Great Gifts for Kids: The Year's Best Books, Music, Software, Video Games and More

As the season of giving approaches, the 2011 National Parenting Publications Awards (NAPPA) shares its best gift ideas for children. From 20 years of experience setting the Gold standard for children's products, NAPPA's team of expert judges, parents and child testers proudly present their top picks of products for children's learning and entertainment.

Want to win an assortment of these NAPPA winning toys, games, books and CDs? Enter the NAPPA contest by December 15.

By Ellen Metrick

For Infants & Toddlers

Kidoozie Stack N Roll Tumbling Tower, International Playthings LLC, $24.99;; ages 1 and up. Reinvented stacking cups extend traditional play to include problem solving, muscle strengthening and the beginnings of reading readiness. Funnel top, balls and a hole in each cup keep kids interest long after their tower is built.

K-Magic, The Ohio Art Company, $199.99;; infants and up. Crib companion, on-the-go amigo and teacher of tots  this hand-held electronic learning toy can entertain and soothe babies. Plus, the 20 educational cartoons, 288 learning games and other neat activities will prepare them for school-time success as they grow.

For Preschoolers

Hexbug Nano Hive Habitat Set, Innovation First Labs, LLC, $34.99;; ages 3 and up. The preschool set can create roadblock diversions with spinners, ramps and tab dividers for the erratically quirky, hyper Hexbug to scamper around. When play is done, the set can be left completely intact, folding up securely for next time.

Kid-Tough® See Yourself Camera, Fisher-Price, $69.99;; ages 3 and up. If only we had as much memory as this handy, kid-friendly camera! An internal memory of 256 megabytes lets kids snap 1,300 pictures or five minutes of video. Kids can easily take pictures of themselves or friends using the ingenious rotating lens. Special effects can embellish pictures before or after snapping.

Mimicking Monkey, Cloud B, $34.95;; ages 3 and up. This ultrasoft bedtime companion whispers reassuring messages from Mom and Dad, which can help keep troublesome nighttime frights at bay. Dual-track voice-over allows 10 seconds of recording and can be quietly played back along with prerecorded soothing sounds.

Perplexus Rookie, PlaSmart, Inc., $22.49;; ages 4 and up. Continuing with the success of the original Perplexus, this is a slightly scaled-down version, both in size and difficulty. Wider tracks and taller walls help the small metal marble stay on the twisting maze embedded within the clear ball.

For Ages 5 & Up

Brilliant Creations Advanced Notebook, VTech; $49.99;; ages 5 and up. This laptop has the look and feel of real! The 4.5-inch color LCD screen comes equipped with 120 activities to engage young learners with the fundamental skills of math, reading readiness, Spanish, music and more.

Meon Deluxe Animation Studio, Skyrocket Toys, $29.99;; ages 5 and up. Sure to be a holiday hit! Your children can thread the light-up tubing through specifically placed pegs. Then turn the frame on to see their design glow in neon splendor. Extend play with games like Memory, Fortune Teller and Sound Visualizer that flashes to the beat of their own music.

For Ages 8 & Up

3D Twister, Silverlit, $49.99;; ages 8 and up. This mini remote-controlled car delivers pocket-size power! Speeding up to 14 mph, it can hurl off stairs, across road ramps and still land unscathed. The dual-sided car knows what side is up, so driving directions remain consistent and uninterrupted. Pistol-grip remote rumbles to feel the impact of crashes.

Little Green Money Machine, DelVisionaries, $199;; ages 9 and up. The playful pastime of a lemonade stand gives children much more than a cup of juice! This ultimate business stand assembles easily with no tools, while the accompanying book gives young entrepreneurs the tools needed to learn how to run a successful business.

For Kids at Heart

Cécile and Marie-Grace Best Friends Collection, American Girl, $234;; ages 8 and up. Beautifully crafted dolls teach about the experiences of two friends during the troubling time of the 1853 New Orleans Yellow Fever epidemic. They come from different economic and racial backgrounds yet tell similar stories in first-person to give readers a history lesson from their perspective.

