The Top 20
20 Toys That Transform Children's
War Chests Into Toy Chests
For 2002 - 2003
Cariboo, Cranium, $17
Recommended Age: 3-6
Description: An imaginatively designed game
that uses the concept of a treasure hunt to move around the board.
Why we chose it: Designed by the makers of
Cranium, Cariboo enchants young children with its colorful balls, secret tunnels, tumbling
tidepool, and slowly-revealed treasure chest. There is an element of suspense and
uncertainty to the game that entrances pre-schoolers. This more-than-a-board game also
teaches some early-learning skills.
Orange Games, $30
Recommended Age: 7+ (Its great for teens
and adults, too.)
Description: A unique, beautifully designed
wooden board game with nestling pieces, packaged in a lacquered box.
Why we chose it: Its
not tic tac toe; its not checkers or chess. This unique new board game of strategy
and memory looks like tic tac toe, but it is played on a wooden board that is four-by-four
rather than three-by-three. There is an added level of complexity as each player receives
a set of 16 playing pieces, four sets nestled together like Russian dolls. The goal is to
place four pieces in a row, but opponents can gobble up their opponents
game pieces with a larger piece of their own. The rules are easy, winning is challenging.
Construction Toys for Kids and Adults
Magnetic Geomag, Plastwood, $20
Recommended Age: 5+
Description: A very open-ended construction toy consisting of brightly-colored
magnetic rods and silver magnetic spheres.
Why we chose it: Quite simply, this is the best magnetic set
we have ever seen: the quality of the materials and the strength of the magnets is
exceptional. Children face unlimited possibilities in creating shapes and structures using
these materials. In addition to static structures, children can create spinning tops -
which hold together up to a certain speed, but then fly apart. This toy provides hours of
fun for one child or several.
Motorized Monsters, Learning
Recommended Age: 6+
battery-powered body to which children can attach gears and various legs,
heads, and eyeballs to create an unlimited array of friendly monsters who move according
to the positioning of the gears.
Why we chose it: This is a construction toy
with a twist. The wide variety of colorful parts and attachments allow children to create
an endless array of cute, funny monsters. Once built, children can press a button and see
how the gears maneuver their creatures across the floor. The monsters can spin and whirl
while standing up, laying on their side, or standing on their heads-depending on the
placement of the gears-all the while making cute monster sounds.
The Bat, Erector,
Recommended Age: 12-14+, with adult assistance
Description: From the Crazy
Inventors series, this Erector set includes materials and tools to build three
different battery-powered contraptions.
Why we chose it: For children and adults who love to tinker and build things,
this set will provide hours of engaging fun. Although the age on the box reads 8+, our
eight-year-old testers found The Bat much too difficult to complete on their own. It is a
wonderful parent-child project, however, and will challenge most middle school students.
Since the directions are schematic, and do not indicate which parts have to be completed
in what order, the project presents lots of problem-solving opportunities.
Works Start Set, Rokenbok System, $100
Recommended Age: 6+
Description: A construction building set, with a 100-piece
pump station; a remote-controlled dump truck, a power conveyor, and a
radio-control center for controlling up to eight vehicles.
Why we chose it: Even
children who dont normally like playing with cars or construction toys become
smitten with this set. The dump truck makes pleasant whirring sounds as it moves about,
picking up the 40 balls or other items. The radio controller looks like a video game
controller, but allows children to move real objects through real space. The price of the
starter kit has just been reduced, and is a wonderful value considering the amount of play
that most children will get out of this exceptionally-well engineered toy.
OOBLECK, Scientific Explorer, $20
Recommended Age: 8+, adult supervision required
Description: A science kit offering
multiple experiments with slime.
Why we chose it: This kit gives children the unique opportunity to
actually make slime: slimy slime, glow-in-the-dark slime, glitter slime, and even bouncing
slime. This ooey gooey science kit includes a number of experiments, and is a
nice introduction to chemistry.
