This time last year we noted that Santa’s elves were working overtime to make and deliver enough toys for the holidays. Well, they’re at it again, putting in long hours under conditions much like those 12 months ago.
“The toy industry is still recovering from the (coronavirus) pandemic (and) delivery issues,” says Stephanie Oppenheim. A mother of two, Oppenheim teamed with her own mother, children’s author Joanne Oppenheim, and has been rating the newest and hottest toys for three decades.
Each year their company, Oppenheim Toy Portfolio, receives thousands of toys to review. Talk about a dream job!
The toys are given to families and teachers for children to play with and report back on. Did you like the toy? Why? What didn’t you like? How long did you play with it?
Outstanding toys, as judged by the testers, are given awards on the Oppenheims’ website, toyportfolio.com. A positive nod from them or another independent review site, the Toy Insider (thetoyinsidercom), can mean success in the very competitive toy industry.
Because toymakers are worried that inflation (rising prices) will mean fewer toys purchased, the industry is “relying heavily on toys with a track record rather than a great deal of new and innovative products” in 2022, Stephanie Oppenheim says. What you’ll find in stores and online are “toys that are more open-ended rather than one-note novelty toys. Basic gear toys and games (that) will have longer-lasting appeal.” She also suggests that you make your wish list early, because even the elves need to take breaks.
Below are some of her top picks for 2022. Prices are manufacturers’ suggestions.
Air Hogs Flippin’ Frenzy, Spin Master, $49.99, 4 and older: Kids will love the crazy stunts this remote-control car can do. Parents will love that its soft tires won’t damage the walls or furniture. Designed to withstand crashes indoors or outside, the red muscle car can be flipped to become a sleek blue sports car. The remote requires two AAA batteries (not included).
Colorforms: 70th anniversary set, PlayMonster, $24.99, 3 and older: The box is marked for ages 3 and older, but this is sure to be an adult favorite, too. Colorforms is celebrating its 70th anniversary with a classic kit that has a modern and open-ended feel. With 500 reusable vinyl stickers and two backgrounds, the play possibilities are endless for any generation.
Made by Me! Paint Your Own Wooden Magnets, Horizon Group, $9.99 6 and older: Our two “paint your own” craft choices this year – these wooden magnets and a porcelain tree (see below) – are fun for boys and girls. This kit features 10 magnets (including a snowman, reindeer and gingerbread man), acrylic paint, a brush, gems and glitter glue to preserve your masterpieces for future holidays.
Lego City Train Station, Lego (kit Number 60335), $99.99, 7 and older: With 907 pieces, this set has everything that’s needed to build a small train station. There’s a bus, a road-and-rail truck, a port-a-potty, four pieces of track and six mini figures. But before you shout “All aboard!” please note that the station kit does not include a train. Those are sold separately.
Catch the Moon, Thames & Kosmos, $34.95, 8 and older: Build a ladder to the heavens with this game that tests thinking and building skills. On their turn, players are instructed how to stack a new ladder, being careful not to collapse the structure that has already been built. As more pieces are added, the ladders shift, adding to the suspense of who’s going to win.
Black Panther: War on the Water, Lego (kit Number 76214), $89.99, 8 and older: Fans of the new movie “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” will love re-creating their favorite Marvel superhero scenes. And those too young for the PG-13 film can create their own at-sea adventures aboard the Royal Sea Leopard, home base in this set. The 545-piece set has two large weapons, ammo storage compartments, a small prison, two insectlike drones and five mini figures.
Sleeping Queens 2: The Rescue!, Gamewright, $19.99, 8 and older: We love that the mission here is for the queens to save kings. Knights with special powers and “rescue companions” show up, ready to help. This card game uses simple math skills and has a lot of rules, so it’s not quick, but fantasy fans – especially tweens – will love saving the royals. Two to five players can play.
Fun fact: The first Sleeping Queens game, which came out in 2003, was created by a 6-year-old in New Jersey who was having trouble sleeping one night. She became the first child to invent a game sold internationally.
Just My Style’s All About You Dream Journal, Horizon Group, $12.99, 8 to 11: Tweens will love writing about their goals and dreams, daily routine and treasured memories in this spiral journal. The 80-page book, which has a metallic cover, can be personalized with stickers, frames, special paper and cutouts. (Markers not included.) The kit is marked for ages 6 and older, but Toy Portfolio’s testers think it’s a better fit for an older crowd.
Paint Your Own Porcelain Tree Light, MindWare, $34.95, 8 and older: More paint-your-own fun. There’s no partridge or pears in this Christmas tree, but you can add them. The kit includes 12 paints, two brushes, a how-to guide and 90 artificial lights to make the 8 1/2-inch tree glow with seasonal joy. A timer turns the lights on and off. You will need three AAA batteries (not included).
Klondice, MindWare, $29.95, 8 and older: Choose a banker, roll the glittery dice and stake your claim to gold rush profits in this easy-to-learn game of strategy and luck. But be careful: One false move could let your opponents strike it rich. The objectives change in each round, so your game plan needs to be flexible to pan out. As many as six gold miners can play at a time.
Water Power: Rocket-Propelled Cars, Boats, and More, Thames & Kosmos, $29.95, 8 and older: “Fun, wet, and wild” is how the toymaker describes this kit, which harnesses the power of water and air. You can build six models, including water-rocket cars, jet-propelled boats, a water gun and even a lawn sprinkler. Learn about the laws of physics and their use in engineering. Fun. Wet. Wild. And educational.
Teeter Tower: A Dicey Dexterity Game, Gamewright, $24, 8 and older: Think of this challenge as Jenga in reverse. Roll the colored dice and place them on coaster-size tiles, which you stack one atop another. The challenge? Each tile limits which dice can be played, and where. Complete the stack and take a bow, but be careful not to topple the tower. This game is for 1 to 4 players
Olivia’s Space Academy, Lego Friends, $69.99, 8 and older: Youthful stargazers will be over the moon with this set that is as much fun to build as it is to play with. In addition to the training academy classroom, it includes an observatory and telescope, multi-axis trainer, mission control headquarters and realistic space shuttle model. Four Lego characters (included) share their out-of-the-world adventure with the next generation of space travelers.
Dutch Quilt Sampler 1000 Piece Puzzle, eeBoo, $23.99, 10 and older: Having a big puzzle that everyone can work on during the holidays is always fun. Toy Portfolio’s testers loved this colorful, challenging puzzle. Artist Anisa Makhoul was inspired by the quirky mix of colors and motifs found in many patchwork quilts. This puzzle is 23-by-23-inches, so there’s room for lots of hands to pitch in.
Ultra Bionic Blaster, Thames & Kosmos, $39.95, 10 and older: Build an air-powered glove that launches foam darts. Learn about the physics of air as a 16-page manual guides you in assembling the blaster from more than 100 pieces. Then strap it on your wrist, and have a blast. The launch barrels raise, lower and rotate in two directions for pinpoint accuracy. Kids younger than 12 may need help in building and using this toy.
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