Some of Our Favorites for 2013
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Posted: 2013-12-16 13:28:10 By:

 

Toyportfolio.com's Co-founder and Today Show Contributor Stephanie Oppenheim will share some the independent organization's top picks for 2013 on the TODAY Show on December 16th. All the toys were tested by both child development experts and kids from all over the country. Whether you're looking for toy cars, construction sets, games, crafts or dolls, we have it covered. 

FAST CARS

 

 


2013 Award
Hot Wheels Carcade
(Mattel  $99 Score: )

Hands down one of the most fun toys we tested this year. If you like Hot Wheels cars and pinball - it doesn't get much better than this new arcade game that loads your Hot Wheels cars (it only comes with one) into the launcher that moves from side to side so that you can shoot the car into the slots above.  If you get the car into the slot when the light above it is on, you score points. It has an electronic scoreboard that keeps track of your score. It has a neat lockdown dome (think Mad Max thunderdome) that captures a car and provides added drama of doubling your points while that one car is trapped inside. This feature, while fun, did not always work well but no one seemed to mind. In order to get into the dome you have to get the car up a special ramp - our testers found this hard to do - but willing to keep on trying. Requires 3AA and 4 D batteries. Will not work with all Hot Wheels vehicles but it worked with the ones we had on hand.  This is what we call a big memorable novelty toy. The kind that gets played with a lot when friends come over! 5 & up.

 

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

 

 

 


2013 Award
Krazy Kars Max Traxxx Tracer Racers
(Skullduggery $29.99 Score: )

Awesome. If you're looking for a car track set, look no further. First, the set comes with two cars that have LED lights on the bottom (you can change the settings to adjust the type of pattern the car will leave on the track). Yes, the cars leave a trace of LIGHT. Did we mention that the tracks will light up in the dark from the LED lights?  Our testers loved  both leaving LED on all the way--this lit up the entire inside of the track or putting the LED lights on pulse...which left a broken pattern on the track. Either way - this is a hit. The tracks go together well and come with suction cups so that you can make two ramps and race the cars.  The company tells us that there is a patent pending, we just know this is sooo much fun.

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

 

BUSY BUILDERS

 

 


2013 Award
K'nex Education - Investigating Solar Energy
(K'nex $69.99 Score: )

Talk about going green, this is a construction set that runs of solar energy. Kids can make six different models with the 128 piece Knex set comes in a good size tub for easy storage. It is designed to give them a hands-on experience of building a working machine from scratch. In an age when science and math are so vital, this is one of those smart toys that will both entertains and educate without turning kids off. It's challenging but rewarding. Our tester was especially taken with the "crank man" that she built and put on a sunny windowsill. Designed originally for the classroom, this is one of a new series of construction toys with a scientific edge that will entertain as well as enhance their understanding of renewable energy. This amazing animated construction set comes with detailed instructions and is sure to be a hit for kids. 9 & up. Also see, K'nex Exploring Wind & Water Energy. Both good choices for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) learning.

Age: Later School Years, Tweens, Teens. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2013 Award
Deluxe Roominate
(Roominate $49.99 Score: )

Welcome to a new world of doll houses! It's a doll house for kids to design, build and electrify. This one is less about interior decoration and more about engineering. A terrific concept for getting girls involved with problem solving and spatial skills, and building circuits. The deluxe kit comes with a light and motor and tons of building pieces and craft materials. Elizabeth, our 8-year old tester, LOVES Roominate. Her mom reports, "She has created some really cool rooms--and I love that it's so open-ended. She loved hooking up the battery, doing the wiring - and using the paper to design the wallpapers. It's a great toy for girls because it encourages building, electrical and engineering skills and isn't too "girly." I would say that I think age 6 is probably too young for independent play with Roominate. At age 8,  Elizabeth read and followed the directions and had lots of ideas about what she wanted to build and how to do it. "

The company says 6, we agree with Elizabeth's mom and suggest you save this for 8's and up.

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

 

 

 


2013 Award
Tinker Toy Pink Building Set
(KNEX $49.99 Score: )

If you have a girl who's not interested in building, this all pink 150 piece set may do the trick. We know that building helps develop important math, visual discrimination,  and problem solving skills - so it's very important that girls have this type of play experience.  Today's Tinker Toys are somewhat different from what you may remember. These new sets from KNEX are all plastic. They have the same rods and spools like the old sets, but now they have really neat bendy rods and faces that make them even more fun.

