Award-Winning and Educational Toys and Games
By Amy Carney Bevins
Walking down the aisle of the toy store can be overwhelming. Bright colors, creative packaging, adorable characters and playful music all compete for your attention and your toy purchasing dollars. So how do you get past all the hype to find toys with long term playing power? Ones that your child will turn to over and over again. Ones that grow with your child. Ones that teach, delight, soothe, excite and become family favorites.
All of the toys and games on this year’s list meet the criteria for being more than just a toy. They teach, foster imagination, get kids moving and bring families together. Hopefully, with the toys on this list, you won’t hear “I’m bored” for at least a week and maybe not even until sometime next year.
Many of the featured toys have also won numerous national and international awards, meaning they were a hit with kids, parents, testers and industry experts. Groups like the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio, Dr. Toy, Parent’s Choice and AblePlay give awards to toys and games that meet criteria for standing out among their peers.Here is our list of this year’s standouts.
Sidebar: Use these icons to help you select the right toy for your child:
Infant (0-2 years) Preschool (3-4 years) Elementary (5-9 years)
Preteen (10-12) Teens/Adults (13+)
Toys that will get your child moving, jumping, laughing, and running
Infant (0-2 years) Preschool (3-4 years) Soft Shapes Trucks
Rub-a-dub dub – learn in the tub. Make playtime, bath time, anytime into fun time. Soft Shapes books are made of heavy duty foam pages and feature pop-out shapes. In the bath, they float and stick to walls and tub sides. Soft Shapes books are also a wonderful first puzzle. Other titles in this brightly colored series include Animals, Dinosaurs, Counting, Shapes, Colors and more.
Approximate Price – $10.99 www.innovativekids.comAwards – Parents’ Choice Award, IPMA Best Products, Manufacturing Bookbuilders of Boston – Best of Show, Parent’s Guide to Children’s Media Awards – Outstanding Achievement in Activity Books
Infant (0-2 years) Preschool (3-4 years) Play Die Moo and Baa
What is smooth, furry and goes crinkle, crinkle, moo? The Play Die Moo and Baa. You and your little one will discover six fun animals as you roll this soft die back and forth. Feel the sheep’s soft fur, tickle the kitten’s whiskers, peek in the crinkly hen’s nest, and listen to the calf moo softly as you turn the die from side to side. Just the right size for little hands to hold.
Approximate Price – $10.99 www.Maukilo.com
Infant (0-2 years) Preschool (3-4 years) Elementary (5-9 years) Preteen (10-12) Teens/Adults (13+) Major League Baseball Lubies
Toss a Tiger. Roll a Ranger. Cuddle a Cardinal. Major League Baseball Lubies are super soft, loveable, huggable friends for all ages. From the Nats to the Orioles and the Brewers to the Braves, these adorable, softball-sized critters each represent a MLB team and show team spirit in a unique way. Perfect for an indoor game of catch, your teen’s locker or as a naptime snuggly, MLB Lubies are Fan-tastic fun.
Approximate Price – $12.99 www.rocketusa.comAwards – Mom’s Best Toy Award, Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award, iParenting Media Award, Parent Tested Parent Approved Award, Creative Child Preferred Choice Award
Preschool (3-4 years) Elementary (5-9 years) Ez BatBatter Up!
E-Z Bat is perfect for teaching the youngest players swing fundamentals. Simply slip the special ball on the bat and swing. The more accurate the swing, the further the ball will fly. The unique ball is also easy to catch and throw. No frustrating, tottery tees or wonky pitches; with E-Z Bat every swing can be a home run.
Approximate Price – $15.99 www.monkeybusinesssports.comAwards – Dr. Toy 10 Best Toys and 100 Best Products Award, Mr. Dad Seal of ApprovalPreschool
(3-4 years) Elementary (5-9 years) Preteen (10-12) Mega Magnifier
Get up close and personal in a big way. The giant 10×13 inch Mega Magnifier provides an enlarged view of your child’s world. Made of sturdy plastic, this huge magnifying glass even floats. See the details of spider webs, dandelion seeds, fabric fibers and more as you explore the world around you.
Approximate Price – $14.99 www.summittoy.com.Awards – Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award
Preschool (3-4 years) Elementary (5-9 years) Hot Wheels Wheelie Track Pack/Doll House Play Pack
Bring playtime along with you every where you go. These clever play pack backpacks unzip to reveal play mats and lots of storage. Open the Wheelie Track Pack to find storage for 100 Hot Wheels cars and a brightly colored track, pit and winners circle. The Doll House Play Pack opens to a 2 story dollhouse fit for a princess, and provides hours of creative on-the-go play (doll included). The attached straps make these kid-sized play packs so easy to transport and enjoy.
