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The Top 20
20 Toys That Transform Children's
War Chests Into Toy Chests

For 2001 - 2002


Pretend/Rescue Play

Handy Work Puppets, Manhattan Toys, $11 each
Recommended Age: 3+
Description: Child-sized hand puppets in different skin tones representing a number of professions, including a firefighter, police officer, doctor, astronaut, chef and artist.
Why we chose it: These puppets offer an irresistible invitation to story-telling. When children pick them up, they find themselves telling the puppet’s story, or their own: they tell tales about rescuing people, exploring space, or concocting the ultimate snack.  

www.manhattantoy.com

Firefighter, Police Officer, and Astronaut Costumes, Small Miracles/Learning Curve, $30
Recommended Age: 3+
Description: Beautiful children’s costumes, each containing a few tools of the trade.
Why we chose it: These costumes allow children to become heroes themselves, and act out their own scenarios. Young children love dress-ups—and these are very well made. Children can spend many happy hours pretending to be a firefighter… or just walking on the moon.
www.learningcurve.com

Zoombinis Mountain Rescue, The Learning Company, PC CD-ROM, $25
Recommended Age: 8+
Description: A computer game that enables children to “rescue” little creatures called Zoombinis and lead them home.
Why we chose it: This is a beautifully-designed game that has three levels of skill, each more difficult than the one before. Children will spend many hours with this game before completing it—and then they sometimes want to rescue the Zoombinis all over again! Unlike most computer and video games, this rescue attempt requires problem-solving skills rather than violence—and the visuals and music are delightful rather than dark. While the game requires logical thinking skills, children become so engaged in the challenge of the game they don’t even realize they are learning.
www.learningco.com

Roadside Rescue Brainteaser Puzzle, Binary Arts, $15
Recommended Age: 8+
Description: Players must manipulate the rescue vehicle puzzle pieces in a strategic manner to reach the “accident site.”
Why we chose it: With 42 challenges to complete, this latest addition to the popular Rush Hour series will give children and adults alike hours of brain-teasing fun. This puzzle can occupy children during the long winter months and is also a great travel toy.
www.binaryarts.com

Games

Cranium Cadoo for Kids, Cranium, $20
Recommended Age: 7+
Description: A board game that combines trivia, charades, drawing, sculpting, “secret decoder” glasses and more.
Why we chose it: Everybody is good at something—and this game makes that obvious. Children draw on a variety of skills and talents to win. This game assures that everyone will have their turn to shine as players act, sculpt, draw, answer trivia questions, crack codes, find household objects and solve word puzzles—often with a lot of laughter sprinkled in.
www.playcranium.com

Rainbowland, Cooperative Games, $30
Recommended Age: 6+
Description: A cooperative board game for the whole family that has everyone collecting raindrops and building rainbows.
Why we chose it: This game relies on cooperation and teamwork rather than competition—and creates a whole new set of family dynamics. Players collect sparkling, jewel-like raindrops; and contend with mudslides, storms and a mischievous ogre. All players win as they create a three-dimensional rainbow together—and sometimes they even find a pot of gold at the rainbow's end.
www.hearthsong.com

Carrom Board, Carrom Company, $30
Recommended Age: 6+
Description: A classic, two-sided solid pine board with corner nets and game pieces that allow you to play over 100 games including Carrom, backgammon and checkers.
Why we chose it: This beautiful, over-sized board (more than 2 feet x 2 feet) includes directions for both popular and unusual games such as wild ring pool, ten pins and ring spin. It will have grandparents nostalgic for yesteryear and youngsters eager to tackle dozens of new games.
www.carrom.com

Domino Race Starter Set, HearthSong, $30
Recommended Age: 4+
Description: A set of 250 colorful domino-shaped blocks that can be arranged in serpentine patterns, up and down steps or over and under bridges, and then knocked down to set off a chain reaction.
Why we chose it: This is a classic toy that children can use in many ways and over many hours. It takes some skill and patience to place the dominos so that the “domino effect” works—but children are always delighted when they succeed in knocking down the entire structure. To add to the challenge, this set includes flexible stair-steps, a pillar, bridge and a bar chime that is activated when the last domino falls.
www.hearthsong.com  

Don't Make Me Laugh, Jr., The Lolo Fun Company, $22
Recommended Age: 5+
Description: A board game that relies on charades to get to the finish line.
Why we chose it: We selected this game because everybody needs more laughter in their lives. Players act out scenarios, play charades, and wear a red clown nose to make others laugh as they try to be the first player to go from “The Little Chuckle” to “The Big Guffaw.”
www.lolofun.com

