GQ Best Stuff: 2017
How does something go from “stuff” to “Best Stuff”? Does it look better than anything like it? Does it work better? Is it essential and enviable? If the answer is “Absolutely!” then it makes the cut.
This three-storey hospital has a lot going on. Patients and visitors can grab a drink from the vending machine or look at the aquarium while they wait. There’s an X-ray suite, an exam room and a nursery with a new little baby, too.
Cute Arctic-themed magnetic cubes cling together to create four different animals: a penguin, seal, whale and fluffy polar bear. Handy cards give building tips and ideas.
This board game will get your little monkey moving thanks to 40 prompt cards that encourage actions like hugging, hopping, marching, high-fiving and balancing. An included beanbag banana is fun to toss.
This game got lots of giggles. I would have never thought to buy a board game for a two-year-old, but this game is our new favourite. VANESSA, MOM TO CLARK, 2
Perfect for floor time, this soft little chick has a plastic base that wobbles without tipping. A bell inside makes a cheerful (but not annoying) jingling sound when rolled.
There’s plenty to explore on this buzz-worthy board. Your little one will learn about mechanics via its seven movable parts, including pretty wooden gears and cogs.
A beautiful teether and sensory toy in one, these brightly coloured wooden cubes are coated with a non-toxic finish and strung together on an elastic cord. It’s perfect for bitty hands to grasp and pull.
Cute Sago Mini friends are ready to splish and splash in the bath. The eight piece set includes Harvey the dog, Jinja the cat, Robin the bird and Jack the rabbit, along with four cute floaties. The best part? The characters come apart for thorough cleaning.
I love how you can pull the characters apart to drain the water. AMANDA, MOM TO LOGAN, 1
Kick bath time play up a notch with this battery-powered friend. The spout attaches to the wall, bringing up a stream of water from the tub and running it through a series of gears and tipping buckets, creating endless fun and wasting no water.
Look at mother hen leading her three baby chicks. The soft plush toys link together through hook-and-loop closures, and each chick has a different sensory aspect: one squeaks, one rattles and one crinkles. They’re fun for little ones to pull around or chew on.
He would walk up and down the hallway dragging the chicken behind him, looking back to make sure it was still there. This toy is really soft and durable. AMANDA, MOM TO LOGAN, 1
Serving up everything from hamburgers to ice cream cones, this tricked-out truck comes complete with a cash register, soda fountain, microwave, fridge, chalkboard sign and honking horn. Get ready—order up!
I have to write your order down. TAYE, 3
Sweet Poppy is as soft and cuddly as they come, with a pretty patterned dress and removable knit cardigan to match. She’s the perfect companion for swapping secrets.
I like simple toys that allow for imaginative play. This doll is great for that. JESSICA, MOM TO MIRANDA, 16 MONTHS
You’re safari-ready with this free-standing wooden activity centre. The non-toxic paint is safe for little explorers, who can check out the cute sliding bumblebee and ladybug, springy bird and flower, and colourful movable wooden beads.
With a different texture on every surface, this squishy Sophie la Girafe–themed ball has plenty to explore. The soft toy is easy for small hands to grasp, and coloured jingly bells inside will stimulate their budding sight and hearing.
Inspired by the bikes that flood the streets of Amsterdam, this wooden trike is the perfect mode of transportation for wee cycling enthusiasts to tote their snacks or toys. The cargo box steers the front two wheels and ensures the bike doesn’t tip while kids are learning balance and coordination.
There are three ways to play on this 50-plussong musical mat: Learn about the different sounds of instruments, explore numbers through counting or use your feet to compose your very own tune.
I’m hopping, Mommy! I’m counting! THOMAS, 2
Bath time is no drag with these tub toys. Three bright buckets offer various drainage options; there’s pinholes, moving flaps and a spinning ball. Fill them with bubbles or water, hold them up and watch the bottoms to see what happens.
My daughter was very eager to use every bucket and learn what each one did. JENNIFER, MOM TO AINE, 2
Balance the colourful rings on the elephant’s trunk and he’ll reward you with a cute saying or silly song that teaches about colours and shapes.