Approximate Price – $19.99 www.neat-oh.comAwards – Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award
Preschool (3-4 years) Elementary (5-9 years) Preteen (10-12) Peanut Ball
Bounce your way to fun and fitness. The Peanut Ball is phenomenally versatile. Use it as a wiggle buster, an imagination platform, an exercise option, a therapy tool and more. The colorful, inflatable peanut-shaped balls are irresistible to kids and can hold an amazing 750 lbs.
Approximate Price – $31.99-39.99 www.funandfunction.comAwards – Dr Toy Best Product Award
Elementary (5-9 years) Preteen (10-12) Teens/Adults (13+) Skyball Slammer
How can you get a ball to bounce 75 feet in the air? Give it a slam! Use the end of the “slammer” to rocket the “hyper-charged” Skyball into the air and try to catch it with the suction cup on the other end. The Skyball Slammer is perfect for working out those winter wiggles.Approximate Price – $12.99 www.mauitoys.comAwards – Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold AwardMythbusters Science of Sport Science Exploration KitA sweet spot on a baseball bat and the Big Bounce theory – True or Busted? Mythbusters Science of Sport Kit is the perfect combination action and learning! Examine and explore sports myths and truths along with the Mythbuster team. Packed full of activities and ideas, this kit will have you jumping and moving along the path of knowledge.
Approximate Price – $19.99 www.giddyup.com
Elementary (5-9 years) Preteen (10-12) Teens/Adults (13+) Skyball and Bat
It’s a grand slam and a home run all rolled into one. With Skyball and Bat, kids can knock it out of the park. The helium-filled “hypercharged” ball flies up to an amazing 300 feet when hit with the bat. So put on your running shoes and get ready to “Play Ball.”
Approximate Price – $14.99 www.mauitoys.comAwards – CNBC.com’s Sports Toy Of The Year
Toys that will foster imagination, music, pretend play, art, and creativity
Infant (0-2 years) Preschool (3-4 years) Elementary (5-9 years) Just Triangles
These unique natural-rubber building blocks put a twist on tower building, helping little minds think outside traditional, square building blocks box. Super soft, squishy and bouncy, Just Triangles can be played with in a myriad of ways – stacking, patterning, tossing, tumbling, creating. Their bright colors, fuzzy-feel appeal and multiple uses make them a great toy box addition.
Approximate Price – $24.95 www.rubbabu.comAwards – Dr Toy Best Vacation Products, Tillywig Toy Award, Creative Child Preferred Choice Award
Infant (0-2 years) Preschool (3-4 years) Elementary (5-9 years) City Life and My Animal Farm Play Sets
Hours of playtime in the city or on the farm. The My Animal Farm and City Life Play Sets come with everything your child needs for an imagination adventure. The giant, washable, non-skid play mats set the stage while the soft, squishy, natural foam animals and vehicles invite kids to play. Bright colors and open-ended play make the My Animal Farm and City Life Play Sets a toy box staple.
Approximate Price – $24.99 www.rubbabu.comAwards – Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award and SNAP Award
Preschool (3-4 years) Elementary (5-9 years) Crafty Kids Creation Cottage/Shuttle Imagination
Made of 100% recycled cardboard material, these sturdy kid-height playhouses are a child’s dream. Now you can say “yes” to drawing on the walls – of the cottage or shuttle that is. The white exterior is a blank canvas for your child to create a dream cottage or design an out of this world space shuttle. Kids can decorate these play spaces inside and out with paint, markers, crayons and more, making these toys that keep on playing.
Approximate Price – $59.95 www.craftykidsusa.comAwards- (Shuttle) National Parenting Center Seal of Approval, Tillywig Toy Award, Creative Child Award
Preschool (3-4 years) Elementary (5-9 years) Preteen (10-12) Teens/Adults (13+) Ubbercutter
Ubbercutter is an ideal complement to hobby and craft projects, cutting all kinds of materials without exposing fingers to sharp scissors and craft knives. Make precision straight or angle cuts on items like popsicle sticks, leather, foam core, dowels, plastic and more. From models and scrapbooks to science projects and doll houses, Ubbercutter is a revolutionary cut above.
