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Dr. Toy's 100 Best Children's Products List - 2006

Evaluating Toys and Children’s Products: A Challenge and an Opportunity to be of Service 

by Stevanne Auerbach, PhD/Dr. Toy

As a natural, on-going part of our work as parents, teachers, and early childhood specialists we observe children at play. This includes selecting the right products to enhance play and learning.

Before our eyes we see what works and what doesn't hold up under tough testing - the normal barrage of active, inquisitive, and resourceful babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and older children. We make buying decisions based on lasting play value and product applicability to children's   active, creative, and educational experiences.  We can depend on the durability and versatility of such items as blocks, puppets, and transportation toys.  They stimulate the imagination, engage the player, and hold up over time.  We want to apply the same standard to all the choices we make.

Since I spend a great deal of time reviewing large quantity of products created by myriad manufacturers and designers, I want to be sure selections match criteria. We often hear consumers describe their experience of making a purchase, but shortly after giving little Johnny the product it falls apart – a frustrating and expensive process.  Parents and teachers look to us for advice. We consider many factors when making selections. Certainly age grading, name recognition, company dependability, versatility of design, and place of purchase are factors to obtain the right product. Another aspect you can depend on is a warranty. 

Rising costs for products require us to be wise consumers and to get extra lasting value.  Certainly durable products, designed properly, and developmentally correct are worth the money.  Children’s positive reactions are worth the extra effort.  I utilize a complicated set of objective and subjective criteria to evaluate toys and other products.

Some questions I ask are: Is this product worth the price?  Does it have lasting play value?  Is it appropriate?  Is it fun?

I am pleased to have the opportunity to share my experiences with you to assist in the selection process. This report features information about l00 wonderful new toys and other products from large and small companies. The toys and products selected will meet your high standards for design, durability, quality, and price.

Let’s not forget that play is children's work and should be respected and understood by all adults. We all need time to play more. We should be thinking: “What products can we obtain to provide wholesome experiences for children and provide plenty of positive play interactions?”

Please obtain a copy of Smart Play/Smart Toys: How to Raise a Child with a High P.Q. for yourself, new parents, your toy or book store, or for your favorite teacher.

I hope you will take the time to describe your experiences and ask your questions about toys and products by writing to me. Your comments are important and I look forward to hearing from you.

Dr. Toy’s Programs FAQ's

1. What is the basis for the selections made?

2. What makes a quality product?

3. What value is this Product list to Directors? Teachers? Parents?

4. What are the prices of the products? Does high price mean high quality?

5. Why do young children need toys? books? video and audio cassettes? soft­ware? or the new CD ROMs?

6. Can a child do better in school later on if given these products when they are in preschool?

7. How do professionals or parents find or buy these products?

8. Is there an ideal age to be exposed to educational technology?

9. What should parents and professionals watch for when they are selecting toys and other products for young children?

10. How can I obtain a hard copy of the Holiday Gift Guide 2006?

11. Where can I find more of Dr. Toy's articles and information?

12. Dr. Toy's thoughts for Holiday Season 2006


1. What is the basis for the selections made?
In making the selections I look for quality in the design and production of the product, plus applicability to early childhood population, appropriateness of product for education, cultural, and social sensitivity, play value or the diverse uses of the product, price, and just plain fun.  Reviewing products requires objectivity to see the product in the hands of young children and visualizing their using the product within the context of the class­room, and of course in the home. I have a doctorate in Child Development, and Child Psychology, have been a classroom teacher, and have observed over 50,000 children at play during the three years of operation of the Toy Museum and in my studies of child care centers across the country.  I know what to look for when I evaluate a product. I am interested in large and small companies, the older, established companies, and the new ones with only one product. I evaluate based on product value, price, and reliability. I want to assist teachers with the enormous job they are doing on behalf of young children and, of course, help parents who are greatly in­fluenced by what they see their children playing with in school.