We absolutely loved this toy and will be purchasing it to give as gifts as soon as it’s on shelves! ELISA, MOM TO JORGE, 7 MONTHS
Banjo is a rodeo horse who’s ready to rock. He has a squishy saddle and sturdy wooden handles for hanging on tight, and his wooden base mimics the clip-clop of hooves. Yee-haw!
This soft babe comes with a whiff of that classic Corolle vanilla scent, plays eight lullabies and is the perfect size for little arms to snuggle. She glows for five minutes when you press her belly, but with a removable battery pack, she’s still totally machine washable.
She called the doll Bae, which we found adorable. ANGIE, MOM TO ISABELLE, 1
Push Scout along and watch him wag his tail and move his head and legs as he sings. He’ll ask for a kiss and let you know when he wants to go for a walk. The LED screen on his back displays numbers and letters.
While her textured ears are good for chomping, Bella’s got a soft body that rattles and squeaks, colourful patterns for developing eyesight and dangly limbs to encourage hand exploration.
Take Gavin the Go-Kart for a spin around the 360-degree loop or send him flying off the jump ramp. At each SmartPoint location on the track, he will sing a silly song or reward motorheads with a fun phrase.
Whoa! It goes super fast! ISA, 3
This colourful spread adapts to your babe as he grows, starting with engaging sensory play, thanks to dangling characters he can swat and kick at while on his back. When it’s tummy time, the soft toys offer lots to explore.
So, so easy to assemble and store! Just unfold to play and fold up to put away. PATRICIA, MOM TO THOMAS, 2 MONTHS
There’s a star man lurking within this cute plush spaceship. With four segments for babies to take apart and stack back up, it encourages fine motor skills. It also includes classic crinkle fabric and a teether.
Bitty basketball stars can practise their slam dunks with this cute puppy hoop. It secures easily to glass or tile with suction cups and comes with three squishy balls. Splash, splash, swish!
The suction cups are very high-quality, and the net stays attached to the shower wall the whole time. MONICA, MOM TO VIOLET, 2
A cute birdie friend is the perfect companion for new walkers to push along. Sweet songbird Lilly makes a chirping sound as her wheels move across the floor.
Looks great, and the chime sounds are nice to listen to. ELIZABETH, MOM TO STEFAN, 1
This musical octopus has lots of ways to share his songs. Press a tentacle to hear an instrument (like a piano, drum or guitar); to harmonize, press two instruments at the same time and get ready to deep-sea boogie.
Great for on the go, this colourful mobile can be fitted to baby carriers, strollers, bassinets and playpens. It plays five different songs while three high-contrast animal friends mesmerize little spectators as they spin by.
It’s a busy day on the farm: There are bags of feed and bales of hay to sort, and the cow and pig need their troughs refilled. Don’t forget to visit the cute barn kitty and run around with the farm dog. When you’re done playing for the day, stash all the pieces inside and fold it up for easy storage.
The blue house is for the doggy. NOEMI, 2
Your little one will be Instagram-ready with this sweet Volkswagen camper van. Made of solid wood, it’s got an adjustable handle and is a sturdy and stylish way to learn to walk or to push favourite stuffies around on a fun road trip.
This baby girl is sick, and she’ll need plenty of love and attention to feel better. Fill her juice box, and when she cries, be sure to wipe those real tears away. She’ll give you clues as to what she needs through her facial expressions and more than 35 sounds and phrases.
In a game of total chance and a lot of anticipation, players move around the board, bathing the big, shaggy dog with water as they go. Watch out, because this puppy likes to shake himself dry, and you might be caught in the crossfire!
Made of recycled plastic with no metal or small parts, this double-decker car carrier has two working ramps for the three mini cars, and a detachable trailer.
Cool! The back of the tractor comes off, and I can drive the truck with no cars! HUNTER, 3
Standing two and a half feet tall, this lookout tower offers the perfect view for toddlers to scope out Adventure Bay. Chase and Marshall are ready to leap into action if duty calls. There’s an elevator and a twisting slide with a flipper at the bottom to send the pups flying high into the air.
