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

For 2002 - 2003


Family Board Games 

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.
www.playcranium.com

Gobblet, Blue Orange Games, $30
Recommended Age:
7+ (It’s 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
:
It’s not tic tac toe; it’s 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.
www.chinaberry.com

Picture Link, Binary Arts, $15
Recommended Age:
4+
Description:
A picture recognition and matching game for preschoolers, who must make a path across the board.

Why we chose it:
This bingo-style game requires all players to pay attention on every move. Preschoolers need to devise and revise strategies for getting from one end of this bee-hived shaped board to the other. There are several levels of difficulty, which makes it ideal for families with children of different ages.
www.puzzles.com

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.
www.chinaberry.com

Motorized Monsters, Learning Resources, $43
Recommended Age:
6+
Description
:
A 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.
www.mindwareonline.com

The Bat, Erector, $53
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.
www.chinaberry.com

Rokenbok 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 don’t 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.
www.chinaberry.com

Space Odyssey Explorer, Toto Toys, $50
Recommended Age:
8+, with adult assistance
Description
:
A novel marble run track with a space-theme look.
Why we chose it
:
Children use open-ended and flexible construction materials to build and design their own marble run. The set comes with directions for 10 models of increasing difficulty, some of which look like roller-coaster designs. The building materials include flexible tubing for making loops and spirals. Children can select one of the 10 models from the instruction booklet, or design their own. This is a toy where process and attention to detail is important if the marble is to complete its run - a nice engineering challenge for children.
www.mindwareonline.com

Gooey, Slimy Science

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.
www.lhsgems.com

Totally 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 green slime.
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 player’s 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.
www.universitygames.com, www.areyougame.com

Active Play

Trapp Ball, Saturnian, $16
Recommended Age:
7+
Description
: A 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.
www.chinaberry.com

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.
www.phlatball.com

Let’s Play Croquet, ALEX, $50
Recommended Age:
3+
Description:
A beautiful, brightly-colored wooden croquet set that can be used indoors or out.
Why we chose it: It’s an old-fashioned family game re-designed in a fresh, new way. With extra-large wickets and mallets sized for little hands, the game has a hand-painted look that will charm parents as well as children. The rules of this game are a simplified version of traditional croquet, making it ideal for preschoolers.
www.alextoys.com

Puzzle and Things to Make

Bug Tumble, The Orb Factory, $16
Recommended Age:
4+
Description
:
A 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 bugs.
Why we chose it:
It’s 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.
www.chinaberry.com

Grand Champion Racers, Curiosity Kits, $20
Recommended Age:
7+, adult supervision required
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.
www.curiositykits.com

Crunch Art Gallery, HandsOnToys, $13
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 don’t 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.

www.handsontoys.com 

Puppets

Porcupine, Folkmanis, $14.95
Recommended Age:
3+
Description:
A cuddly porcupine puppet with quills of fur.
Why we chose it
:
Children as well as adults instantly fall in love with this furry creature. Unlike the actual animal, this soft puppet invites petting and snuggling. The tag includes some facts about porcupines, and a charming Iroquois folktale about how the porcupine got his quills. Puppets encourage hours of open-ended play, and are an invitation to storytelling for children of all ages.
www.chinaberry.com

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 child’s imagination. A wonderful introduction to theater and storytelling.
www.alextoys.com 

Electronic Games

StarFlyers Alien Space Chase, The Learning Company, $20
Recommended Age:
5-8
Description
:
A computer game about the wacky space adventures of two children, their fearless canine and their clueless robot.
Why we chose it: The entire StarFlyer’s universe resides solely in the imagination of the heroine, who turns everyday situations into amazing adventures. Children join the StarFlyers on their adventures to places like Planet Funopolis and Planet Cafeterium in order to complete important intergalactic missions.
www.learningcompany.com

I Spy Challenger!, Scholastic for Game Boy Advance, $30
Recommended Age:
E for Everyone
Description
:
This 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.
www.scholastic.com


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 Recommendation Form!

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!




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The Lion & Lamb Project is an initiative of the Tides Center.