Hottest Holiday Toys Put to the Test by Real Kids (PHOTOS)

Jeanne Sager | Nov 22, 2012 Big Kid

kids Christmas giftGet ready, get set, the hunt for the hot holiday toys of 2012 is on, Moms and Dads. Whether you're Black Friday shopping (good luck!) or hoping to get it all done online this year, chances are your kid has asked for something that made one of the "must buy" toy lists. But is it worth spending the cash or are you going to spend hours going from store to store to find that one toy only to have your kid abandon it 20 minutes after opening?

Sadly, there are no guarantees. But here at The Stir, we have the next best thing. We gathered 10 of the hottest toys of the various 2012 holiday toys, from the Wii U to the Furby. Then we gathered a group of real kids and let them loose with the whole pile. We wanted to know what they really thought. Are these toys worth the hunt? Are they worth the price?

We gathered one 3-year-old boy, one 5-year-old boy, two 7-year-old girls, one 7-year-old boy, and a 12-year-old girl. The products were all procured as samples from the manufacturers, and presented to the kids as is. Parents helped only in getting them out of boxes and/or with any set-up that required an adult's touch. They were asked questions about what they thought, but they weren't coached.

Remember, these are the honest opinions of the parents and the kids. The children were allowed to keep the toys they liked, but to protect the integrity of the test, they were not informed of this until after the entire test was over.

So here's what happened with all 10 of them!

Which toys on this list are your kids most excited about?


Image via Jeanne Sager

  • Wii U


    Image by Jeanne Sager


    This is the big one, the new game console from Nintendo! But it just came out this week, so many parents are going to be going into this one blind. Here's what we found out after we let the 12-year-old, a few 7-year-olds, and a rather overgrown (nearly 35-year-old) child loose with this one: they all found something to rave about.

    Pros: In addition to the tower, you get a game pad with a pretty incredible HD screen that mirrors the TV. That means you can play many games simply by looking at the game pad, akin to a personal game console. So no more kids monopolizing the TV, because you can change the channel while they play on the pad! That was a hit with the kids and adults both, but especially the 12-year-old who made mention that she was a little tired of battling her parents for TV time.

    The game pad seemed to be much easier for our younger testers who could use it to do a lot of the set-up that used to require very precise hand movements with a Wii-mote. If you already own a Wii and/or Wii games, good news, this is "backward compatible" with the original console's games and peripherals. It also offers an HDMI connection, meaning video is significantly better looking on an HD TV than its predecessor.

    Cons: The console is brand new, and still pretty pricey (prices range from $300 for the basic on up, and the deluxe is even more). Plus, if you don't already have a Wii, you will need to buy a new Wiimote for many of the games. I was also uneasy watching the younger kids handle the game pad. While the pad itself is solidly built, the screen itself seems dangerously exposed. Nintendo assured us it was built with durability in mind, but I'd hope a third party is going to come up with a screen protector.


  • Micro Chargers Time Track


    Image by Jeanne Sager


    Of all the toys, the Micro Chargers Time Track is the one that seemed to attract the most kids regardless of gender and keep them occupied the longest (aside from putting together LEGO sets).

    Pros: Although the directions were sparse, the track was relatively simple to assemble by a mom who admitted she's put together her fair share of race tracks in her day! Play was fairly simple. Just wind everything up, push a button, and the cars are off and ready. The ease of use and fact that things go fast seemed to be what attracted the kids most. They would have spent hours letting them fly around the track if we'd let them.

    Cons: Even though there are four lanes to the track, the set only comes with two small cars, and I do mean SMALL. Unless you have a place to store them, be ready to have them get lost. Also frustrating? There's no way to turn these cars off!

  • Gelarti Designer Studio


    Image by Jeanne Sager

    Proving children pay much more attention than we think to certain things, the first thing my daughter said when she saw this on the hot holiday toy list was, "That's what Kady got for her birthday! It looks so cool!" And here I'd never even heard of it. But we let the 7-year-olds at it ...

    Pros: What is better than stickers for a kid? Making YOUR OWN sticker! The boy and the two girls were equally enamored, and they found the process both easy and fun. After making his sticker, boy Max was more or less done while the girls would have spent the entire evening with this kit, coloring in the black and white stickers with the gel paint. The company gets big points from the moms for ensuring the stickers can be removed and reused after being stuck to a wall (trust me, I checked) and big points from the girls who informed us it was "awesome."

    Cons: Three kids ran through the six sticker sheets pretty quickly, although there was a significant amount of paint remaining. I checked, and a refill kit would to cost another $16.99 on top of the $24.99 for the initial kit.

  • Y-Volution YFliker Scooter


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    Scooters are a mainstay of childhood, and various brands have come and gone over the years. So what makes this different? Two foot rests instead of the traditional one.

