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Toys of the Year 2008

  • Birth to 1 1/2 years

    What a hoppin' hut! It offers plenty for a toddler or two to do: shape sorting, spinning beads, and peekaboo games, just to name a few. There's lots of room inside, plus it folds up fast and flat. (12 months and up; International Playthings, $100; intplay.com)

    "It makes her think and really keeps her occupied."
    -- Lindsey Hall, mom of Emma, 18 months, Salt Lake City

    Giveaway: Win all the 2009 Toys of the Year!

    Buy the Yookidoo Discovery Playhouse in our Video Shopping Channel

  • Birth to 1 1/2 years

    Talk about value! Your baby gets four critters in one with this roly-poly chime ball. As he presses the ear of each animal, he hears "Woof!" "Meow!" "Oink!" or "Ribbit!" Check out the finger hole on the side, designed to have your poopsie pointing in no time. (6 months and up; ALEX, $25; fatbraintoys.com)

    "I'm an educator, and I want one of these for my center. It embodies everything that's great for early-childhood development."
    -- Tiffany Grimes, mom of Jayden, 8 months, McKee, KY

    Buy 'Round the Farm in our Video Shopping Channel

  • Birth to 1 1/2 years

    This pull toy teaches letters, numbers, animals, and music, but you know the kid's attention will be on watching the propeller spin! (12 to 36 months; VTech, $15; toysrus.com)

    "Pablo plays with it every day. He presses every single button and has learned to say 'Bye.'"
    -- Karla Alvarez, mom of Pablo, 15 months, Belmont, MA

    Buy the Explore & Learn Helicopter in our Video Shopping Channel

  • Birth to 1 1/2 years

    Trying to find something that travels well but still packs a play punch? This compact, lightweight toy has fun activities on all four sides. The big peekaboo mirror, put-in and take-out bird's nest, fish rattle, and crinkly leaves can be enjoyed in a tummy-time position or sitting. (3 months and up; Infantino, $25; target.com)

    "After tummy time, I'm able to hold him and the toy in my lap to entertain and engage him."
    -- Melissa Lichucki, mom of Nathan, 3 months, Lodi, WI

    Buy the Play Time Activity Center in our Video Shopping Channel

  • Birth to 1 1/2 years

    Your half-pint can play with this super-soft cow on his own or with you: It fits on an adult hand but also sits on its own, mooing and squeaking in response to your child's touch. (Birth and up; Earlyears, $20; intplay.com)

    "The squeaking keeps Milo's interest. And the size makes it easy to interact with him."
    -- Michelle Hobbs, mom of Milo, 5 months, Princeton, NJ

    Buy the Puppetivity Pal in our Video Shopping Channel

  • Birth to 1 1/2 years

    It counts in English, Spanish, and French, allows your wee pianist to make her own melodies, and has a rattling roller for when she's not feelin' the music. (6 months and up; The Baby Einstein Company, $17; babyeinstein.com)

    "For a small toy, it has lots of options that keep him coming back."
    -- Sarah Brown, mom of Avery, 12 months, Mechanicsville, MD

    Buy the Count & Compose Piano in our Video Shopping Channel

  • 1 1/2 to 3 years

    Santa can bring this slick cycle to little speed demons who aren't ready for a battery-powered ride-on. It's leg-powered, with removable training wheels. The accelerator (vrroom!) and horn sounds will make him feel just like the big kids. (18 months and up; Chicco, $80; chiccousa.com)

    "It maneuvers and handles very well. It's not clunky and hard to steer like some ride-ons."
    -- Lacey Hamel, mom of Nolan, 2, Red Oak, TX

    Buy the Ducati Monster in our Video Shopping Channel

  • 1 1/2 to 3 years

    Kids loved to put together and take apart the Clipos, which attach to three motorized spinning surfaces. Bonus: There's built-in storage for the pieces. (18 months and up; Hasbro, $30; playskool.com)

    "Taylor likes that it spins. It's the perfect shape for his lap, so he can sit with it on the floor."
    -- Lacey Cummings, mom of Taylor, 2, Ottawa, KS

    Buy the Playskool Clipo Creativity Table in our Video Shopping Channel

  • 1 1/2 to 3 years

    Part book, part awesome car toy, the soft "World of Dragon" Flip Book is magnetic, so pages flop back and forth and scenes change like magic. It was pretty hard for our kid testers (and us!) to let it go. (18 months and up; Haba, $14; maukilo.com)