FAQ List

2. What makes a quality product?
A product is excellent if it is designed with the child in mind. Plus it should be easy for them to use, be completely safe, and interesting. Products should fit the child’s develop­ment, mentally, physically, socially, and emotionally, and, of course, be something they can have fun with. The product should be made to last for a long time and not break in the child's hands with reasonable use in active play. The company should be dependable and stand behind its product. It should have tested it with children to verify age appropriateness and to be assured of its usefulness for young children when it is packaged with descriptive information, age guidelines, and suggestions for use.

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3. What value is this Product list to Directors? Teachers? Parents?
This list is valuable to anyone concerned about young children and interested in their education and growth. For directors of childcare programs, it helps them to plan purchases for the year ahead fo­cusing on products that are valuable to preschool children to enhance their success in their educational process. For teachers, it helps them to consider products that will assist them in their role as teachers. Childcare centers and schools should serve as models for families. Our lists are designed to help parents make good selections for their children. Parents will use the list to assist them to understand the types of products the child benefits from in school and at home. Also, they learn to be more selective in their pur­chases. They can add to products their child uses in the classroom. This is a suggested shopping list for consideration by any adult who lives or works with children. My goal is to create a valuable and much needed bridge between home, school, and the marketplace.

FAQ List

4. What are the prices of the products? Does high price mean high quality?
Prices range from a few dollars to hundreds of dollars. The school has a budget set for new products. (With unfortunate cut-backs schools would benefit from private donations.) Schools make their selections based on what is good for children and what they can afford. This is true for parents as well. I look for products that offer great value along with reasonable price. Often people buy things without realizing their money may be wasted or not used wisely. What I want to do is to help consumers find the best products for the money, the ones that provide real dollar value and expand play value.

FAQ List

5. Why do young children need toys? books? video and audio cassettes? soft­ware? or the new CD ROMs?
Children learn through play during their formative years. They need a good va­riety of stimulation. They need to be occupied with products that support them de­velopmentally. By using the right product children will have the best chance of learning and growing to their fullest potential. Products stimulate the child's mind, fingers, and whole body. It is hard to imagine a good classroom for young children without the wonderful basics that stimulate the child’s imagination, creativity, and learning process. Each product offers a distinct aspect of development. Toys offer a chance to act out roles, learn to make or construct something, take turns, figure something out, expand imagination, and much more. In this regard, we include art supplies and materials, construction toys, and play sets. Books of course are most important. Books help children discover the world around them -- opening doors that would otherwise be closed. Books aid children mentally and expand imagination. Books are one of the most basic tools for learning. The wise teacher and parent will offer many wonderful books to the child -- by reading to them regularly so they appreciate the value of the printed word and the pleasure of colorful illustrations. I have looked for books that are informative and open new ideas to the child. Video and audio cassettes bring words and pictures to life, encourage understand­ing and providing new visions, information and entertainment. Children benefit from stories, songs, and adventures. The programs help the child use their imagination and learn additional skills. Software and CD ROMs are the newest technology opening experiences to young minds. This technology offers the opportunity to extend learning far beyond the classroom and home. Children become the center of the learning universe and can more ef­fectively follow learning along their own path. It is possible with the tech­nology now available to finally individualize instruction as it was truly meant to be based on each child’s ability and interests and assist them to reach their own highest potential. That is not to say that play with non technological toys should be ignored, but there should be a good balance provided along with plenty of physical activity and creative pursuits.

FAQ List

6. Can a child do better in school later on if given these products when they are in preschool?
Yes! Most definitely! The child has great potential to learn at the earliest age. It is up to us to create the most responsive environment at home and at school to facilitate the learn­ing process. We have many tools at our disposal to bring into the home an educational envi­ronment. A good variety of appropriate products offer to the child unlimited pos­sibilities especially when the skillful parent or teacher creates the right balance of types of products and use.

FAQ List

7. How do professionals or parents find or buy these products?
Fortunately the Internet and other media reduce the amount of time it takes for adults to learn of great new products for children’s learning. They provide a very important service. So do the manufacturers who have spent a lot of money, time, and energy to enhance childhood with concrete and useful products. Now, immediately after seeing something in a magazine, adults can contact the magazine or company on line and locate more information about a specific product. They can visit their local toy or teacher store, call customer service, or easily write and obtain more information. They can order products directly. Ordering products can be facilitated by the depth of offerings and the responsiveness of a knowledgeable on line toy store. Parents can find these products in some stores, but they can also order on line. Parents can help their child’s school by donating products that can be used in the classroom.