Nanoblock, The Ohio Art Company, $7.99-$14.99;; ages 8 and up. Once you have mastered traditional brick building, test your skill and empower your patience by constructing minute, amazingly detailed objects with these tiny, interlocking blocks. Tweezers will be your tool of choice. Quitters need not apply!

Papertoy Monsters, Workman Publishing, $16.95;; ages 9 and up. Quirky creatures with goofy bios await your inner ghoul. Crack open the book to unleash mystical, magical monsters. Fifty perforated, paper-folded fiends pop out to an ageless audience eagerly waiting to assemble their own ogres.

Perplexus Epic, PlaSmart, Inc., $29.99;; ages 8 and up. Mastered the original Perplexus? Need a new challenge? With four starting points and 125 barriers to finesse through, Perplexus Epic delivers! Three practice runs get you warmed up before tackling the maze of all mazes. Teeter totter and slide bucket provide extra intensity and anxiety-provoking fun!

By Peggy Brown

For Preschoolers

Richard Scarrys Busytown Busy Busy Airport Game, Wonder Forge, $19.99;; ages 3 and up. The box bottom transforms into an airport with a dice-rolling control tower. Charming, detailed illustrations make for wonderful imaginative play. Kids can fly their planes to faraway destinations (around the room), collecting souvenirs along the way.

For Ages 5 & Up

Color Stix Bingo Link, MindWare, $19.95;;; ages 5 and up. Arrange and rearrange your striped stix, lining them up to make blocks of colors. A race against time and each other, the clicks of the wooden sticks and the vibrant colors make for a visually beautiful play experience.

Trucky 3, Smart/Tangoes U.S.A, $24.99;; ages 3 and up. A puzzle, a game and a toy all in one, Trucky 3 is as simple or as challenging as you want to make it. Pack the clear payloads of three high-quality wooden trucks with funky-shaped blocks. Theres only one solution to each well-illustrated challenge.

For Ages 7 & Up

Highlights Buzz Blast, Highlights for Children, $24.99;; ages 7 and up. Hot Potato meets kid-friendly brainteasers! Solve the problem at hand in your own unique way, then pass the Buzz Blaster timer so that the next player can solve the same problem his way. Loaded with content, its a different game each time.

For the Whole Family

Joe Name It, Gamewright, $9.99;; ages 12 and up. Big fun comes in this tiny game where a simple die roll indicates a quantity in every question. Play against each other and against the imaginary Joe. Any Joe means all-play; Just Joe means you go it alone. Either way, every Joe has a good time.

Reverse Charades, RETROPlay, $23.99;; all ages. Instead of you acting out a word or phrase and having your team try to guess, this game has your whole team acting while just you get to guess. Chaos and hilarity are guaranteed in this fresh twist on an all-time classic.

By Ranny Levy

For Toddlers

Baby Einstein: Neptunes Ocean Discovery Kit, The Baby Einstein Company, 2011; 28 min.; $19.99;; ages 0 to 3. Compelling nature photography and various musical arrangements provide visual and audio stimulation for babies and progressive learning opportunities for toddlers. Amusing puppets introduce segments of lushly filmed marine scenes. The Discovery Cards and music CD make this a great buy.

Toddler Favorites  The Movie, Independent Production  Music for Little People, 2011; 35 min.; $9.99;; ages 1 to 5. Kids have a blast singing classic childrens songs under the kind tutelage of Teapot as he coaches Teeny Teacup through the words. A creative mix of fabulous colors, graphics and animation transform live-action singing sessions into dazzling musical adventures.

For Ages 2 & Up

The Cat in The Hat Knows a Lot About That!, NCircleEntertainment, 2011; 45 min.; $19.99;; ages 2 to 5. Adapted from the Dr. Seuss book series, the Cat leads Sally and Nick on three winter adventures about the arctic, penguins and reindeers. Parents will love the mischief-making Cat in his new role as scientist, setting kids on track for knowledge and discovery.

Chuggington: Lets Ride the Rails, Anchor Bay Entertainment, 2011; 62 min.; $16.98;; ages 2 to 5. No wonder preschoolers relate to the colorful, personable Chuggington engines. Exuding presence and personality, the Chug trainees are like young children, little people in training with parents  or older, wiser Chuggers  providing guidance and encouragement.

