by Mimi Slawoff and Melani Morose
Toys that have stood the test of time are usually rather
basic, and there's no right or wrong way to play with them. What they
do offer is creativity and learning through play. So this year we've gone
back to the basics, with such products as building toys, play sets and
games. Most have been updated and a few offer new technology that we feel
enhances the classics. We hope your family enjoys these award-winning
playthings for years to come.
Spinning tops have always fascinated babies. This well-made top
has large "start" and "stop" buttons, spinning critters,
and a dazzling mirror dome. The push-and-spin activity toy, with lots
of color and movement, is designed to encourage gross motor skills and
exploration. Brio Corporation; $30; ages 9 months and older. (888)
a Dub Tub. Children will look forward to bathtime with this versatile
floating sailboat. Place the bright-red boat in the water, and up pop
three removable sprinkler pals: a bear, a monkey and a dog. The surprises
continue with the discovery of a whistle inside the sail and sprinkler
holes on the bottom of the boat. Ambi Toys; $16.99; newborns to age
4 years. (800) 704-8697.
With Me" Talking Peter Rabbit. This adorable 12-inch Peter
Rabbit is more than just soft and cuddly—he reads! Each time you press
his left ear, he reads a page from a Beatrix Potter "Peter Rabbit"
board book. The book can be stored inside Peter's fabric book. Eden
LLC; $30; ages 2 and older. (800) 443-4275.
Animal Friends Meadow. Old MacDonald didn't have a farm this
cute—or sturdy! The smoothly molded set comes with five farm animals,
three people, a sitting bench, a trough, a fence and a tree, letting children
create unlimited scenes and stories. Playmobil; $14.99; ages 18 months
and older. (800) 775-8697.
Convertible Ball Hut. Your child can crawl through a
zippered tunnel port into this lightweight, portable hut filled with 100
balls. Looking for more action? The hut also features a four-position
basketball hoop. The best part for parents: It's a snap to set up and
take down. Playhut Inc.; $59.99; ages 3 and older. (888) 752-9488.
Six Wooden Puzzles. This nicely crafted wooden set contains
a good range of age-appropriate puzzles. Subjects include the alphabet,
numbers, shapes, hands, feet and geography. Cleanup is easy—store the
puzzles in a handy shelved wooden box. Battat Inc.; ages 3 and older;
$20. (800) 247-6144.
Gears! Gears! Oogly Googly Motorized Building Set. Go wild creating
bug-eyed, motor-powered creatures. This 100-piece building set features
jiggly eyeballs, an antenna and a pair of claws. It's bright, unique and
open-ended, and comes with an easy-to-follow instruction book. Learning
Resources; $36.95; ages 5 and older. (800) 222-3909. www.learningresources.com.
Mega Fun 8-in-1 Arcade. If your family loves arcade games
but has limited space, you'll relish this portable, lightweight, go-everywhere,
all-around sports game. With a pitching target, basketball, skeeball,
tic tac toe, darts, a flying disc game and more, it has enough activities
to keep even the most active clan busy for a week. Playhut Inc.; $79.99;
ages 5 and older. (888) 752-9488.
Enchanted Finger Puppet Theater Set. Open the sides,
lower the stage and draw the curtains on this plush theater set to watch
your child's imagination soar. The play-acting stage, which includes bright
finger puppets and side pockets for storage, encourages endless imaginative
play for all budding actors and playwrights. Manhattan Toy; $50; ages
5 and older. (612) 337-9600. www.manhattantoy.com.
Stone Building Set #6. After 120 years, this ancient and distinct
set of blocks is back on the U.S. market. The authentic stone blocks,
made from an old formula of sand, chalk and linseed oil, look, smell and
feel different from anything you've ever played with. The wooden collector's
box comes complete with historical facts, a detailed construction manual
and a building map for architects of all ages. Wonder Works; $130;
ages 6 and older. (800) 275-3906.
Book of Questions Truth or Dare Game. Encourage children to discuss
their feelings and beliefs on a variety of subjects with this insightful
and sometimes zany new game based on the best-selling book. The game mixes
thought-provoking questions with fun and silly dares. Decipher Inc.;
$20; ages 7 and older. (800) 654-3939.
Rokenbok Action Factory Start Set. This building set
comes with 211 pieces, accessories, a sorter and a motorized conveyor
for constructing elaborate buildings. The building process is challenging
(get ready to help, Mom and Dad), but once all is done, your child can
control an RC loader vehicle, and load, dump, scoop and sort small plastic
balls using state-of-the-art radio-control technology. The set includes
one vehicle, command deck and control pad. Rokenbok Toy Company; $199;
ages 6 and older. (888) 476-5265. www.rokenbok.com.
Click on a category below for reviews
of the 1999 NAPPA Gold Award Winners
| Honors Award
The National Parenting Publications Awards (NAPPA) program
began in 1990 as a consumer awards program for children's media, including
books, toys, music, videos, software, and storytelling/spoken word. Expert
judges within each category review and select the best submissions to receive
recognition as either Gold or Honors Award winners. Winners are announced
annually prior to the holiday season.
Mimi Slawoff, a mother of three, reviews toys as the New Products Editor
for L.A. Parent magazine. She has seven years of experience on
the NAPPA judging panel.
Melani Morose is the mother of two, a freelance writer and an Emmy Award-winning
television news producer. She currently writes articles for parenting
magazines and is working on her first book.