FAQ List

8. Is there an ideal age to be exposed to educational technology?
Unlike most adults, children are not intimidated by technology. Some children learn best to read from typing words. Still others can learn quickly from hearing sentences. But almost every child can easily learn how to use the computer, and not just how to play educational games. They can gain information, understand how something works, be more creative, and have fun. Through the process of discovery children can enrich their mental and creative processes. It is an exciting time to be a child and have a world of learning opening up before your eyes. Adults need to disengage from their fear of technology and see it instead as an enormous tool for learning. – A real opportunity to finally provide children with the realities of individualized instruction. This is a long time goal, sometimes a dream of educators, where children can move at their own rate with unlimited po­tential to learn. Many excellent new programs exist to enrich children’s learning styles. Specialty stores, teacher stores, children’s museum gift stores, and others offer an enormous range of diverse resources for classroom and home. Children can benefit from exposure to a full line of personal computers, tape recorders, and many other new products that assist in learning.  There are many unique and exciting electronic products that offer information and learning and interactive excitement. I am enthusiastic about the major break through in technology offering new learning for the whole family along with great potential for classroom instruction.  Learning will be more fun and a lot more accessible both at home and in classrooms.  

FAQ List

9. What should parents and professionals watch for when they are selecting toys and other products for young children?
Some tips I offer to consumers are: To make a list of what the child may need. Let the child add items themselves to create their own personal "wish list." Observe the child at play. See what kinds of things they like to play with. Make sure the product is appropriate. Read the box and any other instructions. Ask yourself – Is it fun? Will it be right for the child? Will it endure? Be practical? Can I afford the product? Does it have a variety of uses? Let’s not forget that play is children's work and should be respected and understood by all adults. We all need time to play more. We should be thinking: “What products can we obtain to provide wholesome experiences for children and provide plenty of positive play interactions?”

FAQ List

10. How can I obtain a hard copy of the Holiday Gift Guide 2006?
Please print out the list or send a stamped, self-addressed #10 size envelope to:
Dr. Toy, 268 Bush St., San Francisco, CA 94104

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11. Where can I find more of  Dr. Toy's articles and information?
From 1985 to 2006 Dr. Toy has provided timely and valuable information on developmentally appropriate and educational toys and children’s products to parents and professionals. She has written for Family Circle, Parenting Magazine, Early Childhood News, Bottom Line Personal; on line sites (Club Mom, Pearson Family Education, KB Kids, The Toy Directory, The Looking Glass, and others); parent newspapers (Arizona, Houston, Atlanta, Southcoast); syndicated newspapers (King Syndicated Features - five years of weekly columns, The NY Times, Education Update, and others); and magazines (Old Schoolhouse, Games Quarterly, Knucklebones, Playthings, Woman’s Day, Hinduism Today,  and others).

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12. Dr. Toy's thoughts for Holiday Season 2006
Dr. Toy has been at the forefront of bringing to the public the newest and best resources. Dr. Toy has provided the first review of many products that rose to prominence and popularity. She maintains a balance in evaluations with products from small and large companies. Dr. Toy is pleased to see that many original companies from 25 years ago are still operating. 

She wishes all children equal access to a good variety of quality products regardless of where they live or their family’s economic level. All children, Dr. Toy believes, deserve plenty of time for play and to have plenty of playthings for more learning and fun.

All toys reviewed for awards programs are donated to the US Marines Toys for Tots Program to provide joy to children.

FAQ List


Let's Play!