Dance, Pocoyo, Dance!, NCircleEntertainment, 2011; 20 min.; $12.99;; ages 2 to 5. Minimalist graphics  characters in solid bright colors dance with gusto against a white backdrop  and simple story lines are perfect for the youngest viewers. Kids will learn a bit about dance, music and, best of all, the value of cooperation.

Debbie and Friends Story Songs and Sing Along, Independent Production  Debbie and Friends, 2011; 50 min.; $14.98;; ages 2 to 5. Originally conceived and exceptionally creative, these inspiring music videos develop pro-social and cognitive skills while engaging kids to be involved and have fun! Debbie and Friends know how to introduce classic stories with their own brand of interpretation.

Melody Street Show Online Webisodes, Independent Production  Melody Street LLC, 2010; 3-5 min. per webisode, free;; ages 4 to 7. Who better to introduce children to the world of music than 8-year-old musical prodigy Ethan Bortnick? This interactive multi-platform package offers several music adventures in different formats, with eye-popping graphics and instrument characters. Kids look, listen and learn.

Sid the Science Kid: Going, Going, Green!, NCircleEntertainment, 2011; 115 min.; $12.99;; ages 2 to 5. Sid likes to think and his enthusiasm gets his young animated pals, live-action friends and your preschooler to like thinking, too. Through colorful, true-to-life animated characters, viewers learn the fundamentals of good environmental practices and the need for them.

Spanish for Kids: Las Estaciones, Independent Production  Whistlefritz, LLC, 2011; 30 min.; $19.99;; ages 4 to 7. Youngsters love learning new words and sounds, and with animated Fritzi the Mouse guiding them through lively visual cues, they can begin to learn Spanish through the proven immersion method. Live-action kid scenes filmed in each season keep interest high.

WordWorld: The Train Escapade, NCircleEntertainment, 2011; 60 min.; $12.99;; ages 2 to 5. There is no better place to learn to read than WordWorld, where characters are formed around words and personified letters puzzle together to make a word that solves a problem. Snappy songs and rich colors hold kids attention like glue.

For Ages 5 & Up

Families of the Philippines, Independent Production  Master Communications, 2011; 30 min.; $29.95;; ages 5 to 8. Life in the Philippines is very different from ours  from bamboo homes and tricycle taxis, to cooking on wood fires and sleeping on the floor. Exceptionally bright, clear frames take viewers there, and narration adds plenty of factual content.

Slap Back Jack, Independent Production  MRN Media, Incorporated, 2010; 12 min.; $5;; ages 5 to 8. Sometimes whimsical fun wins the day! This amusing claymation short is about a baseball player who hits the ball out of the park. He suffers humiliation because his high-fives dont connect with other players. Slap Back Jack gets him on track with his high-fivin contraption.

Young Artists Collection Featuring Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin, New Video, 2011; 2 hrs., 47 min.; $24.95;; ages 5 to 8. The Storybook Treasures series bridges video allure and the joy of reading. This installment exposes young artists, musicians and performers to multiple artistic media, instruments and performance. Optional read-along feature encourages reading skills.

Storytelling & Spoken Word
By Marilyn McPhie

For Younger Children

Once Upon a Bethlehem Night: Christmas Stories told by Renee Englot, Renee Englot, 2011; $15; Take a new look at the Christmas story. The small shepherd, camel, flower, spider, star, the innkeepers daughter and others tell what happened that Bethlehem night. Englots voice is perfect and the music enhances the mood. This is a treasure for those who celebrate Christmas.

For School-Age Children

Rapunzel and the Seven Dwarfs, August House, 2011; $18.95; Rapunzel and the seven dwarfs are explained by storyteller Willy Claflin in an over-the-top hilarified Mother Moose mash-up makeover. The beautifully illustrated accompanying book includes hoof-notes to refer to the specialized moose vocabulary. Go ahead and try to listen without laughing.

Books & Magazines
By Helen Foster James, Ed.D., and Rubin Pfeffer

For Infants-Age 2

Baby Einstein First Book of Puppies, Produced by The Baby Einstein Company, LLC, 2011; $7.99; and You and your child will play slide-and-find peekaboo with adorable illustrations and real photographs of puppies in this sturdy board book.