Approximate Price – $19.99 www.patchproducts.com
Preschool (3-4 years) Elementary (5-9 years) Preteen (10-12) Teens/Adults (13+) Eco Aquarium
The perfect pet is one that requires little care, takes up minimal space and doesn’t shed. With the Eco-Aquarium, you can finally say “yes” to a pet. This 4”x4” self-contained water world is home to two Dwarf African frogs, a plant, living gravel and colorful rocks. Enjoy froggie antics every day, feed them once a week with the included food and change the water once a month. That’s it! Now that’s pet care the easy way!
Approximate Price – $22.99 www.wildcreations.comAwards – TIA Toy of the Year; Dr. Toy Best Green Product; Learning Express Most Innovative New Toy, Parents’ Choice Award, Tillywig Top Fun Award, Mr. Dad Seal of Approval
Preschool (3-4 years) Elementary (5-9 years) Preteen (10-12) Teens/Adults (13+) Eeboo Watercolor Pencils and Sketchbook
A palette of pleasing colors and a place to draw your dreams. The fanciful covers of the EeBoo sketchbooks are a wonderful inspiration to aspiring artists and open to inviting heavy-weight drawing pages. Paired with a lovely tin of 24 watercolor pencils that flow across the page, this duo makes a delightful gift for your favorite art lover.
Approximate Price – $6 (sketchbook), $15 (watercolor pencils) www.eeboo.com
Preschool (3-4 years) Elementary (5-9 years) Preteen (10-12) Zip-Bins
Play and clean up all with one creatively versatile product. Zip-Bins are the perfect play and storage combination. Zipped up, the bins store Legos, dinosaurs, dolls, cars, horses – whatever your child loves to play with and collect. Unzip the padded bins to open a themed playmat like a dinosaur playscape, a train depot, a fairy castle, an airport and many more. From small shoebox-sized travel cases to giant lidded storage bins, every thing will be easy to play with, clean up and store with Zip-Bins
Approximate Price – $9.99-24.99 www.neat-oh.comAwards – Over 30 awards including the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award, Dr. Toy Smart Play Smart Toy Award, Creative Child Toy of the Year, iParenting Media HOT Product Award, NAPPA Gold Award, Middle East Toy Fair Most Innovative Toy Award, TD Monthly Top Toy
Elementary (5-9 years) Preteen (10-12) Dangerous Book for Boys Chemistry Set
The ability to create smoke bombs and slime, dissolve metal and write with invisible ink. Are you giving your child super powers? Yes! The powers that come from chemistry. In the Dangerous Book for Boys Classic Chemistry set, boys and girls alike learn foundational science skills and can conduct 30 experiments using the included items and common household ingredients. Maybe the next super hero will be your child – Super Scientist.
Approximate Price – $35.95 www.thamesandkosmos.comAwards – Parents Choice Silver Award; Toy Industry Association Toy of the Year nomination
Elementary (5-9 years) Preteen (10-12) Teens/Adults (13+) Contraptions
Just 200 wooden planks and two ping pong balls in the box, but unlimited hours of creative, mind-expanding, old-fashioned fun. Forget all of the physics and math principals your kids will unconsciously be absorbing, Contraptions keeps kids and adults actively engaged in creating huge marble-run like structures for the ping pong balls to roll, bounce, twist, jump and race down. You’ll be surprised at how time flies when you play with Contraptions.
Approximate Price – $49.95 www.mindware.comAwards – Major Fun, NAGC Parenting for High Potential Award, Creative Child Toy of the Year, Major Fun Award
Elementary (5-9 years) Preteen (10-12) Teens/Adults (13+) Project Runway Silk Screen Fashion Design Set
“Just make it work.” Like on Project Runway, kids can design their own wearable fashions on everything from t-shirts and skirts to purses and hoodies. The kit comes with patterns, templates and stencils to get started (and directions for extension opportunities), 6 fabric paints, a silkscreen machine and more. By taking a garment from plain to fabulous, kids can strut their stuff in one-of-a-kind looks that they create.
Approximate Price – $32.99 www.fashionangels.comAwards – Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award
Preteen (10-12) Teens/Adults (13+) A Kid’s Guide to Giving
Give a gift that can change the world. A Kid’s Guide to Giving is filled with ways kids can make a difference locally or globally through donations of time, money and items. Whether your child is fascinated by the needs of people, animals or the environment, this amazing resource details over 100 organizations, their missions, how kids can be involved and more. Perfect for kids, parents, scout troops and youth groups, it lists large and small ways kids can make an impact (how to host a fundraiser, grassroots efforts, different types of charity drives, avoiding scams, history of charity groups, etc.).
