After 4-year-old Mia Leng and 5-year-old Lauren Snavely finished constructing a tower out of blocks in their classroom at The Goddard School, they moved on to covering hand-held, plastic dinosaur fossils with clay.
The fossils were Mia’s favorite toy in the room, out of the stations she and her classmates had been playing with all week, but Lauren liked the blocks best.
“I like building,” she said.
If the 2018 Goddard School Preschooler-Approved Toy Test seems like fun and games, that’s because, well, it was. But there’s a larger purpose to the weeklong event held at select Goddard Schools across the country. Preschoolers cast votes to determine the Top 10 Preschool-Approved Toys, which will be announced and distributed to parents on Nov. 1, just in time for holiday shopping.
“It helps the parents decide what are the top educational toys out there for their kids,” said Ashley Ripka, education director of the State College Goddard School.
The school’s teachers also play a key role in the toy test and results. For the various age groups, teachers observe and document how the toy rates among the judging criteria (interactivity, skill development, creative inspiration and more). For the 3- to 5-year-old age group, Ripka said teachers ask students open-ended questions to get feedback.
“You can tell what toys they love by what keeps their interest,” she said.
The toys, from brands including VTech, LeapFrog and Popular Playthings, have not yet been released to the public, so the Goddard students are among the first to try them out.
Three-year-old Eli James had mild criticisms of a Playstix construction toy set as he built an ice cream truck with 4-year-old Conary McClain.
“It doesn’t do this,” Eli said, running the wheel-less construction along the carpet.
A group at the Smartmax magnetic toys station had different interpretations of how to use the toys. Noorie Gaslightwala chose to stick several pieces together to make a horse with a giant torso, while Ezra Hazel was interested in having a pig drive a tractor.
“It’s cool to see what their little minds create and imagine,” Ripka said.
Infants to 5-year-olds took part in the toy test, with 30 toys split into age-appropriate groups throughout the school’s nine classrooms. The school gets to keep those toys and parents will get a copy of the top 10 list, owner Terri Breindel said.
“It’s really fun to see a lot of the newer toys,” she said. “The kids have been loving it, and I’ve been loving watching them play.”