These small but mighty gifts will delight and amaze parents and kids alike. Promise.Schylling Snow Ball $3.99 • 3 and upWhy we love it: Squeeze...
We tested so many amazing new games this year! These were the kids’ top picks, but keep an eye out in our future issues for the many runners-up.
$24.95 | 5 and up
Why we love it: It’s like Jenga, but more colorful and spherical — and less catastrophic. You start with a bundle of colorful balls suspended by multiple hooks. Then each player, taking turns, uses a simple plastic wand to try to place white balls into the cluster. If the beads fall on your turn, you have to add them to your collection. Whoever gets rid of all their beads first wins.
Where to buy: fatbraintoys.com
Flying Sushi Kitchen
$24.99 | 6 and up
Why we love it: Air currents whoosh up through the green bamboo shoots. Tiny Styrofoam balls — decorated to look like different types of sushi rolls with super-cute faces — spin suspended before your eyes while you try to pluck them out of the air with chopsticks. The object of the game is to fill the most order “orders” — complete with little wasabi and picked ginger pieces — before time runs out and the fans suddenly stop.
Good to know: It’s challenging, yes. But not impossible with practice, thanks in part to chopstick modifiers that help beginners discover their inner Mr. Miyagi.
Where to buy: Walmart.com
The Floor Is Lava
$19.95 | 5 and up
Why we love it: Three of our tester kids — ages 5, 7 and 10 — loved this interactive, physical game. You start by laying out the game’s 25 colorful foam “safety stones” around the floor. Everyone jumps onto the stone nearest to them, and then a designated spinner spins to decide which color they’ll to jump next. If you’re the last player to make it to a stone, you have to remove the last stone you were on from the game. Play continues with another stone removed after every round, and the last player standing wins.
I SPY Dig In
$22.99 | 5 and up
Why we love it: If you or your kids love the I Spy search-and-find book series, this more tactile version is for you! Simply fill the included plastic bowl with the game’s 128 objects — 32 each of red, blue, green and yellow — and use the game challenge cards to compete for the most finds while grains of sand fall through a 15-second timer. “SO fun,” said one home-tester mama, who played with her 3-year-old. “Whether we’re playing the actual game or he’s just finding the matching pieces or sorting by color, this has been awesome!”
Good to know: See also I SPY Eagle Eye, a board-game version of the books, complete with a fun bell to ring when you spy the object on your card.
Where to buy: Creative Kidstuff
Wacky Wheels STEM Challenge
$19.99 | 5 and up
Why we love it: Every toy on the market seems to promise to deliver some sort of STEM benefit, but this one really does, including an introduction to speed, angles and distances as kids try to achieve one simple goal — send the launch balls rolling up ramps, over obstacles, through a target hoop and into the goal cup using a paddlewheel launcher.
Good to know: A full-color booklet filled with challenges keeps kids (and adults) coming back. As one tester mom said of her 4-year-old who wanted to take this one home: “Open-ended enough to keep his interest, but not too complex.”
Where to buy: ABC & Toy Zone
Five Little Fish
$19.99 | 3 and up
Why we love it: This new memory game features five awesome plastic fish with tails that collapse until players pick them up — using special little fishing rods — to show their different colors. Each player starts their turn by flipping a card and then trying to pick up the matching-colored fish. If they succeed, they get to keep the card. When the deck runs out, whoever has the most cards wins.
Good to know: Multiple moms found the instructions to be confusing. “I read them three times, and we still aren’t entirely sure we’re playing the ‘right’ way, but he loves playing the version that we’ve created,” said one mom, who tested the toy at home with her 3-year-old son.
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