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 / level of engagement’ rating is:
This is awarded to the real favourites. Products and resources are required to keep most of our children engaged for longer than 10 minutes at a time (or slightly less for toddlers/pre-schoolers).
This is awarded to the products and resources 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 engage with this learning product regularly and it may be very engaging for specific groups of children.
Many of the children enjoyed engaging with the product or learning resource, and some for prolonged periods of time. It is not a favourite but still provides engagement and entertainment.
We award two stars to those products and resources where the majority of children lose interest quickly and choose not to engage with it again. It has not become a favourite activity with any of the children.
If most children get bored quickly and are reluctant to engage with the product or learning resource more than once, we give this a one star rating.
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:
Five stars are only awarded to products and resources where we find no problems whatsoever with their usage. Although activities may be initiated by an adult, children will still be able to easily understand how to use the resource to its full capacity with minimal third party intervention. An adult can successfully lead the learning activity, where applicable, and facilitate children’s engagement with it without prior knowledge needed (e.g. a parent).
Products and resources will be awarded a four star rating if children are able to easily understand how to use the resource to its full capacity with minimal third party intervention. The product or resource is generally easy for an adult to set up but the adult may need some prior knowledge to give full support (e.g. a teacher).
Three stars are given where third party intervention is sometimes required for the child to get the full potential from the product or resource. The instructions are clear enough for an adult to successfully lead or introduce the learning activity, where applicable.
A two star rating means that third party intervention is sometimes or often required for the child to get the full potential from the product or resource. The instructions are not very clear for an adult to follow, but they are able to work it out.
Products and resources with a one star rating do not have clear enough instructions/materials for an adult to successfully lead the learning activity (where applicable) and facilitate children’s engagement with it. Additionally, the target age group is unable to engage with the product without constant assistance from a third party.
The criteria for achieving a ‘Skills Developed’ rating is:
Toys are tested on their Skill Development with the following criteria:
Five stars are only given to products and resources that are considered to be exceptionally beneficial for learning and development. These are products that allow children to be actively involved with the learning experience and offer opportunities for children to continually extend and apply their knowledge. The product or resource will include additional guidance for adults, to help them support children’s learning to extend their knowledge.
5 Stars are hard to achieve and are only available for toys we consider exceptionally good for learning and development.
Products and resources with a four star rating have clear educational benefits. They allow children to be actively involved in the learning experience. These products will provide some opportunities for children to apply their knowledge to reinforce learning.
Products and resources with a three star rating for skills developed offer opportunities for children to be involved in the learning experience. However, they will often need an adult to facilitate or support this.
Products and resources that are rated two stars have the potential for the development of skills, but have limited ways to involve the child in the learning experience. In order to achieve learning outcomes, they will normally rely on heavy involvement from an adult to lead or encourage active learning. While they may reinforce skills that children have already grasped, they will not usually have opportunities for progression.
One star is given to products and resources that do not help children gain new knowledge or skills. Products that receive this rating may be too simple or too challenging for their target age range, meaning that children don’t have the opportunities to grow their skills, or that the skill level is unachievable for the target age.