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Top educational toys put to the test before holiday shopping season

With Halloween now over the talk with at least the younger kids will likely focus from candy to toys. This year electronics will continue to be hot sellers. But for preschoolers, electronics aren’t the name of the game.

A group of lucky kids at the Goddard School in Snohomish got a chance to become toy testers and they gave us their “expertise” on which toys are popular this year amongst preschoolers.

“We want to make sure that those toys are engaging, that they’re interactive, and that kids really enjoy them,” said Lissa Knox, owner of the Goddard School.

The Goddard Schools throughout the country have been participating in this testing for the past ten years. They get about 25 toys from toy companies every year. And the kids do what they do best when they see toys -- play with them. All this while the teachers track which toys do better than others.

The teachers observe and document how the toy rates among the judging criteria, which include interactivity, skill development, and creativity.  And according to their teachers, some do stand out more than others.

“It just makes you feel good inside, that they use their creative skills and sit down and see what they can put together and use their fine motor skills on what they can build together,” said Joanne Priolo, a Goddard School Teacher.

When we were there, the kids really loved the Kid K'nex Budding Builders Building Set, where kids can use 100 pieces to create whatever they want. The pieces are the perfect size for little hands.

Also popular was the Star Diner Restaurant Playset by toy company Melissa and Doug. The kids really loved getting into character pretending to prepare a meal.

“I have some boys and even girls, and they're very creative. And the things that they come up with, I'm very amazed,” said Priolo.

Another popular toy was the Go! Go! Smart Wheels: Race and Play Adventure Park. The kids seemed to really like the fun sounds, songs and even the Ferris Wheel that helped develop motor skills.

And what kid doesn't love to take things apart. Another popular toy, but one that didn't make the final list, were Alphabet Alligators made by Learning Resource.

“Children and their toys that they're playing with, and how developmentally appropriate they are for those kids, is important,” said Knox.

Below are the top 10 toys from this year’s toy test:

KID K'NEX Budding Builders Building Set- K’NEX
Product Information: Any Creation is possible with KID K'NEX! Includes 100 colorful chunky pieces, perfect for hands!

SmartMax USA My First Safari - Smart Toys & Games / SmartMax USA
Product Information: Toddlers are awed when discovering a crocodile, lion, elephant, giraffe, hippo, and rhino! Creative kids can mix and match parts to make crazy combos. The chunky animal parts are made from soft material and easily click on the SmartMax bars, making them ideal for little hands. Includes 18 pieces.

Bucket Balls – DuneCraft
Product Information: 1 lb. bucket of 4 different kinds of polymer expanding balls. Just add water and let the fun begin.

Monkey Around - Peaceable Kingdom
Product Information: Monkey Around contains 40 cards that prompt players to do movements together- from hugs to high fives to simple skills like balancing.

Go! Go! Smart Wheels: Race and Play Adventure Park – Vtech
Product information: Go for a ride with Gavin the Go-Kart on the Go! Go! Smart Wheels Race & Play Adventure Park. Launch Gavin to the top of the playset with the catapult launcher and watch as he races down the track and goes around the 360-degree loop and off the jump ramp. Then, crank the Go-Kart up the hill and watch him drive down the track. The park includes a Ferris wheel that spins, a tumble-down carnival game and a swinging gate to strengthen motor skills. Featuring SmartPoint® technology, Gavin responds to all four SmartPoint® locations with fun sounds, phrases, three sing-along songs and six melodies.

Lil' Critters Shake& Wobble Busy Ball - Vtech/Leap Frog
Product Description: Get ready to twist, slide and learn! Six bead tracks, colorful buttons, and a friendly cow encourage little ones to develop hand/eye coordination and fine motor skills. Three chunky buttons introduce colors, numbers, animals, and vocabulary, as well as play sounds, music and songs. The ball's motion sensor responds to movement with fun sounds and short tunes. Grab and shake the ball and get busy learning!

Star Diner Restaurant Playset - Melissa & Doug
Product Information: When kids try on new identities and get into character, they can act out make-believe and real-life scenarios and see the world from a new perspective. Explore the many family roles at mealtime! Use items in the set as inspiration for exploring cooking science, engineering ideas, learning about money, and describing the imaginative tastes, smells, and sounds of a diner!

OombeeCube - Fat Brain Toys
Product Information: Grab, explore, and discover! Made of 100% silicone, these textured, tethered shapes are perfect for everything from tactile exploration to teething.

Lil Lemonade Stand - Learning Resources
Product Information: Make building memory skills a game. Compete to win by earning the most coins at your lemonade stand. Just draw a card, look at the order of the yellow and pink cups and then re-create it from memory. A fun and challenging game for 2-4 players.

Let's Go Code! Activity Set - Learning Resources
Product Information: Children will have fun while building gross motor skills by stepping, hopping and turning. This set introduces children to early coding and programming ideas without electronics. The full-color guide increases sample mazes and coding overview.