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

 

 

 


2013 Award
Magformers Inspire Sets
(Magformers $24.99-49.99 Score: )

Getting some girls into construction play seems to work by coloring the building materials to their taste. Although we prefer gender free materials, we still think it more important for girls to be building, since this is one of the ways that kids develop their understanding of spatial relationships and basic math concepts. For generations, boys excelled in these areas, in part, because of the experience they had from building models and construction sets. Giving girls construction sets is one way to give girls the mindset and can-do math skills needed for wider career choices. New from Magformers, two gender specific sets of magnetic shapes colored in shades of pink, purple, aqua and blue. Choose a 14 or 30 piece set. Each comes with triangles and squares that can be used to copy models or for open-ended creations and discoveries. All magnets are safely inside the plastic forms. Hands-on experiments help kids discover not only some math concepts, they have to deal directly with the magnetic poles inside the plastic forms, turning them so that they attract. Also see: Magformers Light Show. This combines stealth learning: math, science, visual and manual dexterity, creative problem solving, construction play, imagination, and good fun.  Marked for 3 & up, we think these make more sense for slightly older players.

 

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

 

 

 


2013 Award
LEGO STAR WARS Mandalorian Speeder
(Lego Systems, Inc. $24.99 Score: )

With 211 pieces, this is a great place to start for fans of Star Wars and LEGO. The small blue and grey vehicle comes with Darth Maul and two Mandalorian Super Commandos. Be forewarned there are projectiles on this build. Also smaller, the Corporate Alliance Tank Droid comes with 271 pieces. The circular middle portion of this build is unusual in that it has a moving track like a tank. Comes with Jango
Fett, Clone Trooper, and Battle Droid. Also top-rated, the Homing Spider Droid (295 pieces):  this spider- inspired droid,  comeswith Stass Allie, Clone Trooper, and two Super Battle Droids. For beginning builders - these two sets are just right.  While the bigger kits look appealing, start small so that your child has a positive experience to "build" on.

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

 

 

 


2013 Award
Demolition Lab Triple Blast Warehouse
(SmartLab $39.99 Score: ) We had some disagreement about this toy with such strong opinions on both sides.  So if it sounds silly to have a toy that you build only to then blow apart - then know we hear you.  On the other hand, it is really fun and actually a hands-on physics lesson (energy, momentum and don't forget gravity). The kit also requires a great deal of building and patience for that very brief moment of glory in pushing the button that brings down your structure. In an age of videos, we imagine that kids will not only love building the warehouse, but videotapping the take down.  Comes with 100 pieces for building the warehouse however you feel on a particular day.

 

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

 

CRAFTS

 

 


2013 Award
Rainbow Loom
(Rainbow Loom  $34.99 Score: )

The Rainbow Loom is clearly the run away toy of the year! We started getting emails from our toy testers about the must have loom that has generated so much interest (and youtube how to videos). We love a toy story that involves a small company that just hits it  HUGE.  Our parent testers told us that they helped their kids get the hang of it, but once kids learn how to use the loom they're off and running. A great craft that allows kids to make bracelets for themselves, their friends and family members.  The set comes with a loom, hook, instructions and more than 600 latex free rubber bands - will make 24 bracelets. Move over Elmo, the Rainbow Loom is the hot toy of 2013.

 

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

 

 

 


2012 Award
eeBoo 24 Pencils Bird Tin Artist Colors
(eeBoo $15 Score: )

A beauty of a gift tin of colored pencils. The flat metal tin is printed with birds, a flowering tree and flowers. It will make a gift to enjoy for months ahead. Sometime we forget how welcome a basic set of art supplies can be as compared to the novelty gifts that lose their pazazz almost as soon as the wrappings are gone. 5 & up.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2013 Award
eeBoo Swirly Rainbow Glitter Glue
(eeBoo $14.95 Score: )

Perfect for making cards, posters, or any art project that needs multicolored glitter glue. This comes with 12 colors. Be sure to keep this out of the reach of kids under three since the caps are a small parts hazard and cover the work surface before you get too much of a good thing on the floor or tabletop.  5 & up.