Approximate Price – $9.99 www.innovativekids.comAwards – iParenting Media Award
Preteen (10-12) T3 Transforming Solar Robot
Make a robot that walks, a tank that rolls or a stinging scorpion. All it takes is a ray of sunshine to set the parts in motion. With basic building skills and a little patience kids can transform the separate parts into three different eco-energized, working robots.
Approximate Price – $19.95 www.owirobot.comAwards – Toy Fair 2010 Hottest Toys, Dr. Toy Best Children’s Product, Funfare Best Pick of the Season
Spend family time together playing some of these award winning games.
Preschool (3-4 years) Elementary (5-9 years) Puppy Palooza
Peppered with playful pooches polka-dotted and plain, Puppy Palooza is puzzle-fun in an earth-friendly package. Made of 98% recycled materials and eco-friendly inks, this charming 35 piece floor puzzle pictures puppies tall and small, long and short, and perfectly proportioned to please your little puzzle-solver.
Approximate Price – $14.99 www.innovativekids.com
Preschool (3-4 years) Elementary (5-9 years) Singin’ Sea Creatures 3-D Sneaky Puzzle Holy Holograms!
This zany 3D puzzle will have a sea full of creatures, numbers and letters floating before your eyes. First, put together this giant 46 piece floor puzzle. Then, transform the puzzle by donning the 3D glasses, adding another level of fun and interest. Numbers 0-9 and letters A-Z seem to pop from the puzzle along with fanciful sea creatures jamming and jiving to an undersea beat.
Approximate Price – $14.99 www.patchproducts.comAwards – National Parenting Center Seal of Approval, iParenting Media Award, WTS (What’s the stuff review) 5-star certified, Creative Child Seal of Excellence
Elementary (5-9 years) Preteen (10-12) Teens/Adults (13+) Dancing Eggs
What has more bounce than a box full of bunnies? Dancing Eggs – an absolutely hilarious game of goofiness. Can you run around the table with a rubber egg between your knees, crow like a rooster, or hold three rubber eggs in the crook of your elbow without laughing? Not likely. A roll of the dice determines what you do to collect an egg. Keeping each one you win without dropping it is what takes this game from fun to truly zany. With a few rule adaptations for ages and space constraints, Dancing Eggs is a riotous game for all ages.
Approximate Price – $17.99 www.Maukilo.comAwards – NAPPA Honors, Major Fun Award
Elementary (5-9 years) Sea Food Puzzle
The perfect opportunity to play with your food. You’ll delight at the inventive undersea inhabitants in a world where everything literally is “sea food.” A banana octopus, pepper fish, portabella crab and more share the sea in this colorful 100 piece puzzle. Look closely, can you find more tasty sea friends?
Approximate Price – $14.00 www.eeboo.comAwards – Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award
Elementary (5-9 years) Preteen (10-12) Hide and Eek
“The game with 100 elephants and a mouse.” It’s pachyderm pandemonium as players try to collect whimsical elephant cards with the help of one small mouse. Surprisingly sneaky learning slips in stealthily like a mouse. The kids will be so focused on the elephants that they won’t notice they are strengthening skills in math, memory, visual acuity and more – even better, you’ll enjoy the game too.
Approximate Price – $13.99 www.gamewright.comAwards – Major Fun Award, Creative Child Preferred Choice
Elementary (5-9 years) Preteen (10-12) Teens/Adults (13+) Quadrago
Put a new twist on tic-tac-toe. Quadrago is wonderful for all ages as it is easily accessible to younger players, but has many deeper levels of play that will captivate serious strategists. Slip smooth wooden beads onto silver-hued poles in an attempt to get four in a row – but – surprise! The center section can spin, changing the game in an instant. With its visual and game-play appeal, Quadrago is an ideal family game.
Approximate Price – $29.95 www.mindtwisterusa.comAwards – Tillwig Toy Award, Creative Child Game of the Year, National Association for Gifted Children Parenting for High Potential Recommended Seal
Elementary (5-9 years) Preteen (10-12) Teens/Adults (13+) Up for Grabs
Up for Grabs takes word play out of the box. “Make a Word or Take a Word.” Not only do you race to make words from flipped letter tiles, you can also steal from your opponents by adding letters to existing words to make something new. C-A-T could become C-R-A-F-T and R-A-T could become T-A-R-P. A fabulous combination of quick wit, creative thinking and serious strategy, this ingenious game is sure to become a family favorite for all types of game players.
