Zany Fun: Have a Ball With a Party Animal
Our testers were bullish about the Moose Popper. Load one of the six foam balls into its waiting chompers, then press the belly to send the ball flying up to 20 feet. Twelve other animals are also available.
Ages 4 and up, Hog Wild, $10.95
Far-Out Fairy Tale: A Book That's Just Right
Bears, chairs, and porridge figure big in The Goldilocks Variations, but not as expected. In seven witty retellings, Goldilocks encounters 33 bears, some antennaed aliens ("Who's been dodderling my spootz?"), and a talking bowl of mush named Morris. In the loopy center of it, father-daughter collaborators Allan and Jessica Ahlberg tuck a raucously funny mini book (Goldilocks The Play).
Ages 5 to 10, Candlewick, $17.99
Great Activity Book: This Gift Gets Two Thumbs Up
In Finger Fun!, authors Pam Abrams and Ellen Shea show dozens of clever ways to turn kids' digits into silly characters. Use the included materials (washable markers, embroidery floss, pom-poms) or household items and toys, such as the hats shown below, to transform fingers--and toes! Then sit back and watch the show.
Ages 6 and up, Downtown Bookworks, $9.99
For Wannabe Private Eyes: Solve the Birthday Gift Dilemma
How to Be a Detective makes sleuthing, well, elementary! Crime novelist Dan Waddell spills the secrets of tracking footprints, reading perp body language, and much more. Brightly illustrated by Jim Smith, this absorbing primer gives gumshoes a real case to crack, along with materials for a DIY periscope and an ink pad for processing fingerprints.
Ages 7 to 11, Candlewick, $20
Game of Skill: A Ribbiting Challenge
The object of Flingin' Frogs is deceptively simple: try to flip your plastic frogs onto the various lily pads to score the most points and win. The challenge--and the fun--is getting the frogs to land where you want. Our testers played this game over ... and over ... and over.
1 to 4 players. Ages 4 and up, Patch Products, $8.99