Gross: The Game of Science, University Games, $25
Recommended Age: 8+
Description: A board game involving fun
science facts and simple lab experiments, where players mark their place on the board with
Why we chose it: When Totally
Gross is the name of the game, children are immediately captivated. The fact that
slime is the material used to mark a players progress on the board only adds to the
attraction. But this game delivers more: children and adults answer interesting science
questions, perform gross out activities and complete simple lab experiments to
win the game.
Ball, Saturnian, $16
Recommended Age: 7+
new way to play ball: a pair of nets with handles for throwing a variety of small balls
and water balloons.
Why we chose it: This is a great way to play with children of all ages, indoors or
out. It takes a while to get used to launching and catching the soft balls with the nets,
but once you learn the technique you can increase the distance to keep the game
interesting. The set comes with two tennis-sized balls-one of which can be used dry or
soaked with water. There are also 20 balloons for additional outdoor play.
Phlat Ball, Tucker Toys, $10-$13, depending on size
Recommended Age: 5+
Description: A ball that
doubles as a disc, but can pop back into a ball shape unexpectedly.
Why we chose it: Is it a
flying disc or a ball? The Phlat Ball can be both: it can be a flying disc when you throw
it, and a ball by the time your playmate catches it. The mechanism is somewhat
unpredictable, so children never know when the flattened disc will become a ball.
Puzzle and Things to Make
Tumble, The Orb Factory, $16
Recommended Age: 4+
giant 48-piece floor puzzle featuring enlarged photographs of iridescent and creepy bugs,
offering four activities in one: a puzzle, riddles, a scavenger hunt, and facts about
Why we chose it: Its a beautiful puzzle, and children seem really drawn to
the bugs. Children can see the fine details of each creature in the puzzle, then refer to
the fun-facts poster to learn more about each one. After solving the riddles on the
poster, children are engaged in an exciting scavenger hunt through the images in the
puzzle. The bug-phobic can select the Butterfly Tumble or Fish Tumble, which include
identical activities but different photographs.
Grand Champion Racers, Curiosity Kits, $20
Recommended Age: 7+, adult supervision
Description: Set of
two rubber-band powered, wooden race cars that children paint and assemble.
Why we chose it: Children
take pride in toys that they build and decorate themselves, and these racing cars offer
old-fashioned, non-battery powered fun. Children custom-design their own racers, and then
wind the rubber band around the rear axle to create their own family-room drag races.
Recommended Age: 5+
Description: A foam pallet for making three-dimensional wall art. Children
crunch small swatches of colored fabric and mylar into the foam
canvas, creating their own visual art.
Why we chose it: This is a unique, no-mess crafts project that entrances boys as well as girls. The crunching process is
simple, so even children who dont consider themselves artistic can
succeed at making beautiful patterns and designs with the swatches, over-sized eyes, pipe
cleaners and other materials provided. The directions offer a number of simple and
advanced techniques for using the cruncher, and even suggest that children use
photos as a template.
Robot Tabletop Puppet Theater, ALEX, $50
Recommended Age: 3+
Description: A beautiful wooden puppet theater
with a space theme, and two felt robot puppets.
Why we chose it: Boys and girls can journey to
the far reaches of the galaxy in exciting space adventures of their own creations with
this table-top puppet theater. Or they might travel in a time machine with the two robot
hand-puppets. The possibilities are endless and the adventures are as grand as any
childs imagination. A wonderful introduction to theater and storytelling.
I Spy Challenger!, Scholastic for Game Boy Advance, $30
Recommended Age: E
Game Boy Advance game challenges children with three matching games and one riddle game.
Why we chose it: A wonderful nonviolent choice
for that Game Boy Advance your children begged for and you bought-only to discover the
scarcity of constructive nonviolent games. I Spy Challenger! is both entertaining and
educational, teaching youngsters how to identify patterns and match like objects.
If you have any suggestions for toys for
our next list, please
contact us here at The Lion & Lamb Project via any of the methods
listed at the
top of the screen - or use our easy online Toy
If you send us a toy recommendation,
please include all the relevant details of
the toy, including those seen above.
If we pick your recommendation to be
included in one of our lists,
you'll receive a free Parent Action Kit!