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The annual roundup of Nick Jr.’s picks for the best toys of the year began at Toy Fair every February, and continued until November when the list was (finally) published. In the process, testers played with and evaluated over 500 toys, looking for quality, value, skills taught, age appropriateness, and fun. The feature was always one of the most popular stories of the year, drawing both new readers and advertisers. The perennial challenge was to give it a unique spin, differentiating it from other magazines and topping our own story from the previous year.
Editorial and visual excitement shifted the focus year to year. In 2006 (pictured), the focus was on all kinds—and prices—of gifts that tapped into kids’ current passions, ranging from animals to art to music and building. Recognizing that parents no longer limit their shopping sprees to the mass market toy aisles, we found unique items in museums, clothing stores, and on-line. In 2005, we showed parents how to extend the fun (and skill-building) of play by focusing on their child’s one “must-have” toy. Shooting on location made it seem more like a lifestyle story than a toy catalog. In 2004, we gave parents the 411 on streamlined shopping—with tips, Websites, best days and the best ways to buy. We even included a convenient shopping list.