Hot Toys that Made our Award List
Watch our segment on the TODAY SHOW November 10th!
Tags: Hot toys, NBC's Today Show
Posted: 2012-01-03 09:48:34 By: by Joanne and Stephanie Oppenheim

 

Here are the hot toys that got the highest ratings from our toy testers.

Novelty Dolls

 

 


2011 Award
Let's Rock! Elmo
(Hasbro $69.99 Score: )

Elmo now sings, plays the bongos and the tambourine. He'll sing with you. He's programmed to sing six songs (the words come with the instructions). He's cute--furry enough to feel friendly. His voice is Elmo's (no discernable difference from switching from the folks at Fisher Price to Hasbro) in that regard. He will go head to head this year with Mattel's Rock Star Mickey. In our comparison, we'd pick Elmo. The sound quality of Mickey is grating and he's less animated than last year's Dance Star Mickey whom we loved.

Age: Toddlers, Preschool. Award Year: 2011. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2011 Award
Fur Real Friends Cookie Puppy
(Hasbro $64.99 Score: )

While she does fewer tricks than our past award winner Biscuit, Cookie, the latest addition to the Fur Real line of pets, is still very special. Most importantly, she's very huggable. Unlike many dolls in this category, you don't feel all the armature underneath. Cookie barks, she turns her head, she wags her tail, she also whines when you speak to her (voice activated). If a real puppy is not in the cards, this may do the trick. 4 & up. The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements.  We did not independently test this toy in a lab.  


Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2011. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2011 Award
Fijit
(Mattel $49.99 Score: )

We were really taken by Fijits at toy fair. They have an interesting and pleasing squishy feel to them (there are three different colors-with different names for each) when you poke them.  It feels the way we think the Pillsbury Dough Boy would feel if you were able to poke him.  That tactile aspect of this toy sets it apart from the recent version of hard plastic interactive robots. Fijit has a fun repetoire of tricks. She can tell jokes, invite your child to dance (either to her own music or your child's). She's programmed to say 150 different things. On the downside, she doesn't always understand your voice commands--this can be frustrating. She also is pretty loud (no volume control) and she requires 5 AA batteries.

That said our testers really liked her corny jokes and how she bops to the music. Pure novelty.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years, Tweens. Award Year: 2011. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2011 Award
Monster High Dead Tired Lagoona Blue Doll and Hydration Station Playset
(Mattel  $44.99 Score: )

We have to admit when we first saw this collection, we thought it was the product of young toy designers having their way with making an edgy line of dolls that would really appeal to the older doll collector. We were wrong. The line has captured the attention of older school aged/tweens. It makes sense given the "twilightization" of america's pop culture at the moment. The dolls are all related to monsters we know and love.  There is Frankie Stein, Holt Hyde, Ghoulia Yelps, Abbey Bominable, Clawdeen Wolf, Cleo de Nile (you know the daughter of the Mummy). You get the idea. Each doll has a backstory and there own issues in high school. For example, Cleo de Nile is described as: "a princess but she's not a mean ghoul. This has allowed her to establish genuine relationships with fellow students who can 'Let Cleo be Cleo' even when 'her imperial bossiness' forgets that at Monster High she's just one of the ghouls." 

Our toy testers really loved the Hydration Bed set that comes with Lagoona.  Some will find this line ridiculous, after listening to our testers we know that they like the silliness of it all. While each of the dolls are dressed in over-the-top outfits, the focus is not on their sexuality but on their character. We like that! We also were thrilled that there were boy dolls in this collection as well.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years, Tweens. Award Year: 2011. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

Games, Construction and Other Cool Gadgets

 

 


2011 Award
LeapFrog LeapPad Explorer Tablet
(LeapFrog $99 Score: )

When we first saw the preview of LeapFrog's LeapPad, we were hopeful that the final version would really be all that they promised: age appropriate, easy-to-use and engaging to a generation of kids that expect great graphics, games, and speed. (Sometimes what we see at preview doesn't always translate into the final product.) We're happy to report that the LeapPad really delivered on all counts.