Approximate Price – $14.95 www.mindware.comAwards – Major Fun Award, Creative Seal of Excellence
Elementary (5-9 years) Preteen (10-12) Teens/Adults (13+) Verbal Volley
Who knew synonyms and antonyms could be so much fun? Like a fast-paced tennis match, players bounce words back and forth (Hot – scorching, steamy, burning, like an oven, spicy, molten – you get the idea). What starts as a simple word game turns into an intense verbal battle. Play against one opponent or match wits in a team vs. team showdown. Created by language and neuroscience experts, Verbal Volley is so much fun, you’ll forget it has a learning component as you battle to have the last word . . .remark, comment, utterance . . .
Approximate Price – $29.95 www.mindfullgames.comAwards – Dr. Toy Best Vacation Product
Elementary (5-9 years) Preteen (10-12) Teens/Adults (13+) Abalone
Dubbed by one teen as the “coolest strategy game ever,” Abalone is simple to learn, but a true challenge to master. What seems a simple black vs. white marble game is filled with complex thinking twists. The format is easily accessible for young strategists, but will draw serious game players back again and again as they attempt to outwit their opponents to become Abalone champion. Approximate Price – $29.99 www.foxmind.comAwards – MENSA Select Award
Elementary (5-9 years) Preteen (10-12) Teens/Adults (13+) Labyrinth the Duel
Two wizards duel to see who can capture the greatest treasure hoard. Based on the wildly popular Labyrinth game, this new version puts two players against one another in a quick witted challenge to see who can move their game board pieces to create passages to the treasured items. The ever-shifting game boards, fast-paced play and wide appeal make this a fabulous family game.
Approximate Price – $24.99 www.ravensburger.comAwards – Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award
Elementary (5-9 years) Preteen (10-12) Teens/Adults (13+) You’ve Been Sentenced
Wild, wacky, witty wordplay. Can you form a hand of random words into a sensible sentence? Can you justify to the “jury” of other players that your ingenious creation is a sentence? Sometimes the story is as good as the sentence in this totally unique, award-winning game of grammar hilarity. With add-on decks including sports highlights, gourmet cuisine, pop culture and more, you will laugh out loud as you strive for wordy success in You’ve Been Sentenced.
Approximate Price – $24.95 www.mcneilldesigns.comAwards – 10 awards including Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award, Tillywig Toy Awards laugh Out Loud Award Winner, iParenting Media Award, Dr. Toy’s Best Products Award, Creative Child Seal Of Excellence
Preteen (10-12) Teens/Adults (13+) Manhattan
Dominate the world one skyscraper at a time. This fantastic game of strategy lets you conquer the globe from Manhattan to Toyko. Will you build the tallest building in the world, monopolize a particular city, or own the most buildings worldwide? Will you team up or go it alone? From the unique game board and play cards to the mental challenges, once you get the hang of Manhattan, you’ll be on your way to global domination.
Approximate Price – $39.99 www.riograndegames.comAwards – Major Fun award, Spiel des Jahres (German Game of the Year award)
Preteen (10-12) Teens/Adults (13+) 5 Second Rule
Time is ticking. Think fast. Can you do it? The premise of 5 Second Rule is simple – draw a card and give three answers before time runs out (i.e. 3 breeds of dogs, 3 winter activities, 3 Dr. Seuss books, 3 famous Michaels). Sounds easy. But when you turn the 5 second timer, the fun begins. Sputtering, stumbling, laugh-out-loud attempts will have everyone rolling as players try to “Just Spit it Out!” in this fast-paced game of family fun.
Approximate Price – $24.99 www.patchproducts.comAwards – National Parenting Center Seal of Approval, FamilyFun Boredom Buster Awards, iParenting Media Award
Amy Carney Bevins is a freelance writer, Assistant Editor and Toy Expert for FAMILY Magazine, an educator and founder/owner of Chantilly Chefs cooking classes for children and adults. She has been featured on WUSA9, NBC, MonkeySee.com, AOL Video and RobustCooking.com. Visit her website www.amycarneybevins.com to read more of her articles, view her cooking and toy videos and learn more about her cooking classes.