Great Toys At Every Budget
Stephanie's segment on the TODAY SHOW
Tags: Toys at Every Budget, NBC's TODAY Show
Posted: 2011-03-30 12:06:07 By:

 

Under $10

 

 


2010 Award
Sassy Bumpy Ball
(Sassy $9.99 Score: )

Roll this bumpy ball and it will wibble-wobble as it goes. Covered with easy to grab soft fabric knobs, this jolly looking fabric ball has many patterns for visual interest. There are stripes and polka-dots in bright contrasting colors. It also has two see-through plastic knobs on either side that turn. Inside of both knobs are small mirrors and colorful beads that are reflected as they rattle. This just says, come on, roll it, toss it, and turn it. 6 months and up.

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The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements.  We did not independently test this toy in a lab.

Age: Infants. Award Year: 2010. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2010 Award
Krazy Kars Light Up Marble Racers
(Skullduggery $7.99 Score: )

Kids can customize their own see-though racers with the stick-on decals. Give them a shake and the "marble" in the center of the vehicle lights up. These will make good party favors or stocking stuffers or a less than costly way to exit the toy store with a small purchase. 3 & up.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2010. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

Under $15

 

 


2010 Award
Thomas & Friends By the Sea and Fun at the Carnival Jumbo Floor Puzzles
(Briarpatch $14.95 Score: )

These jumbo floor puzzles have 35 big pieces and when complete they will be 18" by 29.5" inches wide. Best of all the way the pieces are broken apart, it's easy to figure out how to fit the trains together and the other characters in Thomas' world. By the Sea features Thomas going over a bridge and his pals Harold the helicopter and Bulstrode the boat are in the scene countryside scene along with Sir Topham Hatt. Fun at the Carnival ($14.95) features Thomas arriving at the carnival grounds where a huge tent is waiting, along with workers who are setting up the booths. As usual Sir Topham Hatt is concerned over the time as he checks his pocket watch and Harold is hovering overhead ready to stir up action. There's a lot to talk about in both of these pig puzzles. Both build dexterity, problem solving skills, visual discrimination, as well as language and patience. They say 3 & up. We'd say 3's and most 4's will need parental help to get this started, but they love doing their puzzles many times and developing mastery over them.

Age: Preschool. Award Year: 2010.

 

 

 


2010 Award
eeBoo 100 piece Big Balloon Puzzle
(eeBoo $14 Score: )

Based on art from the book, Gus & Button, this colorful floor puzzles will be 18" X 27" when it is complete. With 100 pieces this is not a snap to put together and kids will need strategies for fitting together the edges and main pictorial features. That said, once it is completed it will be satisfying and fun to explore.  Marked 5 & up, we do think it will be enjoyed more by 7's and up.   Handsomely illustrated by Saxton Freymann.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2010.

 

 

 


2010 Award
Order's Up
(Gamewright $14 Score: )

It's rush hour at the Ring-Ding Diner. Players each have a guest check. Player one rolls the die to add dishes to their pictorial check. If the die has a bell be the first to hit the bell and grab the grub that matches your check. But be careful. If someone rolls a swap you have to give them your check with all the cards on it. Kids will like the bell and the pace of this game - though some may find the swapping part as hard to take as falling on a downward chute in Chutes and Ladders. You need to be pretty quick to get to the bell first and use visual discrimination to make speedy matches and fill your "check." 6 & up.


The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements. We did not independently test this toy in a lab.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2010. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2010 Award
Zip-it
(Bananagrams $14.99 Score: )

How quickly can you arrange 12 cubes into a crossword with no letters left over? There is no timer. You are playing against your opponent. The first player to use all 12 cubes calls, "Zip it!" and gets a point. Score keeping is the neatest part of the game design The cubes come in a rectangular cloth bag with a zipper and numbers line on each side. When you win a round you slide the zipper up on point. First player to win ten rounds is the champ. This is a quick game and easy to pack for travel. Just pick your opponents with care. You do not want to play a crossword expert, as this reviewer learned. 8 & up.


