NAPPA 2004: Toys for Preschoolers
By Ellen Metrick

Nappa Gold Winners
We all know how vital play is to children's well-being. But when it comes to choosing toys, it can be hard to know which ones will inspire hours of lasting fun, hold kids' attention and stand up to all that wear and tear. Whether they're for the playroom at home or for Grandma's house over the holidays, this year's winners include high-quality toys that parents and grandparents can choose with confidence, knowing they'll stand the tests of time and use.

Gold Award Winners

Dora's Talking House, Fisher-Price; $49.99;; for ages 3 and up. Dora welcomes a child into her house and into the world of bilingual play. This expandable dollhouse unfolds on both sides to provide open living quarters and the middle roof raises to reveal a second floor. There are six areas to press within the house to hear over 20 phrases in both English and Spanish. Dora's house includes Dora, Mama, Papi and a sofa.

My Art Desk, ALEX; $149.99;; for ages 3 and up. This is an optimal workspace for the budding artist: An adjustable wooden easel-top desk lets children find the perfect position to create their masterpiece and four recessed cups provide ample space for the tools of the trade. To add to the fun, the tabletop doubles as a large chalkboard. An attachable roll of paper allows for continuous, uninterrupted play. The wooden paper cutter at the bottom of the drawing surface can also be used as a pencil holder. This desk design is eye-catching and will entice children to sit down and express themselves.

Pathfinder Wagon, Radio Flyer; $70;; for ages 18 months and up. This is a perfect wagon for children on-the-go. Made of durable plastic, this wagon has rubber wheels for a comfortable, quiet ride. Four cup holders give kids - and the adults accompanying them - a place to stow their drinks. This wagon features appealing flexibility: with seat backs flipped up, there is seating for two, complete with a foot well and seat belts. Fold seat backs down to reveal ample space to haul things around. The extra long handle folds under the wagon for easy storage.

Whac-A-Mole Game, Hasbro Games; $19.99;; for ages 4 and up. This one-piece play unit has four attached moles that pop up periodically. Kids choose a mole, listen for its signature goofy sound and watch for it to light up, then whack it back into its hole using either a mallet or a hand. The sound each mole makes remains consistent throughout the game, but changes when a new game is started. A more difficult level of play uses only sounds, not lights.

What's in Ned's Head?, Fundex Games; $25;; for ages 4 and up. Reach inside the ears and nose of a large plush head to match gross, tactilely diverse items - such as a rubber wiggly worm or a piece of moldy cheese - to the picture playing cards. This is a great beginner game because play happens simultaneously and no reading is required.

Honors Award Winners

Cookin' Cookies, Fundex Games Ltd.; $9.99;; for ages 4 and up. Gather picture-card ingredients to make cookies using suction-cup spoons.

Crocodile Dentist, Hasbro Games; $15.99;; for ages 4 and up. Take turns pressing a tooth down in Crocodile's mouth, but watch out, he might snap!

Kooky Catchers, Discovery Toys/Newcon Dreamstar; $19.99;; for ages 3 and up. Play catch using the soft bat and ball; two unique plush animal puppets whose mouths double as mitts.

Emma Drinks and Wets / Paul Drinks and Wets, Corolle Dolls; $40;; for ages 3 and up. Feed the baby a bottle and then help him use his potty. Boy doll is anatomically correct.

Rub a Dub Hoops for the Tub, ALEX; $7.99;; for ages 3 and up. Play basketball in the tub with suction-cup net and three squirting balls.

Smart Snacks ABC Lacing Sweets, Learning Resources; $12.95;; for ages 3 and up. Kids learn uppercase and lowercase letters as they scoop candy-shaped letters out of a bowl and lace them together.

Mix & Match Doughnuts, Learning Resources; $12.95;; for ages 3 and up. Kids practice memory and matching skills as they choose frosting pieces to place on plastic doughnuts.

Kid K'NEX Chompin' Chums, K'NEX; $19.99;; for ages 3 and up. Create whimsical creatures with moveable squawking mouths using the large K'NEX building pieces and easy-to-follow pictorial instructions.

My Little Pony Twinkle Twirl's Dance Studio, Hasbro, Inc.; $29.99;; for ages 3 and up. My Little Pony rehearses and dances on lighted, musical turntables that are all attached and contained in the handy storage case.

Wiggly Water Babies Feeding Time Baby, Playmates Toys; $19.99;; for ages 3 and up. Fill this baby with warm water to create a realistic-feeling, wiggly baby.

Dora and Diego's Animal Adventure, LEGO Systems Inc.; $29.99;; for ages 2 and up. Kids build on the character of Dora and construct a play scene to act out using an electronic sound box for effects.

Pretend & Play School Set, Learning Resources; $29.95;; for ages 3 and up. Children assume the roles of teacher and student using this tri-fold, upright school set, complete with everything a pretend classroom needs.

V. Smile Learning System, V-Tech Electronics North America; $59.99;; for ages 3 and up. Beginner video game that helps incorporate early-learning concepts into play. Joystick is uniquely designed to accommodate both right- and left-handed children.

Return to NAPPA 2004 Award Winners: Toys to see winning toys for other age groups.

See also: NAPPA 2003 Award Winners: Toys