Company Item Type(s) Ages Price Phone
Company Item Type(s) Ages Price Phone
20th Century Fox Home Ent. Strawberry Shortcake Berry Fairy Tales DVD dv 3-5 $14.98 310-694-3120
Action Products International Curiosity Kits® Junior Bureau of Investigation Evidence Kit™ cp fp no ty 6-12 $14.99 800-772-2846
ALEX My Work Bench co ty 3-12 $49.99 800-666-2539
b. dazzle, inc. Swimming Champions Scramble Squares® 9-Piece Puzzle es no pz tr 4-12 $8.95 800-809-4242
Baby Hands Productions, Inc. My Baby Can Talk - Sharing Signs es sr dv 10 m-36 m $19.95 888-688-8008
Basic Fun, Inc. Gigglator eg no 5-12 $17.99 800-662-3380
Battat/Parent's Magazine Record-A-Voice Cellphone eg es 18 m-3 y $8.99 800-361-7899
BinaryLabs, Inc. Totally Stumped! cg cr eg sw 8-12 $19.99 800-701-5327
Binney & Smith, Inc. Crayola® Color Wonder™ Sprayer ac cp ty 5-12 $24.99 800-272-9652
Blue Orange Games CooCoo-The Rocking Clown es 3-12 $19.95 415-252-0372
Braincandy Braincandy, My 5 Senses: A Yummy Music & Sound Exploration ae at cd ml 6 m-4 y $19.99 866-725-9070
Briarpatch I Spy Eagle Eye bg cg 5-12 $17.99 800-232-7427
Captivation, Inc. Teaching Tank Starter Kit ae bo cp eq es 5-12 $69.95 207-797-0949
Carrera of America X-Men Race Set ho ty 8-12 $79.99 609-409-8510
Center Enterprises, Inc. Ready 2 Learn Giant Sea Adventure Stampers ac cp es ho st 3-10 $12.95 800-542-2214
Chicco USA, Inc. Chicco Bilingual Talking Video Phone cp es ty 1-3 $39.99 877-424-4226
Corolle Dolls Emma & Paul do 2-5 $42.00 800-668-4846
Creative Design International Black & Decker Jr. Power Tools Workshop ae cp ty 3-12 $49.99 888-864-7234
Creativity for Kids Create Your Own Books ac bo cp es ty 4-12 $15.99 800-642-2288
Discovery Toys Discovery Chest ae es fp ty 3-5 $24.99 800-984-5454
Dolly Adventures Dolly Goes To The Supermarket bo do es fp tr 3-8 $21.95 866-363-6559
DoubleStar LLC Codebreaker bg cp es ty 7-12 $19.95 866-442-6466
Duet/TippyToeToons Princess--A Bath to Bedtime Musical cd es fp ml 3-7 $13.99 818-613-9507
Easytoys Inc. It's Robot™ co cp 6-12 $19.99 626-921-4148
EDC Publishing/Usborne See Inside Your Body ae bo es 7-12 $12.99 800-745-4522
Educate Products Hooked on Math ae bo cd es sr 6-10 $249.99 888-605-5055
Educational Insights PlayFoam ac cp 3-12 $9.99 800-995-4436
Elenco Electronics RC Snap Rover ae cp es ho ty 8-12 $74.95 800-533-2441
Engino.Net Ltd Engino Construction System co es 6-12 $39.99 35799580870
ETA/Cuisenaire Learning Place® Game Cards & Rainbow Rumble® Starter Set es ge 4-6 $39.95 800-445-5985
Fanny's Play House, Inc. Nighty Night Doll do 1-12 $24.00 516-822-3752
Fisher-Price Friends I Can Play Piano es ml 4-8 $79.99 800-432-5437
Folkmanis Dragon Duo Puppet cp fp pl pu ty 5-8 $48.00 800-654-8922
Front Porch Classics Bookshelf Edition Word Spot bg 8-12 $39.95 800-526-0314
Gamewright Luck of the Draw ac bo cg cp ho no 10-12 $19.99 800-638-7568
Giddy Up LLC Color-N-Carry II bo tr 5-12 $6.99 734-302-4444
