Top Twenty Toys: $20 or Under
Tags: Toys Under $20
Posted: 2011-11-02 12:51:25 By:

 

Infants

 

 


2011 Award
Smarty Kids O is for Owl Comfort Cuddly Blanky
(Kids Preferred $13 Score: )

Owl is adorable with its big eyes, ribbon tufted ears, and brightly patterned wings and body. Like the other Cuddly Blankies, this is a 10-inch unstuffed doll that is easy to clutch. It is not really a blanky in the traditional sense, but it just may become a comfort toy that kids like to hold onto as they rest. It makes no sounds, but there is plenty for eyes to see and textures for little hands to explore. Also see L is for Lion and F is for Frog Cuddly Blanky toys. Infants and up.

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

Age: Infants. Award Year: 2011. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2011 Award
Kids Preferred Cute as a Button Chime Ball
(Kids Preferred $16 Score: )

A marvelous Cute As a Button fabric 8" chime ball with a jolly jingle safe inside and plenty of surface textures to explore. There are colorful satin knotties, textured loop to hold, a crinkle velour patch, ribbon tabs and felt fringe. Each segment of the ball has a different fabric - printed velour with stripes and another with dots, another with cotton knit stripes and others with corded and dotted velour.

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

 

Toddlers

 

 

 
2011 Awards
Playskool Sesame Street School Bus
(Hasbro $14.99 Score: )

Seems the school bus has shrunk a little, but it's still one of those perennial favorites. This season it has been updated for the Sesame Street gang. But it only comes with two characters, Count Von Count is the driver and Elmo is there with his backpack. If you want more passengers, that will be extra, please. It can hold three figures and since loading and unloading passengers is so much a part of the fun, we suggest you bring them home with the bus. Passengers can get on through the door or the open roof top. To open the door, press the purple button on the hood. No batteries needed for this roll and play vehicle. They say 18 months & up, we think it will be enjoyed more by 2's and up. The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements. We did not independently test this toy in a lab.

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

 

 

 

 
2011 Awards
Early Years Busy Ball Drop
(International Playthings $15.99 Score: )

Use the big yellow base and then stack these round chute pieces in almost any order. Baby will be ready for making things happen. Put one of the three see-through balls on top and watch it whirl round and round till it reaches the bottom. This ball drop stacks up over 12 " tall and has balls with colorful beads inside.   It is a basic for learning about cause and effect. Babies and toddlers love the repetitive action here and the sounds of the balls dropping. Chances are you will need to do the stacking at first, but you can depend upon their unstacking it.   Most of all tots love the repetition of making that ball roll down every time!   9 months & up.  The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements.  We did not independently test this toy in a lab. 

NOTE OF CAUTION: We note that some online stores are shipping a knock-off that looks similar but is not the toy we tested or recommended.

SNAP: Sing a little song as you play with this ball drop classic. Try it to Wheels on the Bus..."See the balls go round and round, round and round, round and round. See the balls go round and round all though the day." Now switch to " See the balls go down, down, down, down, down, down,etc. Make up other verses about the sound of the balls going plunk, plunk, plunk.

To reinforce color concepts sing about the color of the ball that is in action.

These kinds of made-up songs reinforce concepts such as color, action words,and sensory language in meaningful ways that are more memorable. It's not a quiz game, but a playful way to use language and interact together.

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

 

 

 


2011 Award
Mega Bloks Bingo Builder Game
(Mega Bloks $12.99 Score: )

This is a matching game with jumbo dice and reversible playing boards, so you can play two different games. There's a shape matching game on one side and building matching game on the reverse. First person to win four in a row gets to take a piece of an four-part intergalactic figure to match his space card. Winner is the player who collects all four pieces. Or, play the harder game. Flip the cards and the die with playing pieces that look like part of the intergalactic building pieces. This second game is harder, calls for looking closer at the shapes and details. But we think kids will like the novelty of building these little figures as they play a game of chance. There is no strategy or reading required.  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.

 

 

 


2011 Award
North American Bear Velveteenie Circus Monkey Knotted Baby Cozy
(North American Bear Co. $15 Score: )

Newest of the Circus line, this hot pink cozy has a super soft feel and knottie arms and legs. It has stitched features and no doodads to come off. A sweet monkey that is easy to grab with its long arms, legs and tail.