Count 1 to 10, A pop-up book by Kees Moerbeek, Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2011; $15.95; A simple concept of counting from 1 to 10, with each consecutive number popping up with the turn of the page.

The Splendid Spotted Snake, Written by Betty Ann Schwartz and Alexander Wilensky, Workman Publishing, 2011; $13.95; Brilliantly imagined and durably produced, this snake book truly is splendid. This is a clever story of a newborn snake whose spots change colors as it grows and grows right before the readers eyes.

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, Written and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney; Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2011; $16.99; Caldecott Medalist Jerry Pinkneys illustrations of this classic rhyme will ease little ones to sleep while the adults in their life are charmed by every inch of this stunning book.

For Ages 3-5

Bailey, Written by Harry Bliss, Scholastic Press, 2011, $16.99; Harry Bliss has an uncanny way of creating a story that will appeal to the youngest child and still delight children of all ages. Heres Bailey, the most enthusiastic student at Champlain Elementary, going through the school day eager to please and achieve.

Jo MacDonald Saw a Pond, Written by Mary Quattlebaum, illustrated by Laura J. Bryant, Dawn Publications, 2011; $16.95 ($8.95 paperback); Jo and young readers learn about the wild creatures at a pond in this fun twist on the popular farmer song.

Look! A Book! A Zany Seek-and-Find Adventure, Written by Bob Staake; Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2011, $16.99; This is a blast. Everything is here  cowboys, pirates, submarines, robots animals, ice cream, everything. Readers can search on their own or follow prompts to discover the beautifully rendered worlds.

Press Here, Translated by Christopher Franceschelli, Chronicle Books, 2010; $16.99; Press here, shake, brush and make this simple book come alive as it moves dots through their journey.

For Ages 6-8

A Book for Black-Eyed Susan, Written by Judy Young, illustrated by Doris Ettlinger, Sleeping Bear Press, 2011; $16.95; Ten-year-old Cora loses her mother, and her father must give her newborn sister to Aunt Alma to raise. Together, Cora and her father must continue their journey along the Oregon Trail in this historical-fiction picture book that depicts a familys trials and love.

Me  Jane, Written by Patrick McDonnell; Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2011; $15.99; Jane loves to be outside with animals while sitting in her favorite tree reading Tarzan books. Simply told, author Patrick McDonnell cleverly presents a glimpse of the young girl who would become Dr. Jane Goodall.

Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters, Written by Barack Obama, illustrated by Loren Long, Random House Childrens Books, 2011; $17.99; An exquisite celebration of women and men whove made significant contributions and breakthroughs to our countrys social and cultural greatness. Stirring illustrations accompany concise, moving text to make this an inspiration for all children.

For Ages 9-12

Never Forgotten, Written by Patricia C. McKissack, illustrated by Leo & Diane Dillon, Random House Childrens Books, 2011; $18.99; A moving, unforgettable story told in rich narrative verse and provocative illustration. This is a heart-rending ode to the families of West Africa whose loved ones were torn away by slave traders, who then delivered the stolen to the harsh fate of slavery in North America.

One Day and One Amazing Morning on Orange Street, Written by Joanne Rocklin, Abrams, 2011; $16.95; The children on Orange Street make surprising discoveries about themselves and their street while treasuring a vacant lots orange tree that has bonded the neighbors for decades.

Wonderstruck, Written by Brian Selznick, Scholastic Press, 2011; $29.99; Two stories, 50 years apart, are told in this Novel with Words and Pictures. Bens story is told in words and Roses in pictures. The style is reminiscent of the authors Caldecott Award-winning book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

For Ages 12 & Up

The Klutz Guide to the Galaxy, Written by Pat Murphy and the Scientists of Klutz Labs, 2011; Scholastic Press, $19.99, Klutz delivers again  this time with the whole galaxy in your hands. Heres a book that is a kit with remarkably clever tools  a telescope, flashlight, sundial, and more equipping young astronomers to explore the galaxy.

