Good Housekeeping Best Toy Awards 2017: Toys Under $35

We had a blast testing hundreds of holiday toys at the GH Media & Tech Lab. (Danielle Occhiogrosso Photo)

Our experts vetted 500-plus new toys for safety, quality and skill-building. Then, we asked the toughest critics — kids — to name the “bestest” of all. Meet this holiday’s top hits!

Best Bubble Buddies

Moose Toys Oonies Starter Kit ($20, ages 5 and up): Use the easy inflator to blow up dozens of “Oonies,” which are a cross between bubbles and balloons. They stick together, and you can add silly eyes, arms and more for endless designs and hours of fun!

Lab lowdown: We had some trouble with ones that just wouldn’t inflate, but it’s mess-free, and the kids went crazy for the balloons.

Ultimate Decked-Out Hideout

Moose Toys Despicable Me Mineez Dru’s Super Lair Playset ($35, ages 5 and up): Let your favorite troublemakers run wild in Dru’s lair, which is tricked out with a trapdoor, an ejecting chair and tons of silly sounds.

Lab lowdown: The set comes with two Minions and Dru, but you can buy a pack of three more characters for $6.

Marvelous Molds

WeCool Bobble Bitz Creation Station ($30, ages 5 and up): Use the trays to make a 3D masterpiece, like a star pendant or a heart key chain, out of the crunchy molding goo.

Lab lowdown: Be sure little ones know that their art will harden if left out overnight — it’s a great motivation for cleanup!

No-Mess Paint Party

Crayola Color Wonder Magic Light Brush, ($20, ages 3 and up): Dip the brush into a paint pot, and it will light up in that shade – the paint is clear until you draw on the special paper, so no stains!

Lab lowdown: Keep wipes on hand; you will have to clean off the brush every time you switch shades.

Super Sea Pony

Hasbro “My Little Pony: The Movie” Swimming Sea pony ($25, ages 3 and up): The only thing better than a mermaid? A sea pony! Put Pinkie Pie in water, and she swims laps with a glowing tail.

Lab Lowdown: This character from “My Little Pony: The Movie” made kids extra excited. If she stops moving, remove her from H20 and touch the metal sensors until her tail starts moving.


How to Cat-ify Your House

Make sure your kitty feels as at home as you do. Try these feline-friendly tips for creating a happy environment:

  • Place a scratching post next to the sofa. “Cats scratch the couch because they want to leave their scent where we are,” says Jackson Galaxy, author of “Total Cat Mojo.” They’ll be more likely to use their post if it’s near where you sit.
  • Angle the litter box a few inches away from a wall with the opening on a diagonal. Litter boxes define a cat’s territory, so they shouldn’t be located in a place that’s hard to get to or where you never go. Another tip: “Get one litter box for every cat you have, plus one extra,” Galaxy said.
  • Use vertical space in your home. Cats take over every available surface in a room, from chairs to tabletops. Since they love to climb, clear the top of a bookcase or hang a few empty shelves high up just for your kitty.


How We Tested

Our engineers and analysts first made sure toys met safety standards set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Then we set up toys to evaluate assembly, construction and durability, checked for pinch points and drop-tested them to ensure that they wouldn’t shatter into small pieces with sharp edges or pose a choking hazard. Final decisions came from nearly 100 children, ages 1-13, who assessed the fun factor in our Media & Tech Lab and at home.

Recalls Alert

The following products and vehicles were recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Unless otherwise indicated, discontinue use of the products immediately and return them to the store where purchased for a refund. For more information about the products, call the manufacturer or CPSC’s toll-free hotline, (800) 638-2772. Only some cars or trucks recalled are affected. Contact a dealer for your model to see if it is included in the recall. The dealer will tell you what to do.


Little Mass children’s nightgowns and pajama sets, Nordstrom and children’s boutiques nationwide and online at from July 2016 through October 2017 for between $27 and $42.

The children’s nightgowns and pajama sets fail to meet flammability standards for children’s sleepwear, posing a risk of burn injuries to children. Consumers should immediately take the recalled sleepwear away from children and contact Little Mass for a full refund. Consumers can contact Little Mass at (800) 977-9086 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST Monday through Friday, email at or and online at Click on “Product Recall” at the bottom of the page for more information.

Mitsubishi 2004-2006 Lancer and Lancer Evolution and 2004 Lancer Sportback

These vehicles are equipped with a passenger side frontal air bag that may be susceptible to moisture intrusion which, over time, could cause the inflator to rupture. In the event of a crash necessitating deployment of the passenger’s frontal air bag, the inflator could rupture with metal fragments striking the vehicle occupants potentially resulting in serious injury or death. Mitsubishi will notify owners, and dealers will replace the front passenger air bag inflator with a different inflator, free of charge. Owners may contact Mitsubishi customer service at (888) 648-7820. Mitsubishi’s number for this recall is SR-17-001. Note: This recall supersedes recall 15V-321.

© Hearst Communications Inc.
Distributed by King Features Syndicate


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