Chase is on the case! CAL, 2
This little robot needs some work: Some of his screws could use tightening to keep his arms attached. With a swivelling torso, head and arms, this pal is a great tool for practising hand-eye coordination and matching skills.
Let’s take his arms off! JUDAH, 4
Each piece is made of eco-friendly rubberwood and denotes a letter of the alphabet representing a space-themed word. A is for astronaut and Z is for zenith!
This toy provided opportunities to teach my kids about space. It’s a lot more than just a puzzle. HEATHER, MOM TO DESMOND, 3
Shape, mould and build your Play-Doh creation as usual then place it on the Shape to Life Studio platform. Scan it using the free app on your smartphone or tablet to create a virtual version of your masterpiece.
This blew us away. My daughter was able to make little characters out of Play-Doh and they would come to life in a video game. LIANNE, MOM TO MADELEINE, 4
Your little stargazer can decorate their space cape with the included simple-to-attach flame and planet patches, and the elastic straps are easy to slide in and out of. Blast off!
This 100-piece set provides loads of creative fun with colourful rods and connectors in a perfectly toteable tub. Fifty building suggestions are included.
It’s easy for little hands to put the pieces together, and the examples of things to try to build are great. JEN, MOM TO FELIX, 3
There’s no shortage of fun in this big game box. Regal players will find beautifully illustrated cards with swans, dragons, and a princess and prince for playing memory; bingo cards; a spinner; and dominoes, too.
I’m big enough for board games—is that cool? SOPHIE, 5
The Critters have arrived at their lakeside lodge. Once they’ve unloaded the van (complete with teeny car seats), it’s time to settle in. Included in the 60-plus-piece playset are hammocks, a sundeck with a hot tub, and lots of yummy food, like a cake, pizza and salad. A mommy and two kid bunny critters are included.
It’s very cute and perfect for siblings to play with together. MANDY, MOM TO ELOISE, 1, AND ADA, 4
Meet the totally realistic doll who learns new skills and words the more she’s played with. Feed her from her spoon, and she’ll chew and tell you what flavour it is. Hand her the Lamby toy and she’ll give it a kiss. Cover her eyes and she’ll play a game of peekaboo. She has the capacity to learn over 100 words, show emotions, blink and laugh.
The kids were so engaged with her, taking her for a ride in the stroller and rocking her to sleep. STEPHANIE, MOM TO KENDALL, 5, AND AIDAN, 8
Learning the alphabet is cool with this chill little penguin pal. Spread out the letter tiles and place Penguin on them one at a time to hear each letter’s name and how it sounds. Spell out three-letter words during “Rhyme Time” or press his tummy to hear him sing fun songs.
I spelled ‘krill,’ Mama! ORSON, 5
Pint-sized pastry chefs can roll out pie crust, whip up make-believe muffins and decorate elaborate cakes, then stick them in the oven and watch it glow red as their confections “bake.”
Look, Mommy, I made you cupcakes! PHOEBE, 3
Great for creative thinking and perfecting fine motor skills, Popoids is a bendy building toy composed of 60 pieces of flexible, colourful tubes and connectors.
I like that the kids really use their imagination to make creative structures. BELINDA, MOM TO JACOB, 4, AND NATHAN, 6
Bugs in space—what more could you ask for? This intergalactic set includes two creepy-crawly Nano bugs, a rocket ship, two rovers, a rotating gravity training room and all the accessories necessary for a safe mission to the cosmos.
The newest wild friend in the FurReal line is Tyler. Talk to him and he’ll roar back. He replies to touch and sounds with a whopping 100-plus responses. He’ll close his eyes when you pet his head or move his body around when he’s snuggled. Tyler comes with a toy chicken that he loves to play with, too.
The movements and sounds were surprising and made it fun to cuddle and play with him. ALEX, MOM TO JASPER, 4
Barbie only travels in style, and this decked-out camper is no exception. Press a button to pop out the rooftop bed and pool. No detail is too small for this groovy retro van: It has a shower, tiny toothbrushes, a table with chairs and a full kitchen, including a fridge stocked with food. The coolest part? The firepit that lights up and crackles.
