The Best Toy Brands For Kids
When it comes to our children, every parent wants to give their child the very best that there is. We want toys that are well made and that will last for years to come. Often the difference between those off brand toys and the branded ones is the difference between a toy they can play with for a long time and a toy that is lucky if it makes it out of the wrapping before it breaks.
For that reason, we have compiled a top twelve list of the best toy brands. Assembled by looking at Better Business Bureau type reports, consumer reviews on sites like eBay and Amazon, and fluctuations of each company’s stock, this list attempts to take the guess work out of choosing quality toys for your little treasures.
It is important to note that when you read the list you may wonder why, for example, Fisher Price did not make the cut as a major toy company. It is not that they were not worthy buy simply that they are not the parent company, they are owned by another toy maker, in this case Mattel, and thus are included under their heading. Only the parent company is on the list here, however, the data for their branches was taken into account when this list was made.
- Bandai Namco
- Leap Frog
- Radio Flyer
- Melissa & Doug
- Little Tikes
- Step 2
- Baby Einstein
A Closer Look…
The LEGO Group is a Danish company headquartered in Billund, Denmark. The name LEGO itself is a combination of two Danish words and means “play well.”
It got its start in 1932 when a carpenter started making interlocking wooden building blocks and grew rapidly when it began manufacturing plastic toys in 1947. It is estimated that more than 480 billion interlocking blocks have been sold since the company’s launch.
Today, LEGO offers a wide variety of building kits including DUPLO Blocks for younger children. Builders of any age can visit 1 of their 125 retail locations to find everything they need for their plastic building needs.
In addition to the toys, LEGO’s product line now includes video games, board games, TV shows and films, magazines and books, and even children’s cloths. Their BIONICLE sets have evolving online stories that engage builder’s minds and their LEGO Mindstorms help children build computer programmable robots.
As one customer said, “Lego is the best toy ever invented. It doesn’t matter what age you are… It allows the imagination to explode with ideas.” It seems these little plastic bricks are much more than a painful annoyance for parents.
Founded in 1945 by Elliot Handler and Harold “Matt” Matson, Mattel has been an industry leader since its inception and remains at the head of the toy industry.
With its headquarters in California, Mattel makes some of the most loved toys in the world. These include Fisher Price, Hot Wheels, Pleasant Company which makes American Girls Dolls, and the number one selling doll in the world, Barbie. They also make MEGA Bloks, Monster High dolls, Thomas the Train toys, board games, and more.
Traditionally sold through chain stores Target, Toys “R” Us, and Wal-Mart, Mattel now promotes internet sales and has its own catalog.
A top 10 contender in its own right, Fisher Price was established in 1930 by Helen Schelle, Irving Price, Herman Fisher, and Margaret Evans Price, Irving’s wife, Fisher Price was headquartered in New York. Since its inception, the company’s fundamental toy design and production principles have centered on ingenuity, intrinsic play value, strong construction and good value for cost. They produced approximately 5000 products since their creation.
Bought by Mattel in 1993, some of their best known product lines include Bob the Builder, Disney products, the Think and Learn line, and the Little People line which includes animals, people figures, and various sets like farm, school, and house. They also have a line of Baby Gear toys including bouncers and monitors.
Nothing can explain it better than Fisher Price itself, “We began making toys that appeal to the imagination, that do something new and surprising and funny. Along the way, we introduced baby gear. We’ve always kept the original vision of our founders in mind, and we remember what started it all: a smile. Today, our goals continue to be enriching the lives of young families, and bringing joy to generations. We hope you enjoy reading our stories.”
Another toy maker that could make the top 10 list on its own, MEGA Bloks is a company from Canada founded in 1967. Although it was founded in Montreal, it is based in Quebec. Established by Victor Bertrand and his wife Rita, the company started with larger blocks for toddlers that LEGO had not developed yet.
After their instant success, the company, named Ritvik Holdings at the time, came out with its other brands such as Mega Puzzles and Rose Art. Mattel bought it for roughly $450 million in 2014 under the name MEGA Brands Inc.
Making her first appearance in 1959, this American beauty is still the most famous doll in the world. Created by Mattel founder Elliot Handler’s wife Ruth, this fashion doll was said to be based on a German doll Ruth had in her childhood.
Over the years, Mattel has sold over a billion Barbie dolls around the world. They have become a collector’s item and are popular with adults as well as children. It has also seen trouble throughout the years as an unrealistic model for the female anatomy … yes, it is a doll. We do not expect our babies to be born with perfectly circular faces with yarn hair like Raggedy Ann do we?