Let's address the elephant in the room. The LeapPad is not your iPad. In many ways, we think it's better.  Well, better for the young audience for which it was designed. At $99, the white, lightweight tablet delivers satisfying speed and graphics to your older preschooler and early school age child. Unlike your  iPad, everything is meant for your child.  The games pull from LeapFrog's library of 100+ educational games- so you can select those that are most appropriate for your child and her needs. You can use all Leapster Explorer games and apps you already have- also a plus.  Our testers also loved exploring the art program- here's an example of where an adult may want a turn!  The LeapPad also has a built in camera and video camera. All in all- a great use of technology that will entertain and engage your child.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2011. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2011 Award
Simon Flash
(Hasbro $32.99 Score: )

All our testers from 8-18 were wowed by this new version of Simon. There are four games you can play with this new twist on one of the early electronic games. The Yellow game challenges players to move the four-color cubes in the right order to turn off all the lights. They Red game plays a color scramble and players have to line the cubes up in their original order. The Blue game is Simon's Secret color and you have to find it by lining the cubes up until they all light up with the same color. The Green game is like the classic Simon. You press and then have to remember and play back longer sequences in each round. These games require memory, logic and quick thinking. 8 & up.

Age: Later School Years, Tweens. Award Year: 2011. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2011 Award
MindFlex Duel
(Mattel $99 Score: ) In 2009 we gave a Platinum Award to Mattel's innovative MindFlex. The toy "reads" brain activity and with that energy you move a little blue ball along the adjustable obstacle path. Now, as the name suggests, Mind Flex Duel allows you to battle another player for dominance over the little blue ball. As with the original both players put on the headgear and attach the sensor to your earlobe. Turn the game on--and see which player can concentrate enough to move the ball across the finish line. Really a mental tug of war-except here you are pushing the ball with your thoughts. Seriously! One of the most innovative toys we've seen in years. You can also play many of the same solo obstacle games you played on the original. If you have teens that are jaded and will only play video games--start playing with this toy and see what happens.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years, Tweens, Teens. Award Year: 2011. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2011 Award
LEGO STAR WARS Jedi T-6 Shuttle
(Lego Systems, Inc. $62.99 Score: )

What's super neat about this build, is how the wings turn from being horizontal to vertical. This kind of moment is exciting when you get it to work (as a builder) and even more fun to play with when you're using the Shuttle as part of your pretend play.  LEGO has a new circular piece this year that allows for this type of rotation. The shuttle comes with play figAnakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Saesee Tin, and Shaak Ti.  The set has 389 pieces so really designed for intermediate builders.  Also a favorite with our testers, Anakin's & Sebulba's Podracers (810 pieces)  - straight from the movie. The set comes with Watto, Sebulba, Anakin Skywalker, Wald, Obi-Wan Kenobi.
 

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years, Tweens, Teens. Award Year: 2011. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2011 Award
LEGO STAR WARS Millennium Falcon
(Lego Systems, Inc. $139.99 Score: )

This is the BIG wow-wee kit (with 1254 pieces) of the season for Star Wars fans. What is truly amazing about the design is that the top opens up so that you can access the inside of the ship where so many of the key moments of the original movies take place. True to the movie, there are secret cargo holds where they hid themselves from the Darth Vader. A fun build for advanced builders. Comes with six miniature action figures: Darth Vader, Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Chewbacca, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Princess Leia. Once built, this is really a pretend play setting.  If you also need the Empire represented in your building, consider the equally impressive Republic Frigate ($119) with 1022 pieces, this is also designed for intermediate and advanced builders. Comes with Clone Commander Woffe, Wolfpack Clone Trooper, Eeth Koth, Quinlan Vos and Yoda.  Many portions of the ship do open up so that you can act out story lines. There are small projectiles that you can send off but they do not go far or pack much of a punch.