Goldberger Company 13" Baby's First EZ Dress Dolly™ Travel & Go Playset do es sr 18 m-36 m $19.99 212-924-1194
Great American Puzzle Factory, Inc. Crayola Chase & Race Game bg 3-5 $12.00 800-922-1194
HABA USA Jigsaw Blocks Fantasy Land co pz 18 m-5 y $45.00 800-468-6873
Hasbro Games/Milton Bradley Twister Dance DVD ge dv 8-12 $29.99 888-836-7025
Hasbro, Inc. Easy Bake Classic Oven ae cp 8-12 $24.99 800-327-8264
High Reach Learning, Inc. Food, Fitness & Fun ae cd es op sw 3-5 $89.99 800-729-9988
International Playthings Baby Dino Rocker by Earlyears® pl ty 1-3 $99.99 800-631-1272
JAKKS Pacific TeleStory bo el 3-8 $34.99 800-545-2557
Jocapa Products Birthday Gamesake® ac cp es ho no 7-12 $19.95 800-805-2632
Juno Baby Way To Go, Juno at es ml vt dv 0-5 $20.00 415-460-6415
KAPLA Toys KAPLA - 200 Piece Barrel ac co cp es sr 3-12 $66.00 813-541-3849
KIDdesigns "Jam with Me" Electronic Keyboard ae el fp ml ty 3-12 $39.99 888-867-8697
Kids II, Inc. Baby Einstein™ Color Kaleidoscope es ml ty 3 m-3 y $12.99 800-230-8190
Kids Wealth USA Inc. Kids Wealth Money Kit es sr 4-12 $39.95 866-954-5437
Klutz Foam Gliders ae ge 4-12 $9.95 650-857-0443
K'NEX Super Structures™ co 8-12 $49.99 800-822-5639
Knowledge Adventure Math Blaster: Master the Basics eg es sw 6-12 $29.99 310-694-3144
Learning Journey Intl, LLC Animals of the World: 48 pc Wooden Jigsaw Puzzle es pz sr 3-12 $12.99 877-839-3969
Learning Resources Gears! Gears! Gears!® Illuma·Bot™ co cr 5-8 $54.95 800-222-3909
LEGO Systems Motion Power ae co cp fp no 6-12 $49.99 800-453-4652
Maple Landmark Made By Me™ ac co cp fp sr 5-8 $3.70 800-421-4223
Mega Brands Inc. MagnaCase ae co cp es tr 6-12 $49.99 800-465-6342
MGA Entertainment Miuchiz eg 6-12 $29.99 800-222-4685
Mic-O-Mic Americas LonPos 303 Pyramid & Rectangle Game es ge pz tr 8-12 $24.99 877-642-6642
MindWing Concepts Braidy, The Story Braid™ do es pl pu sr 2-8 $139.95 888-228-9746
Moodoo Productions, Inc. Drawing Power! With Michael Moodoo: Ultimate Dinosaur Drawing DVD ac cp es dv 5-12 $19.99 626-296-6956
Morning Star Games, LLC Jabber Jot bg cp es 9-12 $29.99 888-304-4263
Norman & Globus ScienceWiz™ Energy bo cp es sr ty 8-12 $19.95 510-222-2638
Ohio Art Doodle Doug ac cp ty 4-12 $14.99 800-641-6226
Only Hearts Club Only Hearts Club Book Series bo 3-12 $4.00 805-384-4800
Out of the Box Publishing Wallamoppi bg cg 7-12 $19.99 800-540-2304
Patch Products BubbleBrain™ bg cp es 10-12 $29.99 800-524-4263
Path to Math and Reading Word Builders™ ae cg es tr ty 5-12 $12.00 650-348-6284
Phunzone Quadro (My First Quadro Kit) ae co cp op sr 1-8 $99.99 800-477-6434
PlaSmart Crazy Racer ts 6-12 $29.99 877-289-0730
Plastic Play, Inc. i-gami ac co cp es 8-12 $20.00 905-728-0063
Playhut, Inc. Big Red Fire Engine ae fp tr ty 3-5 $19.99 888-752-9488
Playmobil My Take-Along Farm cp dh fp tr ty 4-12 $29.99 800-752-9662
Preschool Prep Company Meet the Colors es tr vt dv 9 m-4 y $14.95 866-451-5600
Publications International Story Reader Video Plus bo eg es vg 3-8 $34.99 800-454-9006