The original company was formed in 1923 by the three Hassenfeld brothers, Hillel, Henry, and Herman. They started by making pencil cases and then the pencils themselves. Hasbro is an abbreviation of the company’s original name, Hassenfeld Brother’s, which was taken when the company began making toys in 1940.
Consisting of doctor and nurse sets and modeling clay these first toys were popular. It first hit it big in 1964 when it introduced an action figure for boys to answer the 1959 appearance of Barbie by Mattel. G.I. Joe soon became the most iconic toy on the market.
Throughout its career, Hasbro has taken over companies such as Playskool, Funskool, and Discovery Family. Some of its products include Play Doh, Transformers, Mr. Potato Head, My Little Pony, and Nerf.
In addition to toys, Hasbro makes some of the most iconic board games under its Parker Brothers, Milton Bradley, and Cranium brands. These include Monopoly, Candy Land, Trivial Pursuit, and Scrabble. Trading card games like Magic: The Gathering and role play games like Dungeons & Dragons round out Hasbro’s offerings.
Another well-known toy brand is Nerf. This brand was designed, marketed, and produced by Parker Brothers, a subsidiary of Hasbro. The majority of Nerf’s product line is foam based weaponry. They introduced their first ball in 1969.
Using soft textures, foam, and neon colors, the products produced by NERF include dart guns such as Nerf Blasters, the Nerf Sports line (which includes footballs, basketballs, baseballs, and others), and Super Soaker water guns. They also make video game accessories for the PlayStation 2, Nintendo DSi and DS Lite, 3DS, and Wii.
Launched in 1981, My Little Pony is one of Hasbro’s most popular product lines. The line was not that popular in the beginning and was soon discontinued. After two failed relaunch attempts, My Little Pony proved that the third time is the charm and exploded in popularity with its third relaunch in 2010 when they sold approximately 100 million ponies.
Merchandise bearing the name and images of the My Little Pony characters has been a huge source of revenue for Hasbro. These products include children’s bedding, plush toys, room decorations, books, puzzles, play sets, clothing, etc.
Headquartered in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, this company was created in 1928 by Lucille King. It was bought by Milton Bradley and subsequently by Hasbro in 1984.
The main focus is to produce educational toys for children. Some of its signature toys are Mr. Potato Head, Alphie, Tonka, and Weebles. It produced toys for the age range of newborn to preschool.
An American toy company best known for the Furby, Giga Pets, handheld LCD games, and audio games like Brain Warp. They offer plug and play games, the talking Dear Diary PDA toys, and licensed electronic Lazer Tag sports equipment.
Founded in 1978 and headquartered in Vernon Hills, Illinois, it is behind some of the most popular video games around. Mortal Kombat, Resident Evil, and the Duke Nukem series are all under the Tiger Electronics tag.
As one anonymous commenter said, “Probably one of the finest toy companies owned by Hasbro.”
First created to be a board game by Richard Garfield, it was first published as a trading card game in 1993 by Wizards of the Coast. It was met with a wide popularity amongst pre-teen through college age consumers.
After a lull in popularity from around 1995 through 2009, Magic or MTG as it is called, saw resurgence in popularity with a revamp in 2010. This new resurgence remains popular amongst people in their late teens and college age years.
This multinational company is based in Kyoto, Japan where it began as Nintendo Koppai in 1889.
That is not a typo; Fusajiro Yamauchi began the company making Hanafuda Cards. These are simple cards with flower designs that are used to play several different games, much like the standard 52 card decks of today.
Hiroshi Yamauchi (Fusajiro’s grandson) ran Nintendo. He was the first to manufacture plastic playing cards in Japan, entered into a deal with Disney to print cards with their characters on them, and began printing books to explain new games that could be played with the cards they made. This rampant success of this venture allowed the company to go public in 1962.
After several failed ventures including a short stay hotel chain, a taxi company, and even a line of vacuum cleaners, Nintendo found their niche in toy making. This segwayed into an interest in the video game world and they secured the rights to the Magnavox Odyssey – the first home video game console in the world.
In 1975, Nintendo’s first release was EVR Race, quickly followed by a swarm of other titles including Donkey Kong. The success of these titles led Nintendo’s to decide to branch out into the world of console development in 1983.
The Nintendo Entertainment System, NES, was introduced and Super Mario Bros made its first appearance. Over the next three decades, Nintendo has released a multitude of titles for hand held and home consoles including The Legend of Zelda. They also own The Pokémon Company. In 2014, Nintendo sold over 650 million hardware units and 4 billion software units.