The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements. We did not independently test this toy in a lab.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2010. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

Under $20

 

 


2010 Award
Dr. Seuss What's in the Cat's Hat?
(I Can Do That Games $19.99 Score: )

Pull the big red and white hat out of the box and get ready for a fun time guessing game. Player One hides a household object inside the Cat's Hat. Now Player Two draws a card that tells what question he can ask or what action he can take to discover what's in the hat. Although this is a preschool game, there will need to be an adult who can read the cards - at least until they get familiar with the graphics. The cards do have good illustrations that show what the action or the question should be. But, an adult will sometimes be needed. The younger the players, the more the adult will need to do. Cards tell a player to use the peeking hole on the side of the hat, or smell the hat, touch it with their elbows, or ask what room the object comes from, what letter it starts with, or is it round, can you float it in the bathtub, etc. This is a jolly game that involves problem solving skills, communication skills, reasoning, and sensory awareness. A good choice for 2 or more players. It will be fun for mixed ages, but probably best for beginning readers. 3 & up.

The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements. We did not independently test this toy in a lab.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2010.

 

 

 


2010 Award
Play-Doh 3-D Flash Art
(Hasbro $19.99 Score: )

You have to see the amazing designs that spin into sight with this new twist on your old spin art toy. This is not about making finished products you want to hang up. It's all about the process and the doing. A new flash spinner has a blue strobe light built into the mechanism and by pressing different light switches you change the frequency of the light and with it the designs that appear on the slick black wipe-off cardboards. The phosphorescent paint not only glows in the dark, the threads of paint appear to change their forms. You can also make different designs with the skinny waxed sticks that stick to the black cardboards. And, remember this is a play-doh toy, too. It comes with a molded form that you can fill with the multi colors of play-doh in the package. Turn the switch on and the spinning doh takes on yet another interesting design. I'm told, by one of the older testers that this is a hands-on lesson in Physics, though the directions say nothing about about the changes being brought about by light frequencies. Since the cardboard boards can be wiped off with a damp paper towel and reused, this is not going to be as quickly "consumed" as some other novelty toys. 5 & up.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2010. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2010 Award
Creativity for Kids Felt Fashions Jewelry Tree
(Creativity for Kids $19.99 Score: )

There's just something lovely about this jewelry tree that makes us smile. Maybe it's the plump blue bird that sits on top of the tree...reminds of us of a Mexican tree of life.  The tree is easy to put together (younger kids may need assistance) and then it's ready to decorate with the felt piees.  The kit also comes with all the fixings for making felt jewelry (there are beads, felt pieces, ribbon for necklaces and nickel-free earring hooks).  The tree stands 14 inches tall.   The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements.  We did not independently test this toy in a lab.

Age: Later School Years, Tweens. Award Year: 2010. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2010 Award
Record a Story: Guess How Much I Miss You
(by Julia Lobo/ illus. by Rebecca Elliott, Publications International $19.95 Score: )

We see a lot of novelty books, but this one is rather tender and the novelty of being able to record your voice into the story, makes it a special gift to give to children when one goes away on a business trip or for long distance family members to send to a grandchild or niece/nephew. There isn't a lot of story, but first you record the words of the book in your own voice. Then, as the child turns the pages it reads the story of how much you are missing them in simple prose.  The cardboard pages are sturdy enough for young children to turn with ease and this is likely to be enjoyed again and again. 3 & up.

