Toy Fair 2011: Top 10 Toys for Grade-School Kids

Filed under: Toys

Plodding through the seemingly endless labyrinth of playthings during Toy Fair 2011, every doll, remote-controlled vehicle and board game you see starts to blend into the next. That's why, when a new toy manages to stand out amid the crowd, you know it's got something special going on. And what were the most common themes among this year's standout toys? Robots, bugs and robot bugs. Here are the 10 most exciting new playthings for grade-schoolers at this year's Toy Fair.

Activision

1. Activision Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure

This new twist in video-gaming completely blends the real and virtual worlds. Kids can take real, three-dimensional toys –- figures of Spyro the little purple dragon and about 30 of his friends –- and insert them directly into a video game. Plug the Portal of Power into your game console (in this case, a Nintendo Wii), then place the figure of your choice onto the portal, and –- voila! –- that character appears onscreen. Put two characters on the Portal and both show up in the game, to either fight each other or help out cooperatively.

Available everywhere in fall 2011. Price: $69 for the game, portal, and three figures; less than $10 for additional figures.

Innovation First

2. Innovation First Glow-in-the-Dark Hexbug Nano Habitat Set

These insectoid mini-robots made a huge splash at last year's Toy Fair and, this time around, these little bug-bots can be seen zipping through their curving race-track-style habitats with super-bright glow-in-the-dark coloring. This exciting new dimension makes the playset feel like an outer-space robot ant farm speedway.

Available at specialty stores nationwide in August 2011. Price: $39.99.


Lego

3. LEGO Alien Conquest UFO Abduction Set

Of the many ultra-cool LEGO toys hitting stores this year, the new line of retro-style flying saucer playsets may be the hippest. It's not just the 1950s B-movie feel that makes these toys so awesome, but the nifty brick-tricks involved in many of the models. There's a plastic "grabber" underneath this UFO, for instance, that will allow it to literally snatch up unsuspecting minifigures. And on the alien mothership (not shown), LEGO's first-ever "sound brick" makes a perfect War of the Worlds spaceship sound.

Available everywhere in August 2011. Price: $69.99 for the kit shown here.


Mattel

4. Radica Fijit Friends

These super-cute robo-thingies (bugs? bunnies? aliens?) are programmed to be a girl's new best friend. They chat, dance, laugh and respond to more than 30 voice commands. They can watch webisodes on the Fijit Friends website and react to what's happening onscreen. Plus, their voices all sound auto-tuned, so any kid familiar with today's popular music should feel perfectly comfortable with them.

Available in June 2011. Pre-order now at Amazon. Price: $49.99.


Playmobil

5. Playmobil Top Agents Secret Agent Headquarters

The newest line from the masters of make-believe at Playmobil centers around 007-ish super-spies and their secret gadgets. And that means that the normally low-tech Playmobil toys have gotten an infusion of high-tech excitement themselves. This underground HQ, for example, has a real alarm triggered by a laser tripwire. But coolest of all is the double-agent figure, whose face literally changes from clean-cut good guy, to unshaven, thick-eyebrowed (and therefore, obviously evil) counteragent.

Available everywhere in August 2011. Price: $89.99.


Laser Pegs

6. Laser Pegs World of Bugs

Every single block in this building set contains a colored LED light. Simply snapping them into one another (which can be done with remarkable ease) connects the circuit between them and begins the glowing. These blocks are definitely eye-catchers, and this new insect-themed set, which gives instructions on how to build nine different models (but which can be used to construct whatever your heart desires) offers plenty of opportunity for spectacle.

Available in May. Price: $59.99.


Mattel

7. Mattel Angry Birds Knock on Wood Game

The app sensation makes its move into the offline tactile world, but keeps the same general trajectory-based game concept. Follow the cards to set up towers for those dastardly pigs, then use the catapult to launch your angry bird toys at the porcine battlements and destroy them. Only now you get to hear the delightfully visceral clatter of real blocks as they tumble to the tabletop.

Available in May 2011. Price: $14.99.


Wild Creations

8. Wild Creations Retro Robots Electric Robot

You don't get much more retro than these four fabulous reissues of robot toys from '50s, '60s, and '70s. All are created from the original molds -– the only changes made were those needed to bring the playthings up to modern safety standards. Electric Robot, shown here, was originally a Donna-Reed-era plaything, and can transmit messages in Morse Code. He's got a cheat sheet on the back of his head from those of us a little dusty on our dot-dot-dash talk.

Available in fall 2011 at specialty stores. Price: $49.99.


Skyrocket Toys

9. Skyrocket Meon Interactive Animation Studio

Think of it as the evolution of Lite Brite. Kids thread varying lengths of Meon wire –- a sort of LCD light-up cable -– to fashion their own neon-esque signs. They can follow the licensed Disney/Pixar patterns, fashion their own original designs, or even drop some neon graffiti over a personal photograph. Top of the line "animated" models, flash between two different designs to create the illusion of movement. They also have games, sounds, and can be voice-activated. Cool.

Available at specialty stores in August 2011. Price: $9.99–$34.99.


Uncle Milton

10. Uncle Milton Tarantula Planet

These arachnids (which are, yes, robotic) are sound activated. Clap, and you see them skitter across the floor. The real fun comes in when you place two or more of these mega-spiders side by side and applaud like crazy to race them. Only the red tarantula, Hot Rod, comes with this Creepy Cactus Raceway (available at Amazon, $29.99). Others (including one with a pirate-hook hand!) are available for $12.99 each.

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