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Ruth to the Rescue unveils toy test results for ages 6 to 12

DETROIT – Every year, retailers bring out their best toys for the holiday season and hope your children will consider them as the "gotta-have-it" items. It can be hard to tell if your kids will really love those toys, unless you can take them out of the box and give them a try.

For the past two years, the Ruth to the Rescue consumer unit has rounded up about a dozen toys and some junior toy testers to see how the hottest toys of the year stack up. Producers pore over the "hot toy" lists from the top retailers to choose the toys that seem to have some of the biggest buzz. Then, we divide our testers into two age groups: 18 months to 5 years old and 6 years to 12 years old.

See: Results from group of children 18 months to 5 years old

Buying toys for older children, especially 'tweens, can be challenging. They're at an age when their tastes start to get a little more expensive. 

Local 4's Karen Drew asked some older children what they'd like for Christmas. Nine-year-old Robert said a PS4 tops his list, while 12-year-old Alana said a new phone tops her's.

Toys under $50: Less expensive, still popular

We decided most of the toys in the Ruth to the Rescue Toy Test would cost under $50. We did make two exceptions for two hot dinosaur toys -- more on those in a moment. However, for the second year in a row, we found one of the least expensive toys ranked as one of the most popular.

In this portion of the toy test, we asked our junior testers to play with the DohVinci Anywhere Art Studio. It's a toy that allows children to be creative with Play-Doh. They put the Play-Doh into a "styler tool" -- which looks like a Play-Doh gun-- and they can squeeze the Play-Doh onto paper to make artwork: flowers, boats, or even snakes. (as one of our little boys did!)

The kit cost just $11, but five of the 11 children mentioned the studio as one of their favorite toys in the test. The only problem our producers noticed: there was only one "styler tool" in the kit. We checked with Hasbro, the manufacturer, and the company said each kit is really designed for just one child. So, if you have two or three children, you would need to buy two or three kits if everyone wanted their own "styler tool."

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Not everyone was on board with the Play-doh fun. One 10-year-old boy has this exchange with Local 4's Karen Drew. She asked if he liked play-doh and he said, "I don't really. I haven't touched play-doh in like three years."  However, for the second year in a row, we found a toy that allows kids to play and be creative really gets high marks.

Another toy that cost less than $15 didn't fare as well. We left the Simon Swipe Game on the floor with the directions to see if our testers could figure out how to play the game.

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The kids and Local 4's Karen Drew had a hard time figuring out how to make the game work. Some of the older girls said they read the directions and they knew how to play, but we'd suggest children might need some adult assistance with that game.

Barbie vs Elsa

For the first time in more than a decade, Barbie has been displaced at the top spot on the holiday wish lists of girls. The National Retail Federation says merchandise from the movie "Frozen" has pushed Barbie from her throne. That's not what happened in our toy test.

The "Frozen" Snow Glow Elsa Singing Doll did get some attention during our test. "I really liked how they took the song from the movie and they put the song inside her," said one of our toy testers.

However, the Barbie Endless Curls Doll topped Elsa in our results.

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Girls in the age range of 6-to-10 year old really seemed to enjoy combing and curling the doll's hair. "A perfect present for any girl who really likes Barbies," said one of our satisfied junior testers.

Two girls called Barbie their favorite toy in this test, none of them chose Elsa.

The dinosaur showdown

The two toys that cost more than $50 were Zoomer Dino and "Transformers Age of Extinction" Stomp and Chomp Grimlock Figure. Both toys had fans among our toy testers, but Zoomer had a clear edge. Six of 11 children named Zoomer as one of their favorites. One boy said it was a tie between Zoomer and the Transformer.

We did find one problem with Zoomer. That dinosaur ran out of power pretty quickly. While the Transformer toy is battery-powered, Zoomer needs to be recharged after about 30 minutes of continuous use, maybe only 20 to 25 minutes if your children make him angry. (That's one of the toy's popular features, he roars and his eyes turn red.)

We checked with the manufacturer, Spin Master, and the company says the toy is meant to stay charged for about 30 minutes and that's typical for most rechargeable toys. While we had to stop to charge Zoomer, that didn't seem to damped his popularity much. Spin Master says it takes about 60 minutes to fully recharge the toy.

Our older toy testers also played with the Doc McStuffins Mobile Cart and the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" Stretch and Shout Leonardo. They seemed to enjoy those toys, but they didn't get as much attention from the older age group, as they did with kids 18 months to 5 years old.

Toy list with prices

These are the prices we paid the week of Nov. 10. We have already noticed some price changes one some items, so remember to shop around.In fact, even when you're in the store, check online before you buy to make sure the price isn't even cheaper online. 

  • Zoomer Dino- $79.88 
  • Transformers Age of Extinction Stomp and Chomp Grimlock Figure-  $69 
  • Frozen Snow Glow Elsa Singing Doll - $34.99 
  • Doc McStuffins Mobile Cart - $44.99 
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Stretch and Shout Leonardo  $20.13
  • Barbie Endless Curls Doll -  $17.49
  • Simon Swipe Game- $14.76
  • DohVinci Anywhere Art Studio Easel & Storage Case Set - $10.59