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Toyland's A-team lines up

Star buys - voted novel, engaging and even useful in schools

* Creation 1 (age 2-8)

Pine and cherry wood wheels, dowels, and abstract shapes in a 100-piece kit that will do well. Makes the weirdest collection of vehicles and creatures and comes in a practical case with a marked place for everything. Even though there's only enough here for maybe two children, nurseries and special needs will see the potential. It's so new that a UK dealer has yet to be arranged. A half-size kit, with small parts, is also available.

Price: Pounds 80.

Matoys sprl, Rue Marot 19, B-5503 Sorrinnes. Tel: 00 32 82 22 26 79 Fax: 00 32 82 22 26 79.

* Timberkits (age 9 to adult)

Really sweet, rough and rustic working models - including a roundabout, a wave machine and a caterpillar which undulates as a butterfly flies over it (strange science, I think). These delicate pine models illustrate beautifully mechanisms such as levers, cams and push-rods and are worth having as a "reference collection" for any level technology. An adult can build one in a couple of hours, but for school I'd buy them ready-made. Power them with your own pulley and motor and sit back and be charmed as they work.

Prices: Kits about Pounds 11, ready-made models from Pounds 13. From Timberkits, Caemadog, Bont, Llanbrynmair, Powys, SY19 7AB. Tel: 01650 521449.

* Body system (age 4 to 7)

Block-like figures where you can twist the limbs and set the figures in different poses.

Or twist some plain chains together, like modelling balloons, to make a deck chair or even add wheels to make it into a buggy. Earthy and woody, these are nice to play with.

You constantly stumble on new ways to arrange them and this is a key part of the fun. You'd need a collection of these to get really creative.

For anxious adults, they make good worry-beads.

Prices: "Animal" bodies at Pounds 10. Wheel kit Pounds 5. Plain chains Pounds 9. Active Wood Ltd, The Spinney, Edward Gardens, Havant, Hants, PO9 3JJ. Tel 01705 483772.

* Blitzer airbrush (age 6 up)

Not very new, but this squeezy plastic bulb with a slot for a felt tip pen makes a really creative non-messy tool. With a bit of practice, a quick squeeze gives that great misty, spray effect of a real airbrush. Graphic instructions, and a video if you want it, show lots of ways to use it. You can spray over stencils, shapes or even torn paper edges - for example to do the sky. And for the home market there are accessories such as stencil sets, felt pens and even food dye pens for decorating sweets and cakes. Pointillisti-tastic.

Prices from Pounds 7. PM Promotions, 4 Endsleigh Road, Merstham, Surrey, RH1 3LX. Tel: 01734 645006 * Motormec (age 5 - 9)

With Motormec, you can build working models like a crane, train, plane or car. You start with a special block, and fit plastic plates to it, using nuts and bolts. The final and perhaps unique coup is that its power tool fits into the block and then powers the model. At home a child will enjoy the success of building working models. In class you would find these valuable to illustrate working mechanisms such as gears and so on.

The pieces in the large kit make eight models. Price: Pounds 30. Galt, Culvert Street, Oldham, OL4 2ST Tel: 0161 627 5086


Dowling Magnets: 0181 880 4135 DuploLego: 01978 290900 If Cardboard Creations:01677 470037 Imperial Games: 01704 530054Juniors: 0181 965 0381 K'nex: 0181 288 6600 Magnetico: 01753 859689 Morphun: 0181 987 9768 Orchard Toys: 0115 937 3547 Spear's Games (Mattel):0116 2826666 TP Activity Toys: 01299 827728 Suppliers

Hope Education: 0161 633 6611 Commotion: 01732 773399 TTS: 01246 850085 Order line: 0800 318686 NES Arnold: 0115 945 2200

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