Hot Holiday Toys of 2014 Put to the Test (PHOTOS)

Jeanne Sager | Nov 28, 2014 Big Kid

holiday toyWell, Black Friday is here and Christmas will be before you know it. While Santa is checking his naughty or nice list -- twice -- the kids are taking stock of the hot holiday toys and loading up their own lists. Big this year are a tow truck that claims to drag 200 pounds, Cabbage Patch dolls (yup, they're back), and several animal toys that come to life as "pets" you don't have to feed or clean up after.

But what's worth spending your money on this year and what will the kids break in two minutes? The Stir asked five kids to test some of the hottest toys on the store's lists for the 2014 holiday season and tell us what they thought.

Ranging from age 5 to 9, both boys and girls, the kids put the toys through their paces weighing out what lived up to the hype and what was a dud. They shared what they'll keep on their Christmas lists ... and what they'd rather pass on.

Here''s a look at their findings, along with some helpful tips from moms on what needs batteries, what should be charged before wrapping, and what toys could be substituted for something a little bit cheaper.

Have your kids asked for number seven this year?


Image by Jeanne Sager

  • Max Tow Truck ($59.99)


    Image via Toys R Us

    Max Tow Truck is pretty much as it sounds -- a truck that's supposed to tow 200 pounds of whatever kids want to pull.

    What the kids thought: Trying to pull as much as possible was the name of the game for all our testers -- regardless of age or gender. They quickly found the 200 pound advertisement is over-blown, as they couldn't get it to pull an 80-pound boy sitting in a wheelie chair, but they did manage to drag about 30 pounds of stuff across a wooden floor.

    Still, the kids were intrigued, even the 9-year-old boy who had initially scoffed that he was too old for toy trucks. After testing, our 7- and 5-year-old boy testers both said it's on their Christmas list. 

    What moms thought: This truck requires a whole lot of C batteries that aren't included, and there's plenty of noise to be aware of.

  • Sew Cool Machine ($29.99)


    Image via Wal-Mart

    It's a sewing machine, but there are no needles to hurt little hands or thread to get tangled. Instead thin fabric (included) is pressed together to make pillows, purses, and other projects.

    What the kids thought: Surprisingly, this was THE toy of the night. Regardless of age or gender, our testers were clamoring to try the machine and every single one declared it a hit. While the projects themselves are loaded with pink, our 9-year-old boy tester said he'd still love to see this on his Christmas list. And even the 5-year-old was able to make a small pillow with ease.

    What the moms thought: Easy to set up (although batteries are not included), there was a good variety of fabric included. We would have liked to see some color diversity here, but it was great to see the kids excited about doing something creative.

  • Beados Quick Dry Design Station ($19.99)


    Image via Target

    Get ready, get set, get crafty. Beados are tiny beads of indeterminable make-up that, when put close together in a design and sprayed with water will cling together. Once the water dries, the design is set, producing something that can be hung on your window with a suction cup (two are included).

    What the kids thought: Our three 9-year-old testers were the biggest fans of this toy, with Michael telling us he liked being able to create something. His advice "It's probably easiest if you do one of the designs it came with first, then do your own thing."

    Although the accompanying fan is supposed to dry the creations in 15 minutes, they were still wet at the end. When handled by the 5-year-old tester after that 5-minute period, one began to fall apart. Left out overnight to air dry, however, and they were sturdy!

    What moms should know: Because the fan does little, you might be better off opting for the (cheaper) Beados Starter Pack that doesn't include a fan and simply allowing everything to air dry. If you stick with the Quick Dry station, buy batteries -- double As are not included in the set.

    Also beware: the beads are teeny weeny, and the packages they come in are not resealable, so be prepared with bags or a box to pack it all up in after the kids open the set.

  • Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes Starter Pack ($74.99)


    Image via Disney Store

    The second version of the popular sandbox game brings more characters to life and improves on the Toy Box of the original.

    What the kids thought: The arrival of the Marvel characters may have over-shadowed the game play here for most of the kids, but the popular Toy Box was something our 9-year-old girl tester said is much better ... and worth putting this on her Christmas list.

    What the moms thought: The very best part of this is knowing that the game is "backward compatible," meaning all those characters from the first iteration of Disney Infinity can be used with the name game.

  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Stretch and Shout ($19.99)


    Image via Toys R Us

    A whole lot of nostalgia is packed into this toy -- not only is Leonardo one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but he's built like Stretch Armstrong. The modern twist? He "shouts" when his arms are pulled.

    What the kids thought: This was a big hit with our boy testers, ages 5, 7, and 9, for the simple fact that they could fight over him without breaking the toy! The arms stretched a surprising amount without giving way, even when a set of brothers really pulled and pulled.

    What the moms thought: The voice could get annoying, but the batteries (included!) can always be removed.

  • FurReal Friends Get Up and Go Go My Walkin' Pup Pet ($59.99)


    Image via Toys R Us

    A dog you can take for a walk but don't have to clean up after, this is the latest in the Hasbro Fur Real Friends line.

    What the kids thought: This was more popular with our younger testers. At ages 5 and 7, they had fun putting the pup through her paces, and enjoyed a rare chance to walk a dog who didn't pull on her leash. One of our testers complained that it would sometimes take off even when you weren't using the controller, but another liked that aspect because that makes it more like a "real" dog.

