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Best learning toys ages 3 to 5

Designed especially for the youngest set, these 2011 Golden Apple Award winners excel in teaching early reading, writing, and drawing.

By GreatSchools Staff

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Now I'm reading! Plays: Goldilocks and the Three Bears

Appeals to ages 4-7

What it teaches: early reading skills such as vocabulary, comprehension, and storytelling

Whether or not your young child is a burgeoning thespian, this storybook-cum-playbook has masterfully woven together some of the best elements of early reading, making it — in all senses of the word — the best of child's play.

Given that it is the same price as a kids' average hardcover book, you get a lot for your story bucks: five 16-page play scripts, a 24-page storybook, and four masks (three bears and Goldilocks, 'natch). Tester parents loved that this fun-filled reading toy can be adapted to a child's age: A pre-reader can still play the part of any of the roles, with mom and dad feeding her the lines. Says one tester mom: "Even though my daughter can't read, she could engage with it. She's even learned the words 'script' and 'narrator,' which gave her a deeper understanding of acting out a play." Early readers can even take the scripts and put on their own show for the grown-ups: The perfect rainy-day (and shhh, learning) activity.

Bottom line: An active and clever way to teach reading through, ahem, play.

Where to get it: Now I'm Reading! Plays: Goldilocks and the Three Bears