By Moira E. McLaughlin / The Washington Post
About the time that you headed back to school, we started contacting Santa’s little elves — actually, toy companies — to see what they were dreaming up for the holidays.
They sent us more than 100 toys, and we sent the coolest-looking ones to 10 schools. Kids there tested them and told us which were the best.
Our testers really liked the toys that inspired them to make something. Kids also liked games — the kind that require family, friends and laughter.
Here are the winners, by age. Unless noted, they’re available at major retailers.
VTech Switch & Go Dinos ($13–$70). Ages 3 to 8; tested by second-graders.
Is it a car, or is it a dinosaur? It’s both! The testers liked it so much that they agreed they would still like to play with it in six months.
Hasbro FurReal Friends Cuddles My Giggly Monkey Pet ($75). Ages 4 to 8; tested by second-graders.
Cuddles is like a real baby monkey. She drinks. She sleeps. She blinks her eyes. “I love this baby monkey,” one tester wrote.
Playmobil Pop Stars Stage ($40). Ages 4 to 10; tested by third-graders.
Turn on one of two songs built into the stage and move your mini musicians around to the beat of the drums. Or make the four band members play your favorite songs by plugging in your MP3 player.
Fibre-Craft Bendastix ($7–$20). Ages 6 and older; tested by fourth-graders.
“It was so much fun!” one tester wrote. “I loved it!” Bend them, stretch them, squish them, make whatever you want with them. The colorful strips of squishy material are meant to inspire kids to think creatively.
Hasbro B-Daman Break Bomber Battlefield Set ($30). Ages 6 and older; tested by third-graders.
With your marble blaster, try to knock down the wall between you and your opponent. Topple all of the red blocks to win. “It’s the best game ever,” said one tester.
Creativity for Kids I Love Laces Shoelace Purse ($15 at independent toy stores). Ages 7 and older; tested by third-graders.
Make a bright, beautiful purse out of shoelaces. “Our favorite thing about the toy was weaving and picking out the colors,” a group of testers wrote. The kids really enjoyed making a purse by themselves, and they all agreed that they would spend their own money to buy it.
“What I like best is that you get to style yourself,” one tester wrote. The beads and thread make colorful bracelets and necklaces. The girls who tested the kits liked them a lot, not only because they were fun but also because they were stylish.
Spin Master Hedbanz Act Up! ($20). Ages 8 and older; tested by fifth-graders.
Testers for this game used the words “funny” and “awesome.” Put a card in your headband so you can’t see it, and then watch everyone around you silently act out what the card says. Figure out what your card says before your time is up. The testers said the acting was tough at times but also fun.
Ravensburger Make ’n’ Break Party ($31). Ages 10 and older; tested by sixth-graders.
Build the tower that’s on the card before the time runs out. OK, now build the tower blindfolded with your teammates trying to tell you how. Testers liked that it was both challenging and fun.