Peter Pan: A Classic Collectible Pop-Up
Ages: 4 & up
Why we like it: Watercolor illustrations by Paul Hess are created with an artist’s eye for unusual perspectives that works effectively with paper engineering and design by Andy Mansfield. The book is enhanced throughout by multiple sound effects. The cackling laughter of Captain Hook’s pirates contrasts with the gentle sound of oars rippling through a lagoon. A good holiday read.
Safety Pin Bracelets
Ages: 8 & Up
Why we like it: Crafty users can make peace sign, firework, and diamond patterned bracelets, and then use the pixelated blank grids to plan their own designs. A gift that will let kids make gifts for their friends.
My First Collection Featuring Splat the Cat
Ages: 2 to 6 Years
What it is: Scholastic Storybook Treasures presents My First Collection Featuring Splat the Cat, a collection of fourteen storybooks for young children brilliantly brought to life through gentle animation, narration, and beautiful music.
Why we like it: This 3-DVD collection offers a tremendous variety in tone—from the charming and cheerful Splat the Cat, to the poignant Goose. All of the stories in this collection are uniquely and artfully animated—managing to convey movement and vitality while still retaining the peaceful appeal of an illustrated storybook.
Connect 4 Launchers
Ages: 5 & Up
Why we like it: Blame it on the Middle Ages, perhaps, but being able to catapult—er, launch—a checker through the air in an effort to land four-in-a-row on a two-level game board was an exciting challenge in our testers’ household. This game absorbed players for the better part of a day—it’s something different and something fun.
Eastern Chipmunk Puppet
Ages: 3 & up
What it is: A detailed chipmunk puppet with openings to control its paws and mouth. The puppet’s attached information offers chipmunk facts and a brief story about how the chipmunk got its stripes.
Why we like it:This lovable petite chipmunk puppet could become a pet substitute for a young child.
Car Go Cargo,
Ages: 18 months to 4 Years
Why we like it: Form and function meet perfectly in this toy. The larger truck carrying case is as fun to play with as the mini cars are. The toy is BPA and phthalate free
Ages: 5 & Up
What it is: FastTrack is a game of propelling small wooden discs across a wooden track and onto your opponent’s side. The discs are launched by a small elastic cord found at the end of each side of the track. Two can play, with one person on each side of a board divider with a small hole through which the discs can glide. Each player starts with five wooden discs, and whoever clears her side of all discs first wins.
Why we like it: Fast-paced, no batteries fun that can be played together by siblings and parents. The game rewards patience (aiming shots rather than firing them randomly).
Knock Your Blocks Off
Ages: 8 & Up
What it is: The game begins when players are given a certain number of patterned blocks which they must match together to build either a wall, gate, fort, tower or steps. After placing their crown piece on the block, kids roll the “demolition die” to try and knock off an opponent’s crown block from his or her wall.
Why we like it: Kids must choose which structure to build strategically. An element of chance levels playing enough that siblings of various ages can have fun playing together. Kids will love it because of the demolition game play, parents will for the planning required for each round.
What it is: A Nintendo DS title that is less a game than it is a series of art lessons packaged in small-screen format.
Why we like it: From crosshatching in paintings to choosing the right brush, Art Academy is all about basics and encouraging upstart young artists to pick up a real brush and start a new canvas. Yes, there are limitations dictated by the DS media, but what a remarkable piece of software this is for anyone looking for a few basic lessons in art.
Timmy Time: Timmy Steals the Show
Ages: 2 to 5 Years
What it is: Timmy Time: Timmy Steals the Show offers the first DVD collection of this popular series by the creators of Wallace and Gromit, which premiered in 2009 on the Children’s BBC in the United Kingdom. The five episodes here focus on themes popular among preschoolers: learning how to share and cooperate, learning not to litter, the traits of being a good friend, and more.
Why we like it: Like its edgier counterpart Shaun the Sheep, Timmy Time uses music, sound effects, and animal noises, but no actual scripted dialogue. Storylines are conveyed through action, and nothing here is too complex. Little ones will be able to follow the loose narrative and recognize the moral of each story without any problem.