Our editors scoured this year’s Toy Fair to find the most creative and innovative new playthings for kids—check out their favorites. Plus: the 15 top toy crazes of all time
The 110th American International Toy Fair featured a whopping 150,000 toys. Our editors were there to find the most innovative playthings debuting this year. Here, the 26 new toys that earned our “Best in Play” distinction.
Nerf Rebelle Heartbreaker bow
This year, Nerf is going all Hunger Games with its new Rebelle line of girls crossbows and guns, including the Heartbreaker with a real bow-like action (no trigger here) that sends darts 75 feet. Should your future Katniss want to accessorize, the Rebelle line also offers a stylish accessory bag to hold extra ammunition. Ages 8+. $19.99.
Lego Chima Speedorz
Like Lego Ninjago before it, Lego Chima looks to be another toy-TV-video game franchise with all the trimmings. And its Speedorz series is far more than a box of bricks and an instruction book. Equal parts Lego, Beyblade, and the game show Wipeout, these sets create fun challenges where kids can compete. Pull the ripcord on the flying vehicle, and see if it clears the ring of fire! Ages 6+. Starting at $14.99.
Barbie Digital Dress
Wouldn’t it be great if changing outfits was a simple as a push of a button? Barbie has all the digital perks. Thanks to a touch- and sound-activated dress with 114 LED lights, you can rotate through ready-to-go graphics (like fireworks or hearts), set the lights to respond to sound, or use the stylus to draw your own design. Ages 6+. $49.99.
A smooth-gliding riding toy for cruisers and new walkers, the PlasmaBug is great for little legs that aren’t at their sturdiest yet. This compact two-pound ride-on scooter swivels nimbly from side to side and has bucket compartments in front and back for bottles, snacks, teddies or any toys your jet-setter wants to take along for the ride. Ages 18 months+. $59.99.
FirstBIKE Street Bike
A balance bike for the youngest of riders, the Street Bike had a sliding adjustable seat, so you aren’t locked into only three height options. It’s a short learning curve from this to a regular bike. And it’s so flexible and sturdy, it bounces back from the weight of a 200-pound guy jumping up and down on it (we’re witnesses). Ages 2-5. $159.99
Skyrocket Toys Quick Attach Microscope
Just when you thought there was nothing new your kid could do with a smartphone (or an iPad), we find an attachable microscope. It clips on to any brand of smartphone or tablet, and lets kids zoom in on bugs, clothes, noses—you name i—then take pics and videos they can send to their pals. Ages 6+. $14.99
Play-Doh Perfect Twist Ice Cream Parlor
Boost your budding Ben & Jerry’s imagination with this fun foodie playset, which includes five cones, two dishes, two spoons, and three cans of Play-Doh. Worth extra special mention is Play-Doh Plus, the new, softer version of the modeling material, which makes soft serve cones and toppings more realistic than ever. Ages 3+. $21.99.
Fisher-Price Create ‘n Learn iPad case
Slip in your iPad, and the tablet becomes a smartboard that teaches letters, words and handwriting. Hold the alphabet cards in front of the iPad’s camera, and amazing 3-D animations appear. (Hold up the C card, and watch the cake get sliced.) The case is made with Otterbox technology, rendering juicebox spills powerless. Ages 3+. $39.99.
ALEX Busy Beads Maze
We’ve all seen learning tables before, but these busy beads have been given the full ALEX treatment. Made from a single piece of curved bentwood, the table itself is a work of art. Little hands can slide mermaid beads (or planes and automobiles) along their tracks, even looping through and under the tabletop. Great for developing hand-eye coordination and learning cause and effect. Ages 10 months+. $82.
ThinkFun Laser Maze
If your tween liked Rush Hour, the logic puzzle game that challenges you to maneuver your car out of gridlock, he or she will love Laser Maze. Players move little mirrors and targets around the board in order direct a laser beam to its target. With up to 60 different challenges, Laser Maze is the a great mix of old-school logic puzzle and high-tech zing. Ages 8 +. $29.99
Crayola Melt n Mold Factory
Ever wonder what to do with all those broken crayons scattered throughout your kid’s art supplies? Crayola has a fun and cool solution: with the Melt n Mold factory, kids can melt down the wax (inside a safe, tamper-proof heat chamber) and pour the colorful goop into molds. They can create custom rings, critters and cars—and give those crayon fragments artsy new life. Ages 6+. $49.99.
Activision Skylanders Swap Force
Unless you’ve still got an Atari 2600 plugged into your Betamax, you’ve heard that Skylanders changed video gaming with its figurines that come to life when placed on the “portal of power.” This fall, they’re upping the ante with Swap Force, which lets gamers swap the top and bottom halves of 16 figurines to create more than 250 new characters. Price pending.
Imaginext Apptivity Fort
This is the first toy we’ve seen that immerses the iPad in a play environment. The knight figurine can interact with the iPad’s games and challenges, or he can traverse the castle turrets and drawbridge. The iPad also serves as a transparent but interactive backdrop: Touch the onscreen camera button, and watch trolls run at you from the living room. Ages 3-7. $49.99.
Aha! Concepts The Un-Block
Blocks are the primo open-ended plaything, but we applaud the geniuses who thought these up. Ashwood blocks… with tracks so they connect. Think about it: Your kid can create everything from a truck to a robot to a castle. And when it’s time to clear the table for dinner, he just picks the whole thing up and brings it in his room. Ages 5+. $70 for large set
Kid Constructions, Inc. Dragon
Talk about a twofer for imaginative children. First, she has the fun of coloring and decorating the dragon any way she likes. Then she slips it on, and becomes the dragon for top-flight fantasies. Ages 4+. $24.99
HABA Puppet Theater
Your little thespian can be master of ceremonies with this two-in-one playset. HABA’s red-curtained puppet theatre is perfect for role play. As an encore, the birch plywood theater transforms into a storefront. The curtain is removed; the stage swivels into a counter and two balcony boxes convert to drawers for storing merchandise. Ages 3+. $130
Fat Brain Toys Squigs
Building block, meet suction cup. That duo inspired the perfectly named Squigs. The colorful silicone pieces come in a variety of sizes. Stick them together to make crazy creations and structures. Then pull them apart with a satisfying “pop.” Perfect for bath time fun. Ages 3+. $24.95
Asa Products Mobo Mini
Think of it as the cool younger cousin of your old go-cart. It’s ergonomically designed to fit little bodies. In fact, the seat looks more comfortable than the one in most of our first cars. The steering is easy for preschoolers to master, yet helps build muscle strength and hand-eye coordination. Ages 2–5. $249.99
Most musical instruments for kids aren’t all that musical. (Try tuning those cheap plastic guitar strings.) The Loog is the real deal. This sturdy instrument, made of real wood and using real guitar strings, is totally DIY: you assemble it yourself. (Translation: great bonding activity.) Think of it as a Washburn acoustic with training wheels. Ages 3+. $149.
P’kolino Multi-Solution Puzzle
It’s hard to believe that we’ve only been utilizing one side of the puzzle piece all these years. This cheery laser-cut plywood number not only gives your tot double-sided pieces for dozens of different color and pattern possibilities, but pieces that can swap in and out of other puzzles: A flower petal can also be a bug’s eye. Ages 2+. $19.99