Paper Covers Rock, Written by Jenny Hubbard, Random House Childrens Books, 2011; $16.99; An absorbing novel set at a boys boarding school. A student is killed in a tragic accident and the reader and surviving characters are left in a precarious position somewhere between partial and whole truth.

The Secret of Rover, Written by Rachel Wildavsky, Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2011; $16.95; Grab your hats  were off for an intriguing mystery thriller with spies, chases, kidnapping, and stowaways. Even the president of the United States becomes involved. This page-turner will have readers intrigued.


ChickaDEE, Owlkids; $5.25 an issue; $29.99 for a one-year subscription (10 issues);; ages 6-9. Boys and girls in early elementary school  get ready for some fun! This hands-on magazine is packed with comics, puzzles, animals, crafts and jokes. Publisher Owl Kids also offers award-winning magazines for other ages.

Discovery Girls, Discovery Girls, Inc.; $4.99 an issue; $19.95 for a one-year subscription (6 issues);; for girls ages 8 and up. A wide range of topics, from serious to fun, are presented in this visually appealing magazine. Read about fashion, puzzles, book reviews, practical help for difficult situations, and more.

Highlights Puzzlemania, Highlights for Children; $5.95 an issue; $2.67 an issue plus postage for subscriptions;; ages 7 and up. You cant go wrong with any of the outstanding Highlights for Children magazines. Find one that best meets the interests and age of your child, such as this publication filled with fun puzzles.

By Michael Berick and Tor Hyams


Acoustic Dreamland, Putumayo Kids, 2011; CD, $14.98;; infants to age 5. This hip and fabulous set of nighttime music features originals and well-chosen cover tunes that are good anytime of day  and for any age as well.

Ella Jenkins  A Life of Song, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, 2011; CD, $15;; infants and up. The First Lady of Childrens Music is back with a healthy dose of classic African American folk songs. This inspirational collection, including Hes Got the Whole World in His Hands and Summertime, infuses deep, soulful joy in the listener. The featured child singers and authentic American folk instrumentation make this album a must-have, never-give-away classic.

For Ages 1-3

Hullabaloo  Road Trip, Hullabaloo Music, 2011; CD, $12;; infants to age 6. A San Diego-based duo delivers an engaging set of traveling tunes that will stop kids from asking, Are we there yet?

Singin and Groovin, Music for Little People, 2010; CD, $13.98;; ages 1-2. Music for Little People has delivered classic childrens music for years. This time, theres a twist  its groovy. Think Itsy Bitsy Spider as a gospel tune. Picture Miss Mary Mack as groovy funk/blues and The Wheels on the Bus as an old-school country jig. This is one eclectic mix of songs that every toddler will love. And the varied acoustic instrumental foundation will hold your attention on the long car ride home.

For Ages 4 & Up

Chicken Joe Forgets Something Important by Trout Fishing In America, The Secret Mountain, 2011; Storybook and CD, $16.95;; ages 4-10. A comical tale about a cat named Chicken Joe whose barnyard pals have a fun surprise for him.

Tom Chapin  Give PEAS A Chance, Sundance Music, 2011; CD, $15;; ages 3 and up. Tom Chapin keeps the folk music tradition alive through his myriad of recordings over the years. Having worked with such luminaries as the legendary Pete Seeger, Chapins Give Peas A Chance is steeped in the traditional folk genre, while addressing modern issues like being green, healthy food and sustainability.

The Golden State, The Hipwaders, 2011; CD, $11.97;; ages 3 and up. FCalifornia-based kindie rock group the Hipwaders pay homage to their home state on this catchy album. Part Beach Boys, part Elvis Costello, The Golden State is all about having fun and residing in that carefree California state of mind. Dreams flourish on this album through songs like Bubble Machine and Summer Day. So, come on in. The waters warm!

Grow It At Home, Moose School Productions, 2010; CD, $15;; ages 4-12. The sage-like Peter Alsop shares his enlightening music, which includes tunes about dragons, St. Patrick, recycling, nutrition, beets and feet.

In A Big Warehouse by Imagination Movers, Walt Disney Records, 2010; CD, $11.98;; ages 2-5. Kids will be movin and groovin to these highly energetic tunes drawn from the popular Playhouse Disney Channel groups TV series.