Toys, cards, and TV shows for Namco Bandai Holdings’ products like Digimon, Power Rangers, Tamagotchi Virtual Pets, and Gundam. In addition to these toys, Bandai Namco also produces stationary, clothing, and other accessories branded with their characters.
Founded in 1955 by Masaya Nakamura in Shinagawa, Tokyo, Japan, Bandai Namco is a mobile, arcade, and home video game publisher. Some of their best known titles are Pac Man, Tekken, and Dragonball Z.
This building toy company was founded in 1992. K’NEX building sets are designed with interchangeable gears and wheels that can alter movement. Their products include the K’NEX building sets, Tinkertoys, and Lincoln Logs.
From their own website, K’NEX says they “did not set out to become an educational toy company, all we wanted to do was show kids that the only limit to building was the size of their imagination! 25 years later, K’NEX prides itself on connecting Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math with imagination.” It is fair to say they have attained their initial goal and then some.
A Chinese global supplier based out of Hong Kong V Tech makes electronic learning products for children from infancy to preschool. They also have non toy related and are the world’s largest manufacturer of cordless phones.
Founded in 1976, V-Tech has continued to expand and develop to meet the growing and evolving needs of the information generation. It also expanded by absorbing other companies.
Leap Frog Educational Technology Company was founded and is based in Emeryville, California in 1994 by Michael Wood and Robert Lally. Their first product was the Leap Pad, a tablet style toy designed to help young children learn and practice their reading skills. The new version of the Leap Pad is far more advanced than that original offering and they also offer a separate Leap Reader line.
Founded by Antonio Pasin in 1917, Robert Pasin, Antonio’s grandson, has served as the Chief Wagon Officer since 1997. Radio Flyer is best known for its iconic red wagon and is based in Chicago, Illinois. They have continued to produce the majority of their toys in that signature red color. Most of them are made using wood, plastic, and metal. Radio Flyer also produces scooters, tricycles, bicycles, horses, and ride-ons.
They continue to focus on ride on toys for younger children such as trikes and scooters. The iconic wagon has evolved into one with canopies, cup holders, folding seats, detachable bags, and more.
This independent, smaller toy manufacturer founded in 1988 by Melissa and Doug Bernstein in their basement and in Doug’s parents’ garage. It is headquartered in Wilton, Connecticut and known for sturdy wooden blocks and puzzles. It describes itself as “offering a fresh perspective on traditional play favorites.” The hot products are outside play gyms, kitchen toys, and craft products.
Headquartered in Hudson, Ohio, Little Tikes was founded in 1969 in Aurora, Ohio by Thomas (Tom) G. Murdough Jr. and focuses on indoor and outdoor toys. Toys such as sandboxes, play kitchens, and the Cozy Coupe. Although now just a subsidiary under the MGA Entertainment brand, Little Tikes continues to produce plastic molded activity gyms, outdoor picnic tables, and new updated styles of the Cozy Coupe. This company also has facilities in Europe and Asia.
Step 2 was founded in 1999 and is similar to Little Tikes in its production of molded plastic toys. Located in Streetsboro, Ohio, “Step2 is the largest American manufacturer of preschool and toddler toys and the world’s largest rotational molder of plastics.” According to its website that is.
Some of its products are playhouses, water tables, slides, ride on toys, and sports sets all designed to encourage outside play. Their indoor products include toy chests, workbenches, play kitchens, and art desks.
In 1997 a former school teacher, Julie Aigner-Clark, created the Baby Einstein Company in Alpharetta, Georgia. Since then it has moved its headquarters to Burbank, California. In the beginning it initially featured learning videos for babies and toddlers. After being bought by Disney, it sells toys focused on art, music and movement and are designed for babies and toddlers much like the original videos were. Now a line of multimedia products, including direct-to-video programs, books, CDs, and toys flashcards that specialize in interactive activities for infants and toddlers
There are a lot of companies making toys out there and vying for your purchase. It only stands to reckon that you want the best toys possible for your children. Do not be fooled by off brand toys, the old standby brands are still the best way to go. But do not take our word for it, research for yourself.
In this information flooded age, you can find reviews given by people just like you who have tried the product and have an opinion to share. EBay and Amazon are great websites to find these reviews. This article took all of that into consideration when making its list of the 12 best toy brands. Take our advice, mix it with the hands on advice of other, and make an educated decision for your children’s toys.