While every kid in the group seemed to like zooming the cars down the ramps, putting them in "jail" and even racing them, Mila couldn't get enough of this toy. "She loves cars," said her dad, Mark. "And this really holds her attention."
SmartMax My First Tractor Set ($24.99) • The 22-piece set features magnetic, oversized pieces easy to move around and put together with other SmartMax sets. Parents and kids seemed drawn to this, especially Brooks. His mom, Kelli McKee, liked that the magnets were easy to use "so he can be creative and build things." Grace also loved playing with this toy. "She likes farm animals," said mom Kristi Lenz.
VTech Go! Go! Smart Wheels Launch and Chase Police Tower ($39.99) • While every kid in the group seemed to like zooming the cars down the ramps, putting them in "jail" and even racing them, Mila couldn't get enough of this toy. "She loves cars," said her dad, Mark. "And this really holds her attention."
Playskool Friends Sesame Street Feed Me Cookie Monster ($29.99) • The kids got a kick out of Cookie Monster jiggling (with joy?) as they fed him a cookie, and they liked hearing his voice and catch phrases.
KD Kids Infinifun My First Yoga Mat ($49.99) • Though one mom from an older group said she would buy this toy for her yoga-loving toddler, the kids in this test group weren't interested in it. Even when parents showed them how to use it (you hit a pose button on the soft mat and it tells you how to do it), they seemed to walk away.
Melissa & Doug Food Truck Indoor Corrugated Playhouse ($49.99) • If the kids were voting this may have been the winner, but when the parents saw that the play ice cream and food the kids were playing with were from another toy, and when they saw their kids ripping the steering wheel off because it, like the rest of the playhouse, is cardboard, they were leery.
VTech Go! Go! Smart Wheels Minnie Ice Cream Parlor ($29.99) • While this had some of the same features as the VTech winner in this group, it was smaller and the ramps weren't quite as cool, which is why kids gravitated to the other one. Mila did however, like the Minnie in the car this came with and used it on the other toy.
Crayola Kids@Work Action Blocks 115-piece Crayon Tube by Amloid ($21.97) • Little hands take to bigger blocks easier, and this big crayon caught the eye of several of our testers who, along with their parents, liked that there were gears and whirly-gigs in addition to big blocks. Available at Walmart stores.
Storytime Buddy by LeapFrog ($34.99) • Choose a book and press the corresponding number on Buddy’s collar to explore five stories about Buddy and his friends. The room was probably too noisy to test this one well, but many parents said they liked the idea of it.
Tonka Mighty Builders Deluxe Construction Tire Case Set ($29.99) • Packaged in a handy tire case that doubles as a foundation, this set from Amloid uses bricks and figures to engage kids in imaginative play. Many of the kids liked the toy; the parents weren't so sure about the curved track, which didn't lock in place and kept coming apart.
Little Tikes Totsports Easy Hit golf set ($26.99) • One of Amazon's hot toys of the year, this toddler-size golf set was fun for many of the kids, especially Christopher who jumped up and down when his dad played with him. A few of them did however wield the golf club as more of a bat, hockey stick or club.
American Plastic Toys Recycling Truck ($24.99) • Teach your kids how to protect the environment with this role-playing truck. It's big, more than 2 feet long, so the kids played with this by pushing it on their knees. They loved to load other toys in it and dump them out.
Meet our testers
Grace Lenz, 2, Manchester
Mila Peralta, 2, South St. Louis County
Christopher Caldwell III, 3, Florissant
Brooks Wolf , 3, St. Louis
Graham Shapiro, 4, Chesterfield
Veda Rentschler, 4, St. Louis
Aliyah Cruts, 4, St. Louis
Cooper Dixon , 5, Breese
Whitney Murray, 7, St. Ann
Lucas Ferling, 7, Defiance
Emmaus Tzeng, 8, Ladue
Sydney Martin, 8, Maryland Heights
Amaré Barnes, 9, Florissant
Lenore Upwood, 9, St. Louis
Jack Grigaitis, 10, Frontenac
Margot Schusky, 10, Collinsville