Best bet toys for 2008

by DaniGirl on November 6, 2007 · 12 comments

in Consumer culture

(Edited to add: looking for the 2009 report? I’ve got a post about it here!)

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Every year, the Canadian Toy Testing Council releases its picks for the best toys of the year, as selected by the more than 1000 families that are part of the toy testing network. The CTTC provides a full report on all the toys they test (sorted alphabetically or by age), and also provides a list of award-winners in categories like Best Bets, Children’s Choice and Great Books. They base their rankings on design, safety, battery consumption, durability, ease of assembly and “play value,” meaning whether young testers remain interested in the toy after weeks of play. I love these lists and get great ideas from them every year.

This year, “Best Bet” toys include Diego’s Animal Rescue Centre for ages 3 – 5 years, My Real Digital Camera by Little Tykes for ages 3 and up, a Thomas Making Tracks Board Game for ages 4 and up and the Big League Hockey Manager game for ages 10 and up, to name just a few. (For the full list, check out the CTTC website.)

They also give the nod to my very favourite gift for any child age 6 months to 2 years, the Playskool Busy Ball Popper. We got one of these for Simon two years ago, and both boys still love to play with it. I’ve since given at least three of them as gifts, and have at least one recipient in mind this year.

Some of the other great toys we’ve loved in the last year or so include Cranium’s Superfort , Hullaballoo and Cariboo (I totally love Cranium and am looking forward to giving the boys more Cranium stuff this year), just about anything Lego, this “fun in a drum” percussion kit, card ganes like Uno and those concentration-type matching games (we’ve cornered the market with Wiggles, Toy Story and Bob the Builder versions) and all things Star Wars.

On the other hand, we’ve been rather disappointed by a lot of our Leap Frog toys (I really wanted to like this company) including the Leap Pad and My First Leap Pad – but ours keep malfunctioning and though the boys want to play with them, the darn things work less than half the time. We thought getting the boys a DVD player-based game would be a good idea last year, but we’ve been disappointed by Zoooos. It’s simple enough to use, but maybe a little too simple – both boys were bored with it, despite the Bob the Builder and Thomas themed games. Also a bit of a disappointment was Mr Bucket, which Simon pined for between Christmas and his birthday last year, and then when we got it, it was so noisy that he was afraid to play with it.

Hmmm, favourite toys have no batteries in them and disappointing toys are all electronic. Coincidence? Maybe not!

So, bloggy peeps, the holiday buying frenzy season is upon us. I plan a few more posts on best gifts and other holiday-buying thoughts, but what have been some of the best and worst toys you’ve seen recently?

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And if you’re so inclined, you still have a few days to vote!


{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 alison November 6, 2007 at 10:20 am

Dani, when you bought Superfort, did you do it online or can you buy it locally? I went to the site that you linked, and shipping to Canada would cost more than 50% of the cost of the toy. I know my girls would love this.

2 DaniGirl November 6, 2007 at 10:26 am

Alison, I bought mine online from Grand River Toys (a rare Canadian e-commerce site!) during one of their no-shipping deals. But, I’ve seen them at Scholar’s Choice here in town. It is truly one of the best toys ever!

3 Loukia November 6, 2007 at 10:39 am

I just got the playschool busy popper at my surprise baby shower this weekend! 🙂

As for toys… my 2 year old son has literally everything. My shopaholic tendencies have worn off me and onto him… I only shop for him now! I love reading up on what the best educational toys are, etc… he loves to draw and paint (he takes after my artist mom, http://www.katerinamertikas.com – maybe his stuff will be all over Canada and the US one day too?) so we’re getting him an art eisel (SP?) for Christmas… and a workstation/tool station because he loves tools and construction and keeping busy… more books – at last count, his library had over 156 books – but the kid loves to read! I can’t think of anything else…there is nothing he needs, you know? Sigh… but I know I’ll of course go overboard, as usual!
Big mistake? Buying him the entire Thomas table and set last Christmas… he’s not into Thomas… but he does like the train set… I think this year would have been a better time to buy it for him, perhaps…
P.S. Scholar’s Choice is a great store – and my all time favourite – since I was a kid – Mrs. Tiggy Winkle’s. 🙂

4 Sleepycat November 6, 2007 at 10:56 am

We have the Thomas Take-along style and found that they are a great size for my 3-year old’s hands and they don’t take up nearly as much space as the wooden ones. The one thing that is a must is the extra track set. She can make a track circle big enough that she can sit in the middle of and run the trains around her.

We’re looking at the LeapFrog ClickStart system this year. Our old laptop that she could play on has power supply issues and shuts off randomly so it’s way too frustrating for her. I’m wondering if this would be a good option. The Amazon reviews are positive but I’d like to know that they’re going to put out more games.

5 andrea from the fishbowl November 6, 2007 at 11:35 am

Ha. You’re right, we did write about the same topic today, er, yesterday for me anyway. BTW, Tiggywinkles also carries the Superfort. We have it and the girls love it.

If anyone is in Ottawa, another great toy store that’s worth checking out is PlayValue. It’s on Carling near Kirkwood.

6 Suzanne November 6, 2007 at 12:11 pm

Oh my God, Mister Bucket. I didn’t even know that toy was still being made. My niece and nephew bequeathed theirs to my kids, and my sister just laughed and laughed. Yeah, because she got that stupid thing out of her house.

7 bubandpie November 6, 2007 at 12:11 pm

Leap Frog is the devil. Ours keep breaking too.

I am tempted by that digital camera for Christmas. (I don’t think I’ve got time to get one before Bub’s birthday.)

8 Shan November 6, 2007 at 6:08 pm

We try to make every Friday family night. So we have either movie night or game night. So games are some of our favourite toys. We love Cariboo and Hullaballo. Cranium products are great. Both our girls (1 and 5) love the Little People. We have various Little People sets; the farm, stable, circus, house and pirate ship and the oldest has requested some for both herself and her sister for Christmas. Our five year old really enjoys the V-Smile video game system although she does prefer to play with someone as opposed to by herself.

9 Jen November 7, 2007 at 12:00 am

Delurking…has anyone here actually bought one of those digital cameras for kids? We would love to get one for our 3-year-old, but I’ve heard bad things about them – that they’re very durable etc. but take lousy pictures. I figure there’s no point in her getting all excited about framing a shot (which she loves to do with our DSLR) and then having the thing come out blurry anyway! We were planning to just “refurbish” (I use the term loosely!) an old digital camera we’re not using, but the kids ones are so cute. Just wondering if anyone has had any luck with any of the available ones.

10 DaniGirl November 7, 2007 at 7:39 am

Jen, we got Tristan a mini-digital camera (covered in Pixar’s Cars colours) for his birthday, and I admit we were disappointed. Because there’s no flash, you basically have to use it solely for outdoor pictures or with brilliant interior lighting. He had much better luck with a disposable film camera with flash than the one we got, but then, what did we expect for a $19.99 digital camera. Maybe others have had experience with the toddler ones?

11 Kari November 7, 2007 at 8:34 am

We have been pleased so far with the Fisher Price digital.
Also, we got the Super Fort at WalMart (in the US, though).

12 Mad Hatter November 7, 2007 at 1:34 pm

Why look! Here you are taking down Leap Frog. Didn’t see this before publishing my comment on your more recent post.

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