This one-of-a-kind, annual list recognizing the best play products available for children is based on input from independent toy store owners around the country. These toys meet ASTRA members’ high standards for quality, safety and lasting play value . They also offer a wide variety of opportunities to encourage free, unstructured playtime , which experts say is important to healthy development.
Everything to a baby is brand new. Using senses and developing motor abilities, a newborn reaches out, explores, and starts to figure out the "new" world. Infant playthings should nourish a young child's innate curiosity and encourage repeat play.
These German-made hand-crafted cotton blanket dolls make perfect first "comfies." Check out the new organic selection.
Conceived by Babies. Made by Moms™. Each Taggie is crafted of child-friendly fleece and uniquely adorned with lots of playful ribbon tags.
Perfect for calming baby into a restful sleep, the dual motion screen plays soft music when activated by parent or baby.
Squish it flat and it bounces right back! Oball is a PVC-free ball, full of finger holes, that's easy to catch, captivating to hold, and safe to throw.
Bright, soft, and friendly, these award-winning bugs, made in
Busy, busy, busy, there is no life busier than a toddler's. At this age, all neurons are firing and the connections are fast and furious. Toddlers need truly interactive toys – toys that engage, are child-powered and as imaginative as their minds.
As first bath-time baby dolls, Tidoos are terrific. Tidoos are lightweight and filled with polystyrene pellets for cuddly soft but towel-dryable bodies.
Astronauts, space dog, alien, moon buggy … Lift Off Rocket has it all – even a voice that calls out the countdown sequence.
Powered by friction and the push of a child's hand, Fred and the other WOW vehicle play sets are toddler-tough, action-packed, and certifiably safe.
Fresh takes on traditional themes, these soft winsome pals will win the hearts of tiny tots as they teach important dressing skills.
Make pretty pictures and master basic colors and shapes as you do. This wood pattern play set has become a modern classic.
Fall asleep under the stars! Twilight Turtle is 3 in 1: a soft bedtime companion, a soothing nightlight, and an educational planetarium.
Soft pillows, warm blankets, and comforting companions, these colorful creatures are perfect for naptime, travel, and just lounging about.
No more couch potatoes! Physical activity is important for the whole child – building body muscles, pumping blood to the mind, developing vital motor skills and promoting self-esteem.
Made of super-strong, yet soft, latex-free vinyl, these Italian-made Gymnic hopping ball riders are simply the best.
This smooth little smart car is fueled by the most inexhaustible energy on earth – kid power. Wiggle the handles back and forth and off you go!
In safety, durability, and performance, this tramp is a jump above all the rest, ASTM
Big, soft, and beautiful, BeamO is a giant flying ring that you throw with your hand and catch with your whole body.
A healthy challenge for mind and body, it's an electronic action game that improves reflexes, balance, and coordination while you match colors, numbers, and sounds.
Turn off the laptop and video. Nothing equips kids to face the technological challenges of tomorrow like hands-on manipulative building. Research has shown that playing with blocks, puzzles, and other construction toys helps build 3-D math reasoning, spatial and problem-solving skills.
The quintessential plaything, Beka blocks are conceived, created, and made in
Graduated wedge shapes stack and build any which way. Start with a basic pyramid, move onto a diamond, and then go beyond standard geometry to structures far more fanciful!
An over-the-top marble run experience, this marble run is brilliantly conceived, meticulously crafted, beautiful to behold, and thrilling to play with!
Take the control pad in your hand and rev up! Trust us, it takes far more brain than brawn power to control this construction site.
No safety or polarity problems here – just countless building possibilities. Safely encapsulated in the sides of triangle and square pieces are powerful magnets that rotate upon contact to automatically align and connect.
Granddaddy never had Erector sets like this. From steel beams and girders, build a modern-day Hummer with full function RC action or an interactive spy robot, capable of wireless PC communication.
In its most natural, child-initiated form, play is miraculously creative: unstructured, open-ended, imaginative, carefree, and fun. And children come by it naturally – seeing the world with fresh, new eyes and then using what they see in original ways. Visual arts and other creative activities provide children outlets to express themselves.
Dots and dazzles but no splashes and spills. American-made poster paints in big sponge-tip applicators make a child's first painting experience fun and easy for everyone.
Squish it, shape it, save it – then start all over again! Last year's miracle molding material returns with more colors in a 12-piece pack.
Pop out greetings with pride and great thank-you notes, too. Made-in-America kits come packed with piles of die-cut pop-outs, glue sticks, card forms, and envelopes.
From a weaving expert in
Get ready for the runway: Fashion Design Studio gives fashion ingénues the stuff, know-how, and inspiration to dream up designer originals.
Klutz Stencil Art provides the right tools and the right techniques so that you can effortlessly create inspirational artwork.
FANTASY & PRETEND PLAY
Fantasy play fires up kids' creative juices and helps them grow socially and emotionally. As children invent and act out imaginary stories, dreams, and desires, they are able to express their own strong feelings in acceptable ways.
Glitzy capes that fall to the floor, peaked caps with flowing veils, bejeweled foam swords, and magic wands – just add a kids' imagination and there's no telling what kingdoms can be conquered!
Go back in time to the days of yore – reenact the whole Middle Ages with this incredible collection of hand-painted knights and colorful wood castles.
Incredibly expressive, Folkmanis hand puppets make wonderful interactive gifts for all ages, super for babies, older sibs, and adult storytellers alike. From the award-winning Chameleon and Snowy Owl to the new Galapagos Tortoise and woodland Fawn, each puppet has a unique charm.
Serengeti heaven! Create an entire African wildlife diorama with these authentically-detailed, German-designed animals and nursery.
Ready for takeoff! The new Playmobil Jet Plane is packed with such realistic detail it's certain to pass any little pilot's inspection.
Spiel Gut! These German-made trucks get the highest European Good Toy award for quality and play value. They're big, brawny vehicles that look and function like the real things.
Learn to play and play to learn: Games teach us all how to take turns, how to win and lose, how to calculate, how to plan ahead, and how to have fun with family and friends.
Zimbbos and the new Froggy Boogie are great preschool games, featuring big colorful wood pieces and simple play action that combines luck, skill, and surprise.
Match up pairs and enjoy pretty art as you do. From nature to fairytales to children around the world, the themes and charming illustrations are guaranteed to captivate kids.
It's make it and break it, sort it and steal it! Who would ever believe math set theory could be played at such break-neck speeds?
Rat-a-Tat Cat, Scrambled States of America, Slamwich … Buy just one and you'll get hooked on this whole series of fast-action, quick-thinking card games, made right here in the U.S.A.
No pencil, no paper, no bulky board – Bananagrams is fast and fun and the most delicious new word game in years.
Illuminate to eliminate! Egyptian-themed board game combines real lasers with strategy in a Mensa award-winning duel.
Kids are born scientists. From infancy, children seek out and explore, inquire and investigate, and learn from hands-on experience and experimentation how the world works. Science and applied math are simply child's play.
Simple enough for a three year old and sophisticated enough for your yard sale, this amazing talking machine is a coin wizard, calculator, and 4-level game machine.
The aerodynamic My First Airplanes teaches all about flight and is the latest in the award-winning My First series of hands-on science fun.
Award-winning kit lets kids witness the miracle of metamorphosis, then release lovely painted ladies, a native butterfly species in all 50 states, into the wild.
Snap Circuits makes learning electronics super easy and fascinating fun. Plastic modules are color-coded and so are the step-by-step manuals.
It takes the Germanic scientific mind to make physics seem like a walk in the park. Just follow the manuals, build models, then conduct experiments with them.