Toy Testers 2007: Best and Worst Toys for Boys

Toy Testers 2007: Best and Worst Toys for Boys
By: Lauren Keith

Toys for boys comes down to this: if it doesn't shoot or have a remote control, you can cross it off your little boy's wish list.  Here's what the students at Deer Creek Christian Academy in Cape Girardeau liked in my 2007 toy test for boys.
I left almost a dozen toys with the students for about one school week.  When I return, it's clear what's tops---it's the shooting Triclops, but let's build up to that and start with the toys for our youngest boys.  First: the Dora and Diego Aquadoodle Mat.
Parents simply fill the pen with water, and kids draw whatever they want.  If they draw a path, little Dora and Diego follow right along in their battery-powered Jeep.  However, if the doodles are too close together, well...Dora and Diego go off-roadin'.  The sensors on the Jeep just can't follow that.  Teachers here say kids loved this new version of the $35 Aqua Doodle.  It draws a B+, because it can get a little water-logged over time.
"This is awesome!" shout several little boys from across the room.  It's a phrase I often hear about the Hot Wheels Dragon Fire Track set.  This $40 toy sends race cars shooting through the loops.  And, be careful of the dragon---he periodically swoops down, trying to chomp away at the race cars.  However, we only saw him do that once, and the toy overall is pretty flimsy.  Still, it made the boy's wish list.  I'm certainly glad, too.  It took my mother-in-law and I an entire hour just to set up each little piece.  So, I generously follow the boys' lead, and give this racetrack a 'B.'
Let's keep cruisin' with the cars, and check out Mattel's My First Batmobile vehicle.  It's easy for little fingers to manuever.  The $30 toy has lots of features.  It even shoots darts---at least when Batman feels like it.  The darts didn't always pop out, but the little guys had a good time with it.  It earns a 'B'.
"I'll be the shark!" shouts one first grader.
I wish I could say the Matchbox Mega Rig Shark Ship still floats with the boys, but over time, the kids couldn't keep track of the 40 pieces.  The boys lost interest quickly.  This plastic boat sinks with a 'D'.
The little boys also cruised by the Cars Mega Mack Playtown Playset.  My family had the worst time trying to get this $40 toy put together, and the kids had the worst time trying to keep it together!  It constantly fell apart, even though the Mack truck is supposed to open up, revealing three different race tracks.  "Cars" the movie is still tops, but this toy is not.  Teachers at Deer Creek call it the worst one in the bunch.  It fails this toy test with an 'F."
"Woo hoo!" screams some little monsters....but cute ones at that!
That sound means the Fisher Price Carnivores are a hit.  They continued topping the wish list.  These $13 toys transform from cars and trucks to slashing monsters.  They easily get an A, both for affordability and amusement!  The same goes for the similar $10 Planet Hero Action Figures.  The boys used these toys interchangeably.
Now it's time to put our fingers to the keyboard.  UB Funkeys come with figurines and software you, complete with their own "special secret zone" that you download onto your computer.  The more you collect, the more zones you can play in.
"But there's an evil Funkey and you have to watch out for him.  It's fun!  I really liked it, and I hope I get one for Christmas," says student Ryan Ivie.
Both boys and girls loved these toys, and we love the price.  It's $20 for a UB Funkey starter kit, and only five bucks for each additional Funkey.  So, there's nothing "funky" about this toy's A+ grade.
"It's a manly game!" we hear from a different corner in the classroom next to the TV and the "Plug 'n' Play" video game.
Sorry, girls allowed, apparently!  The kids loved Mattel's Play TV Football 2 system.
"You actually got to hike the ball and throw it.  It's realistic and the graphics are really good in the video system," says one student.
If you can hook up a DVD player, you can handle this.  It easily gets an 'A," but perhaps you should also bring along the uniform.  Several boys tackled one another just to get their hands on this great toy.
While that video system scored big marks, the Fisher Price "I Can Play Guitar" system did not! First, it didn't work on the classroom TV. So, to give it the beneift of the doubt, one of the teachers, took it home.  Mrs. Hexamer got it working, but says the guitar strings are hard to use, and you sometimes hear more from the banging of this plastic toy than you do actual music.  It costs about $90 and plays to the tune of a disappointing "D."
Now, look out---the monster-looking cyclops is our top toy this holiday season.  Both boys and girls voted the $100 Triclops as number one.  It's a remote-controlled toy that fires plastic discs, which are easy to load.  You DO NOT want to fire it at someone's face, please.
"Fire it at Joseph!" shouts one boy.
And, so much for that!  But I can't argue with the soaring reviews from both students and teachers.
"My favorite was the Triclops, and someone in my life is going to be very, very happy come Christmas time," hints teacher Jackie Brandtner.
It is an A+ toy, but don't call me if little brother or sister takes a disc to the eye!  That said, these toys, like the majority of many others, are all made in China, the source of so many recalls this year.  So, please monitor our up-to-date recall list on and happy shopping!

To get the up-to-date recall list, log onto, and type in "recalls" in the Speed Word search in the middle of the page. 

BONUS TOY:  I admit I forgot to take one toy to the classroom in this test!  In the midst of all these toys, I mistakenly forgot it.  However, once I spotted it, I knew I had to feature it.  I took it to my five-year-old nephew, Devin Heuring, and his many cousins from the Heartland over Thanksgiving.  They loved the Hot Wheels Flip 'n' Go Spin City.  The mini race-track folds down so you can place it under your child's bed.  And, with the push of a button, kids can move their cars up and down three levels on the race track.  They loved moving it up and down.  Plus, each pit stop on the tracks is interactive, playing music and comments from the track announcer.  They loved it, but I will point out, it's not always easy to fold down.  Still, it can be easily tucked away.  The Hot Wheels Flip 'n' Go Spin City cruises to the finish line with a "B."  From an adult perspective, I liked it much better than the Dragon Fire track set because the Spin City track is so much more portable, quieter and the kids loved it as well.