First Place – What’Zit from The Original Toy Company
For ages 3 to 100, What’Zit is “a wooden, multicolor little do-nothing that will keep ’em busy for hours,” says the company. The block-like pieces are strung together with elastic so that kids (and adults) can manipulate them around to make a rectangle, square or tower.
We heard about What’Zit last April when toy store owner Gwen Ottenberg of Imagine That in Wichita, Kansas, recom-mended it to us. “It’s just a fidgeter,” she noted, but as fidgeters go, this one has the kind of features moms love – it’s sturdy, easy to clean, small enough to fit in a purse, and easy for a child to hold on his own. Best of all, it’s quiet. It keeps kids busy while they’re waiting or traveling, and in the classroom, WHAT’ Zit play relaxes and calms (not just the students, but also the teachers). It’s a soothing toy that’s particularly effective for children on the autism spectrum.
Don’t forget to recommend What’Zit to adults. Reviewers suggested that there’s a place for them on desks, boardroom tables, and in cubicles; and we spotted it on the web-site officeplayground.com.
There is no wrong way to play with a What’Zit, and it helps build manual dexterity. “We love it because it’s simple, imaginative, relaxing, colorful and affordable,” said a message from ANDREU Toys in Catuluña, Spain, that accompanied their Facebook vote.
We agree. We also like its shiny wooden feel, and its modern, colorful and fun design. The What’Zit is small, but grabs attention when it’s displayed on the counters and shelves of specialty toy stores.
Second Place –Magformers, Magformers LLC
Toy store owners missed Magformers magnetic construction sets when they suddenly disappeared from the market a few years ago, but now they’re back stronger and more exciting than ever.
Recommend sets of this building toy for children ages 3 through 9, because Magformers not only “foster brain development through fun and educational exploration,” they also help develop
- coordination and small motor skills,
- problem solving,
- following simple directions and
- geometric learning
Kids enjoy playing with the colored shapes to make patterns, plus 3-D structures and figures. The strong neodymium magnets do a great job of keeping the pieces together while they’re building, so it’s easy for kids to experiment and explore with the geometric pieces.
Like the Fabulous First-Place Winner, Magformers play is relaxing and calming, say parents. One mommy blogger uses them for play dates because a group of kids can play with them peacefully as long as she has enough pieces. She fidgets with them, too, and likes the pleasant clicking sound they make.
Because they come in a variety of sets in a range of price points, Magformers meet a variety of needs and keep people coming back to buy more.
Third Place – Tobbles, Fat Brain Toys
The cheerful and streamlined design of this balancing/stacking toy is part of Tobbles’ appeal. “It’s unique and very modern looking,” noted Williamstown, Massachusetts, toy retailer Michele Gietz of Where’d You Get That!? when she recommended it last year.
It is very modern looking – like nothing else in the playroom, really – and that’s a big part of Tobbles’ appeal. Its look attracts adults and older children, in addition to toddlers. Its name makes it memorable by describing not only what it does, but also (sort of) the group of kids who play with it.
Toddlers love Tobbles, especially the effect of the pieces falling down and rolling around. They like to touch and grasp the carved-out bowl shapes, and turn them upside down and line them up sideways. The rounded shapes (as opposed to hard-eged squares and rectangles) are faster and easier for the brain to process, and artists believe that circles are welcoming and soft. People want to touch them.
That’s certainly the case with Tobbles.
Preschool teachers report that parents, and their students’ older brothers and sisters, can’t stop fidgeting with them. One reviewer said Tobbles “feel expensive.” And yes, some moms have suggested they be moved from the playroom to the boardroom.
Honorable Mentions Include Familiar Classics and Variations on Classic Themes
Snap Circuits from Elenco
Loopdedoo from Ann Williams Group
Duct Tape Kits from ALEX Toys
Primary Science Jumbo Magnifiers from Learning Resources learningresources.com
Sticky Mosaics from The Orb Factory
Do-A-Dot Art! Markers
from Do-A-Dot Art
got milk? Magic Straws
from Reach Companies