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

For 1999 - 2000

Ages 3+

Bears in Chest, Folkmanis, $14
Description: A fabric-covered box that opens to reveal three child-sized finger puppets.
Why we chose it: Puppets encourage imagination and creative play. These tiny bears allow children to make up their own stories.

Ages 4+

Claybears, ALEX, $17
Description: A kit with 16 colors of modeling clay, and 20 clay cutters.
Why we chose it: Children love to handle clay, and can spend hours molding all kinds of creatures. This kit can be used over and over again to create well-dressed or outrageously-costumed bears.

Ages 5+

Oasis, Family Pastimes, $21
Description: A cooperative adventure game for up to 8 players with different rules for ages five to adult.
Why we chose it: This is a rare board game that requires players to cooperate with each other in order to win. Players have to work together to survive a dangerous journey through the desert and bring their caravans safely to The City. Because it comes with a different set of rules for different ages, children will not quickly outgrow this game.

Band in a Bag, Small World Toys, $25
Description: A set of musical instruments including a tambourine, two castanets, rhythm sticks, a triangle, and a kazoo.
Why we chose it: This set provides a good introduction to making music. Since it comes with several instruments, a group of children can learn to make rhythms together.

Zoob Raptor, Primordial, $20
Description: A construction toy with hinged joints that twist and turn in order to construct creatures that can move almost any way.
Why we chose it: Zoob calls itself "the first plastic life form" because the pieces are based on the structure of DNA. Children can build one of three dinosaurs or just snap the pieces together to create their own creature.

3D Gears, Quercetti, $20
Description: A brightly-colored plastic construction toy made up of different size gears and connecting pieces.
Why we chose it: This toy works well. A child can build three-dimensional structures of connecting gears that spin and whir at the turn of the cog. Parents may need to be involved at first to help children understand how the pieces fit together.

Mountain Climb, Channel Craft, $25
Description: A strategy game involving a vertical wooden game board, pegs, dice, and a race to move five pegs to the top.
Why we chose it: To get all the pegs to the top of the board at the same time requires strategy, but also a lot of luck. Anyone can win, which makes this a great game for both strategists nd those less strategically-inclined.

Pump Station Start Set, Rokenbok, $150
Description: A construction set and remote control car kit in one.
Why we chose it: This is an expensive toy, but children play with it for hours and hours on end. After building the pump station, children pick up and deliver balls using a remote control dump truck.

Maze Mania, International Playthings, $25
Description: Children have to race against time to guide their ball through an obstacle course.
Why we chose it: This game requires children to move their ball through a moving obstacle course as they race against a timer. The maze may be tough for younger children to master, but children over eight thoroughly enjoy it.

Ages 6+

Whizmo, Binary Arts, $8
Description: A classic magnetic spinning toy: the magnetized wheel rolls along a flexible wire track to perform various tricks.
Why we chose it: Operating a Whizmo at the basic level requires minimal skill, although a trick book offers suggestions for more complicated maneuvers. This is a toy that children come to again and again, as they work to improve their skills and entertain themselves and each other.

Foxtail Sonic, Klutz, $11
Description: A foxtail ball that whistles, for outdoor play.
Why we chose it: This is a new twist on a classic toy. The unexpected sound effect will get the attention of techno-savvy children, and help attract them away from the couch and toward the great outdoors.

Space Magnadarts, Pressman, $6
Description: A steel dartboard with magnetic darts that comes in either a space or baseball theme.
Why we chose it: This game of magnetic darts can be hung up anywhere, without damaging walls. Children as well as adults will return to it again and again as they work to perfect their skill.

Stick Around, Great American Trading Company, $15
Description: A strategy game for two players involving wooden sticks on a grooved hexagonal board.
Why we chose it: Young children can quickly learn the fundamentals of this game. Since there are lots of ways to win, challenges can increase with practice.

Fun Gripper Flier, Saturnian 1, $10
Description: A neon-colored flying disc with a soft non-slip edge for easy catching.
Why we chose it: Its pretty, it flies well, and its easy for young children to throw and catch. The soft edge will not hurt childrens fingers as they catch it.

Ages 8+

Robotix Remote Speeder, Learning Curve, $40
Description: A remote control car kit that can be put together in three different ways. Batteries required.
Why we chose it: The instructions are clear and the vehicle works well. Children get all the excitement of a remote control car with the pleasure of having built it themselves.

Megadome, Wild Planet, $25
Description: A science kit with a self-contained lab, ingredients, and instructions for making slime, putty, bouncing balls and crystals.
Why we chose it: The experiment chamber included in this kit is high-tech enough to be intriguing to children and makes for easy clean-ups. An activity booklet allows children to make 20 additional experiments using common household ingredients.

Ice Blocks, Gamewright, $14
Description: A three-dimensional game of tic-tac-toe, where the goal is to place as many of your colored ice blocks in a row, while preventing the other players efforts.
Why we chose it: This is an easy-to-learn but hard-to-master game. After building an irregularly-shaped pyramid with the white and blue ice blocks, children enjoy knocking them down to begin playing again.

Pipecleaner Loony Loom, Creativity for Kids, $20
Description: A kit with a wooden loom, pipecleaners, and instructions for making 3 different animals.
Why we chose it: This kit offers a new twist on weaving that has proven popular with both boys and girls. Children enjoy making wacky three-dimensional creatures from ordinary pipecleaners. This is a great kit for children who do not normally display artistic talents.

Detour, DaMert, $25
Description: A board game for two to four players based on the pre-interstate days of road travel.
Why we chose it: The interesting feature of this game is the battery-operated random number generator, which is shaped like an old gasoline pump. The game board (or road) is constantly changing, which means no two games are the same.

Brain Trek, Wild Goose Company, $22
Description: A humorous science kit that makes children laugh as it helps them understand how their own brain actually works. The kit includes both games and electrical projects: adult supervision is required for some activities.
Why we chose it: This kit combines science, play and humor. It provides a nice alternative activity for older children.

The Lion & Lamb Project