Help Me Hank toy test: Testing 2018's hottest toys before holidays
Children test some of this year's most popular toys
DETROIT – We’re back for another holiday shopping season. Whether you’re shopping online or in the stores, figuring out which toys to buy can be overwhelming.
Help Me Hank chose this year’s hottest toys, picked by industry trend experts from various sources. We then enlisted 18 toy testing experts -- children ages 5 to 11 -- to test them out.
This year, we have two parts to our test. We tested out the hot toys of the season first, but we always hear parents talk about wanting to get STEAM -- science, technology, engineering, art, mathematics -- toys to help their children learn. Well, we’re on it. We partnered with Toyology Toys, a small business with four locations in Metro Detroit. The company specializes in toys that are educational and fun. So we’re going to test those out too.
First, watch both the toy tests. Then, below is our list of toys, the prices we paid, a brief description of what they do and their toy test results. Don’t worry -- we included information about batteries.
NOTE: The prices listed here are the ones we paid in October. You may be able to find cheaper tags on toys and games with Black Friday and Cyber Monday right around the corner.
VIDEO: Hottest Toys Test
Hot toys of the season
- Toys our testers loved: Imaginext Jurassic World Rex, Hot Wheels Corkscrew Crash Track Set, Treasure X, Party PopTeenies.
- Toys our testers didn’t love: Grumblies, Scruff-A-Luvs, Harry Potter Wizard Training Wands.
Description: The animal arrives as a ball of matted fur, but once you bath it, dry it and brush it, you will discover what kind of pet it really is.
Results: The girls were attracted to these toys. They all agreed the stuffed animals aren't as cute as the picture. This was not a big hit with our testers.
Full Disclosure: We dried them off with towels, rather than a blow dryer. That could be why they’re not as fluffy as in the picture. Days later, we tried to brush them some more to make them prettier, but we still didn't think the animals looked like the picture.
Description: There’s no such thing as nurturing with the Grumblies. The more you mess with them, the angrier they become, which could lead to a major meltdown. Kids are supposed to hit, shake and throw this toy around. The more mad it gets, the more it shakes, yells and passes gas.
Results: If you bought into the Furby craze, this toy will remind you of those. Our kids didn't flock to this hot toy. Only a couple of children picked it up. While one kid really liked to mess with the toy, the other didn’t care for it. Our parents also questioned the idea of hitting, kicking and shaking a toy to get it mad -- for fun.
Battery alert: Three AA batteries included.
Imaginext Jurassic World Rex
Description: Break the T-Rex loose from the holding base, pop open the blindfolds and send her rampaging with awesome lunging and chomping action.
Results: This was a big hit with the boys, ages 5-7. They liked making the dinosaur roar and how the eyes change from green to red. The toy’s base comes with darts to shoot at the dinosaur, a car and an Imaginext character, which all the kids enjoyed.
Battery alert: Three AA batteries -- not included.
Description: The electronic spinning top counts the number of revolutions and keeps track of last score and the highest score. There are different modes and games too.
Results: Well, the bright lights and sounds of other toys stole the attention of our testers. None of them actually even used the iTop. So it was a dud with the testers, but we think that’s a fluke. It happened to be sitting on a table in the newsroom and now we have a Leader Board going for who has the most spins. It’s a classic top with a tech spin and we LOVE it. A few of us are buying it for the kids in our lives.
Battery alert: Two round watch batteries included.
Hot Wheels Corkscrew Crash Track Set
Description: It’s an enormous corkscrew track with three loops, three crash zones and three high-speed boosters. This toy promises to provide challenging, exciting, skill-based action with a problem-solving component.
Results: Parents everywhere are thinking, "Not another track set." But this was a big hit with our testers. The boys and girls of all ages took their turn flinging the cars into the high-speed track. Even after we were cleaning up, five kids stayed behind to play with this. Two Hot Wheels cars are included in this track set, but we bought a few more to add to the fun.
A tip we learned: Make sure the car package says, "For track use." Those cars have added weight to help them stay on the track.
Battery alert: Four D batteries -- not included.
Moj Moj -- The Original Claw Machine
Description: This claw machine has three directional joysticks, lights, music and other arcade sounds. Try to grab an egg with the claw in a short amount of time to get a special surprise that’s inside.
Results: If you’ve ever been to an arcade, you know kids are obsessed with these. This toy is bigger than we thought it would be. When it comes to height and length, it’s a little larger than the size of a piece of printer paper. The width measures about half that. About six eggs come inside, with small Moj Moj characters inside those. Moj Moj characters are round, gel-like characters that look like animals. The kids loved playing with this toy. We found out it’s easier to get the eggs with the claw if you take off the protective plastic wrap on the eggs.
Parental warning: The circus music is a little annoying and the claw moves slowly -- really slowly.
Battery alert: Three D batteries -- not included.
Connect 4 Shots
Description: A rapid-fire, bouncing twist on the Connect 4 game. Players simultaneously bounce balls into the grid. Get four in a row of the same color to win.
