We take boats and fishing seriously. Each year we test hundreds of products that would be great to have onboard. For this holiday season, we're turning our attention to up-and-coming skippers-your children. We enlisted the help of kids and had them play with marine-related toys, then picked the ones that got the most raves. This year, give your child a gift that will really float his or her boat-and yours.
ACTIVITY BATH TOY Young anglers can net the catch of the day. A great hand-eye coordination toy, but our 18-month-old testers, David and Max Rudow, preferred throwing the soft creatures at their big sister during tub time. Ages 6 months and up. Price: $22.50. Contact Brio at 888/274-6869, www.briotoy.com.
THE BOAT BOOK OF FUN Quizzes, games, and science experiments will keep nautical kids boredom-free while underway. In the off-season, activities to do with and without dad will get them excited to hop onboard again. Ages 6 to 11. Price: $10. Contact Weems & Plath at 800/638-0428, www.weems-plath.com.
CAN YOU DIG IT SAND TOOLS Beaching it for a day? Bring along this six-piece set to stimulate your child's imagination. It's a cinch to create intricate details such as fish scales. Ages 4 and up. Price: $13. Contact Days at the Beach at 877/513-6069, www.daysatthebeach.com.
JUNIOR WATERWAY Little captains can navigate through big waves, rough currents, and canals with this outdoor play set. The two included dolphins are great for squirting water, but spring for the optional three-vessel boat set ($6.50) to encourage budding boaters. Ages 3 and up. Price: $75. Contact Brio at 888/274-6869, www.briotoy.com.
CRAB PUPPET Feeling crabby because you're not on the water? Slip a hand inside his underside to bring this soft crab to life. Although 3-year-old Kyle Perrone (above right) couldn't manipulate the legs and pincers, he giggled as he watched his dad play with this iridescent creature. Ages 3 and up. Price: $14. Contact Folkmanis at 800/654-8922, www.folkmanis.com.
SPLASH! Our testers, Meghan and Michael Paulsen, ages 8 and 5, respectively, fell hook, line, and sinker for this fast-paced card game. Fun facts about sea life on each card make it educational, too. Ages 5 and up. Price: $12. Contact Great American Puzzle Factory at 203/838-4240, www.greatamericanpuzzle.com.
BENDOS Make waves with these Gumby-like, long-limbed posable figures. Check out Wade the Fisherman who has already landed the big one. The Speedboat-which really floats-comes with a driver and wakeboarder. Remove the boat from the base and you've got a waterbike. Ages 3 and up. Price: $5, Wade; $20, speedboat set. Contact Kid Galaxy at 800/816-1135, www.kidgalaxy.com.
LITTLE SKIPPER BOATING GUIDE Cartoonish humor, sight gags, and puns spotlight 17 types of watercraft-everything from outboard motorboats to submarines. We heartily approve of the diagrams of the inboard engines and the directions for tying different knots. Ages 5 and up. Price: $16. Contact Buck Wilder at 800/994-2825, www.buckwilder.com.
WAVE RACER With dual outboards that turn in unison, detailed helm, and communications bridge, your child (okay, you) will have hours of fun piecing together this go-fast. Ages 7 and up. Price: $20. Contact Mega Bloks at 800/465-6342, www.megabloks.com.