Golden Apple Awards 2010 (ages 3-5)

Designed for the youngest learners, these toys are anything but basic.

By GreatSchools Staff

Automoblox Minis

Ages 3-5, $30 (for a three-pack, individual cars $10-$14)

Made of sturdy beech wood and plastic, these colorful, snap-together toy cars are designed with kids' development in mind. Children can flex those gross and fine motor muscles while boosting their problem-solving skills by taking apart the Automoblox Minis and reassembling the pieces to create many new combinations. Even the red, green, and blue wheels snap off, though they might be prone to getting lost. While Automoblox fall on the expensive side of toy cars, they're built to last — and promote learning.

Bottom line: These high-quality toy cars will help kids' brains go vroom.

Crayola Guess My Picture

Guess My Picture

Ages 3-5, $19.95

In Crayola's Guess My Picture, an update of the classic game Memory, players choose a card with one of many photographs, use colorful shapes to recreate it, then have others try to guess what they've built. Kids can get creative with their recreations —  and boost their fine motor skills and spatial thinking without even realizing it. "It's really fun," said our kid tester, "and I learned how to make a guitar." Rock on!

Bottom line: A guessing game with an arty-smarty twist.

Crayola Color Mix-a-roo

Color Mix-a-Roo

Ages 3-5, $19.95

Crayola's hue-mixing game, Color Mix-a-Roo, is designed to be a fun way to teach children about primary and secondary colors — sans the stress (and stains) of finger paints. Players select a card that features a drawing in a particular color shade and a number indicating how many primary colors they'll need to mix to create a matching hue. (Watch a quick demo here.) While its palette is strangely limited, Mix-a-Roo may well turn kids into mix-master DJs of the color wheel — for a while.

Kudos for the kid-friendly design too. As our child tester said rather evocatively: "I really like it because it's beautiful with rainbows."

Bottom line: A great, mess-free introduction to the color wheel.

Duplo Play With Numbers

Ages 3-5, $29.99

This set of oversize Legos (perfect for younger hands) comes with a unique figurine — a friendly Dalmation puppy — and, more important for little learners, a colorful collection of illustrated counting blocks. Each block in Duplo Play With Numbers features a visual representation of that number, whether it's three ice-cream cones, four birds, or 10 bees. Truly the building blocks of early math skills.

Bottom line: These extra-large Legos are perfect for kids working on their 123s.