Hatchimals were the hot item at the 2016 Toy Expo and have quickly made their way onto many little girls’ wish lists, making it one of the best Christmas gifts of the season. This interactive toy comes ready to play with many surprises. The big egg is speckled with color and fully charged, so there is no need to wait for batteries before diving into the fun. There are eight different Hatchimals, four Pengualas and four Draggles, but you won’t know which you have until after the egg hatches. However, the color splashes on the egg give you a hint, since they are made to match the color of the creature inside.

After you remove the egg from its packaging, you see two small plastic “keys” at the bottom. Once these are removed, your Hatchimal is ready to be played with. You can hear its heartbeat and play with the hatchling, which responds to your touch. Tap the egg and the hatchling will tap back. Its glowing eyes shine through the egg so you can see when it is awake and ready to play. Leave it alone and it will quickly go to sleep and shut itself off until you are ready to wake it up and start playing again.

There is a handy cheat sheet that lists the different eye colors that you see glowing through the egg. These colors let you know if your hatchling is happy, sad, tired or needs to burp. The more you interact with your egg, the quicker it is ready to hatch. A fun song plays when you reach the hatching stage. The manufacturer’s website mentions it generally takes between 15 and 25 minutes to reach this stage with continual interaction. It took us about 20 minutes.

Hatching is fun to watch as the hatchling inside pecks its way out using its beak, just like a real bird. The beak pulses in and out, hitting against the egg and breaking pieces of the shell to slowly reveal what is inside. You will need to continue to interact with the hatchling, or it will stop hatching and fall asleep until you wake it and play with it again. When enough of the shell has been broken, you can help your hatchling by breaking the reminder of the shell yourself, or you can watch and wait for your Hatchimal to break the entire shell itself.

Once the hatchling is removed from its egg, another celebratory song plays, letting you know your hatchling is completely born and ready to play. It begins by dancing and singing "Happy Birthday." From here, you continue to interact with the hatchling as it grows from a baby into a Stage 5 Hatchimal. The toy itself doesn’t change size, but the types of games and how it interacts with you do progress. It comes with some hints and ideas on how to interact with it, including how to get it to dance and teach it to speak (it will mimic everything you say) and games to play, offering hours of fun well beyond the hatching stage.

Hatchimals are listed as intended for children over 5 years old, specifically because of the small eggshell pieces that may pose a choking hazard for small children. Our test group included children from the age of 8 and older, including a teenager, all of who were deeply enthralled with the fun.

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