Toy Test: Great Find or Waste of Money?

6:11 AM, Nov 23, 2010   |    comments
Five-year-old Tobias tests out Kid K'Nex.
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BUFORD, Ga.-- Most parents have been there. They buy the perfect Christmas toy. It's supposed to be fun and teach children new skills. Instead, it sits there ignored. It's a waste of time and money. 11Alive is saving you both by testing the toys before you buy them.

The Goddard School in Buford was part of a nation-wide toy test. The Goddard test is in its third year. The toy finalists sent to each participating school had to meet a series of qualifications: are non-toxic, are appropriate for children ages 2-6, are designed to encourage playful learning, have a child-initiated play focus, are interactive, and encourage creativity and social interaction.

ANIMAL TRACKS (Company: The Young Scientists Club, Suggested Age Range: 4 & up)
Description: "Match the animals to their tracks while playing concentration, bingo and guess the tracks games."

The kids mostly ignored this pile of cards until prompted. Although it says for ages four and up, in our kindergarten test class, many of the kids said it was too hard. A few animal-lovers latched onto this one. Even though they didn't understand how to play the games, they still had fun just looking for matches.

BABY STELLA & CUTE COMFORT CAR SEAT(Company: Manhattan Toy Company, Suggested Age Range: 1 & up)
Description: "The Baby Stella soft doll collection has lifelike toes, belly buttons and plump tummies. Baby Stella Cute Comfort Car Seat provides a soft carrier for your child's favorite Baby Stella doll."

This doll, with its magnetic pacifier, was the top toy in our two-year-old test class. Both girls and boys liked to play with the doll and carrier.

CITI BLOCS 200 PIECE HOT & COOL COLOR SETS (Company: CitiBlocs, Suggested Age Range: 3 & up)
Description: "The Citiblocs 200 piece set will keep the enthusiastic builder flexing his or her imagination while developing fine motor skills."

These wide, flat blocks were popular despite their simplicity. Our 5-year-old testers were a fan of the bright colors. The examples shown on the box were a bit far-fetched, even for adults!

GREEN START GIANT FLOOR PUZZLE (Company: Innovative Kids, Suggested Age Range: 3 & up)
Description: "Kids will love assembling this earth-friendly giant floor puzzle to discover a wild animal for each letter of the alphabet."

In a room full of building toys, the puzzle had a tough time competing. The big pieces were easy to handle, but none of the kids picked this one as their favorite toy.

GREEN TOYS BLOCKS and STACKER(Company: Green Toys, Suggested Age Range: 1 - 5)
Description: "Green Toys Blocks are an environmentally friendly basic building set. All 18 boldly colored blocks are oversized and lightweight, making it super easy for tiny hands to stack and unstack."

The two-year-olds loved the green version of the classic building blocks.

KID K'NEX RAILROAD PALS BUILDING SET (Company: K'NEX, Suggested Age Range: 3 & up)
Description: "The Railroad Pals Building Set includes an idea sheet with 20+ building ideas to inspire creativity and a handy storage container for easy clean-up."

This K'Nex kit fits with legos. This was a tie for the top gift in the kindergarten class. The only down side: there weren't that many pieces, so the kids had trouble sharing. This kit is a one-kid supply.

MEDIUM CLASSIC DINO ZIPBIN (Company: Neat-Oh! International, LLC, Suggested Age Range: 3 & up)
Description: "When the bin is unzipped, it becomes a dinosaur island Playscape™! This activity mat is perfect for playing with dinosaurs, animals, vehicles, boats, action figures, etc."

This was a tie for the top toy in the kindergarten test class. They loved playing with the plastic dinosaurs and using the large plastic play area. It was difficult for the kids to zip it back into a box.

MY VERY FIRST GAMES (Company: HABA, Suggested Age Range: 2 & up)
Description: "Who can assemble or take the building blocks off their castle first? Handy and in beautiful material - also suited for free play! These games foster different skills and introduce first games with rules."

Although this game is suggested for two year olds, our testers were way too young for this game. They didn't understand what to do with the pieces and how to play the game. They just liked playing with the parts. The teacher suggested the game should be rated for three or four year olds.

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