BY CYNDA ZURFLUH
You know that great feeling when you walk into one of those “classic” neighborhood toy stores? Yes, it’s great fun. But the best part is that sigh of relief when you realize you can check off just about every kid on your list in one stop. In addition to the best of the best in toys, games and more, local toy stores have a staff of experts to guide you to a gift that is just right for kids of all ages and interests.
Wouldn’t it be great to have a toy expert at your side as you navigate this holiday’s shopping season? What about more than 550 of these toy experts? That’s what FAMILY is bringing you in this issue. It’s the 2013 Best Toys for Kids as selected by toy retailers across the country!
Each year, the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) asks its members to hand pick the most engaging, unique, open-ended, fun and safe toys for our kids. These toys deliver exceptional value for parents and give kids a wide variety of benefits and experience. The ASTRA Best Toys winners include toys for all ages, toys that teach, toys that get kids moving, toys that are just plain fun.
In this month’s issue, we’re featuring the 2013 top picks to help you put a dent in your shopping this year. Each toy is pictured with its age range and price so you can easily browse your options. We’ve also included the website where you can order the toys!
So sit back and “shop” the easy way. You can be sure you’ve found the best gifts for all the kids who populate your shopping list—without even getting up from the couch.
This QR code will take you to a webpage where this article is kept online – you can link to the websites directly that way and not worry about typos. Just scan it with your smart phone’s QR code app (they all have one!), and you’ll be right where you need to be!
RingStix Lite by RingStix, System Enterprises LLC
RingStix is a simple and innovative variation of arguably the most common game: catch. RingStix is played with slightly curved sticks and a ring. With a stick in each hand—crossed, and the ring over both sticks—players simply flare out their arms to fling the ring spinning forward toward the other player. The receiving player then uses the point of one or both sticks to catch the flying ring and sends it back again. The faster and harder a player flares the sticks, the farther the ring will fly, sometimes up to 30 yards or more!
Each game contains a full set for two players: four 21” Stix (each different color), one 5” Red Ring. Simplified instructions are on the back of the packaging, and for more detailed view, check out the “How to Video” on the RingStix website. It’s a great way to get adults and kids up and away from their “screens.”
Y’all Ball by Joint Merchant
Price: $11.99 – $59.99
Y’all Balls are incredibly bouncy and super soft! They come in sizes from 16” to 40” and come in a variety of covers: fabric and shiny covers with tons of colors and patterns to choose from. Such a great, safe toy to get kids as young as three bouncing along! Of course your average three-year-old won’t be able to see over the Jumbo Y’all Ball.
Q-BA-MAZE 2.0 Mega Stunt Set by MindWare
Not your ordinary addition to the marble-run family! These ingenious pieces interlock in endless configurations, while double-exit cubes keep you guessing on which way the marbles will go. It’s a construction toy that gives a quick physics lesson every time you release a marble!
Includes 108 cubes, 2 cascade stilts, 2 coaster tubes, 1 marble vortex, 1 pivot trampoline, 2 universal connectors, 30 steel marbles and instructions.
Squigz by Fat Brain Toy Co.
Price: $24.95 – $49.95
Squigz are fun little suckers, literally! Push them together then POP them apart. Squigz stick to virtually any flat surface and leave behind no residue (none!). Using “Suction Construction” and a little imagination, Squigz are a great new take on creative building play.
Squigz are made from high-grade silicone and feature eight intriguing shapes. The starter set has 24 pieces, deluxe has 50.
Potholder PRO by Harrisville Designs
PotholderPRO creates full size potholders with great colors – so you get a craft that can actually be used and look great! The Potholder Pro uses 100% custom-sized cotton loops fitted for their metal loom. It makes kids feel great to see mom and dad use what they’ve made!
Come with enough material to make two 8.25” square potholders. Additional loops are available starting at $13.95. Made in USA, 2-year warranty.
X-treme Sticker Maker Set by Faber-Castell USA Inc.
Ages: 5-15 years
The X-treme Sticker Maker is a high-quality machine that is versatile and super easy to use. You can even turn your artwork and photos into stickers! These aren’t just any stickers: Options include velvet, metallic and glitter.
Set includes 40’ of sticker tape, 80+ sticker designs, color-in markers and sticker book. Additional sticker tape refills also available.
Green Toys Seaplane by Green Toys Inc.
The Green Toys Seaplane is ready for earth-friendly excitement in the sky or out at sea. Made in the USA from 100% recycled-plastic milk jugs (saving energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions!). These cute yellow and green floatplanes feature a spinning propeller and chunky, oversized pontoons. Specially designed to float when taken into the bathtub or pool, young captains can easily navigate from water to air and back again.
The good green news: no BPA, phthalates, PVC or external coatings, and also meets FDA food-contact standards. Dishwasher safe for easy cleaning. Packaged with recycled and recyclable materials and printed with soy inks.
Tatoo Xylo Roller by Juratoys US Corp (JANOD)
The Xylo Roller is music in motion! A fabulous wooden pull toy, the Xylo Roller allows children to play xylophone on the go. The two sticks store conveniently in the front of the pull toy. It’s a European toy with all the charm we’ve come to expect from across the Atlantic.
Bunny Peek A Boo by Smart Toys and Games Inc.
Bunny Peek A Boo is the first game from Smart Toys and Games Inc. for children as young as 2 years old. Three sturdy wooden blocks and a fun rabbit character allow children to develop spatial perception skills as they “pull a rabbit out of the box” with this 3D puzzle. Sixty challenges prepare children ages 2-5 for more difficult single-player logic games. Children can solve the challenges or just play with it as a toy, which is the beauty of real “Smart Toys.”
Zingo! Sight Words by ThinkFun Inc.
