Making a list; checking it twice
Kids test out toys and find what is nice.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Every year KidsPost asks kids at area schools to test a new crop of toys and tell us which ones they like -- just in time for the holiday season. This year, we sent more than 75 toys to 10 classrooms, from second to sixth grade, and what emerged is that there are some great games out there. Card games, electronic games and educational games all won fans. There were a few other stars, including a well-designed smoothie maker that was among the best cooking toys we tested, and the electronic hamsters known as Zhu Zhu Pets were a hit, too, which explains why they are scurrying off the shelves at area shops. And here, just in time for you to make your wish list, are what kids your age picked as the toys they are most likely to ask for, be playing with six months from now and even to be willing to spend their own money on! The toys listed are widely available online or in stores unless otherwise noted.

-- Margaret Webb Pressler


WarStone, Duncan Toys, 8 and older, $13-$25. This new trading card game has an old-fashioned twist -- marbles -- that appealed to our third-grade testers. Like many trading card games in the style of Yu-Gi-Oh and Bakugan, this game can get complex, but the kids didn't mind that. The marbles have cool creatures inside. Available at

Kid Cranium SpongeBob SquarePants edition, Hasbro, 7 and older, $25. Be prepared to act, crack codes, sketch and sculpt to win this SpongeBob-themed game. The fourth-grade testers said that it was "interactive" and that it "never got old."

Nina Versus Ninja, Out of the Box, 8 and older, $25. Players are challenged to go into one another's territory and get back out without being captured. The fifth-graders loved that it was easy to set up and fun for beginners and masters. "Cool" and "awesome" were the words used a lot to describe this game.

Count Down & Spell Up, Cadaco, 6 and older, $15. This combination of two award-winning games really works. Third-graders liked the reversible design that let them test their spelling and math skills in one game.

100 Really Dumb Things, Patch Products, 7 and older, $15. Silliness rules in this game, which has you do goofy things either every time it's your turn or when something specific happens. One fifth-grade tester described it as "the best game ever."

Truth Be Told, Buffalo Games, 12 and older, $28. The host player writes the answer to a personal question, and other players write down what they think the host's answer would be. You win points by guessing which answer is the real one. Sixth-graders enjoyed this game.

On the Double card game, PlayRoom, 8 and older, $12. In this fast-paced game, players have to get rid of their cards as quickly as they can by matching the colors and shapes on both sides of their cards. You could play this over and over "without getting bored," said one fourth-grader. Available at Amazon and some independent retailers.

Hyper Blast, Wild Planet, 6 and older, $20. Stomp on the console, and little balls fly around the room. You have to grab them and put them back in the console in the right order -- sometimes by color, by number or using math. It's harder than it looks! The testers in third grade loved "blasting it" and "running around."


Zhu Zhu Pets, Cepia, 4 and older, $10-$22. These new toys are already very popular, so put them on your list now if you want your parents to be able to find them. Our second-grade testers loved the squeaking, unpredictable little hamsters and the twisty playground they move around in. The animals also have toys, habitats and accessories, all of which are sold separately.

Roborover, WowWee, 8 and older, $69. Getting this toy robot out of the box took a while, but the payoff was worth it, testers said. The alien-like robot responds to commands and talks back, getting smarter the more you work with it. "We didn't get to play with it long enough" was the worst thing our testers in second grade could say about it.

FlyTech LightStar remote control toy, WowWee, 8 and older, $20. Third-grade testers said this "fun" indoor flying toy is easy to control" but complained that the battery didn't last long enough.


Desert Biodome, DuneCraft, 7 and older, $25. This kit lets you plant your own cactus garden. The kids liked doing something that wasn't rushed and loud. "Now I have an interest in gardening," one fourth-grade tester said.

The Natural Beauty Book, Klutz, 12 and older, $22. Sixth-grade girls liked the beauty tools in this book, and the tips on natural ways to care for your skin and nails. The book has "many fun spa ideas to try with your friends," one tester said.

EZ-2 Make Jamba Juice Smoothie and Ice Pop Maker, WowWee, 8 and older, $30. Remarkably easy to put together with a simple, safe design. "The smoothie that we made was delicious," one fourth-grade tester said.

Skeleflex Warriors and MicroDinos, Wild Planet, 7 and older, $6-$15. These kits are part building toys and part action figures, plus all the parts are interchangeable so you can make some really weird creatures! Even though the pieces were a little hard to snap together, these toys were a big hit with our third-grade testers.

Girl Gourmet Sweets Candy Bead Studio, Jakks Pacific, 8 and older, $20 (large picture, above). Candy necklaces get a makeover with this "cooking" toy that has a sweet ending. Third-graders loved the idea and said it was "easy" and "fun" to do, but they weren't sure they would still be playing with it in six months.

We'd like to thank all the great testers who made this year's test possible. They were:

Second grade: Stephen Roberts's class at Kimball Elementary School in the District and Karen Lott's class at Dranesville Elementary School in Herndon. Third grade: Patricia Potter's class at Washington Mill Elementary School in Alexandria and Christina Bernabe's class at the Katherine Thomas School in Rockville. Fourth grade: Payal Patel's class at Fairhill Elementary School in Fairfax and Laura Mandrus's class at Cooper Lane Elementary School in Landover Hills. Fifth grade: Marsha Abramovich's class at Mayfield Intermediate School in Manassas and Jackie Bruce-Yamin's class at Thomson Elementary School in the District. Sixth grade: the Maryland International Day School in Oxon Hill and Kelly Mayer's class at George Washington Middle School in Alexandria.

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