    What the moms thought: Better than the real thing, which Mom would end up walking anyway, but make sure you stock up on batteries. The 4 AAs are not included.

  • Zoomer Interactive Dino ($79.99)


    Image via Target

    A robotic dinosaur, he's supposed to listen to your commands and

    What the kids thought: Coming into the test, our 5- and 7-year-old testers both said they had this guy on their list for Santa. By the end of the night, he'd dropped off the 7-year-old's list, but Mom got the sense it was because the 9-year-olds were poo-pooing the fact that he wasn't exactly like the commercial (rather than a genuine dislike). The biggest concern for the kid was that Zoomer didn't do exactly what they want. And yet, he remained on the 5-year-old's wish list, who took more time playing with the dino and actually got him to "cooperate."

    What the moms thought: Another toy that requires batteries but doesn't come with them, he requires very little set-up work. However, beware that Zoomer takes a lot of patience. If your child is not going to take the time to work with him, skip this toy.

  • Cabbage Patch Kids Twinkle Toes ($34.99)


    Image via Target

    They're baaaaaack. The hot toy of the '80s is a hit with a whole new generation, and she's got a hip pair of light up shoes to match.

    What the kids thought: Our 9-year-old girl testers were not impressed, but the littler ones were all over the light up shoes which work by pressing down on her feet (and don't require extra batteries).

    What the moms thought: She's so CUTE! (OK, so nostalgia may have played a role here)

  • Air Hogs Roller Copter ($39.99)


    Image via Wal-Mart

    This remote control helicopter comes in a roll cage.

    What the kids thought: A hit with all ages and genders, the kids had a lot of fun making the helicopter "climb" the walls as the roll cage rolled up and skimmed the ceiling.

    What the moms thought: Typically toy helicopters are a pass because the rotors get broken, but the cage around this one seems to help. But be warned that this copter not only requires batteries that aren't included but should be charged for several hours before use, so take it out of the box and do your prep work if you don't want a disappointed child on Christmas morning.

  • Skylanders Trap Team Starter Pack ($49.99)


    Image via Target

    The latest version of the popular series lets kids play as captured villains.

    What the kids thought: Playing as villains was a big hit, but there was nothing new to do with existing Skylanders, which was kind of a bummer.


  • Little Live Pets ($14.99)


    Image via Toys R Us

    A line of animals that act like the real thing but don't require feeding or cage cleaning, the Little Live Pets come with a cage for resting and will come to "life" in your hand.

    What the kids thought: Our 5-year-old tester immediately screamed "I want it!" when he saw the little butterfly come to "life" and spent a good half hour walking around with the creature on his hand. He later added the pet to his Christmas list, saying he wanted to be able to have his own butterfly. Our older testers were intrigued as well, but had to do battle with the 5-year-old for a turn holding the critter to see if it would flutter for them.

    What the moms thought: Although we worried that the butterfly's delicate wings might not stand up to a 5-year-old's wear and tear, they fared better than expected. Be warned the pet requires charging to work its magic, and it will come to "life" at various times while resting on the charger -- so if you have a light sleeper, don't keep this toy in your child's room.

  • Doh Vinci Anywhere Art Studio ($15.99)


    Image via Toys R Us

    From the makers of Play Doh, this art set comes with "doh" in little tubes which can be squeezed out using an extruder gun (included) to make designs.

    What the kids thought: Although every child wanted to give it a go, none put this on their Christmas list. The "doh" doesn't stick well to the accompanying cardboard "canvasses," and while making their own designs was exciting, only two blank "canvasses" are included.

    What the moms thought: A cute idea, but not worth the mess and aggravation.

  • Nerf Mega Thunderbow ($29.99)


    Image via Toys R Us

    Is it really Christmas if you aren't shooting your brother or sister with a foam dart?

    What the kids thought: As one 9-year-old girl tester put it: "EPIC!" The bow promises to shoot 100 feet, and it seemed to live up to the claims (more or less). For little guys who have a bow-hunting dad, the toy was a chance to be like Daddy without the danger.

    What the moms thought: Oh brother. At least it only shoots five darts at a time before they have to reload!

  • LEGO FUSION Town Master ($34.99)


    Image via Toys R Us

    A LEGO set that interfaces with the iPad via a (free) app, this allows your kids to play "city" with a mayor mini figure and shops to build (with real bricks and virtual ones).

    What the kids thought: The chance to play with LEGO AND Mom's iPad? The kids were all over this "fusion" toy.

    What the moms thought: A nice idea if you have an iPad already, but if you don't and don't want to shell out for an expensive gadget this holiday, the LEGO Creator Bike Shop and Cafe ($89.99) might be a better way to let your kids play "city."

  • GoldieBlox and the Zip Line ($22.95)


    Image via Fat Brain Toys

    The popular STEM toy line aimed at little girls has put out their very first "action figure," and she comes with a rope and pulley system for kids to put together. The zip line includes suction cups, so it can be rigged up anywhere in the house.

    What the kids thought: It might be a "girly" action figure, but the little boys were just as engaged in figuring out the best way to rig up the zipline and send Goldie flying. The girls declared themselves "obsessed with GoldieBlox" and said she'd be on their Christmas list for sure.

    What the moms thought: Kids excited about an educational toy? What's not to love?


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