Putting play to work: Kitchissippi kids inform national toy ratings

Isabel Wettlaufer-Wang, 8, enjoyed testing the ‘Nerf Rebelle: Heartbreaker Bow’ this summer. Photo by Christine Wettlaufer.

Each year, the Canadian Toy Testing Council (CTTC) tests approximately 400 games, playsets, dolls, and other toys to find the best new releases of the year. On November 5, they released their annual list of the top kid-tested toys and books, along with the 2014 Toy Report.

Toy evaluations are based on the experience of children at play, children like Westboro’s Maléa Edwards, 6.

“Testing toys makes me think more about the toy, what I’m doing, how I’m playing with it, and why I like it,” Maléa says.

With only one toy-testing season under her belt, she is already developing the critical thinking and analytical skills that the CTTC fosters with their mission of ‘learning through play’.

Champlain Park’s Shelbi K.S., 14, has been testing toys since she was a baby. Along with her three siblings, she is part of the Council’s longest standing testing family (19 years!) and one of six testing families in Kitchissippi.

“It’s always a good experience,” she says. “I get to try new toys and we do more things as a family, like games and crafts.”

The CTTC distributes toys to approximately 200 families in the National Capital Region who have kids ranging from zero to 16. The volunteer-run charity also makes sure that each toy is tested by kids in the target age group.

Shelbi says that she is now mostly testing books and games, although she still gets a few of her favorites – arts and crafts projects.

Hampton Park’s Alexandra Bean, 4, tested 12 toys this summer, most of which were playsets and dolls. Her favourite toy was Colour-a-Cape Princess, a craft project that had her colouring a satin-trimmed fabric cape, which has now become her top dress-up accessory.

Alexandra and her six-year-old brother Thomas loved the anticipation of receiving new toys to test and discovered new kinds of play they had not tried before.

Westboro’s Isabel Wettlaufer-Wang, 8, said she enjoyed the process because “it is fun work. It makes me feel good to be playing for a reason.”

Member families pay an annual fee of $35 and are guaranteed to test at least three toys during the May-August testing period. Most get more – Isabel tested 16 toys and 10 books this summer.

Toy testers have toys for a period of six to eight weeks, which Isabel says is “just the right period” for enjoying a toy before getting bored of it.

At the end of the testing period, testing families return the toy to the CTTC along with a completed questionnaire that covers areas of assembly, design, function, play value, durability and safety.

Maléa enjoyed working with her mother to complete the evaluations. Like many testers, she takes pride in her volunteer role and responsibilities and takes her job seriously.

Isabel understands that her evaluations make their way to toy manufacturers.

“It’s nice to give our feedback on what we like and don’t like,” says her mom, Christine Wettlaufer. “We’re smarter shoppers now,” she adds, saying that through testing they have gained a better understanding of which toys have staying power and which ones just end up on the shelf.

The list of award winners, the complete 2014 Toy Report, as well as information about becoming a toy testing family, is available online at www.toy-testing.org




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