Best Toys and Games in 2012

The 2012 National Parenting Publications Awards results are in and we’ve awarded the year’s best products for children, providing busy parents with this year’s sure-bet holiday gift guide.

These Gold Award-winners have been carefully tested, evaluated-and played with-by expert judges and kid testers alike. They were chosen for their entertainment and educational value, as well as their quality and ability to withstand hours of play.

By Ellen Metrick and Peggy Brown

The best toys from the 2012 National Parenting Publications Awards to help make holiday shopping a little easier.

Infants-Age 2

NogginStik Developmental Rattle

More than a rattle, this developmental milestone-maker taps intoan infant’s abilities from birth by introducing eye trackingthrough an innovative three-color changing light. SmartNoggin Toys,$21.99; Ages
birth and up.

Tots Art Start

All the glory without the glue! Everything’s assembled for anafternoon of art. Create collages by placing doilies and fringedtissue anywhere on the sticky paper. Triangular crayons, shapedpaper and stickers add to the options. ALEX, $16.95; Ages 18 months and

LEGO DUPLO My First Build

LEGO builder-in-training! Oversized “menu” cards show kids howto build. The pictures have actual-size illustrations for childrento match up and lay out the bricks before connecting them. TheDUPLO bricks and accompanying object pieces help bridge the gapbetween constructive and imaginary play. LEGO, $24.99; Ages 18 months and up.

Ages 3 and 4

BabbaBox from BabbaCo

Ready for fun all in one box! Once a month, your mail carrierwill deliver a gift box of fun that lasts all month. Themed boxincludes an art project, book, exploring activity and access to asmartphone app. The prep work is done for you-just answer the doorwhen it arrives! BabbaCo, $29.99 a month;
Ages 3 and up.

STRIDER ST-3 No-Pedal Balance Bike

Riding starts with balance and coordination-not dependence ontraining wheels-with this cool, pedal-less rider. Intuitive to use,and beginners gradually build skills needed to ride a traditionalbike. Strider Sports, $110; Ages 18
months to 5.

Symphony in B.

A concert hall with the comforts of home and the sounds of asymphony! Place tall plastic instruments in the orchestra pit-inany order, on either of the two levels, to hear ever-changingmusic. B.Toys, $49.99; Ages 3 and

Tag Get Ready for Kindergarten

Each page of this book shines a spotlight on a differentschool-readiness skill with interactive Tag touch appeal. Differentvoices respond, teaching alphabet recognition, early math,emotions, seasons, months and more. Works with the Tag ReadingSystem. LeapFrog, $13.99; Ages 3 and up.


Specifically designed for use with an iPad, game boards and playscenarios come alive with animation and sound. Easily download thefree app, and it teaches you how to play. Never the same gametwice! Identity Games, $59.99; Ages 3
and up.

Ages 5+

Doctor Dreadful Alien Autopsy

Ever been invited to an edible autopsy? It’s creepalicious!Bubbling guts, injected intestines and eye balls provide ahair-raising, spine-chilling smorgasbord for dig-in diners. SpinMaster, $29.99; Ages 5 and

Razor FlashRider 360

Evolved classic three-wheeler delivers style and performancewith highly responsive back casters that send kids into 360-degreespins while a spark-bar cartridge with a pull-up lever leaves ablazing trail! Razor, $129.99; Ages 6and up.


Fun to do and look at, too! Fifteen sticker stencils, sixglitter colors and a nail-polish-like bottle of glue makes for easyglitzy fun. Tattoos are temporary. A great tween gift or stockingstuffer. GlitterToos, $15.99; Ages 3 and

PathWords Jr. The “Tetris Meets Word Search” Puzzle for YoungPlayers

Single Player Tetris teams up with Word Search in this uniquepuzzle. Kids flex their spatial reasoning, vocabulary and logicskills as they work their way through 40 fun, themed challenges.Thinkfun, $19.99; Ages 6 and up.

Ages 7+

3D Puzzle La Tour Eiffel

Ooh la la, Paris in a puzzle! Piece together the famouslandmark. Ideal for kids who have mastered flat puzzles and want anincremental challenge. Flat and hinged plastic pieces are numberedand have arrows to indicate placement, so this can be easilyerected in an afternoon. Ravensburger, $25.99; Ages 10
and up.


What comes in a box, fits inside a blender, and will make youlaugh? Name an object that fits the attributes on your cards andthen play them to the grid. Gamewright, $9.99; Ages 8 and


Add little-bitty cards to a grid, making sure that color, shapeand number are either all the same or all different across theline. As the grid expands, so do the possibilities. Pocket-sized,go-along game; easy to play on any table anywhere. Gamewright,$7.99; Ages
8 and up.

Meet the judges

Toys: Ellen Metrick consults with major toy
manufacturers on product design. She has created systems to
evaluate toys’ impact on childhood development and their
therapeutic value for children with special needs. The lead
evaluator for the Toys ‘R’ Us Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids
for 16 years, Metrick currently serves as manager of business
development at the National Lekotek Center in Chicago, a nationwide
nonprofit that focuses on accessible play for children of all

Games: Peggy Brown works for many of the
world’s biggest toy companies as an inventor, designer, writer,
creative director and consultant. She’s done creative development
for hundreds of games and writes children’s activity books that
promote curiosity and creativity.

Best Books and Magazines in 2012

The 2012 National Parenting Publications Awards results are inand we’ve awarded the year’s best products for children, providingbusy parents with this year’s sure-bet holiday giftguide.Parents always want to give their kids hours oflistening, reading and playtime fun. These Gold-Award winning booksand magazines do just that.

We’ve organized the books by age, beginning with infant.

By Helen Foster James and VirginiaLoh-Hagan

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