That hand-carved wooden xylophone may be a work of art, but is it really going to make your kid’s eyes light up? Probably not. Do you have to brave an hour-long line to score the battery-guzzling Elmo that hurls itself on the floor, then giggles like a lunatic? Probably. To put an end to the guesswork, we conducted a not-so-scientific experiment: We assembled a fully accredited focus group of opinionated, toy-obsessed 4-to-6-year-olds. We asked the best toy stores in the city to send us their most irresistible items—mini-kitchens, talking parrots, peddle-free tricycles. Then we put them all in the same room and asked the kids to pick their favorites.
Otis, 4 Brio Railway Arctic Figure 8 set, $39.99 at Heights Kids (85 Pineapple Walk, nr. Henry St., Brooklyn Heights; 718-222-4271). (Photographs by Joshua Wildman)