Age: Infants. Award Year: 2011. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 

 
2011 Awards
Green Start Early Learning 10 Stacking and Nesting Blocks
(Innovative Kids $20 Score: )

Like other products in their line, these "Green Start" blocks are made form 98% recycled materials and have a special brown cardboard look. The graphics are colorful and handsome, giving a new look to a classic set of stacking and nesting blocks. Use these for reinforcing color concepts as well as shapes, letters and numbers. Stack them up or fit them into a nest, it's a hands-on way to learn about size order and problem solving.  As with most classic style toys these will be used by over a long time at varying levels of discovery from toddlers to early school years. The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements.  We did not independently test this toy in a lab.

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

 

Preschoolers

 

 


2011 Award
Dr. Seuss Wood Alphabet Puzzle
(I Can Do That Games $19.99 Score: )

Lift the gaily-painted wooden letters to uncover a surprise object that begins with the sound of each letter. Under the A is an airplane. Under the B a ball, etc. Favorite Dr. Suess characters are painted on the wooden frame, as well. Best of all, the raised letters are chunky enough for little hands to lift out and hold with ease. 3 & 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
The Cat's Pajamas Game
(Haywire Group $19.95 Score: )

Our preschool testers loved this Pajama game that involves getting rid of all of your cat's pajamas by matching the colors, patterns and shapes. Each player gets a set of pj's for his cat. Stack them up on your cat. Toss the Die and move 1-2- or 3 spaces on the board. Now, everyone can take off a pajama top or bottom that matches the place on the board. If both your cat's top and bottom match, remove them both. Play continues until someone gets rid of all of his or her pj's. It's a fast and easy to learn game that reinforces matching skills as well as turn taking and learning that you win some and lose some. 2-4 players. 20 minutes. 3 & up.

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

 

 

 


2011 Award
Hoot Owl Hoot!
(Peaceable Kingdom $14.99 Score: )

In this color matching game the object is to get the owls home to the forest before sunrise. Players draw cards and move the owls along the pathway of matching colors. But watch out! If you draw a sun card from the pile you must move the sun toward sunrise. Be careful! All the owls must get back before the sun makes it all the way to dawn! The rules are simple, the turn taking is quick and there's even a little science thrown in with the concept of owls being nocturnal creatures. The colors on the playing board are not the usual primary colors, so there is an opportunity for extending the language of color names to include: lavender rather than purple, teal blue rather than just blue, hot pink rather than red, chartreuse or lime green rather than just green plus bright yellow and orange. A cooperative game for 2-4 players. Also see Count Your Chickens game from the same company. 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 Awards
Maisy Game
(Briarpatch $20 Score: )

Happily this former Platinum and SNAP Award (1995) winning game has been brought back this year!  It now has the designation of Blue Chip Award winner.  One of the most beautifully designed color concept games we've ever reviewed. Players spin and pick up sturdy cardboard cutouts to match color, pattern and objects on their picture board of Maisy. Develops language and matching skills with a favorite character. 

SNAP INFO: Use this matching game to reinforce color words, patterns and knowing and naming the objects on the "lotto" style playing boards. ACTIVITY: Give each player a card and give riddles for finding the object that is the answer, for example, "I'm thinking of something that is round that you can bounce." The child who picks up ball gets to put it on her card.

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

 

 

 


2011 Award
Angelina Ballerina Dance with Me Game
(The Wonder Forge $19.99 Score: )

If you have a fan of Angelina Ballerina, she's going to enjoy this active game that requires flexing both her ballerina skills and ability to follow a dance routine. Each player moves along the play board where she may be asked to practice doing certain ballet positions (first, third, reverence, tendu front, etc.). When the first player gets to the end of the play board, she is then required to repeat all of the positions on the cards that have been turned over. This can be challenging--but since there are several opportunities to "practice" - most kids will get the routine. There's also the "it's ok to peek" approach when playing this type of game with older preschoolers and early school aged kids.