Radica USA, Ltd Golden Tee Golf-Home Edition eg ty 8-12 $39.99 800-854-9551
Radio Flyer Radio Flyer Model #330 Beginner's Balancing Bike ae fp op ts 3-6 $99.99 800-621-7613
Rock 'N Learn, Inc. Money & Making Change es ml dv 6-12 $19.99 800-348-8445
Scholastic, Inc. I Spy Mystery es sw vg 6-10 $19.99 888-314-1555
Sing 2 School, Inc. Phonics Hip-Hop Featuring "Ah-Choo" cd ml sr tr 3-5 $13.99 718-637-6447
Skuut, Inc. Skuut™ ae op ts 2-5 $79.99 415-420-1001
SmartLab Toys Science & Nature Challenge bo eg es sc 8-12 $19.99 866-319-5900
Smithsonian Folkways Recordings You Are My Little Bird (Elizabeth Mitchell) cd 6 m-8 y $11.98 888-365-5929
Soaring Star Productions, LLC Pocket Snails Aquaphonic Adventure es ml dv 3-5 $15.95 800-477-7811
Spin MasterToys Moon Sand cp 4-12 $19.99 800-622-8339
Start Smarter Productions Firefighter George & FSU Circus Teach Nutrition + How & When to Dial 911 es sr dv 2-8 $19.99 800-650-2441
Taggies, Inc. Taggie™ Fun Shapes "Toss" ae op pl tr ty 0-3 $12.95 877-482-4443
Talicor, Inc. Math Animals® bg es 5-12 $22.00 800-433-4263
Tangle Toys Tangle Jr. Dora the Explorer & Friends cp no pz tr 3-12 $4.99 888-829-3808
Techno Source My First TV Fun & Games eg es vg 3-5 $12.99 212-725-4500
ThinkFun Zingo! Heroes es 4-8 $16.99 800-468-1864
Time Out Spots Time Out Spot™ sr 18 m-7 y $22.00 714-856-6889
ToyBox Innovations Disneys Read-Along Collections cd es tr 4-9 $14.99 905-307-7735
Twin Sisters Productions Multiplication Workbook & Music CD bo cd es 7-12 $12.99 800-248-8946
University Games Game of Knowledge bg 8-12 $24.98 800-347-4818
VTech Electronics V Smile Baby Infant Development System eg es ty 1-2 $39.99 800-521-2010
Wai Lana Yoga Wailani's Little Yogis™ Fun Songs CD Lyric Book bo cd 3-12 $18.95 800-228-5145
Walter Foster Publishing, Inc. Watch Me Draw Series ac bo cp es ho 4-6 $4.95 800-426-0099 Creative Movement for Children DVD cp fp sr dv 3-5 $24.95 317-921-0155

Key to Item Types:
AC - Arts & Crafts AE - Active Toy AP - Activity Product AT - Audio Tape
BG - Board Game BO - Book CD - CD CE - Entertainment
CG - Card Game CM - CD-ROM CO - Construction Toy CP - Creative Product
CR - Computer Related CS - Costume DH - Dollhouse DO - Doll
DV - DVD EG - Electronic Game EL - Electronic Product EQ - Equipment
ES - Educational Skills FP - Fantasy Play GE - Game GN- Green Product
HO - Hobby ML - Musical MM - Multimedia NO - Novelty
OP - Outdoor Play OT - Other PL - Plush Toy PT - Pool Toy
PU - Puppet PZ - Puzzle RS - Rubber Stamp SC - Science
SR - Socially Responsible ST - Stamps SW - Software TR - Travel Item
TS - Transportation TY - Toy UN - Unique Product VG - Video Game
VT - Video Tape
Home Copyright 1995 - 2008 Stevanne Auerbach, Ph.D. San Francisco, CA
This material may not under any circumstance be resold or redistributed for compensation of any kind without prior written permission from the author.
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