Here’s the latest list of the most unique “Toy of the Year” industry-leading specialty toys that were originally available through select retailers from the past five years. These one-of-a-kind toys offer new entertainment experiences, and they’re all together in one handy guide:
2013 – LEGO Architecture SetsImagine tearing your kids away from building LEGO trucks, pirate ships and space robots so you can teach them a little about the White House, Big Ben and Empire State Building? The LEGO Architecture series provide the pieces and easy to follow instructions to recreate cute little versions of international monuments, while hopefully wanting to learn a bit more about the structure that you’ve just built. I think that these model sets are a fantastic way to instil a wonder about historical architecture, while trying your hand at making something constructive from LEGOs other than that TIE Fighters vs. dinosaurs diorama that you’ve been working on.
2012 – HEXBUG Nano Hive Habitat SetI’ve always been a fan of Hexbugs, particularly the Ant and Larva varieties, but the Nanos are definitely strange to me. Each Hexbug robot species navigates its environment in a unique way; the Ant speeds forward and backward as it bumps its sensors into objects, but the Nano seems to crawl in random directions as the small creature bumbles about. The big selling points of the Nano Hexbugs are that the colorful creatures can flip themselves upright if they take a tumble, and that they are good at navigating mazes, like the Hive Habitat Set. Remember setting up loops and raceways for Hot Wheels cars? The Hive Habitat works in a similar way, as players place and remove obstacles in the Hive to watch as their Nanos work their way through the maze. It takes the cool concept of a well-made robot bug and gives it a customizable playground to explore- Pretty neat idea!
2011 – HEXBUG Nano Habitat SetWow, it looks like Nano Hexbugs are even more popular than I thought! The classic “Habitat” is another special area for your Nanos to safely roam around in, (This set comes with a pair of the little robot bugs!), but as fun as it is, the Hexbug crew really outdid themselves with the Hive Habitat above. The pull of the original Habitat is how the player can mix and match the little doors in the set to allow Nanos to wander down different pathways, halls, curves and large cells. It’s another cool play set for your robotic insects, but I’m just happy with my crawly blue Larva and how it drives my cat crazy!
2010 – Captain Owen’s Dolphin Explorer BoatI can’t help but to really love toys like this: Not only is this exploration and imagination set completely marketing and franchise free, it is made from recycled wood and reclaimed plastic for a completely ecofriendly toy. This charming set comes with Captain Owen in his yellow rain gear, his trusty blue boat, a pair of friendly dolphins, as well as a lifeboat and a life preserver just in case your kid plans on taking Owen through rough waters in the bath. (It’s going to happen Owen- Just be thankful that you have them!) No batteries needed here, just good old fashioned, environmentally sustainable, imagination-based playtime.
2009 – Create Your Own Pop-Up BooksI enjoyed drawing and telling stories when I was a kid, and as soon as I saw this pop-up book making kit, I knew that this would’ve been something special to create with my parents. The set comes with several sturdy blank hardcover books, along with a host of book making supplies, including markers, stickers and other add-ons to deck out the 3D pages for the perfect parent and child project. As that kid who couldn’t stop reading, both to myself and to everyone around me, I’d have really enjoyed taking my sweet time making the ultimate dinosaur-themed pop-up book today for tonight’s bedtime story. If you’ve got a little one who likes to read and make art, this is a must-buy.
Don’t worry about having to run all over town to find the “indie” toy shops that sell these goodies, as they’re all on Amazon! Which of these specialty toys do you feel are the most exceptional of the bunch? I’m pulling for those awesome Lego sets, but share your thoughts in the comments below!