 

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

 

 

 


2012 Award
eeBoo Sketchbook with Glow in the Dark Covers
(eeBoo $6.00 Score: )

60 pages in these handsome spiral sketchpads 8.5 x 11.5. Choose from the many covers to appeal to the child you are shopping for this season. We like the fact that there are covers to appeal to boys as well as girls and pencil kits that match. This gives a real gifty look to what we consider basic gear for school-aged kids who will use these kinds of supplies well past the holiday season.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years, Tweens. Award Year: 2012.

 

 

 


2013 Award
Crayola Marker Maker
(Crayola $24.99 Score: )

Imagine being able to make your own markers and even blend the colors to make your own unique choices! That's what this innovative toy can do. It comes with a good supply of ink, marker barrels, plugs, tips, and cores. The process is relatively simple. You put the filler core ito a holder and pour ink into the holder. When the core absorbs the ink you use the giant tweezers to place the core into a barrel. Then the "machine" lever puts the plug in place with two snaps. Next, the tip goes in place and you let the marker continue to absorb ink up to the tip. There is a color chart that shows how kids can combine colors to get custom blends that make their markers better than any they could just go out and buy ready made. There are refill kits available. A word of caution: these are not washable inks, so protect clothing and work surfaces. The kit is marked not for children under 3, but we think this is a more appropriate choice for kids over 5 with adult supervision.

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

 

 

 


2013 Award
Creativity For Kids X-Treme Sticker Maker Set
(Creativity for Kids $29 Score: )

You get 40 feet of sticker tape and 80+ sticker designs. For family parties guests can go home with personalized stickers with velvet, metallic, and glitter finishes. Easy to operate with pleasing finished products that kids can do with independence, once they learn the way it works. Refill kits (9.99) are also available so this is not one of those disposable craft kits.  You get 40 feet of sticker tape and 80+ sticker designs.

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

 

ACTIVE GAMES

 

 


2013 Award
Hedbanz
(Spinmaster $15.99 Score: )

Each player takes a turn putting in their headband without looking at the object printed on the card. The player with the card now has to guess what his card says by the clues the other players give. A great family game for mixed ages. Comes with six headbands, a timer, scoring chips, and 74 cartoon cards. 

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

 

 

 


2013 Award
Hedbanz Act Up!
(Spin Master $19.99 Score: )

We like this new take on the original Hedbanz.  This one is played more like charades. Players put cards on their head bands without knowing what the card says. The object is for the player to guess what that card says from the actions of the other players. But in this game NO TALKING and NO PROPS are allowed! Unlike the original Hedbanz game, which was played like 20 Questions, this Act UP version is a whole lot trickier, but good fun. Our testing family (with preteens and young adults) enjoyed the game a great deal. Marked for kids 8 & up - we still think the original Hedbanz where you can speak will be less frustrating for younger players.

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

 

 

 


2013 Award
Yoga Spinner Game
(Upside Down Games $19.99 Score: )

A fun way to gain flexibility, strength, and improve posture while introducing kids to Yoga poses. Game can be played solo or with others. Players take turns hitting the spinner and choose a card of the same color shown on the spinner. Now, try to hold the pose for 10 seconds without laughing or falling down! The object is to be first to collect one card of each color. Perfect for sleepover, playdates, or family fun. Our test family Mom wrote that her whole family enjoyed this one...."We were laughing and having fun and the boys said the stretching felt good after soccer. I appreciate that the game doesn't assume you know yoga poses and the illustrations are quite clear (although it does help to be familiar with the poses to help the kids do them). The graphics are clean and very cute and you know I always like a game that is self contained (the cards are stored in the spinner itself) - always good for keeping up with all of the cards and for using in different rooms or places. I like that it is very active and teaches everyone something new as well. We give it a thumbs up! I can also see a big use for this in more of a classroom or group setting (such as a break from fine motor skills - at our school the kids take 'brain breaks' and do something more physical.)"

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

 

 

 


2013 Award
Play Like a Pro Basketball Hoop
(Little Tikes $72.99 Score: )

Basic gear for active play! This adjustable hoop (from 4 to 6feet) makes this a great choice for preschoolers and early school aged kids interested in learning how to shoot some hoops!  Light enough to make this a choice for inside or outside play.

