soy inks. 1+ years, $19.99.”
Tatoo Xylo Roller by Juratoys US Corp (JANOD)
“The Xylo roller is music in motion! A fabulous wooden pull toy, painted in bright, vivid colors, allows children to play the xylophone on the go. Use the included mallet and you are ready to jam! The roller’s two sticks store conveniently in the front. 18+ months, $39.99.”
Game Play (3-7 years)
Bunny Peek A Boo by Smart Toys and Games, Inc.
“The sturdy wooden blocks and fun rabbit characters allow children to develop spatial perception skills and “pull a rabbit out of the box” with this 3D puzzle. The four large bunny blocks can be combined in many different ways for endless hours of play. Sixty challenges prepare children for more difficult single player logic games. 2-5 years, $24.99.”
Zingo! Sight Words by ThinkFun, Inc.
“A fun and interactive word game that brings fast-paced excitement and learning to the classic game of Bingo! Players learn to quickly recognize and read sight words. 3-7 years, $19.99.”
Game Play (8+ years)
Laser Maze by ThinkFun, Inc.
“Lights and mirrors may make it feel like magic, but it’s really science and a good dose of brain power that direct the laser beam through this series of mind challenging mazes. Get ready for a satisfying mental workout as you flex your strategic thinking muscles and ignite the light both on the grid and in your mind. 8+ years, $29.99.”
Timeline Diversity by Asmodee Editions
“Put your knowledge of historical events into action with this innovative trivia game! Each card has a different historical event and on the opposite side its associated date. Players take turns trying to order their cards in the correct timeline; the first player to get rid of all their cards wins. 8+ years, $14.99.”
Just for Fun
Curiosity Kits® Pulsar Powerballs by The Orb Factory
“Create five Pulsar Powerballs™ that bounce and soar to amazing heights. Includes one large and one small mold, two Pulsar Powerballs™ lights, eight bags of colorful crystals and illustrated instructions. 6+ years, $14.99.”
Super Magnetic Tidal Wave Thinking Putty by Crazy Aaron’s Puttyworld
“When Super Magnetic Thinking Putty is stretched, molded, or shaped, the putty has no magnetic charge and behaves like any other putty. However, in the presence of a magnet, the putty’s magnetic forces kick in! Each metal tin is hand packed with putty and a new large ceramic magnet for endless hours of Thinking Putty fun and creativity! 8+ years, $14.99.”
Pretend (Doll Play)
Calico Critters Supermarket by International Playthings
“Connect to real life experiences and take your Calico Critters to the grocery store with this new play set. With more than 100 pieces including fruits, vegetables, bread, fish, canned food, drinks, cookies, ice cream, shopping cart, check-out counter with cash register, display stands, and much more! 3+ years, $69.99.”
Pretend (Fantasy Play)
Rainbow Fairy Wings with Glitter by Douglas Cuddle Toy
“These fanciful fairy wings are beautifully hand-painted in an intricate design with a rainbow of colors. They are made of the soft, silky fabric and encourage imaginations to run wild! 3+ years, $17.99.”
Pretend (Role Play)
Cargo and Passenger Aircraft by PLAYMOBIL
“Take to the skies with the Cargo and Passenger Aircraft play set! Set includes five figures, a plane equipped with a sink and toilet, cargo container, an air traffic control tower with equipment, and other accessories.” 3+ years, $109.99.”
Air-Stream Machines by Thames & Kosmos
“Junior scientists can explore and experiment with air pressure and air flow with this new science kit. Construct a batting machine, build a basketball launcher and more. The set includes 59 building pieces and a full-color, 32-page experiment manual. 8+ years, $69.99.”
Snap Circuits SOUND by ELENCO Electronics
“This easy-to-assemble electronic circuit board kit invites kids to build over 185 exciting sound projects including a voice changer. Connect to your smart phone and analyze sound with apps and much more! 8+ years, $84.99.”