Zingo! Sight Words is 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, those words with spelling that is not always straightforward. Sight words are the most frequently used words in the English language and make up about 50 to 75% of all written material. Learning and mastering sight words is a key step in becoming a successful, fluent reader. Parents who have done the sight-word drills will recognize the words in this game, and for good reason. Zingo!’s words have been specially selected by leading educators as the most fundamental for reading development.
Laser Maze by ThinkFun Inc.
Does beam-bending fun sound like a mind bender for curious kids? Lights and mirrors may make it feel like magic, but it’s really science and a good dose of brain power that are needed to direct the laser beam through this series of mind-challenging mazes. Flex your strategic-thinking muscles and ignite the light both on the grid and in your mind!
Timeline Diversity by Asmodee Editions
The invention of the tank, the 1st appearance of a Superhero, and the invention of the coffee maker.… Can you put all these events correctly on the timeline? With Timeline, learn the answer to this question and thousands more. Each card has a different event and, on the opposite side, its associated date.
The goal is to create a physical timeline by putting the cards in order on the table. If you place the card in the right place, it stays. If not, try again next turn. You win by placing all your cards correctly. You also win because you’ll know more than you did when the game began!
Contents: 110 Diversity cards and 1 rule book.
Curiosity Kits Pulsar Powerballs by The Orb Factory
Create five Pulsar Powerballs that bounce to amazing heights. Place colorful crystals in the mold, submerge it in water and let it sit for five minutes. Open the mold, and your brand new Powerball is ready for play. Place special lights inside the larger mold to create a Powerball that lights up when it bounces! It’s a science experiment with a bouncy, super fun ball as the result.
Super Magnetic Tidal Wave Thinking Putty by Crazy Aaron’s Puttyworld
Crazy Aaron’s Puttyworld is the maker of the world’s only true magnetic Thinking Putty. The Tidal Wave Thinking Putty is a deep iridescent blue and comes with a large ceramic magnet. It can be used as a toy for kids (and a stress reliever for grown ups). The best part: It’s a high-tech toy with no batteries required!
All Made in USA by individuals with intellectual and physical disabilities, each metal tin is hand packed with 1/5 lb. of Thinking Putty and a large ceramic magnet for endless hours of Thinking Putty fun and creativity!
Calico Critters Supermarket by International Playthings
Critters enjoy shopping for yummy, healthy food! 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!
Supermarket measures 11.5” x 9” x 6”.
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 and sprinkled with glitter. They are made of the softest, silkiest, fabric, light enough to fly to a land of make believe and encourage imaginations to run wild!
Rainbow fairy wings are just one of 14 styles of “Dreamy Dress-Ups” by Douglas designed for both boys and girls. The wings are just the right size to span a child’s arms outstretched and come in every style from bats to butterflies!
Size is approximately 20” x 44”. Washable by hand (no heat).
Cargo and Passenger Aircraft by PLAYMOBIL
Take to the skies with the Cargo and Passenger Aircraft. Cargo can be loaded by folding up the front of the aircraft, and the roof of the plane is removable, making it easy to play with the figures and rearrange seating for up to five passengers. Two figures can also be seated in the cockpit through the hinged roof to wait for the “all-clear” from the air traffic control tower before taxiing down the runway for takeoff.
Set includes five figures, plane equipped with a sink and toilet, cargo container, air traffic control tower with equipment, and other accessories. Dimensions: 23.2” x 24.8” x 9.4”.
Air-Stream Machines by Thames & Kosmos
Build a working hovercraft that glides across smooth floors or flat water on a cushion of air. Learn how: Even though air is invisible, it still has mass and can support very heavy objects under the right circumstances. Experiment with propellers and impellers to learn about air pressure and air flow. The models in this kit use a unique blower motor and a safe, soft-bladed fan to drive a series of models.
Construct a batting machine that tosses a ball upward on a stream of air. Assemble a basketball launcher and practice shooting hoops with air power. Make a fan-driven car that drives forward, propelled by a stream of air. Experiment to see how much weight your hovercraft can support.
Full-color, 32-page experiment manual. 59 building pieces.
Snap Circuits SOUND by Elenco Electronics
Make exciting projects including: sound energy demonstration, voice changer (record voice or music and play it back at different speeds), echo effects, keyboard with Optical Theremin (sound-activated color-changing light). Connect to your smart phone and analyze sound with apps and much more!
Snap Circuits SOUND offers more than 185 exciting projects and more than 40 parts along with a colorful illustrated instruction manual.
Skwish Classic by Manhattan Toy
Ages: Safe for babies
Three decades ago, the innovative Skwish was born, and this springy concoction of rebounding elastic and cheerfully jumping wooden beads has entertained babies ever since. Skwish provides hours of infant entertainment by introducing the concept of cause and effect while encouraging the development of grasping and reaching skills for baby, as well.
Original Spirograph Deluxe Kit by Kahootz Toys
The classic way for aspiring artists to create millions of amazing designs is back and better than ever! The Original Spirograph Deluxe Set features the iconic wheels and rings of the original, all packaged in a high-quality, durable carrying case with snap-in storage and a built-in drawing surface. The precision-engineered Spirograph gears work with the pens included in the set, as well as with most standard pens, markers and pencils. 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!
The set also comes with 20 sheets of design paper and a full-color design guide, which explains the fundamentals of drawing with Spirograph, as well as step-by-step instructions for creating your own designs!
Cynda Zurfluh is a mother of three. Her previous life was a corporate blur of meetings and marketing. Her current life, while still a blur, is all about family, writing, and small business consulting. Contact her at [email protected]
The American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA): Leading the way through play
Learn about the best children’s toys on the market and where to find them, right in your local neighborhood