the good Housekeeping Research Institute considered hundreds of new toys and board games for its 2010 toy awards. the 75 most promising were vetted for quality and safety, then tested by kids. Here are the top-rated toys for ages 8 and up:
Tonka Garage Ricochet RC » There’s not much that will slow down this dual-sided, remote-controlled vehicle that’s designed to flip and keep on racing. the touch of a button activates the hydraulics, moving the car’s body upward so it can speed right over small objects ($80).
Jakks Pacific Spy Net Video Watch » An aspiring secret agent is always armed for an undercover mission. this wearable video camera and sound recorder in disguise is capable of taking and storing up to 20 minutes of color video, four hours of audio or 2,000 photos — or a combo of all three ($50).
Hasbro Bop-It! Bounce » the elastic-free version of paddleball combines electronic gaming with good old-fashioned active play. Bounce the foam ball off the flat side of the base, playing games that offer time and speed challenges, among others ($20).
Jakks Pacific Toy story Mania » Plug it into a TV, don 3-D glasses and move the Wii-like controller to steer Buzz and friends through onscreen obstacle courses and more. though it’s rated younger, older children have the hand-eye and reaction skills for mastery ($50; ages 5+).
Wild Science Perfect Perfume Laboratory » Kids choose among rose, mint, eucalyptus and jasmine to create a signature fragrance. Or make rock candy — such as potpourri crystals and “sublime-smelling slime.” Instilled during the fun are chemistry skills such as extraction, filtration and measuring ($15).
Air Hogs Hawk Eye helicopter » this super chopper takes color video (up to five minutes’ worth) or photos (hundreds) while in flight. Once it’s grounded, plug it into a computer to recharge (in about 15 minutes) and to download and edit footage with the included software ($65; ages 12+).
Wiggles 3-D Lexigo » this free-form word game starts with a ring of hexagonal letter tiles. Players build off those letters, making word chains and building spelling and vocab skills ($25; ages 10+).
Techno Source Bubble Talk » A sense of humor and knowing your competition win points. Players pick the caption from their hand that they find funniest for the upturned photo card. the judge looks at them to select the match that’s most amusing ($20).
Educational Insights Blurt! » to win, you’ll need to think on your toes and speak up fast. A clue is read aloud: “The day before today.” the first person or team to shout the answer (“Yesterday!”) moves ahead on the board. Harder clues are worth more spaces ($20; ages 7+).
Lego Minotaurus » Players build the board, then roll a die to see how many spaces or which Lego-block walls to move to hinder opponents. the goal is to reach the temple first but avoid the minotaur figurine; an encounter sends you back to the start. ($25; ages 7+).
Educational Insights Laundry Jumble » this was a huge hit with kids, despite its chorelike theme. There’s a mess of miniature clothing in the dryer, and players must remove an item (hat, pants, etc.) by feel alone. Snag the dreaded skunk’s undies and lose points. ($25; ages 4+).
Crayola Doodle Match » Before playing, children shade in a color spinner and the game-card pictures. Spin both the picture-selecting and colored-in spinners, and flip up a card to find a match. no luck? Replace the card. soon, memory comes into play ($25; ages 3+).
on another matter » good Housekeeping Research Institute prepared 16 mail-order spiral-cut hams according to the companies’ instructions to find the best-tasting options for your holiday party. In first place was the “natural, smoky flavor” of Honey Baked’s Half Ham ($73.95 for 10-pound ham, plus shipping and handling; honeybaked.com), which won over tasters, who couldn’t get enough of its tender meat and uniquely crunchy, sugary crust. In second place, tasters loved the Holiday Ham Co.’s Honey Glazed Half Ham ($74.95 for an 8-pound ham, shipping and handling included; holidayham.com) for its “tasty glaze,” moist texture and hickory-smoked flavor.