NAPPA 2003: Toys for Preschoolers

By Ellen Metrick

For toys to be true hits with kids and parents alike, they have to be fun right out of the box, but they have to have staying power, too. This year's top picks in the Toys and Tech Toys categories will educate, entertain and hold kids' attention over the long haul.

Supermag, Plastwood, $21.95;, 800-647-9989; ages 3 and up. This well-crafted construction set enables children and adults alike to play with the science of magnets. Magnetic balls and rods of different sizes let you experiment and create three-dimensional designs. It is a great toy for the beginner builder or the professional architect.

A-B-C Oy! Game, Dream Green, $9.95;, 888-GET-GAME; ages 4 and up. This card game teaches the basics of the alphabet, such as word identification and order, and helps children form words through a number of fun and educational games. Each card features one large uppercase letter and its lower case counterpart in a bold, simple typestyle on a plain white background to allow for easy identification and play.

1-2-3 Oy! Game, Dream Green, $9.95;, 888-GET-GAME; ages 4 and up. Children will have so much fun with the many game variations that they won't even realize they are honing their math skills. There are slow- and fast-paced games to choose from, so the game can match the players' abilities and challenge them to add skills.

Art Activity Table, ALEX Panline USA, $160;, 800-666-2539; ages 3 and up. This wowing activity table provides the space for creativity and friends to mix. The oblong shape of the table and the two benches provide ample room to fit four to six children comfortably. Paper roll stores underneath and feeds through a slit in the tabletop. Recessed storage cups and canvas bag provide space for all your materials.

Cranium Cariboo, Cranium Inc., $16.95;, 877-CRANIUM (272-6486); ages 3 and up. Find treasures by matching a color, shape, letter or number card to a picture on any one of the 15 doors. Open the door with a key to reveal a treasure. Once all the treasures are found, the treasure chest will open. This is a great game to teach beginners appropriate game-playing skills, and it reinforces the foundations of learning.

Ellen Metrick is a toy specialist with the National Lekotek Center Read more about National Lekotek Center, NAPPA's new toy expert.