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Battling robots, jewelry kits among top picks for 2013 toys

  • Washington Post
  • Published Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013, at 1:56 p.m.
  • Updated Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013, at 7:13 a.m.

About the time that you headed back to school, we started contemplating something really fun: toys. 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, whether it was a purse or a pair of funny glasses. Kids also really liked games, the kind that require family, friends and laughter.

Check out the winners, and see what you like. After all, fun is the name of the game this time of year.

Bendastix

Tested by fourth-graders

Fibre-Craft, $6.99-$19.99

Age 6 and older

“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 you to think creatively. Wrap one or two around your wrist as a bracelet or, using multiple Bendastix, create a funny little monster with one eye. It’s all what you make of it.

Style Me Up! Wrap a Jewel and Style Me Up! Shambala Style Bracelets

Tested by fourth-graders

Wooky Entertainment, each $9.99

Age 8 and older

“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 it was fun but because it was stylish.

I Love Laces Shoelace Purse

Tested by third-graders

Creativity for Kids, $15

Age 7 and older

Make a bright and 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. “It is so much fun,” they wrote.

Glow Crazy Pattern Painter

Tested by third-graders

Techno Source, $19.99

Age 3 and older

Now you’ll have something to do the next time the lights go out. In a dark room, slide the painter stick across a page and watch as it automatically draws patterns that glow in the dark for a few seconds. Push a button to change the pattern to one of 50 choices, including fish, trucks and hearts. The tester said that he would spend his own money on it because it’s “fun and awesome!”

That’s Gross Science Lab

Tested by fourth-graders

SmartLab Toys, $24.99

Age 8 and older

A motorized toilet-bowl mixer, a garbage can and some (fake) barf are just a few things you will find in the box. The lab book contains recipes for making such things as “potty putty” and “stink bubbles.” Testers liked that there were many experiments they could do, but they wanted more ingredients. “I like how it’s really fun science,” wrote one tester, who said she would still want to play with it in six months.

Kindness Kingdom

Tested by third-graders

Marvelously Well-Mannered, $35

Age 5 and older

Do you know your manners? If you answer the questions about manners correctly, you can move your piece on the board and make it to Queen Grace’s Tea Party. Testers found it fun and challenging. They also liked that it took a while to play the game. “It’s fun, and when it’s a holiday or a sleepover, you can play it,” they said.

Hedbanz Act Up!

Tested by fifth-graders

Spin Master, $19.99

Age 8 and older

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.

Laser Maze

Tested by sixth-graders

ThinkFun, $29.99

Age 8 and older

This is a quiet, solo puzzle challenge. Move the pieces on the puzzle board so that the laser beam hits the right targets. You may need to add a mirror or a beam blocker to get the beam to go to the right place. “It’s fun seeing the laser somehow make it to the goal,” one tester said.

Make ‘n' Break Party

Tested by sixth-graders

Ravensburger, $30.99

Age 10 and older

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. “I would buy this toy with my money because I can play with my family at game night,” one said.

Playmobil Pop Stars Stage

Tested by third-graders

Playmobil, $39.99

Ages 4 to 10

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 and pretend they are jamming out.

FurReal Friends Cuddles My Giggly Monkey Pet

Tested by second-graders

Hasbro, $74.99

Ages 4 to 8

“I love it,” wrote one tester. Cuddles is like a real baby monkey. She drinks. She sleeps. She blinks her eyes. The tester noted that she’s not the softest toy, but that didn’t matter. “I love this baby monkey,” she wrote.

B-Daman Break Bomber Battlefield Set

Tested by third-graders

Hasbro, $29.99

Age 6 and older

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 the tester.

Battroborg

Tested by fourth-graders

Tomy, $79.99

Age 6 and older

It’s a battle of the robots. Each player uses two controllers to win the fight in the ring. Use your right controller to get the little robot to jab right, and use your left controller to get him to jab left. Try not to get hit five times, though. That will make your robot turn off, and you lose. “You get to box your friends,” said one tester, who beat both of his opponents. “It’s fun to play with.”

Switch & Go Dinos

Tested by second-graders

VTech, $12.99-$69.99

Ages 3 to 8

Is it a car or is it a dinosaur? It’s both. Change your Giganotosaurus into a car and then turn on the sound effects to hear your car go; then turn him back. Different dinosaurs turn into different things, such as a helicopter and a crane. The testers liked it so much that they agreed that they would still like to play with it in six months.

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