How we test the toys
Every toy submitted to the Guide, is firstly tested by the important people – children. While the children play, they are observed by professionals who have been trained to carry out research with children in a robust, and ethically responsible way. The toys are then put through their paces by our team of experts to ensure they meet our strict criteria in three main areas – Fun, Ease of Use and Skills Developed.
Each product is given a maximum of five stars in each of the three areas, and only those scoring nine or more stars in total are added to the Guide. This stringent process enables us to confidently list and promote toys included in our Guide and provide a trustworthy service to help parents to sort through the sea of toys available on shelves today to buy toys which will really hit the spot.
The criteria for achieving a ‘fun’ rating is:
This is awarded to the real favourites. Toys are required to provide entertainment for most of our children for longer than 10 minutes at a time.
This is awarded to toys that are enjoyed repeatedly by the majority of children for 5 minutes or more. At least some of the child testers will have remained keen to play with this toy regularly and may be very engaging for specific groups of children.
Many of the children enjoyed playing with the toy, and some for prolonged periods of time. It is not a favourite but still provides engagement and entertainment.
We award 2 stars to toys where the majority of children become disengaged quickly and choose not to play with it again. It has not become favourite with any of the children.
If most children get bored quickly and are reluctant to play with the toy more than once, we give this a one star rating. There may be educational resources that are not engaging on their own but are still valuable as a teaching aid.
The criteria for achieving a ‘Ease of Use’ rating is:
Toys are tested on their ease of use (sometimes referred to as usability or user experience rating), with the following criteria:
This is only awarded to toys where we find no problems what so ever with their usage. Children will be able to work out how to use the toy to it’s full capacity with minimal third party intervention.
Toys will be simple to set up and easier for children to use and understand than other toys in their category. Children will generally be able to use this toy without third party intervention, apart from necessary input in setting up (e.g. construction of a large toy, or setting up suitable access for tech toys and tablets).
Third party intervention is sometimes required but the child can make good use of the toy on their own. The child may occasionally need help to set up the toy again, e.g. if small parts often fall off.
The toy requires frequent assistance from a third party, but the child is able to use some features.
The target age group is unable to use the toy without constant third party help (for toys appropriate for use by an unaccompanied child). Instructions are not clear enough to play with the toy/game (where applicable).
The criteria for achieving a ‘Skills Developed’ rating is:
Toys are tested on their Skill Development with the following criteria:
Toys that actively encourage children to develop skills across 3 or more skill developmental areas (e.g. cognitive, creative and language skills) or are particularly good at developing one or more core skills, such as literacy or numeracy.
5 Stars are hard to achieve and are only available for toys we consider exceptionally good for learning and development.
Toys that help children develop either in at least 1 developmental area with opportunity for children to progress the skills significantly, or that promote development across several areas with less progression. We are confident that parents and teachers/childcare professionals would consider this to be an ‘educational toy’.
A three star rating for skills developed indicates that the toy has substantial benefit to a child’s development in at least one area.
2 stars are given to toys that have potential to develop skills but they have limited learning outcomes. The skills they develop are typically less core or may be skills children have already mastered, so they test and refine skills rather than developing them. We suspect most parents and teachers/childcare professionals would not perceive this to be an ‘educational’ product.
1 star is given when there are no obvious skills developed by using the toy. The toy is clearly focused on being fun rather than educational.