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

 

DOLLS

 

 


2013 Award
Corolle Mon Premier Calin Charming Pastel
(Corolle $39.99 Score: )

For older toddlers, Corolle's 12-inch Calin dolls have long been our favorites. We love that this is a multi-cultural collection and that there is always a boy doll in the mix.  They are hand washable and have soft vinyl heads, legs and arms. Their  beautifully finished rompers also add to the appeal. Their bald heads are a safe choice for toddlers who are still mouthing toys. Their bean-bag bodies allow them to sit in many poses and their sleeping eyes open and close. Best of all they are light and cuddly for early pretend play.

This delicious new version is in a soft pink romper with matching hat (with a knotted finish).There is also Calin Sky (a boy version in a blue romper). Check out other Platinum Award winning Calin dolls for multi-ethnic choices including Corolle Mon Premier Bebe Calin Naima Doll, Corolle Mon Premier Calin Yang Baby Doll.

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

 

 

 


2008 Award
Corolle Naima Calin
(Corolle $39.99 Score: )

We're always on the look out for dolls that reflect our diversity. Among the most adorable African American dolls is a huggable, soft-bodied 12-inch baby doll named Naima from their Calin collection. Her beanbag body makes her easy to pose. Dressed in a red and white cotton knit outfit with red headband, she is a bald headed baby with big brown eyes that open and close. She does not come with the usual extras such as a pacifier or bottle or toy that would be risky with toddlers who tend to mouth their toys. This one is an adorable armful for beginning pretend play.

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: 2008. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 


 

 


2013 Award
Corolle Les Classiques Nursery Umbrella Stroller
(Corolle $34.99 Score: )

Just right for strolls with your child's favorite doll or huggable. Our testers love that this stroller looks like the real thing including a seatbelt for making sure your baby is safe. It's designed for baby dolls 12" to 17" tall. You'll love that it's lightweight and folds. Giving kids doll accessories is a wonderful way to extend the play opportunities. You'll often hear your own language as kids tend to their own huggables. 3 & up.

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

 

 

 


2013 Award
Corolle Les Classiques Nursery High Chair
(Corolle $44.99 Score: )

A white and pink highchair that comes with not only a cushion for your doll but with the option to convert the highchair into a table and chair. Dolls 12" to 17" will fit comfortably in this chair that provides an added prop for pretend play. 

 

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

 

 

 


2013 Award
Bunnies by the Bay Wobbly Carmel
(Bunnies By the Bay $22 Score: )

Wobbly is a light carmel-colored bear with long legs, long arms and slightly distressed plush. He's skinnier in person than his picture appears. Has a velvety feel and stitched features, but is only surface washable.

 

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

 

 

 


2013 Award
Bunnies by the Bay Big Friend Skipit
(Bunnies By the Bay $32 Score: )

Skipit is a completely huggable dog done in soft short cream with licks of cocoa around his face, his paws and down his back. Deliciously cozy. A portion of the proceeds from this line goes to charities that support orphans and abandoned children around the world.  When we first received him, he shed some of his hair so we would not recommend him for a child under 3. 

 

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

 

 

 


2013 Award
Calico Critters Ice Cream Truck
(International Playthings $35 Score: )

Get ready for soft ice cream and scoops of the regular kind, too. We don't see any good humor pops or fudgicals, but maybe they don't know about them at Cloverleaf Corners. Our brother/sister testers loved the working soft ice cream machine. They spent many happy hours puttiing the stickers on and playing to sell yummy treats once they got the shop all set up. Like other settings in this line the critters are not included, although they are shown on the packaging. 3 & up.

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

 

 

 

 
2013 Awards
Calico Critters Border Collie Family
(International Playthings $22.99 Score: )

Mama, Papa, brother and sister Border Coolies are done up with faces in crisp black and white markings. Also new this season, an Outback Koala Family. Mama is carrying the newest little one in a soft fabric backpack while their toddler size child is able to walk along with Papa. These are charming posable figures to use as props for the Calico Critter settings or for pretend play with blocks and other mini-settings.

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

 

 
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