Search: toy testing council

This time of year, it seems like every website, TV show and magazine is offering up the “Best Bet” toys for the holiday season. I’m always a little bit skeptical though: can I trust Disney to objectively assess the other guys’ toys, or am I just getting a thinly disguised “Best Disney Toys” list?

That’s why I’ve always enjoyed reviewing the Canadian Toy Testing Council Best Bet Toy lists. The Canadian Toy Testing Council (CTTC) has been assessing toys on the basis of design, function, durability and play value since 1952. Here’s their schpeil:

Every year, hundreds of toys are selected as representative of those being offered on the market. These toys are then tested by Canadian children in everyday settings, to assess design, function, durability and play value. The Council rates each toy, awarding Three Stars, Two Stars, One Star, Novelty or Not Recommended. You can find the ratings and a review of each toy tested in editions of the TOY REPORT, published by the CTTC. The Council also reviews and evaluates Canadian children’s books to promote child literacy.

Toys tested by actual families? That’s the kind of review I want to read. The CTTC released their list of the Best Bet Toys for 2010 on November 16, along with a Battery-Powered Toy of the Year award and a Children’s Choice category.

I can tell you from personal experience that their Children’s Choice recommendation of the Step 2 Sand and Water Transportation Station is right on the money. Our was well-loved by the 7 year old, the 5 year old and the toddler, right out of the box.

137:365 Sand and water table

One of their “Best Bet” recommendations is Ganz’ Webkinz, which continue to enthrall all three of my boys. The big boys love them equally for the cuddle-factor and the online component, and the little guy just likes to hug them and make piles of them.

I am intrigued by the recommendation for Uno Moo. Lucas might be a tiny bit on the young side, but it looks to me like a game all three boys could play together. Uno is one of those classic games that the boys seem to love. Another unbeatable classic is Lego, which has my boys enthralled in a full-on addiction. I tried Tinker Toys one year, thinking the building factor would hook them, but we found the pieces annoying to assemble and not very versatile. Have they changed Tinker Toys since we were kids? Didn’t they used to be better?

My other favourite toy recommedation continues to be Cranium’s Super Fort. We gave one to my nephew for his birthday a year or two ago, and just this past weekend my sister-in-law was mentioning what a great gift it was and how much play value they got from it. (Ha, I just googled “cranium super fort” to find the link, and came up with my CTTC post from 2007. Apparently I am starting to repeat myself!)

By the way, you can also read the full report on all of the toys reviewed by the CTTC’s testing families online. I wish it were a more interactive, searchable database, though. You can even sign up to be a testing family — something I keep meaning to do but never seem to get around to.

Shhh, don’t tell the boys, but this Christmas will see a lot of Lego under our Christmas tree. That, and Wii games. Wii is coming out with Lego Rockband — it’s like they’re reading our minds! It’s the perfect family gift.

Care to share your inspiration? What do you think will be a big hit at your house this holiday season?


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[Edited to add: Click this link for information on the most recent CTTC Toy Report for 2010.]

Apparently, I’m a creature of habit and tradition. (Who knew?) Each year since 2005, I’ve blogged about the Canadian Toy Testing Council’s annual Toy Reports. I love these reports because they aren’t sponsored by any company or store; toys are tested and rated by Canadian kids and families. You can search for a particular toy to see how it ranks and what families did and did not like about the toy, or you can peruse the Best Bet listings for the best-ranked toys of the year. There’s also a “children’s choice” category, and breakdowns by age group.

This year’s Best Bet toys include old standards like playdough (in this case a Diego/Backyardigans combo), Brio trains, Lego, and a handful of Crayola sets. They also recommend a Musical Bingo game which sounds kind of intriguing and an indoor Scavenger Hunt game from Pazow that I might just have to pick up for my little scavengers.

If you’re looking for recommendations for great kids’ books, you can get that from the CTTC site, or you can hop over to Mad Hatter’s blog and take a look at her ongoing series on the subject.

This year, our Christmas gifts to the boys will skew toward their current obsessions with Lego, Pokemon (choke), and Star Wars. Simon loves board games as much as I do, so we’ll add to our family collection of those, too. And while I’m guessing Lucas would be just as content to play with the wrappings as the toys inside, I’ve got one of these classic FP telephones stashed away for him, too. Some toys never go out of style!

Got a favourite toy or gift to recommend?


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The one with the hallucinogenic toys

by DaniGirl on November 7, 2007 · 10 comments

in Consumer culture

On the first day of voting for the Weblog Awards, for a glorious (if delusional) hour or two, I was in first (!) place. Now that it’s the penultimate day for voting, I’m in penultimate place. Sigh. Vote today to make sure this insidious trend doesn’t leave me in last place tomorrow, okay?