Oh, the marshmallows are so cute! JOIA, 4
Mommy, daddy, brother and sister are ready to move into their new mansion. There’s a balcony, a pool and garden area, stairs to climb, a kitchen with functioning cupboard doors and a garage that opens and closes. Made of wood, this sturdy home has a ringing doorbell and glowing lights. Swanky!
No detail is missed, and the little figures are so cute. DANIELLE, MOM TO PENELOPE, 4
There are three levels of fun in this jumbo train station. With the capacity to hold more than 100 engines (the set comes with four: Thomas, Percy, James and Harold), it also has a working crane, a helicopter pad and 35 feet of track that can be manipulated into different configurations to fit any space.
Everything you need to deck out four party hats for a great soiree is included—406 pieces in all, including beads, pompoms, buttons, gems and ribbon.
Mommy, look at all the colours and gems I put here. It’s so sparkly, and I did a good job. AVA, 3
This 52-piece kit lets little builders construct their own boats (10 diff erent models in total, including a sailboat, catamaran and hydro plane) based on ones that they can read about in the included storybook.
When the Rescue Bots need to get somewhere fast, it’s Optimus Prime who transforms into a trailer to transport them. Standing 15 inches high in bot mode, he converts to house Blurr Flip and Bumblebee.
Come on, Optimus Prime, you can run through the sprinkler, too! TAYE, 3
Movi is a cute little robot who provides endless educational entertainment with games that help improve critical thinking and listening skills. He has over 60 facial expressions.
This is a great toy that engages kids and makes them think while playing. MORGAN, MOM TO TAYE, 3
With multiple moving parts, including an extendable ladder, a hose that shoots water and sirens that flash, this little red engine is emergency-ready.
This fire truck is next-level! HEATHER, MOM TO DESMOND, 3
Help the farmer fill the wheelbarrow. A moving winch will help him transport food throughout the barn, and the detachable roof grants easy access to the cow and calf living inside.
This popping game requires each player to blow up a balloon and stash it in the Blast Box. Give the dial a spin to find out how many pins you must hammer into the box. Be careful: If your balloon is the one that bursts, you lose!
A turtle, a cat and an octopus are living their best lives aboard this sleek cruise ship. The vessel is equipped with a dance floor, rock-climbing wall, zip line and waterslide. There’s no better place to vacation than on this action-packed set.
Sqweeks is a lovable little remote-controlled bot from the latest Transformers movie. He says a slew of phrases and can groove to music or go into battle with his light-up blaster.
I liked the remote-controlled gun and that his eyes can change colour. ELLIOT, 7
Builders must construct their roller coasters based on the challenge cards. Once the challenge is solved, send your roller coaster car down the 3D track and watch it loop, dip and glide around sharp bends and twists.
Standing three feet tall, with the capacity to hold more than 140 cars, this six-storey parking garage is top-notch. There’s a gorilla that climbs the tower, trying to swipe cars from the elevator, and a giant jet that will fly cars to the penthouse level. Once at the top, vehicles can zoom down the winding ramp, where there’s a diner, police station and repair shop.
The ’70s are back. Complete with a colourful assortment of precut yarn, a latch hook and a pre-stamped perforated canvas, this set lets crafters create a work of art by looping yarn around their hook and pulling it through the holes.
Mom, I want to make this rug. It looks beautiful. ZOE, 6
The hottest toy of last season is back and more sparkly than ever. What’s inside the glittering egg? One of two new interactive Hatchimals named Penguala and Draggle, who have shimmering fur and wings. Rub the shell to hatch, then raise your impressionable little friend from baby to kid, teaching her how to dance, play games and say words.
In this game of feels, players mimic the emotions depicted on their cards and have other players guess what they’re trying to express. It’s not as easy as it sounds: The illustrated cards show things like a mouse working out or a sad-looking cherry.
The kids all played together and loved making the different faces and trying to guess the emotion. GRAHAM, DAD TO JACK, 5, DECLAN, 6, AND ANN, 9
It’s a busy day at the gelato shop, and it’s up to you to fill customers’ orders based on the challenge cards. Do they want a blue cone with a yellow scoop or a yellow cone with a scoop of pink? Quickly give them what they want by passing scoops back and forth on the cones to match the card before your opponent does. And no using your fingers!
