toys and games before turning them over to 140 kids, ages 3 to 13, for testing in our labs and in their homes. We parsed 1,000-plus surveys, subjected toys to a Drop Tester, and checked safety data to find the 24 best. Be sure to check our top board game picks for more family fun!
The T.S. Shure ArchiQuest Architectural Elements ($30; ages 4+; amazon.com) contains more than 50 wooden blocks, in fresh shapes and bright hues, that young builders loved stacking up — and knocking down.
With Moose Toys Fortune Cookie Maker ($25; ages 5+; amazon.com) young bakers can mix and roll real dough, heat it in the microwave, and form it around fortunes they write. The best part: devouring their own creations.
The portable Hexbug Hive Habitat Set ($35; ages 3+; amazon.com) lets kids customize a bi-level maze, then see mechanical bugs run amok. Its 35 easy-to-assemble pieces link with other sets to create an arena that will amuse for hours.
An affordable alternative to die-cast models, Jakks Pacific Power Trains Auto Loader City ($40; ages 5+; amazon.com) had boys and girls assembling 18 realistic-looking feet of track for a five-train motorized locomotive.
Techno Source's Glow Crazy Doodle Dome ($20; ages 3+; amazon.com) gives little Picassos magical privacy as they sketch on the tent's walls using a green light wand. When the mess-free art fades, it's time to start all over again.
Pack the Playmates Shellraiser ($35; ages 4+; amazon.com) vehicle with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ($10 each; sold separately) and send the reptiles on a wild, imagination-fueled crime-fighting spree. A new TV series is now attracting another generation.