Visiting for the first time? Welcome! Here are a few of my favourite posts, randomly selected for your bloggy pleasure:

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Yesterday, we talked about the Canadian Toy Testing Council’s best toys for 2008. I had also bookmarked another “Best Toys of 2007” link a while ago, and was thinking about writing about it, but quite frankly, I didn’t find any of the toys on that list too appealing. (I have a hard time sanctioning a list that would approve the Fisher Price Smart Cycle. My 3 to 6 year olds do NOT need a stationary bike hooked up to the TV, of that I am quite sure.)

The one toy from this particular list that I had been contemplating for the boys is one of those new Aquadots sets. I’d never seen them before, but recently they’ve been everywhere and on several favourite toy lists. Now I know why. Apparently, they’re under massive recall, not because they’re a choking hazzard – which is what gave me pause – but because the little beads release a hallucinogenic drug when swallowed! No wonder it was every kids’ favourite toy last year!

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Did I mention the voting thing?


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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!


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(Sheesh, as if I weren’t verbose enough, now I feel the need to qualify every reference to Christmas with an inclusion to all the other winter holidays. If I slip, it’s nothing personal. Consider yourself officially included, okay?)

It must be holiday purchase frenzy time – the toy reports are out. According to this report, the lowly cardboard box was enshrined in the National Toy Hall of Fame, along with old favourites CandyLand and the Jack In The Box.

If you’re looking for something a little more modern to wow the kiddies this year, the Canadian Toy Testing Council has released their annual (and excellent) report on the best and the worst toys of the season. They have categories like “Children’s Choice”, “Best Bets” and “Greatest Books.” You can read the report at Award Winning Toys 2006. I particularly like the look of Balloon Lagoon, under the Children’s Choice category, for Tristan this year. If you go back to the CTTC main page (my first link) you can see prior year reports as well.

This got me thinking – wouldn’t it be nice to have a thread where we talked about favourite toys and best gifts for kids? Sort of like our own bloggy toy testing council. For example, last year we got Simon this Playskool Ball Popper. Not only does Simon love it and still play with it a year later, but Tristan loves it, I love it, and every kid who comes over to play loves it. It is noisy, but so are my kids, so that doesn’t bother me much.

Our gift list this year will be, as usual, full of all things Thomas, with a healthy dose of Bob thrown in for good measure. The boys (and their father) love these toys so much that it’s hard to resist the tidal pull of them. In addition to a roundhouse, a DVD and some Thomas lego, I managed to find a 36 piece puzzle that will keep Tristan busy for hours. We’re also hoping to expand his train horizons with a GeoTrax set. Simon is a little harder to buy for, as he isn’t as demanding or particular as his brother. I’m thinking along the lines of musical or creative expression for him.

What do you think? What are your favourite toys? What are your kids’ favourite toys? What toys would you only give to your evil sister-in-law’s mouthy brats? What will they still be playing with in January? What toys did you bury in the backyard at first thaw?


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In praise of free

by DaniGirl on November 5, 2006 · 0 comments

in Life, the Universe and Everything

Two of the most popular items in our house these days, for the under-five set at least, came to us completely free.

Simon’s new favourite book, which we *must* read every nap and bedtime, is a small paperback copy of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom that came free in a box of Cheerios. From the same promotion, we also got John Lithgow’s Marsupial Sue, but apparently it’s not as magical as Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, which I can now recite from memory.

And yesterday, we stopped at Harvey’s for lunch after a morning on the town, where the kids’ meal toy was Silly Putty. Silly Putty definitely deserves a spot on our list of ‘timeless toys.’ I have previously mentioned how much I love Harvey’s kids’ meal toys. Play Dough, markers and notebooks, Silly Putty… so much better than the plastic junk that McDonalds and the rest of the fast food places give out!

For those of you willing to invest a little more than the price of a hamburger combo in your holiday gift shopping, the Canadian Toy Testing Council has come out with their annual report on the best toys for 2007. You can also consult their full report for all the toys and books their panel of more than 1000 toy experts – Canadian kids of all ages! – tested this year.

(This disjointed Sunday-morning ramble brought to you by NaBloPoMo. This might be harder than I thought! Anybody got a good meme?)


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I’ve gone international! Now appearing in… Florida?

25 October 2006 Life, the Universe and Everything

You’re probably going to laugh at this. You’re going to roll your eyes, and you’re going to try not to laugh at with me, but you’re not going to be able to help yourself. Guess which newspaper I’m in today?Give up? The Tampa (!!) Tribune! Guess which section?The food (!!) section. Guess why?C’mon, guess!Why, candy […]

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