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

For 2000 - 2001

Ages 3+

Raccoon in a Garbage Can, Folkmanis, $24
Description:  A baby raccoon puppet that hides in a silver fabric garbage can and pops out at the puppeteers will.
Why we chose it: This mischievous puppet offers an irresistible invitation to storytelling both by  children and adults.  Puppets encourage imagination, creative play and open-ended communication.

Fun Gripper Bowling Set, Saturnian, $30
Description:  A tie-dyed stuffed bowling ball with 6 pins in a convenient lightweight bag.
Why we chose it: The easy gripper ball with brightly colored, 7-inch well-balanced pins, provides hours of fun for one child, a group of children, or a whole family.  A good indoor activity game for those long winter or rainy days.

Enchanted Kingdom Play Mat Set, Felt Kids by Learning Curve, $30
Description:  A giant felt mat that unfolds to reveal a castle surrounded by a moat, and includes 42 felt play pieces.
Why we chose it: Children spend hours moving the characters a magician, king and queen, wizards, unicorns, and other whimsical creatures -- around the play area.  Children are fascinated with magic kingdoms, and this set allows them to make up their own stories, which can end differently each time.

Ages 5+

Hoberman Mini-Sphere, Hoberman Designs, $15
Description:  A unique ball made of polymer links that expand and contract.
Why we chose it:  A new twist on an old toy, this ball flips open when thrown.  It surprises  children and adults alike.  There are six suggested activities on the package, although children invent many more.

pegLoom,  Harrisville Designs, $20.
Description:  A classic hardwood loom with nylon pegs, wool yarn and everything needed for a complete woven project.
Why we chose it:  Boys as well as girls enjoy weaving with this simple, sturdy loom.  Children do not need to be artistic or good with their hands in order to succeed.  The small loom allows children the satisfaction of having a clear beginning, middle and end to their work.  The loom can be used over and over again as children master the craft and continue to create new objects.

Ages 6+

Radio DJ, Wild Planet,  $25
Description:  A mini-broadcast system that allows children to transmit their voices, sound effects and taped music to a radio in a different room, using AM frequency.
Why we chose it: This product allows children to create their own talk radio shows, report the news, or just play their favorite music on the air for their friends. The directions are simple, and children dont tire of hearing their own voices and their favorite music on the radio.

Safari Rush Hour, Binary Arts, $20
Description:  A plastic puzzle with varying levels of difficulty.  The puzzle pieces represent three-dimensional jungle animals, which must be moved around in a strategic manner to allow the players to escape from the jungle.
Why we chose it: This puzzle appeals to all ages and makes a terrific family game, as well as a great solo pastime.  Parents seem to enjoy this puzzle as much as the children do.  It is the latest addition to the popular Rush Hour series.

Sky Ray Delta Kite, Saturnian, $17
Description:  A nylon kite with fiberglass frame and attached tails and line, in bright tie-dye colors.
Why we chose it: This is a good beginners kite, although it does require a good wind. Everyone needs to go fly a kite sometime, and this florescent kite encourages children and adults alike to get off of the couch and head to the great outdoors.

American Pastimes Collection, Channel Craft, $25
Description:  A collection of three classic games -- jumbo jacks, marbles, and pick-up sticks -- in a wooden collectors crate.
Why we chose it: Traditional toys never go out of style.  These high quality pieces come with clear instructions and offer hours of play. Children can make up their own rules and games, too.

My Family Tree, Alex $15
Description:  A combination of craft kit /introduction to genealogy.  The kit comes with felt banner, leaves, markers and dowel for hanging.
Why we chose it: Using simple materials, children can construct a personal family tree while learning and sharing family stories. 

Sun and Golden Parakeets 3-D Puzzle Mobile, Ark Creations $12
Description:  Thick foam puzzle pieces that fit together to make decorative birds that can be hung up as a mobile.
Why we chose it: The soft, durable, colorful pieces make for a challenging puzzle, and also give children a peek into nature. The company makes many animal puzzles, all of which can fit together to create an ever-expanding mobile. A portion of the proceeds from each puzzle is donated for the support of endangered wildlife.

The Amazing Game Board Book, Innovative Kids, $20
Description:  An eye-catching assortment of 50 classic and innovative board games in a neat storage book, suitable for travel or table. Games range from Chinese checkers to dominoes and maze games.
Why we chose it: Board games bring families, or groups of children, together. Different games require varying amounts of skill and concentration, so children can select different games at different stages of development.  Children and adults alike will be drawn again and again to these attractive games.

Ages 7+

Wire Art Mini-Kids Kit, Francis Family Toys $12
Description:  A craft kit with enough wire, beads and tools to make 4 pliable kid sculptures.
Why we chose it: This kit allows children to make their own twisted wire figures of different ethnicities. Children can play with their creations; tell stories to them or about them; or display them as artwork. This kit requires some practice to perfect the skills. Adults may want to work with their child initially.

Magnetic Dreamings, Orb Factory, $25
Description:  A 12 x 12 magnetic mosaic board, with 2000 tiny round magnets in 10 colors.  Note:  As part of the project, children need to punch out the chad-like magnets.
Why we chose it:  This magnetic mosaic set encourages children to create their own patterns based on actual Aboriginal designs.  Children love magnets, and these tiny ones are fun to arrange in large swathes on the board. Adults have also become mesmerized by the process.

Ages 8+

After Dinner Science, Wild Goose, $22
Description:  A zany science kit that comes with instructions and some supplies for 20 or more unlikely experiments, such as pulling iron from food or magnetizing silverware.
Why we chose it: Designed to amaze the family after dinner, these experiments use ordinary ingredients to show how science is part of everyday life.  The value lies in the activity book: the clear, easy-to-follow instructions require little more than common household items, but offer hours of fun and learning. 

Star Explorer, DaMert Company, $25
Description:  This set includes everything children need in order to learn how to read the stars and identify the constellations: a hand-held Celestial Seeker with transparency cards, a belt pouch, a small red-filter flashlight, and detailed instructions.
Why we chose it: This is an intriguing way to encourage families to get out and enjoy the night sky. As an additional bonus, the cards reveal fascinating information about stars and ancient legends. 

Woodstock Country Band,  Woodstock Percussion, Inc., $30
Description:  A set of classic country-style instruments including a washboard with wooden playing stick, harmonica, jaw harp, and a kazoo.  Comes with playing instructions.
Why we chose it:  Music is good for the soul! This quality set provides an entertaining introduction to music-making. A group of children can create a band, or one child can play the whole assortment.  No musical skills or talent needed just a desire for fun.

A Book of ARTrageous Projects, Klutz, $20
Description:  An art activity book created in conjunction with the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Why we chose it: This beautiful book contains both humorous and sophisticated art projects. Ideas range from making a mummy out of an old doll to creating a copper book.

Ages 12+

Cranium, Cranium, Inc. $35
Description:  A trivia board game that engages children and adults by relying on a wide variety of talents, including charades, sculpting, drawing with eyes closed, spelling backwards, and even humming.  The game requires a minimum of four players.
Why we chose it: This game allows children to express themselves in many different ways.  Children who are creative, or dramatic, or artistic, or trivia buffs, or good with words or all of the above -- can all shine at different points in this game.  Parents find out all the things their children know about (but we didnt dare to ask!)

Wonjul Boomerang, Quercetti, $11
Description:  A birch wood hand-painted Australian boomerang.
Why we chose it: This new Olympic-inspired boomerang offers a fresh look at an old outdoor sport. The flying performance is comparable to professional boomerangs. Youths can practice for hours to perfect their skill.  Throwing instructions included as well as precautions hence the age recommendation.

The Lion & Lamb Project