This is a great game. It requires a bit of physical dexterity and speed but is good for all ages. RICK, DAD TO JILLIAN, 7, TRENT, 9,BLAKE, 11, AND COLE, 11
In this fun lesson in aviation invented by a real-life pilot, a series of cards shows different stages of takeoff. Collect enough cards to get your planes off the runway, but be strategic—you might run into snags like mechanical failure or bad weather. The first person to get their fleet into the air wins. Look for it under the name Lucky Captain if you’re in Quebec.
I’m going to be a pilot when I grow up! EWAN, 6
The vet is ready to help injured horses in her mobile office, which has a roof that flips up and a fold-down wall for easy access. The included foal figurine can trot up the ramp to be X-rayed and bandaged.
I like how it came with a pad of paper to write down how the horse is feeling. ADELAIDE, 6
Making a sweet sloth friend is easy: All you do is match the pattern and press the precut fabric into the included form using a punch pen. Attach shiny eyes and voila! Your new best friend is born.
This fun ball-launching game helps develop strategic thinking and precision skills as players learn all about velocity. The challenge cards tell you how to propel your ball—with your fist or elbow, and at which angle—to get it into the bucket.
What’s not to love about this colourful collection of mystical-creature crafts? Make a unicorn headband, a stuffie, a backpack charm and bunting with the included rainbow felt, pompoms, yarn, plastic needle, thread and glitter. Neigh, girl, neigh.
There are eight cool construction vehicles to assemble in this 227-piece set. Each machine can be built with a motor that can power it to drive across the floor, dig around or schlep tools. The included full-colour manual gives detailed instructions and cool facts about the mechanics of real-life mighty machines.
This is an amazing toy with very long-term value. We played with this for hours. VICKY, MOM TO CONNOR AND CAMERON, 7
This pretty ballerina is en pointe. She has a soft torso and long lashes on her eyes, which open and close. Her silky hair can be styled into a bun for when it’s time to pirouette.
This marker factory is a fun science experiment with everything you need to create 16 fruity scents. Follow the colour guide or get crazy by making up your own custom scents and shades. There’s a sheet of scratch-and-sniff stickers, plus stickers of fun, fruity characters to be coloured in with those fancy new markers you just made.
Oh, that smells fantastic. I think this is the best one yet! BRYAN, 6
Being part of the coast guard is an important job. After this 700-pluspiece set is built, Lego enthusiasts will have a hulking ship complete with a medical area, a rescue craft and stretcher, a helicopter with pontoons and a landing pad, an office, a moving radar dish and a speedboat. It comes with seven minifigures, and both boats actually float on water!
Let’s throw them in the water, and the coast guard can save them! CAMERON, 7
This isn’t your average Nerf gun. Instead of shooting out darts, it has a blaster that propels soft cars that do stunts through the air before crash-landing. The set includes three foam cars, a long-jump ramp, pop-up targets and six obstacles for cars to navigate.
Puzzle enthusiasts will love this 3D set. Pop out the die-cut wooden pieces to create a woolly mammoth with a speaker and sound sensor. Watch him roar and move forward when he hears hands clapping.
Crafters will love making these sparkly “yarnicorns”. Build this unicorns’ bodies by assembling the cardboard cut-outs, and then warp them tightly in yarn, creating a mane, tail and shimmering horn. The finished product is hot to trot.
Ruh-roh! You’re locked out of your mothership while on a space mission. Use logic, helper bots and challenge cards to find your way to the emergency entry door.
Harnessing the power of the sun, this DIY lamp is a fun lesson in science and engineering. Builders have free range, with more than 100 simple supplies, like holographic foil, glow-in-the-dark stickers, a solar panel, string and cardstock.
I love that this kit allowed them to be inventors and designers, and create in their own way instead of following a step-by-step. GILLIAN, MOM TO NORAH, 6, AND ZOE, 8
Fashionistas can flex their design muscles with this set. It’s fully loaded with pencil crayons and markers, so they can sketch out ideas on swatches. Download the app to create a virtual closet and show off your mad style to other fashion superstars.
