GHRI experts examined hundreds of new playthings and chose 85 contenders for the truest test: a lab full of kids. Next, 115 children played for days to help select 20 winners. Here are some of the top picks:
Educational Insights' PlayfoamBreak the Mold
Endlessly squishable, Educational Insights' Playfoam ($5 for a four-pack, other sets available; educationalinsights.com; ages 3+) captivated our young testers with its sculptability. Kids created colorful creatures, decorated walls with the beady dough (it peels right off and won't stain), and discovered that it even sort of bounces!
Related: Best Board Games
Mattel's Hot Wheels Wall TracksCourse of Action
With Mattel's Hot Wheels Wall Tracks ($30 for the starter set; mattelshop.com; ages 4+), toy cars climb to new heights. Tracks attach to a wall via removable brackets; cars zip down through straight-aways and loop-the-loops without getting scattered across the floor.
Ravensburger's LoomySketch Artist
Ravensburger's Xoomy ($25; ravensburger.com; ages 7+) comes with 20 whimsical image patterns to project and trace, plus paper and pen. Illustrators-in-training loved customizing these renderings with their own pencils, crayons, and markers.
Related: Classic Toys for Kids
Jakks Pacific B.I.G. Power HandRobo-Kid
The Jakks Pacific B.I.G. Power Hand ($30; becomebig.com; ages 6+) fulfills every child's sci-fi dream of having a bionic body part. It fits like a glove (literally); by moving each finger, the wearer can cause the oversize digits to bend, reach, and grasp.
Scientific Explorer's Disgusting Special Effects Make-Up KitGross-Out Gear
Is your child hot for horror movies? Scientific Explorer's Disgusting Special Effects Make-Up Kit ($20; poof-slinky.com; ages 8+) comes with everyday ingredients to teach kids how to easily fake bloody gashes, dramatic bruises, and more.
Related: Great Active Toys
The Klutz Guide to the GalaxyThe Sky's The Limit
The Klutz Guide to the Galaxy ($20; klutz.com; ages 8+) lets wannabe astronomers build their own telescope. The constellation and moon maps help pinpoint galactic bodies, and the book details a slew of otherworldly activities to explore.
See the 13 other best toys of 2011!
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