Age: Preschool. Award Year: 2010. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2010 Award
Record a Story: T'was the Night Before Christmas
(Publications International $19.99 Score: )

This is not just a classic Christmas story, it's a clever idea that is packaged to allow grandparents (who are miles away) or parents (who travel a lot) to read this classic storybook aloud for young listeners even if you cannot be there in person. It's a book with a built-in recording machine that you can personalize for the children in your life. You need to open the recording box on the side of the book to unlock the recording mechanism.  Then record the text on each page. By the way, we have read online about folks having a problem with doing this, but honestly, if you follow the simple directions on the back of the first page, it works like a charm!  When you are done you open the battery box and lock in your recording. What a charming keepsake! It might also be fun for older sibs to record this for a younger sibling, as a special gift. The sturdy cardboard pages are nicely illustrated and look like they will hold up. This is one of a new series of books kids can listen to again and again. True, this is not the same as sitting with the child in your lap or side by side and looking at the pictures together--but it is a memorable gift that has a kind of magic quality. 3 & up.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2010. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

Under $30

 

 


2010 Award
Citiblocs Cool Colors Building Blocks
(Citiblocs $24.99 Score: )

We fell in love with these open-ended building blocks last year.   They look alot like the pricier original French, Kapla blocks. Compatible with the originals, they are all the same size pieces of natural wood.  The open-endedness of these blocks truly challenges the builder's imagination and dexterity. The smooth and precision cut blocks are made of Radiata Pine from certified renewable forests in New Zealand and come packaged with suggested projects kids can build without glue or pegs.  What's new this season- sets of Hot (pinks/reds) and Cool (blue/green) colors. These make interesting patterns and may hold added appeal to younger builders.  (These sets got lukewarm reviews from threes--but older 4s and 5s totally got into them - so if you get a set and your child doesn't seem enthralled, pull them back out when they're a little older.) They come in different sets: 100 piece set costs $24.99, 50 pieces for $12.95.   The packages say 3 & up, we think older builders of 5 & up will find them more interesting.  The activities suggested will challenge even older kids.  Our recommendation--put them on the coffee table and see what everyone, young and old, comes up with.  We found them addictive.
The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements. We did not independently test this toy in a lab.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2010. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2010 Award
Plan Toys Planimal Australia Series
(Plan Toys $30 Score: )

One of new series of articulated wooden animals that are perfect for block settings or pretend play. The four animals featured in the Australia set are a kangaroo with baby in her pouch, a koala, wombat and emu. The set comes with cardboard habitat that they can be displayed on. The back of the display has factoids about the habitat and each of the creatures. These are handsome little figures that are smooth to the touch and articulated so that they can stand, sit, or lie down. Even their heads can be moved to look down or upward. The emu with it's long neck is wonderfully articulated, though not always steady on its feet. A nice blend of pretend and science. 3 & up. The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements. We did not independently test this toy in a lab.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2010. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2010 Award
Make 'N Break Challenge
(Ravensburger $29.99 Score: )

This looks easier than it turns out to be. Two players compete to reproduce the structure shown on a card. The one who builds the structure first wins the round. Here's the catch. You can only use one hand and you have to lift the blocks and place them with a wooden tong. It's a good game for developing dexterity, problem solving, spatial relationships, and matching skills. 8 & up.

The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements. We did not independently test this toy in a lab.

 

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2010. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2010 Award
Manhattan Toy Rustletoes Calico Cow
(Manhattan Toy $29.99 Score: )

Calico Cow is an armful; a super soft nubby-textured white cow with brown patches, a creamy velvety velour face and horns, and brown velour hooves. Her ears and tail are plush that reverses to velour on the underside. She has a sweet smiling face and her features are stitched for safety. An added plus, her rounded bottom is weighted so it sits well. She's 14" tall when sitting. An endearing cuddly huggable with interesting textures to explore. Calico Cow also comes in an 8" size ($15.99) Also in the Rustletoes collection see Dudley Donkey and Louise Lamb. 3 & up.
The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements. We did not independently test this toy in a lab.