    Pros: We were able to ask a 16-year-old to jump in and help us try this one along with the younger kids because the bigger YFliker (there are various sizes) is rated for adults too. That makes it the rare toy that everyone in the family can enjoy. At first glance, the kids called it weird, but once they started riding it was hard to get them off. 

    Cons: Our older tester called it "weird," and she said it was a little hard to get used to. The spread out bottom also means this takes up more room in your shed; although unlike many scooters, it does fold down. Assembly was pretty simple, but the directions that come with this kit aren't the best!


  • Doc McStuffins Time for Your Checkup Doll


    Image by Jeanne Sager

    When I saw the Doc McStuffins doll at the very top of the Toys R Us list this year, I was confused. Sure, the show is adorable and presents a great role model to little kids. But all that hoop-la for a doll and a stuffed lamb seemed a bit much to me. Turns out our little girl testers disagreed with me big time.

    Pros: Interestingly one little girl tester said she loves to play with Doc but was much more interested in Lambie because "she's cuddly, and I can take her to bed." This is almost like getting two toys for the price of one (the whole set retails around $30) as Doc and Lambie are both interactive.

    Cons: If your kids tend to lose little pieces, watch out! Doc's medical tools are teensy weensy, and although she comes with a "doctor's bag" to put them in, that depends on your kids actually remembering to do so! Both Doc and Lambie are also both "talking" toys ... so do with that what you will, parents!

  • LEGO Ninjago Epic Dragon Battle


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    Say Ninjago, and the little boys we know start jumping up and down. Just look at that grinning face. Says it all, doesn't it?

    Pros: You know what's epic about this set? The number of pieces and the time it takes for little kids to put it together. Not to mention the various features of this set. My head was spinning after getting a run-down on what you can do with the Great Devourer and how to get Sensei Wu out of prison. Let's just say they liked it. They really, really liked it!

    Cons: Once again, the hardest piece to swallow with LEGO is the cost. This one retails for around $119.


  • Furby


    Image by Jeanne Sager


    They're baaaaaaack! And the moment the toys were revealed to our little testers, 5-year-old Evan made a beeline for the blue Furby. Apparently this was already on his Christmas list thanks to some commercials, but he'd never seen a real one in person. Once he did, he had a hard time putting it down.

    Pros: Brought into 2012 with new LED eyes and pliant rubber ears that are safer around children's eyes, the new Furby is adorable. And the kids were amused by its nonsense words. Said Evan, "I love the funny noises it makes when I touch its head!" Although he didn't yet know he'd get to take it home, he insisted he was going to take it to bed, prompting elder brother Max to chime in, "He really will!"

    Cons: Although the nonsense of "Furbish" did not seem to bother the kids in the least, I have a feeling it will wear on today's parents just as it did those of a decade or so ago. It doesn't help that there is no off button (yes, really!). Also, if you're picking one of these up, buy a big pack of AA batteries as it takes four but none are included!

  • Marvel Mission Iron Man FX Mask


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    Who would have thought the kid most interested in this toy from Disney's hot holiday list would be the 3-year-old? He's too young to have ever seen Avengers, but he made a beeline for this mask before climbing into a giant box to play act a superhero adventure.

    Pros: Little Collin's mom was worried the mask would be too big for a 3-year-old, but the straps on the back are fully adjustable, and they were made of a soft rubber that didn't hurt his head. Like the other FX masks from Disney this year, the eyes light up and you can press a button to make it talk. It requires batteries, but all are included (thank goodness).

    Cons: Brand new out of the box the mask already had scratches on the gold painted section. Although the plastic itself seems sturdy, it seems like it would show the wear and tear of play pretty quickly.


  • LEGO Friends Summer Riding Camp


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    I have become a big fan of LEGO Friends along with my daughter, so I was glad to see one of their sets on the Toys R Us list this year. But the two 7-year-old girls were even happier. Both confessed they have LEGO Friends sets on their list for Santa.

    Pros: The riding camp set seemed to hit the trifecta for these girls. It was LEGO, which they love. It had horses, which they love. And it was a set that has provided hours of imaginative play after the hours it took to put together. That's some good bang for the buck.

    Cons: Like most big LEGO sets, this one is pricey at around $90.

  • Master Moves Mickey


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    I've never really understood why kids love dancing toys, but every year there's a new one, and this one made it to top of the Disney list. So what's the deal?

    Pros: Not surprisingly this attracted our younger testers -- the 3- and 5-year-old boys were both intrigued -- while the older kids pretty much ignored the fact that it existed. Considering it's rated for kids up to 6 years, that was to be expected. But what surprised the mother of the two young boys was that neither is a Mickey fan, but they were both fascinated by him doing his moves.

    Cons: This is a "noisy" toy, so there's that. And if your kid prefers to cuddle his or her character toys, this is not a good match. The face is soft, but underneath that shirt is hard plastic that protects the mechanism. Something parents need to know: this worked fine on a wood floor, but I don't see it working well on carpet. Put on a leather couch, and the surface was just too uneven.

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