We fell in love with these colorful handcrafted blocks the moment we saw them, as did our blockophile kid testers. More than 30 sets are available, including traditional letters, foreign languages, nursery rhymes, chemical elements, and the Groovie Math & Patterning Blocks, shown here.
Ages 3 and up Uncle Goose, $13.50 to $98
Originally published in the February 2013 issue of FamilyFun
Based on works by van Gogh, Monet, and other artists, these stencil projects give kids the tools to make art that's too good for the refrigerator. Beautifully presented, clearly explained, and, according to one enthusiastic mom, "less challenging than paint by numbers," the kit may have you measuring that space over the sofa.
Kidzaw, $29.99, Ages 5 And Up
Young maestros place up to six tiny plastic instruments (each with an electronic sensor) in the orchestra pit to hear them play together. The real fun comes in switching them around. Replace a violin and a piano with, say, an accordion and a tuba, and the whole tenor of a tune changes—oom-pah-pah Brahms, anyone? With 13 instruments and 15 songs, combinations are endless.
Battat Toys, $49.99, Ages 3 and up
Four popular educational devices all received upgrades for 2012. Here's how they stack up:
LeapPad 2: Front and back cameras mean double the photo fun, and 4GB of memory provides storage for more games.
Ages 3 to 9, LeapFrog, $99.99
InnoTab2: There's expanded memory storage for games, and the rotating camera makes it easy for kids to take photos of their families and themselves.
Ages 3 to 9, VTech,$79.99
LeapsterGS: Using its motion sensor, kids can put a little body language into their game play.
Ages 4 to 9, LeapFrog, $69.99
MobiGo2: Its new motion sensor enables kids to move on-screen players by tilting and turning; a microphone lets kids enjoy sound-activated games.
Originally published in the November 2012 and December/January 2013 issues of FamilyFun