Results: We matched up this new game against the old Connect 4. It was sports versus strategy. The kids loved bouncing the balls into the game. The balls went flying, so it was a bit crazy. They really like the game but thought it was difficult. When we asked which one they liked better, the kids chose the old Connect 4, saying they liked the strategy of the game.
Description: Treasure X sends kids on a unique unboxing adventure. Kids unwrap, dig and discover a treasure map, X-Marks coin, an X-Cavator digging tool, action figure, treasure chest and more. Kids can try and collect all the figures.
Results: One sand block costs $10, or you can get a three-pack for $30. The kids loved this toy. They really enjoyed digging through the sand to find the different parts to build the little figure. But most of all, the loved what most parents would hate.
Parental warning: This makes one unbelievable mess. We planned for sand to be everywhere, but what we didn't plan for was the dust that was everywhere. Dust got on all their clothes and in their hair. One kid even got sand in his eye. (We’re sorry about that, Luca.) The kids loved it, so if you do buy this, make sure it’s done on the kitchen counter or in the laundry room tub. It’s easier to get the pieces out if you wet the sand, so it’s just a big mess all around. Get ready for it.
Harry Potter Wizard Training Wands
Description: There are 11 different spells for kids to learn and master using the included spell training guide. The wand recognizes movement to know when kids have cast their spells. The wand provides sound feedback when the spells have been cast correctly.
Results: We have a few kids who love Harry Potter, so we thought these wands would be a hit. We even bought two. While some of the kids said they might enjoy those wands at home, only a couple of kids tried to cast spells. This toy really didn't grab their attention. The wands actually ended up sitting on the ground most of the night. A few kids asked if these wands were the Harry Potter Coding Wands, which are a more advanced set of wands. So if your child is into technology, engineering and Harry Potter, those might be the better way to go.
Battery alert: Three AAA batteries included.
Party PopTeenies -- Mega Party Surprise Set
Description: This kit includes more than 50 party pieces, including six exclusive dolls, three pets, furniture, party accessories and tasty treats. There are three poppers, as well. You pull, twist and pop to find a new character.
Results: Those small toys that tend to get lost in your house, stepped on or eaten by the dog -- those are still trendy. Last year it was Shopkins, and this year it’s Party PopTeenies. The trend of having to unwrap a surprise toy -- that’s still big, too. Our girls, ages 6-8, really enjoyed this toy. The party poppers were hard to twist and the top comes off easily as you're attempting to pop it, but that didn't seem to bug the girls. They liked the surprise element and they loved the little figurines. We bought the large party pack, but there are smaller ones that are less expensive, as well.
Parental warning: The poppers shoot out confetti. It’s mostly big hearts and is easy to clean, but we thought you should be warned.
Description: Each pomsie has soft, cuddly fur and a tail that wraps around your wrist, hair, clothing and more. It’s electronic and makes noises. You can care for your Pomsie, pretend-feed it, rock it to sleep, etc. The color of its eyes tell you its mood and what you should do to care for it. There’s also a game mode in which the animal plays music and you can play freeze-dance with it.
Results: This toy was tested by our testers. Unfortunately, we didn't get any video. The little girls loved caring for this toy. They tried to put it in their hair and on their clothes. When asked if they liked this toy better than the Scruff-A-Luv, they all said yes.
Battery alert: One AAA battery included.
- Toys our testers loved: Snap Circuits, Comic Book Kit, PlushCraft Fabric by Number Unicorn Pillow
- Toys our testers didn’t love: STAX.
Comic Book Kit
Description: Comic Book Kit has everything you need to create your own hilarious misadventures or epic superhero stories: markers, rubber stamps, two blank books with the boxes already in them, ink pads, stencils for type and bubbles, etc.
Results: The girls were attracted to these comic books. Some of them spent the whole night coloring in the pages, creating stories and find drawings. They all agreed that this was a fun way to create a book with stamps included. Since one of the girls spent most of the night drawing, we let her take the booklet home. She then was up until 10:30 p.m. working on the rest of her comic about two girls going to school. We’re really excited to read it when she’s finished!
Description: STAX are magnetic building blocks. Each set comes with 28 pieces and one magnetic tray. The pieces come in a variety of shapes: squares, equilateral triangles, right triangles and acute triangles.
Results: These blocks didn’t grab the attention of our toy testers. It could be because they were next to the circuit builder kit, which was a huge hit that drew the most attention. But unfortunately, this one just didn’t excite our testers.
Description: This kit includes 14 parts and you can build more than 20 projects while learning the basics of how switches and circuits work, plus the skills needed to complete troubleshoot and solve problems and enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done. The included color manual was created just for younger "engineers" with very few words and lots of step-by-step diagrams.
