If there's one thing that kids love almost as much as movies and TV shows, it's figures and playsets that give them a chance to dive into those digital, TV and movie worlds and create their own scenes and stories. Here are some of our new faves that would make great additions to your family toy chest.
–Smurf House and Smurfs Movie Set figures (Schleich)
If you and/or your kids love the Smurfs, you'll be dazzled by the latest collectibles from Schleich, which will bring those little blues to life. The Lost Village set (20801) comes with three figures: Smurfette, Sigrid, and Smurfika. The Smurf House (20803) comes with the large spotted red mushroom – complete with a chimney and doors and windows that open, as well as two figures: Papa Smurf and the evil Gargamel (who never goes anywhere without his equally evil cat, Azrael). All of Schleich's figures are beautifully hand-painted and full of unique details, and these Smurfs are no exception. The Lost Village set retails for about $15; the Smurf House is about $35 (and will require adult or older kid help to assemble). For ages 4 and older. schleich-s.com
–Despicable Me 3 Linked Up (Wonder Forge)
An interesting twist on the classic matching game. You start by setting up the game board, which features images of Gru, Dru, the Minions, and a few other characters from "Despicable Me 3." Then turn over three cards and use the plastic links to connect pictures on the game board that match two of the cards. That's pretty easy to do in the beginning. But as the game progresses, it gets harder and harder for several reasons. First, there's a limited number of each size link, so two pictures you need to connect might be too far or too close together. Also, you're not allowed to cross links, which means that players can deliberately (or inadvertently) block each other (or themselves) from accessing parts of the board. For 2-4 players, ages 6 and older. Takes about 30 minutes to play. wonderforge.com
–Thomas & Friends Dough Engine Maker (The Bridge Direct)
Got a budding Sir (or Madame) Topham Hatt living under your roof? If so, he or she will love this kit. It comes with five tubs of colored activity dough, split molds to make different trains (Thomas, Henry, and James), character face plates, molds to make numbers and wheels, a roller for making your own track, and a trimming tool. Besides being fun, designing and building engines, affixing numbers, and laying out track is a great way for little kids to build fine motor skills and flex their imagination. Available at retailers everywhere for about $15. For ages 4 and up. thebridgedirect.com/
–Powerpuff Girls Storymaker System Rainbow Roll Playset (Spin Master)
Comes with three elements: a swing, a rainbow, and a spinner, which you can link up in any order to create your very own Rube Goldberg/Mousetrap-like story adventures. For example, place Bubbles (or any other Powerpuff Girl figure) on the swing, where she kicks something that launches someone across the rainbow where he smacks into a unicorn who knocks into the spinner that blows something else down. This kit links up with other Storymaker kits (Dine & Dash and Fashion Fury) to create even longer, more-involved adventures. Prices vary. For ages 4 and older. spinmaster.com
(Armin and Samantha are the authors of the popular parenting blogs: http://www.mrdad.com and http://www.havesippywilltravel.com.
For more reviews of toys and games, visit http://www.parentsatplay.com/)