Love Me For Who I Am  Songs Celebrating Children of All Abilities, Bumblin Bee Records; CD, $9.90;; ages 4 and up. Brady Rymers album celebrates individuality and carefree abandon. Even the title track exclaims, Please dont try to fix me. Love me for who I am  , and we do! In Picky Eater, being selective is applauded. Also celebrated on the album are those who dont want to wear shoes and others with So Many Ideas. Rymer captures the joy of youth through his Roy Orbison meets Tom Petty rock stylings.

My Name Is Handel, Performed by Yadu, Bonnie Ward Simon, Stephen Simon and the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Maestro Classics, 2011; CD, $16.98;; ages 9 and up. George Handels life and work (particularly his Water Music) come alive in this informative and interactive disc.

These Are My Friends  an album for kids and their parents, Moockshake Music, 2011; CD, $15;; ages 3-8. Alastair Moocks wonderful knack of filling catchy ditties with humorous lyrics will bring a smile to your face.

Joanie Leeds & The Nightlights: What A Zoo!, City Kid Music, 2011; CD, $15;; ages 2 and up. From funk and blues to country and pop, with even a little hip-hop thrown in, this album has a style for everyone. The eclectic stylistic mix is sure to keep a child entertained. Its original, catchy and suitable for the age group. The band is high caliber, with kid-hop rapper 23 Skidoo featured on a song, and the raw energy of the songs jumps off the speakers. From the Big Blue Whale to My Butterfly, the album takes you on a journey from a kids perspective.

For Ages 9 & Up

Mannheim Steamroller  Christmasville by Chip Davis, American Gramaphone, 2008; CD, $6.90;; ages 9 and up. For more than 20 years, Mannheim Steamroller has brought us Christmas joy through music. Just when you thought they had covered it all, Christmasville comes along with 13 new recordings that feature yuletide ditties in carrying styles, from classical to big band and, of course, the touching ballad here and there. Though kid-oriented, the albums high-quality production can be enjoyed by the whole family.

Apps, Software, Video Games, Websites and More
By Allen Rausch

For Ages 2-6

Fooz Kids, Fuhu; free;; ages 2-11. Surf safely! This kid-safe Web browser comes with a ton of great games, videos and Web destinations for kids, and includes safe email and video chat functions. Best of all, easy-to-use parental controls give complete control over whats available for your kids.

Pat the Bunny, Random House; $3.99;; ages 2-6. An extraordinary digital update version of Dorothy Kunhardt's classic touch and feel children's book. The illustrations are now interactive with lovely background music, excellent reading of the text and vocal feedback when the child does something interesting.

Toca Hair Salon, Tocaboca; $0.99;; ages 2-6. A delightful e-toy app that lets kids cut hair, style it, color it, and experiment with all sorts of wild hairstyles for people and animals. No matter what though, a touch insures that the hair will always grow back. Simple and easy to understand, but provides plenty of stimulating imaginative play.

For Ages 4 & Up, Disney Interactive Media Group; free;; ages 5-15. An online art studio with an amazingly powerful set of art tools for kids. They can make pictures, mini movies, cards, stories, and more. Design original creations or use pre-made Disney art images. Theres also a wonderful community of people who discuss each others work and help each other become better artists.

LeapPad, LeapFrog Enterprises, Inc.; $99;; ages 4-12. This is an amazing iPad-style kids touchscreen computer. Comes with fun apps including a virtual art studio, digital camera, and more. New apps are $10 each and all are the same high quality. Includes impressive online and parent features, including emails that track kids educational progress.

For Ages 10 & Up

MLB 11: The Show, Sony Computer Entertainment America; $59.99;; ages 10 and up. State of the art for baseball videogames! The controls are great. Lighter modes like home-run derby make the game fun for younger fans and those who arent baseball junkies, but if you want deep baseball stats, theyre there. True baseball fans will love this game.

Our Mission: "To Make Parenting Easier & Growing Up Fun!"

Site Programming by

No portion of this publication may be reproduced in part or in whole without the express written consent of the publisher.

Copyright © 2020 Ivy Publications, L.L.C. All rights reserved.