    "He never put it down. He even took it to the pool!"
    -- Cheryl Page, mom of Aidan, 2, Salem, OR

    Buy the Flip Book in our Video Shopping Channel

  • 1 1/2 to 3 years

    This is like the springy ponies at the playground but with a brain-boosting perk. It hooks up to your TV wirelessly, and then, once your toddler hops on, he controls the action on the screen by bouncing, spinning, rolling a ball, and pushing buttons. He can learn letters, numbers, shapes, colors, and opposites. (12 to 36 months; Fisher-Price, $70; target.com)

    "Michael loves this little horse! He bounces and presses the buttons, saying, 'Go, go, go!' We can't help but cheer him on."
    -- Katie Contino, mom of Michael, 2, New York City

    Buy the Laugh and Learn Smart Spin Pony in our Video Shopping Channel

  • 1 1/2 to 3 years

    We flipped for this retro upgrade of a typical play kitchen. It's got an oven, grill, fryer, sink, ice cream dipper, and a jukebox that plays Happy Days¿era tunes. The griddle sizzles, the coffeepot bubbles, and the service bell rings. It even has pretend diner-style food. (2 and up; Step2, $150; step2.com)

    "What makes this different is how lifelike it is: ice cream with cherries on top! Ben often stops to 'have a bite.'"
    -- Dimity McDowell Davis, mom of Ben, 2, Colorado Springs

    Buy the 50's Diner in our Video Shopping Channel

  • 3 to 5 years

    A clever take on 20 Questions, this is a game your kiddo will relish. Take turns assuming mystery personas (okay, they're not so mysterious to you, but such silliness is heaven to a 3-year-old), and play one of four versions to solve the riddle. Put your game face on! (3 and up; Techno Source, $18; target.com)

    "He really got a kick out of it! And it seemed to help him learn how to observe and describe."
    -- Tayaqua Donald, mom of Timothy, 3, Willowbrook, IL

    Buy Guess What I Am! in our Video Shopping Channel

  • 3 to 5 years

    Eight times better than a regular puzzle. Handmade from rubberwood (it's easier on the environment) and child-safe paints, this counting aid doubles as eye-catching room decor. (3 and up; ImagiPlay, $18; imagiplay.com)

    "My twins can take turns putting the puzzle together. I love that it's environmentally friendly and so well made."
    -- Nina Lee, mom of Kyle and Lucas, 3, Trumbull, CT

    Buy the Octopus Puzzle in our Video Shopping Channel

  • 3 to 5 years

    Girls this age will love to play caretaker to this irresistible ailing pet. As she "treats" parts of its body, it responds with one of 12 phrases. And it comes with enough extras to keep the most serious pre-premed student busy. (3 and up; Hasbro, $20; hasbrotoyshop.com)

    "Delaney and her sister play with it for hours. I like that the diaper and bandage are attached so they don't get lost."
    -- Melissa Drake, mom of Delaney, 3, Norton Shores, MI

    Buy My Little Pony So Soft Make Me Better in our Video Shopping Channel

  • 3 to 5 years

    All our kid testers had a blast with this mini¿DJ station. Future Idols can record their own songs, then play them back on a music player. The player detaches, so they can bring it along to Nana's and let her have a listen. Other faves include a microphone with four voice effects and a scratch disc. (4 and up; VTech, $60; toysrus.com)

    "The best part for my kids is hearing themselves sing through the microphone."
    -- Myra Goethals, mom of Emily and Elizabeth, 3, La Crescenta, CA

    Buy KidiJamz Studio in our Video Shopping Channel

  • 3 to 5 years

    Got a 4-year-old begging for a handheld video game like her older sib has? This techie-bear is the answer: It has a detachable media player that comes with games and movies (you can download more, though). It's got speakers, so you don't need headphones, and the plump bear will stand up to the hard knocks she'll dish out. (3 and up; Zizzle, $90; target.com)

    "She sits still when she plays with it, which doesn't happen often. We're flying to Colorado, and teddy's definitely going, too!"
    -- Tracie Blaser, mom of Blythe, 3, Hendersonville, TN

    Buy iTeddy in our Video Shopping Channel

  • 3 to 5 years

    This sweet and simple classic is made from recycled milk jugs! We love that, and the fact that the pieces are virtually indestructible. Your preschooler, though, will likely be more impressed by the variety, which bests a traditional tea set any day. (3 and up; Green Toys Inc., $40; amazon.com)

