We start scouting new toys in February, request tons of them in May and June, and over the summer, test a few hundred faves with some 75 kids and their parents. The result—this annual list—is the best of the newest. We don’t play around! (Oh wait, maybe we do ... )
Best Toys of 2016: Toddlers & Preschoolers
The Haba Grocery Shop Play Tent proves to be equally right for one kid hiding out and four children playing “store” together. There’s a window or a door on three sides so parents can peek in. 18 months+, $90.
Got a Thomas fan? The Dynacraft Thomas & Friends Foot to Floor Car is probably in your future. A tot is delighted to open a door, climb in, and beep the horn even before pushing off. 18 months+, $70.
A fridge toy is brilliant, because you spend half the day in the kitchen anyway. LeapFrog Fridge Numbers Magnetic Set goes beyond showing numerals; magnets also demonstrate quantity. 2 years+, $20.
Hammering shapes through the correct hole is a million times more fun when the mallet is a chicken and when one shape is a big egg. Janod Zigolos Hen Activities House, we salute you. 18 months to 3 years, $40.
Guest Editor Kristen Bell tested the Radio Flyer Retro Rocket with her kids and says the under-seat storage is a hit. She appreciates that it’s an easy first rider and gives it a 10-out-of-10 for keeping both daughters engaged. 1 to 3 years, $30.
Toddler testers flocked to the Lego Duplo Mickey & Friends Beach House. The timeless appeal of Mickey, Donald, and Goofy combined with a tiny boat and boom box make for one fun toy. 2 to 5 years, $40.
Of course in 2016 there’s a Mega Bloks First Builders Food Truck Kitchen! If you pretend-cook artisanal burgers, you may as well pretend-sell them. #entrepreneur 1 year+, $40.
Playskool Love2Learn Elmo can, with a free app, ask if it’s potty time, suggest brushing teeth, or say good night (then shut off). He’ll say the letter and number of the day and that an armed-services parent is “very brave.” 18 months to 4 years, $60.