Active Play

Fun Gripper Bat and Ball, Saturnian, $18
Recommended Age: 5+
Description:
A tie-dyed soft bat and ball.
Why we chose it: The “easy gripper” bat and ball are easy to hold for little hands with big dreams of baseball fame. The oversize bat ensures more contact with the ball when hitting those home runs.
www.sat1sport.com

Phenomenal Foam Flyers, Innovative Kids, $20
Recommended Age: 6+
Description: A zany book containing four different flying objects made of soft foam, along with games to play and fun facts about flying objects.
Why we chose it: These soft foam flyers fly very well and can be tossed indoors or outdoors. It’s a great way for children to play together, let off steam, and let their imaginations soar. The book also includes answers to cool questions such as “Are two wings really better than one?” and “How are flyers of foam like saucers in space?”
www.innovativekids.com

Things to Make

Zome System Adventure Kit, Zometool, $35
Recommended Age: 6+
Description: A 21st-century construction kit that allows children to create challenging structures such as “shadows from the 4th dimension” or “squashed viruses.”
Why we chose it: Even children who don’t normally like construction kits are challenged by the ideas in the manual that accompanies the deceptively simple construction materials. Children are also encouraged to dip their models in a soap solution (bubble recipe provided) and make geometric bubbles.
www.zometool.com

Clay Racers, Alex, $10
Recommended Age: 7+
Description: Design and build custom clay cars (overlaid on plastic frames) that really roll.
Why we chose it: Children design and sculpt their own cars, then race around the house. If there is a crash, then kids can do “body work” on their moldable cars. Children face endless possibilities as they change the color of the pinstripes, add a custom interior, or design the car of the future.
www.alextoys.com

Tricky Pix, Klutz, $18
Recommended Age: 9+
Description: A 35mm camera with a book that gives children simple directions for making silly pictures that depend on optical illusions.
Why we chose it: By offering suggestions for genuine trick shots that children can easily pull off with a little help from their friends or family, the book gently introduces children to a new hobby: photography. Children can create their own optical illusions after they've mastered all of the shots in the book.
www.klutz.com

Felted Snake & Egg Kit, Harrisville Designs, $15
Recommended Age: 7+
Description: Children make brightly colored felt snakes and eggs from wool fleece.
Why we chose it: A great way for snake-lovers and non-snake-lovers alike to create googly-eyed snakes with funny faces and matching eggs. Children love the hands-on experience of getting the wool wet and gushy to make the felt.
www.harrisville.com

My Own Band, Curiosity Kits, $20
Recommended Age: 3+ (with adult assistance)
Description: Everything children need to make six musical instruments, from a tambourine to a guitar, out of boxes, bells, beads and dowels.
Why we chose it: Children experience the fun of creating and decorating their own instruments. Once the art project is done, they have hours of fun playing along with recorded music, making up their own songs, or creating their very own band with their friends.
www.curiositykits.com

Puzzles

Look-Alikes General Store, Briarpatch, $10
Recommended Age: 7+
Description: A 500-piece puzzle depicting an old-fashioned general store.
Why we chose it: Nothing is quite what it seems in this miniature general store. As children put this puzzle together, they will be intrigued to discover that every item is actually a miniature made from other small objects. The chair sitting in the corner, for example, is actually composed of melba toast, a hair comb and four chess pieces. Children and adults are challenged to find 152 everyday objects in the puzzle.
www.briarpatch.com  

Magnetic Butterfly Puzzle, The Orb Factory, $20
Recommended Age: 4+
Description: A circular magnetic puzzle featuring 17 colorful and dramatic butterflies.
Why we chose it: Little children enjoy the bright butterflies and the novelty of moving the magnets on the puzzle board. Older children interested in insects and butterflies enjoy the real-life butterfly photos on the puzzle pieces, as well as the accompanying poster and fun facts about butterflies and moths.
www.orbfactory.com

Make Believe

Vet Center Kit, Children’s Development Inc., $25
Recommended Age: 3+
Description: A sturdy kit that includes a puppy in a carrying crate, dog accessories, and a variety of veterinary instruments.
Why we chose it: Children love animals and this kit allows them to practice taking care of pets in a pretend way. Boys and girls can explore the world of animal care and re-enact Fido’s recent trip to the vet.

Hullabaloos, Manhattan Toys, $10 each
Recommended Age: 3+
Description:
Inspired by the classic sock puppet, this colorful foursome is just plain enchanting.
Why we chose it: These multi-colored creatures could be a dragon, a rare bird, or a mouse—their true identity lies in the mind of the puppeteer. Lying on the table, each puppet looks pretty nonchalant, but as soon as you put one on your hand it springs to life. These creatures can fit adult as well as children’s hands—and we found they had a lot to say!
www.manhattantoy.com



The Lion & Lamb Project