Results: Well, this is where we eat crow. When we were given this toy for the test, we weren’t sure the kids would enjoy building something that looks like it should be in school. We were wrong. The kids ages 6 to 11 were drawn to this circuit builder kit. The kids loved trying to build a circuit that would light up and make sounds. A couple kids kept saying how much they liked science and that this was the perfect toy. One 9-year-old said he would do this for 15 weeks straight, but it was a little too easy for him. Our kit was labeled for beginners. So if you have a student that’s done circuits in school before, you might want to get a level up for him or her.
Battery Alert!: 3 AA batteries, NOT included.
The Game of Space
Description: These magnetic rocks are also a game! One of the educational benefits of this game is the critical thinking. You have to strategically think where to place your magnetic rock so you can outmaneuver your opponent. Another educational aspect of this game is that it easily teaches cause and effect. Placing your magnetic rock in what could be a perfect spot might soon turn into a mistake once you see all the magnets pull toward it.
Results: We set these magnets out next to the box with the instructions on it, but the kids who were drawn to them, didn’t want to play the game. It looked easy to pickup, almost like pick up sticks or playing jacks. The kids liked just playing with the rocks and trying to pick them up on their own. We noticed that with quite a few toys. Read below about why Toyology says that’s a good thing!
PlushCraft Fabric By Number Unicorn Pillow
Description: Follow a numbered legend and use the special stylus to punch colorful fabric into this fanciful Fairy Pillow.
Results: This was another hit with our girl toy testers! It’s like paitnting by numbers, but with fabric. Our parents liked that there was no sewing involved. It also was very easy. First, one of our 5-year-olds picked up the pillow and enjoyed getting to make a creation all by herself. After she left for another toy, our two 11-year-old girls finished off the pillow and enjoyed crafting. Our parents did see one concern, the fabric squares can be pulled back out of the holes after you push them in. So that pillow might not be good for travel and it’s a good idea to keep that stylus handy for such occasion. (Although, one of our 11-year-olds found that using a pencil did the trick as well!)
Crazy Aaron's Mixed By Me, Hypercolor Thinking putty kit
Description: Each kit includes five tins of clear putty, three Chiller concentrates, three Thriller effect putties, and an instructional mat. It’s everything you’ll need to make heat-sensitive putty. Play with your new creation and watch as the putty changes color right before your eyes.
Results: This was a major hit with our testers. Many of them said it was even better than Play-Doh and slime! (I’ll pause for gasps!) The goal is to create color-changing putty that changes with heat. One of our testers figured that out and really enjoyed that aspect, but most of our testers just liked mixing the colors. They all loved playing with the putty and then using that putty to play with other toys, as well. Parents love the fact that this is nontoxic and never dries out.
Description: Tapple is a fast-paced, race against-the-clock game. It comes with category cards and the wheel. Pick a category and take turns listing words that go along with your category. Each time you correctly identify something within your category, press the letter on the wheel that starts with your word. You only have 10 seconds per turn. For example, if your category is actors, take turns naming actors and press the letter that your actor's name starts with.
Results: Our testers weren’t immediately drawn to this game, mostly because we’re in a loud room and this game involves thinking. But once we got playing, more and more kids came around to join in. We noticed the game is easy to pick up once you start. The kids enjoyed picking odd categories (like herbs and spices) and trying their hands at picking words to go along with them. Parents like that the cards can be stored inside the wheel, making the game travel-friendly.
Battery Alert!: 2 AA batteries, NOT included.
All about Toyology
When we decided to center one of our toy test editions around educational toys, we reached out to one of the specialty toy shops in the Metro Detroit area that has a niche on STEM/STEAM toys.
Aric Klar, the co-founder of Toyology Toys said its toys are things that kids want and are looking for. “Most kids are going on YouTube to find products. They’re going Google, they’re going on Amazon to find products.” He says, “We want to make sure when they come into our stores, they see those products they’re looking for.”
Something we noticed in our Help Me Hank Toy Test, is that many of the toys came with instructions but the kids didn’t feel the need or obligation to read them. This is something Toyology says is a good thing!
“We’re moving past the Lego phase. Here’s a kit, follow the instructions to make it, finalize it, and let it be” says Klar.
Toyology wants to inspire kids through creativity and think outside the box. Kids are encouraged to either follow a couple instructions, all of them, or even none of them! It’s all about open-play and letting the kids find multiple ways to use the toys.
Some fun facts about Toyology:
- Toyology carries over 4,000 products, making sure it is the toy store that caters to everyone kids and “KIDULTS” of all ages.
- The store also makes its own toys too. The private label brand “On Trend Goods” is its toy invention and marketing company, which sells products to 3,000 other retailers around the world.
- There are Toyology stores located in West Bloomfield, Rochester Hills, Royal Oak, and Bloomfield Hills. And if you go into any of the stores, you get to play with many of the toys they have sitting out to test them for yourself!
- Toyology’s foundation has been a family of entrepreneurs. With a background of small business owners, the owners are focused on improving the community.
- The stores not only sell STEM/STEAM toys but the “hot toys” of the season as well. Here’s a list of the stores newly released toys here.
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