The Best of the Year: 2016 Holiday Award Toys
With all the early snow we're having a delightfully long holiday season this year. Top it all off with some great gifts under the tree. Here are our tester favourites this year.
Fun, jumbo size toiletries and cute songs about washing hands/face, brushing teeth, and combing hair. Very popular with our toddler testers, and parents say it definitely helped reinforce their child's hygiene routine.
"My daughter (2) already brushes her teeth and washes her hands at daycare and at home, however, I like having a toy to reinforce hygiene skills and make them fun." Shalimar NovakFull Review
Our testers loved using these realistic-looking, kid-sized hair styling tools on themselves, their dolls, parents and even taking turns doing each others' hair. Parents liked that the pieces were safe enough for even a 2 year old and that everything fits back into the little tote bag.
"The hair dryer and straightener are too hot to allow kids to touch in real life, so my kids (M2 & F5) really like the pretend play!" Rebecca D'Silva
Appeals to an impressively wide age range. Each section tells the Code-a-Pillar to either move forward, or turn right or left. Preschoolers loved just randomly snapping the sections together and watching where the Code-a-Pillar went. In all families, it was their older siblings who spent [a lot of!] time planning the sequencing of sections that would successfully 'program' the Code-a-Pillar to navigate from the green start disk to complete its trip at the red end disk.
"Even if it is a kids toy, I enjoy trying to make the caterpillar do a pattern to obtain the red button." Emma (F9)
“My 7 year old tried to programming it to get from the start point to reach the end goal. My 3 and 5 year old daughters just liked to change the directions around and see where it ends up, and my 1 year old loved to chase it around the house trying to grab it as my other kids played with it! I didn't expect it to have educational merit, but I do think it helped my kids understand directions and programming.” Wendy Krakowski
A great space-saving design that switches between an easel or a sit down desk. Super versatile for traditional whiteboard/chalkboard play, with an added bonus that it also features an electronic drawing grid programmed to help your child practice writing letters, numbers, shapes with other designs to trace, too.
"I like writing letters and numbers. It's like doing homework like my brother." Aiden (M3)
"I like playing with it because I like learning to write letters and numbers, and also I like to play teacher, too." Mia (F5)
Outstanding components - well designed not only for puzzle play, but to also inspire some imaginative play, which helps create a motivating context for the puzzle-solving. We love that there's an easier set of challenges to work through - piggies outside playing (no wolf), before kids tackle the more difficult challenge of making sure the piggies are all 'safely' inside their houses, while keeping the wolf out.
"I liked how the pigs fit in the houses and peek out the windows. And I liked trying to keep them safe. I would pretend the wolf was trying to eat the pigs but I would save them [by solving the puzzle]." Autumn (F6)
Our testers loved the casual look of this Barbie: jeans, sneakers, and awesome tech stuff. Perfect for everyday adventures in the 'real' world.
“She has a head set that helps her make video games and she wears glasses because her eyes get tired from looking at the screen. She dyed her hair, so some is red - it is my favourite hair of all my Barbies. I like that she can do gymnastics and the splits when she isn't working.” Siobhan (F5)
There are just so any ways of playing with this set! The favourite, by far, is controlling the flight harness to fly the figures over the crime scene. And parents love how easy it is for siblings to share - either by connecting the two cities to play one big scene, or separating so each child has their own set to play with.
"I like that Batman and Superman houses are together and that they can jump from one house to another with the flying helicopter. I like playing with my brother - one house each and we do battles." Aiden (M3)
Our kid-testers loved this baby dragon, especially her happy banter and cool features - like red-lit, fiery-looking cold mist spewing from her mouth to 'roast' the water-sensitive, colour-changing marshmallow.
"I like making the same noises she makes - it was hard for my mom to tell which one of us was roaring. And I like that the marshmallow actually looked like it was roasting and when she roared, her mouth glowed red and it looked like she was blowing fire because it looked smokey, like real fire." Autumn (F6)
Huge initial appeal, that remained high throughout the month or so that it was play tested, especially for kids who love electronic nurturing toys. The ultra-exciting part by far is the (one-time) hatching. But even after hatching, there's still lots of fun since the hatched critter is basically at the same point where most other interactive plush toys start. Only downside is the hefty price tag - not to mention the difficulty purchasing these super hot toys.
"The whole process from egg to hatch was an absolute blast and it really built an attachment to the Hatchimal. Even after more than a month, the initial appeal of nurturing and caring for the Hatchimal never wore off." Cameron MacQuarrie
"I really like talking like Batman. I wear my superhero costume, and its like I am really turning into Batman." Noah (M6)
There was lots that our testers LOVED about this toy, particularly the incredible detailing, and all the interesting specialized pieces - especially the dog and bear, and bunk beds with a hideabed (so all 3 figures could sleep). A very popular build, both with our testers who love American Girl, as well as those who just liked building the house.
"Once the house was completed we played with the little dolls. They all have names and their own stories so it's fun to play with them, especially after reading the American girl books. Most of my friends read the books so we can pretend play together." Lydia (F10)
One of the best NERF blasters ever! Our testers were particularly excited by the strap - both practical and cool - as well as the large 24 dart drum capacity that offers longer play time before the need to reload. And for bonus fun... the darts shoot really fast and far.
"I like that you can store lots of darts and that it shoots really fast. We played blocking the darts with light sabers, shooting down bowling pins, and just seeing how far it could shoot." Kyle (M9)
This new version of the hugely popular pick and pass game includes a much wider assortment of card types for you to create a new deck of cards each time you play. The game itself takes no longer than the original, nor is game play any more complex, although the dynamics of each game changes depending on the cards included in the game deck - a huge enrichment for long term play appeal.
"My favourite game right now. The choosing cards to build a deck and passing the cards makes it very different from my other games. I like that the cards all have different ways of using them so there are different ways to win." Jason (M8)
These mini 'bite-sized' projects are super quick to make, so kids can feel the pride and satisfaction of completing their projects over and over again. Book includes supplies, cutting templates and easy-to-follow instructions to make eighteen cute little food plushies.
"The instructions were very easy to follow and the fuzzy bits turned out exactly as they were shown. I like that you can use your own pieces of fabrics to create additional fruits and veggies using their technique and your imagination." Lydia (F10)