We know how much creativity, skill-building, problem-solving and strategy go into playtime. That’s why the Good Housekeeping Research Institute staff spent the past year selecting 135 promising new toys and games before turning them over to 140 kids, ages 3 to 13, for testing in our labs and in their homes.
Pack the Playmates Shellraiser • Send the reptiles on a wild, imagination-fueled crime-fighting spree in this vehicle. For ages 4 and up, $35. A new TV series is attracting another generation.
Moose Toys Fortune Cookie Maker • Young bakers can mix and roll real dough, heat it in the microwave and form it around the fortunes they write. The best part is kids get to devour their own creations. For ages 5 and up, $25.
Hexbug Hive Habitat Set • Lets kids customize a bi-level maze, then see the mechanical bugs run amok. Its 35 easy-to-assemble pieces link with other sets to create an arena that will amuse for hours. For ages 3 and up, $35.
Techno Source’s Glow Crazy Doodle Dome • Gives little Picassos magical privacy as they sketch on the tent’s walls using a green light wand. When the mess-free art fades, it’s time to start all over again. For ages 3 and up, $20.
Jakks Pacific Power Trains Auto Loader City • An affordable alternative to die-cast models, this toy has boys and girls assembling 18 realistic-looking feet of track for a five-train motorized locomotive. For ages 5 and up, $40.
Do the twist
Techno Source Codee • Puzzle fans can get a kick out of creating critters. When kids follow the corded formula, the twistable chain of interlocking blocks form a bright flamingo, scorpion or robot, to name a few. For ages 7 and up, $8.
Leaving their mark
Crayola Marker Airbrush • Uses markers to create spray-paint-style art while giving kids a serious workout operating the manual pump. Includes 12 markers and four stencils. For ages 6 and up, $25.
Lego Friends Adventure Camper • Constructing a motor home replete with two dolls, bikes and a surfboard made this a popular pick among testers. They were also fans of the Lego Creator Street Rebel set. For ages 6 to 12, $30.
Playmobil E-Rangers Headquarters • Older kids adored this command center, with a swiveling LED spotlight for imaginary scenarios. A working solar panel (it operates a fan) instills eco ideals. For ages 7 to 12, $130.
The amazing racer
Moose Toys Micro Chargers Loop Track • Perfect for superfast freewheeling fun. Tiny collectible cars, charged in as little as nine seconds, shoot to incredible speeds for thrilling play. For ages 6 and up, $20.
Silverlit Porsche Carrera • Hardly a standard remote-controlled toy. This 1:16 replica of the coveted sports car can be steered via iOS devices — download the Silverlit app first. For ages 8 and up, $80.
Seeing the Sights
Revensburger 3D Building Sets • May trigger the travel bug as young ones dexterously join curved, hinged and flat puzzle pieces to form a famous site. Kits make the Empire State Building, Big Ben and Tower Bridge. For ages 10 and up, $26.