This remote-controlled tank is ready to tear things up. With the ability to manoeuvre over gravel, grass, sand and rocks, this small but mighty tank transforms into a self-balancing robot at the touch of a button and is battle-ready with six missiles.
Spruce up backpacks, jeans and school supplies with these shimmering stick-on patches. Affix the strands of sequins to create cute works of art, like a doughnut and a cactus.
Deck out 12 quirky pins using paint, gems, glitter and chains. Highlights include a taco and a cassette tape (have fun explaining what that is to your born-in-the-2000s kid!).
The buttons are really colourful, and the sparkles are so fun. CLAIRE, MOM TO ANN, 9
It’s white-knuckle riding on this soaring two-and-a-half-foot-tall coaster. Build your towering structure using 439 classic K’nex pieces and then send the motorized coaster car zipping around the tracks.
Take away your thumbs and see how hard simple tasks are—you’ll quickly realize that drawing, sculpting or completing an easy job like undoing a button is pretty tricky. With this kit’s four hand bands to restrict thumbs, 60 challenge cards, modelling clay and drawing pads, the no-thumbs challenge has begun!
Maybe your kid knows how to solve a Rubik’s cube, but can they build one? With 60 plastic tiles, a mini screwdriver, spacer rings, metal springs and a host of other parts, they can build a cube, scramble it up and then try to match the coloured sides. It’s the building project that keeps on giving.
Turbo Dave is ready to do all of your despicable deeds! Download the free app and try the coding component to program this Minion to navigate his way around the house, dance, respond to hand gestures and say more than 140 silly phrases. But, most important, Dave comes with a Fart Blaster.
He’s not just a remote-controlled Minion with lots of sounds: He’s programmable, and that will keep the kids engaged over a long time. RICK, DAD TO JILLIAN, 7, TRENT, 9, BLAKE, 11, AND COLE, 11
Makers gonna make! With a new spin on an old jewellery-producing tradition called chainmaille (think medieval armour), this kit contains hundreds of soft metal rings that are easily mouldable to create necklaces and earrings. YouTube videos make following along easy peasy.
A series of magnetic rods work hard to build a structural shape when paired with the non magnetic metal balls. Kids can fill their structures with the included transparent square, triangle and pentagon panels to create virtually endless building possibilities with this 110-piece set.
Silly is the name of the game with this hilarious speaking challenge. Cards dictate what each player must say, with alliterations like, “This playroom is a positive pigsty!” Seems easy enough, right? Try it with the included mouth pieces (there are little ones for kids and bigger ones for grown-ups), and attempt to decipher what each player is saying. Get ready to giggle.
Lots and lots of laughing. LIZ, MOM TO CHARLIE, 8, AND GRIFFIN, 10
So many tattoos, so little commitment! There are hand and nail designs—including watercolour, metallic and 3D illusion temporary tattoos, and six pens for little rebels to freehand on themselves or their friends.
I look like a rock star! AVA, 10
Ready, set, go with this lightweight drone racer. Perfect for indoor flight, a height lock keeps the drone at a set altitude and there’s an automatic takeoff and landing setting.
Everything you need to create a circuit, spinning motor and working radio is packed into this kit. Inventors can explore the “how” and “why” of everyday electronics with the in-depth and colourfully illustrated instruction book.
Even the instructions for this set are fun. My son was excited about what he was going to ‘invent’ and now understands the mechanics of things better than I do. PAUL, DAD TO JOHNNY, 8
Lost meets Lego with this jungle-themed set. There’s a plane wreck, a cave and an ancient temple to explore. Get an aerial view in the amphibious helicopter, or scope out the surroundings from the truck. This set includes seven minifigures, a kayak, animals and a Venus flytrap with an opening and closing mouth.
How does something go from “stuff” to “Best Stuff”? Does it look better than anything like it? Does it work better? Is it essential and enviable? If the answer is “Absolutely!” then it makes the cut.
One of my greatest joys is finding truly delightful gifts for the people I love. I hope these finds will help you shop for everyone on your list. —Jo