This Year’s Top Toys: Are They Any Good?

Each year toy retailers and “experts” release lists of the season’s hot toys. But how can you tell if your kids will play with them for a long time or if they’ll be duds?

In my post, How to Pick Toys with Staying Power [and Avoid the Duds], I share the characteristics of good toys and how they’re different from those toys destined to be forgotten. I arrived at these characteristics through years of asking parents which toys had the most staying power and evaluating the hundreds of answers I got.

Good toys can be used in more than one way as kids grow and learn. They let kids be creative. They encourage extended attention. They foster skill development, and they appeal to the senses. Do all the toys on retailers’ hot toy lists do this? No way. In the list below, you’ll see eight of this years top toys for kids six and under. You’ll learn a bit about them and see whether I think they’ll have staying power or not. I’d love to know whether you agree.

This Year’s Top Toys

Playskool Poppin’ Park Elefun Busy Ball Popper: The Busy Ball Popper has been on the Toys That Get Played with list for years. In this version, balls pop out of the trunk and it plays 10 tunes. 4 D batteries. 9 months and up. Lists for $35.

Prediction? Probably a hit because the Busy Ball Popper is so popular.

Fisher-Price Rock Star Mickey: Dances and plays guitar (guitar sold separately). 4 AA batteries. 24 months to six years. Lists for $53.99.

Prediction? Dud. It’s a one-trick pony without options for imaginative play.

Sesame Street Let’s Rock Elmo. Elmo plays six songs and plays instruments. Tambourine and drums are included. Others sold separately. 6 AA batteries. 18 months and up. List price is $69.99.

Prediction? Dud. Thought it does a bit more than Mickey, it’s still a one-trick pony.

FurReal Friends Cookie Puppy (My Playful Pup): “When you pet her on her head or back, she barks, moves her head and wags her tail. Give her cheek a little scratch and she’ll turn toward your hand to ask for more. When you tell her just how sweet she is, she’ll respond with puppy babble that sounds just like she’s talking to you. She loves her squeaky toy — when you make it squeak, she’ll turn her head toward the sound. When you put her toy bone in her mouth, she’ll make crunching sounds like she’s chewing it.” 4 C batteries. 4 years and up. Lists for $64.99.

Prediction? This one will be fun for a while, but it doesn’t lend itself to imaginative play as much as I’d like.

Fisher Price Dance ‘n Play Puppy. Sings/says over 25 phrases and songsand dances. Recites the alphabet, numbers colors, etc. 6 AA batteries. Nine to 36 months. Lists for $39.99.

Prediction?  This is an “upgraded” version of a toy that’s been around for a while. Because of that, and because LeapFrog’s Scout is so popular, I predict this one will get its fair share of play.

Lalaloopsy Treehouse Playset (and others). Available as individual dolls and playets. No batteries required. Appeals to the same kids who like Polly Pocket. No batteries required. Ages four to eight. Treehouse playset lists for $39.99.

Prediction? I like this one because it allows for imaginative play.

Dora Fiesta Favorites Kitchen: Includes recipe cards and accessories. Plays recipes in English and Spanish. Kitchens are always a hit. At 26″ wide, this one won’t take up too much space, but probably won’t match your decor. 3 AA batteries. 24 months to six years. Lists for $104.99.

Prediction? Probably a hit with Dora lovers. I like the bilingual aspect that the recipe cards offer.

LeapFrog LeapPad Explorer Learning Tablet: Over 100 educational games available. (sold separately). Works with Leapster games, too. Includes camera and video recorder. 4 AA batteries. Ages four to nine. Lists for $99.99.

Prediction? Given the Leapster Explorer’s popularity, this one will be a hit.


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  1. Amber says:

    My 2 girls have fall birthdays… the 1 year old received the dance n play puppy and it is a huge hit. Even my 3 year old pushes the buttons on the feet over and over. While the puppy has a pretty decent song variety, it is a little rough for the younger one since she has not yet mastered pushing the foot… and you have to push the foot after every song since the puppy only does one at a time. She is working on figuring it out and is getting better, but definitely requires a bit of memory that the foot is how you control the music (so harder for younger babies).

    My 3 year old girl received the tree house for her birthday, and she is still pulling it over to the table at least once a week to play with (6ish weeks now). It came with small parts, so she doesn’t have free rein to play all over as her sister will eat the small pieces. However, still pretty good that my action child sits to play for at least a half hour at a shot with the tree house. This one can require a bit of parent involvement to get the tree house on a level surface and the bridge (between the trees) attached. Once that is done, she is good to go.

  2. Jacqueline says:

    Am I the only one who is a little bothered by the fact that pretty much all of these need batteries?

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