Now that's only part of the game play. The actual winner is the player who has collected the most number of star cards of the same color.  Winning is therefore determined by how many times you land on practice (where you get the most number of star cards) and how many cards are of the same color.  This aspect is random. 

Our testers were much less concerned about the star cards-than doing the positions for the dance routine. The game comes with a bonus CD with music from the cartoon. It doesn't really fit with the ballet dancing that each dancer will do at the end of the game. Our suggestion to have some pretty music on the ready for your ballerinas!!

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.

 

 

 


2011 Award
On the Train and Tea Party Puzzles
(Mudpuppy Press $12 Score: )

Cleverly packaged in zip-up see through envelopes, these 12 piece puzzles are good take-along toys to toss in a suitcase or backpack for away from home quiet times. The big cardboard pieces are thick and the graphics are bold and colorful. There's lots to talk about once the puzzle is put together. There is a color border on each of these scenes that can be used as an aide for getting the puzzle together--a good strategy to teach them.  Both are marked for 2 and up, but we think a 12-piece puzzle is beyond most 2's. These are a better choice for 3-4's. There are a number of others in this collection-all with bold clear graphics featuring dinosaurs, butterflies, farm scene and under the sea.


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

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

 

Early and Later School Years

 

 


2011 Award
City Square Off
(Gamewright $19.99 Score: )

Know a city planner in the making? An interesting new strategy game that you play head to head against one other opponent. Each player gets to select a building to place somewhere on their grid. On each turn you pull a shape card that dictates which of the differently shaped tile pieces to place around your building. The key is to make sure that you always have room to place the next tile without going outside the city limits. A fast-paced game that helps work on visual discrimination, spatial relations, and ability to problem solve. Also a great way to discuss your own city planning...something many kids (and grown-ups) take for granted. 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. Award Year: 2011. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2011 Award
The Cupcake Game
(eeBoo $$16.95 Score: )

 Cupcakes! Who doesn't like them?  Here the game play is based on creating your  own cupcake by collecting all the ingredients you'll need whether it's the butter, chocolate or cupcake holders!  Each player takes a turn by spinning the dial.  We love that the spinner is a spatula.  Of course, we'd recommend making some of your own cupcakes as well.  The game and the actual process of baking are interactive ways of working on reading skills (following directions), math skills (measuring) and patience (waiting for them to cool!). 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. Award Year: 2011. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2011 Award
Make Your Own Kaleidoscope
(Creativity for Kids $12.99 Score: )

Here kids are getting an introduction to reflective properties of light and how different materials affect what we see. The set requires kids to follow step by step instructions for putting the kaleidoscope together. Comes with lots of materials to put in the end piece, but you can also encourage your child to experiment with things from around the house (small buttons, Cheerios, etc.).  Kit says 5 & up--and while a 5 year old will love playing with this toy, they will need your assistance to put it together.   We'd say  more like 8 & up for independent play.  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. Award Year: 2011. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2011 Award
Ratuki
(Hasbro $11.99 Score: )

If you like fast-paced card games like Spit, Ratuki will become a fast favorite. The idea is to capture piles of cards by getting to five first and claiming the pile. You need to be quick and remember to shout Ratuki. You can place a card going up and down on the pile or place down a Ratuki card.  Players must have three cards in their hand at all times-- you can pull new cards if you can't go. There are 170 cards--so there are lots of rounds and opportunities to win piles. Game play continues until someone runs out of cards.  The first player to get 100 points wins. The points are calculated by how many points you gained with your piles -- but you must subtract the cards still in your hand and those in your discard pile.  You can play with 2 to 5 players.

Our suggestion, have someone really read the rules. Once our testers got the hang of it--they wanted to play it again and again.

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

 

 

 


2011 Award
Tarantula Planet Spider
(Uncle Milton $14.50 Score: )

Spiders continue to be "hot" in toyland. Last year we had remote controlled spiders that would spin on the wall. This year, the remote control is old school. The spiders in this new collection from Uncle Milton are voice activated. With a click your fingers or saying something loudly, the spider will take off! Very cool if you're into creepy crawler fun. 


Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. 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.

 

 
Products for Infants
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Products for Preschoolers
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