Age: Preschool. Award Year: 2010. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 


Under $40

 

 


2010 Award
Sizzlin Shapes Kitchen
(Step 2 $34.99 Score: )

A fun toddler toy that is just right for early pretend play as well as making things happen with multiple kinds of manipulatives. There is a faucet and a little pretend sink--push the button and you hear the water running. There's a burner where the egg in the pan sizzle when put on the stove. Turn the big red button on the stove for a ratchet sound. There are doors that open on the refrigerator, and microwave oven, and shutters that open the window. The refrigerator door is also a shape sorter of sorts. The openings on the fridge door are color coded, but some of the shapes have two colors, which might be confusing. Not exactly a clear match. But put any of the pieces including the orange, tomato, and cheese wedge in and they drop out of the fake icemaker chute on the door front. It's putting the food in and having it drop out that is the fun part of this toddler toy. It is all about making things happen and doing it again and again. That is where the action is with kids at this stage. All in all it's a very satisfying mini-kitchen for beginning chefs. It will not take the place of the child size play kitchen, but it is the right size for now. They say 12 months and up, we would say the pretend part is more like 18 months and up.

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The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements. We did not independently test this toy in a lab.

Age: Toddlers, Preschool. Award Year: 2010. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2010 Award
General Grievous Spinning Electronic Lightsaber
(Hasbro $39.99 Score: )

Star Wars fans young and old will really appreciate this spinning electronic lightsaber that you can use as one uber lightsaber-or take apart and have two to use for pretend play. Each saber lights up (one is green and the other is blue); both make that wonderful humming sound when activated.  The gyro-grip takes a little practice but is really satisfying once you get the hang of it.  No matter the age of your Star Wars fan, this will be at the top of the list. 

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years, Tweens, Teens, Adult. Award Year: 2010. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

Big Ticket

 

 


2010 Award
Playmobil African Wild Life
(Playmobil $69.99 Score: )

A new Wildlife Care Station with baby animals and an enclosure for keeping the animals. Comes with removable casts and bandages and a giraffe with a wound that disappears when it is "treated" by the vet in residence. There are lots of add-ons for this setting that include more animals and vehicles. Marked 4 & up. The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements. We did not independently test this toy in a lab.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2010. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2010 Award
Lego City Airport
(Lego Systems, Inc. $99.99 Score: )

Here's a top of the line airport, control tower, and jet with 703 pieces to assemble and then use for dramatic play. It's all here, from the revolving doors, ticket desk, security checkpoint with X-ray machine, café, and lounge. Every small detail from baggage carts, passengers, and crew are included. But perhaps best of all, the jet itself is a big 20" long and over 7" tall. This is a great choice for Lego builders 6-12.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2010. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2013 Award
Nursery Carriage
(Corolle $109 Score: )

An update of our 2010 Platinum Award Winner. The carriage, originally in red and pink, is now done in navy with accents of pink, white and navy.  Seriously stately and gorgeous. It not only collapses for travel, the soft fabric body of the carriage - the doll's bed - lifts out of the frame to become a carrier with straps for ease of toting about. This has white treaded wheels with pink hubcaps and a lift-up hood for giving dolly a sun-shaded nap. Marked 3 & up.

 

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 

 
2010 Awards
Wonder World Eco House
(Wonderworld  $140 Score: )

A small eco friendly rubberwood wooden dollhouse powered by a windmill and solar panel. Comes with three family figures, that have yarn hair and as one tester put it, "They look like they were at Woodstock." It also has recycling containers, a water barrel, furniture and a two wheeled vehicle (we can't say what it runs on.) This is a much younger and less detailed setting than the Eco House from Plan toys. Two storey wooden playhouse comes with kitchen set, bedroom set, three wooden dolls and bathroom set
It's not just gender free it's one that boys as well as girls will like.


The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements. We did not independently test this toy in a lab.

SNAP: This is easier to get into than many doll houses because if is so open. It is also uncomplicated, though it has all the features a house should have. This is one of those rare gender free houses that can be used for dramatic play. It not only builds imagination, it can be useful in developing language skills.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2010. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 
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