Wednesday, October 16, 2013

ASTRA's "Best Toys for Kids 2013" List Featured Toys Review & I Love My Neighborhood Toy Store Sweepsakes

Disclosure: I received products courtesy of ASTRA for this review; all thoughts and opinions are my own.
Shopping at local toys stores is so much fun.  There is always an array of specialty toys, activity kits, and more to be found there that you just don't see at other places.  I find the staff at local toy stores are also especially knowledgeable about the brands they carry and have a real enthusiasm for their products.  They are often able to make spot on recommendations for your kids based on their interests.  And no matter what your age, there is just something about entering through the doors and seeing a whole store filled with toys, games, and so much more that makes you feel, a kid in a toy store! 

The non-profit ASTRA (The American Specialty Toy Retailing Association) has just released their "Best Toys for Kids 2013" list and it is the perfect handy reference for parents.  Each of the 21 toys selected is a winner and was judged on the following criteria:
  • Ability to promote open-ended/creative play
  • Innovative design features
  • Exceptional safety standards
I think all parents will agree those are three things we consider when shopping for toys to bring home for the kids!  It's nice to know 650 experts have already vetted each of the toys on the list for those qualities.  The 21 selections include toys for all ages so there is something for everyone.

We received the following three toys from ASTRA's "Best Toys for Kids 2013" list and are really impressed with each: Squigz, Bunny Peek A Boo, and Potholder Pro.  A brief review of each one follows.

Squigz by Fat Brain Toy Co.
Starter Set with 24 pieces.  Recommended Ages 3 and Up.  Retails for $24.99
Winner of ASTRA's BEST Toys for Kids 2013 in the Constructive Arts Category

Oh my gosh, these are so much fun and so cool!  We were intrigued by their shapes and had to open them immediately.  The colorful pieces come in eight different shapes and they are meant for "suction construction".  The little suction cups stick to just about any flat surface and when removed leave no residue.  This means they stick to each other, the floor, walls, and we've even managed to get them to stick to my two year old's forehead!  You can create all sorts of fantastic and unique creations.  So much fun and so creative. 

Bunny Peek A Boo by Smart Toys and Games, Inc.
Recommended Ages 2 - 5.  Retails for $24.99
Winner of ASTRA's BEST Toys for Kids 2013 in the Game Play Category, 3-7 years

This 3D puzzle looks deceptively simple with its four main wooden pieces. However there are over 60 challenge cards that players have to look at and the try to recreate with the four pieces.  I was surprised by the all variations shown on the cards, which are divided into levels of difficulty and color coded.  Some of the pictures you have to copy are quite difficult and abstract for little kids.

My son's speech therapist happened to be over when we opened it up and she absolutely loved it.  She saw all sorts of possibilities for using it to teach positional words and facilitate language.  She also really liked how it get's progressively harder and engages their spatial awareness and logic skills.

Potholder Pro by Harrisville Designs
Recommended Ages 3 and up.  Retails for $29.99
Winner of ASTRA's BEST Toys for Kids 2013 in the Creative Arts Play Category

With this kit, kids can make two 8.25" multicolored potholders suitable for everyday use.  A sturdy 10.25" X 10.25" metal loom, two hooks, instructions, and a supply of cotton loops are included.  I also looked for and found on the Harrisville Designs website, replacement packages of cotton loops so that once the selection included in the kit are used up you can keep making more. 

We hope to get started on weaving potholders this weekend, so far homework and weekend birthday parties haven't given us a chance to try them out.  I am pretty sure that they will be hit because my daughter loves making things and when it's something that can actually be used, as opposed to just been looked at, she really like it.  It's always cool to see your creation being used on a daily basis, and gives a real sense of accomplishment.  She is very excited about making these since she is a budding chef in kitchen it is a great activity kit to tie into her interests of making stuff and cooking. 

In celebration of the fun to be had shopping at your neighborhood store, ASTRA has an amazing "I Heart My Neighborhood Toy Store" sweepstakes going on.  This is one you don't want to miss so hurry on over and enter before the November 8, 2013 deadline.

Grand Prize: Thomas & Friends™ invites you on the family vacation of a lifetime at select all inclusive Hard Rock Hotels in Mexico and the Dominican Republic. Note: This Sweepstakes is open to legal U.S. residents except for residents of Florida,  Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and other foreign United States  territories. Click here to view the official rules and regulations.

But that's not all!  There are also 6 Featured Prizes with some of ASTRA's favorite toys!
  • One gift basket of Kidoozie products from International Playthings valued at $250
  • One gift basket of Calico Critter products from International Playthings valued at $250
  • One gift basket of early ears products from International Playthings valued at $250
  • Gift certificates for Playmobil products. Two winners will receive a $250 Playmobil gift certificate each to be redeemed at an ASTRA-affiliated retailer
  • One gift basket of assorted Best Toys for Kids winning product from ASTRA valued at $250
Now those are some awesome prizes you can win!  Go enter for your chance to win at ASTRA's website.
Find out more & Connect with ASTRA


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