    "It stays on our table, and every day she 'cooks and sets the table' for breakfast, lunch, and dinner."
    -- Jenifer Otto, mom of Emma, 3, Wake Forest, NC

    Buy the Cookware and Dining Set in our Video Shopping Channel

  • 5 to 8 years

    Roll the dice, then try to find the shade that turns up under the penguins, who each harbor an egg. The first player to collect six eggs is victorious. This cheery game is all wood. Busy-mom perk: It takes only ten minutes to play. (4 and up; Blue Orange Games, $30; fatbraintoys.com)

    "My guy loves memory games, and this is a fun twist on the traditional sort. The instructions were super easy."
    -- Amy Polacheck, mom of Ethan 6, Cuyahoga Falls, OH

    Buy Pengoloo in our Video Shopping Channel

  • 5 to 8 years

    Most flying toys are complicated and boyish, but this featherweight flier is simple, safe, and fun. Just hold the button until the wings flutter, aim, and liftoff! It comes in yellow if she's not into pink, plus there's a moth version in black, blue, or red and white, so little dudes can take flight, too. (6 and up; WowWee, $23; wowwee.com)

    "She figured out how to get it flying higher and longer, saying, 'This is awesome!'"
    -- Lisa Allen, mom of Isabelle, 8, Canonsburg, PA

    Buy FlyTech Butterfly in the Video Shopping Channel

  • 5 to 8 years

    We can't think of anything better on a rainy day than this modern spin on the classic Twister. A speaker calls out directions, and players (quickly!) jump on various pods. Lively music and encouraging phrases, as well as a declaration of the winner and scores, keep the action upbeat. As hopping improves, the commands get harder. (6 and up; Wild Planet, $25; shopwildplanet.com)

    "It's a challenging game that keeps him moving and one that he can play solo or with his buddies."
    -- Laura Palinkas, mom of Eric, 7, Trumbull, CT

    Buy Hyper Jump in our Video Shopping Channel

  • 5 to 8 years

    She'll like playing with characters from SpongeBob, Star Wars, and more, then using points she's earned to customize her own characters online. You'll like Didj's math and spelling challenges. (6 to 10; LeapFrog, $90; leapfrog.com)

    "It's the first thing she picks up in the morning."
    -- Rebekah Foster, mom of Georgia Anne, 7, Lewisburg, WV

    Buy Didj Custom Gaming System in our Video Shopping Channel

  • 5 to 8 years

    Chivalry is alive and well, at least in this building blocks¿puzzle hybrid. The princess and her gallant knight have been separated, and there are 48 different ways to create a path for the royals to reunite. Despite the medieval theme, the premise is firmly set in the 21st century: In half the challenges, the princess saves the knight. (5 and up; Educational Insights, $25; educationalinsights.com)

    "This is a great logic game. Our whole family -- including both sets of grandparents -- enjoy playing it with Nathan."
    -- Ann Zupke, mom of Nathan, 5, Fredericksburg, IA

    Buy Royal Rescue in our Video Shopping Channel

  • 8 to 12 years

    This electronic version of that all-time favorite game, UNO, amps up the action by cutting out turn-taking. It's all random, and it's all in a hurry. The flashing lights guide players, keeping things unpredictable. (7 and up; Mattel, $30; toysrus.com)

    "I like that the game chooses the next player, rather than the kids 'getting' someone. It promotes good sportsmanship."
    -- Virginia Dellinger, mom of Sara, 8, Raleigh, NC

    Buy UNO Flash in our Video Shopping Channel

  • 8 to 12 years

    Charades, meet Pictionary. Illustrate a clue on the little man, then use him as a prop to act it out. Electronic clues appear under his foot, with a timer. It says 14 and up, but our tween testers got the clues just fine. (14 and up; Mattel, $30; amazon.com)

    "Katie was better at it than the adults!"
    -- Cathy Greer Mazanec, stepmom of Katie, 11, Chapel Hill, NC

    Buy Pictionary Man in our Video Shopping Channel

  • 8 to 12 years

    It's easy to illustrate a souped-up fantasy ride with the light table, colored pencils, overlays, and accessories. Gearheads can customize their own creations, too. (7 and up; ArtLab, $23; smartlabtoys.com)

    "This is terrific for boys. Male-oriented art sets are in short supply."
    -- Camille Finamore, mom of Joey, 11, New Hyde Park, NY

    Buy Car Design Studio in our Video Shopping Channel

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