Stevanne Auerbach, Ph.D., is very into playing hence her nickname, Dr. Toy. Auerbachs been tracking trends in the toy business for more than 30 years, so when she raves about a toy, parents can feel good about buying it for their kids. Her picks are ones kids want to play with, not toss in the corner of the room where they will sit gathering dust. Heres her list of the years best toys, which she likes for their simplicity and the open-ended, creative play they inspire:
ALEX TOYS READ ALL ABOUT ME ACTIVITY BOOK ($17.95)
This kit, which includes markers, crayons, scissors, colored paper, glue, sequins and more, gives children the tools to make a scrapbook about their lives. Theres even a little family tree page, so your kid can spend time talking to you, his or grandparents and other relatives to find out more about family history.
B. DAZZLE DIGGIN DINOS SCRAMBLE SQUARES 9-PIECE PUZZLE ($9.95)
This isnt just a simple picture of a brachiosaurus, parasaurolophus, tyrannosaurus rex and triceratops. Its a challenging puzzle in which a user only succeeds if he or she arranges the squares in a way that a complete picture can be seen from all directions.
DUNECRAFT FAIRY TRIAD GARDEN KIT ($20)
With this unique kit, your child can create his or her own fairy wonderland garden and grow lobelia, thyme, clover and evening star. This is a fun way to explore an enchanting topic in a hands-on way.
KNEX CLASSICS 30 MODEL BUILDING SET ($22.97)
There are more than 300 pieces in this kit, along with suggestions on how kids can build their own truck, helicopter, dune buggy and more. Or your child can use his awesome imagination to create other things that go.
MARANDA ENTERPRISES ETERNAS ($29.99)
This is a three-dimensional strategy game. Theres enough of a challenge to keep adults interested on game night, too.
MGA ENTERTAINMENT LITTLE TIKES COZY COUPE 30TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION ($54.99)
Toddlers always gravitate toward this cute little car, which they can push with their feet, hop in and out of and steer. No wonder this backyard staple is celebrating its 30th anniversary.
OWI HYPER PEPPY ($34.95)
Instead of handing over your smartphone, help a tech-oriented child build his own robot, using only basic hand tools and the supplies here. Who knows, maybe youll inspire the next Steve Jobs!
TERRI LEE ASSOCIATES SUMMER BY THE SEA ($39.99)
For more than 60 years, Terri Lee has been making dolls. The sweet Summer by the Sea doll was modeled from Terri Lees original, classic designs. How cute is the sailor suit?
WOWTOYZ ULTIMATE SPACE ADVENTURE SET ($25)
This cool 20-piece set contains highly detailed space vehicles based on NASA designs. The kit includes a 100 Years of Rocketry poster, too.
WILD REPUBLIC PLUSH TWIN SPOTTED RATTLESNAKE ($11.48)
This company introduces children to the wonders of their natural environment in an accessible, cuddly way. Dr. Toy likes Wild Republics cool variety of plush snakes, which are way less scary, and much, much cuter than the real thing.