Age: Later School Years, Tweens, Teens. Award Year: 2011. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2011 Award
FyrFlyz Light Up Toy
(FyrFlyz $9.99 Score: )

One of our favorite novelty toys of the year.  The axis of the toy has lights that change color when you spin the inner core. You get that motion by pulling (creating different levels of tension) on the two plastic handles.  Once you start the center core spinning and you pull on the cords, the light creates different shapes. We do have to admit, that at first we hit ourselves in the face the toy--we're not the most coordinated bunch. But once we got the hang of it, we found this product to be totally cool and addictive! 

There are three versions so far to chose from: Blue Angel (blue case) with multi-colored lights as you spin. Our favorite. NytFyr - with a purple case and red and white lights. Cyclone- a green case with green and white lights (not as cool as the Blue Angel in our opinion).

To best see the lights and shapes turn the lights off.  We also found that if you hold the toy at an angle, then the person spinning can also see the changing lights and shapes. If you spin head on, then it's much more difficult to see what you're creating.

The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements.  We did not independently test this toy in a lab.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years, Tweens, Teens. Award Year: 2011. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2011 Award
Animal Planet Air Swimmer Clown Fish
(Discovery Kids $49.99 Score: )

Sure to thrill, this remote control helium filled flying Clown Fish is the big novelty toy of the season. It is one of those big, showy toys that adults are going to want as much as the kids. The fish is 5 feet long and can be controlled in a 50-foot range. It steers in any direction with a button that allows it dive or climb and one that flaps the fish's tail to propel it. Once it is aloft there will be lots of oooohs! and ahhhhhs! But, be forewarned, it does take a lot of time to put together. You not only need to fill it with helium and then you have to run the electrical wiring through from the bottom controller to the tail. After that you need to find just the right amount of ballast (putty that comes with the fish) so that it does not go too high and tip up or down. All of this takes two people and plenty of calm patience. It comes with triple A and 9-volt battery. Unfortunately, it does not come with a patch kit, and you will want to have one on hand so that if your fish gets nicked, you can repair it before the helium escapes. Oh, yes, it does not come with the helium tank--that you have to buy separately. The company recommends that you fly this at 5 ft. and no higher. Okay, sounds like some of the ads for medicines with all those warnings. But despite all the above-- this is still one cool and memorable toy. The company also makes a bright orange Clown Fish version if sharks are just too toothy for you. 8 & up.

Age: Later School Years, Tweens, Teens, Adult. Award Year: 2011. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2011 Award
Animal Planet Air Swimmer Shark
(Discovery Kids $49.99 Score: )

Sure to thrill, this remote control helium filled flying Great White Shark is the big novelty toy of the season. It is one of those big, showy toys that adults are going to want as much as the kids. The shark is 5 feet long and can be controlled in a 50-foot range. It steers in any direction with a button that allows it to dive or climb and one that flaps the shark's tail to propel it. That music from Jaws just comes to mind as the Air Swimmer moves aloft! But, be forewarned, it does take a lot of time to put together. You not only need to fill it with helium, you then have to run the electrical wiring through from the bottom controller to the tail. After that you need to find just the right amount of ballast (putty that comes with the fish) so that it does not go too high and tip up or down. All of this takes two people and plenty of calm patience. It comes with triple A and 9-volt battery. Unfortunately, it does not come with a patch kit, and you will want to have one on hand so that if your fish gets nicked, you can repair it before the helium escapes. Oh, yes, it does not come with the helium tank--that you have to buy separately. The company recommends that you fly this at 5 ft. and no higher. Okay, sounds like some of the ads for medicines with all those warnings. But despite all the above--this is still one cool and memorable novelty toy. The company also makes a bright orange Clown Fish version if sharks are just too toothy for you. 8 & up.

Age: Later School Years, Tweens, Teens, Adult. Award Year: 2011. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 
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