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From games that make kids think, to toys that prod young ones to get up and move, from making music to solving a mystery, this year’s toys are all about engagement: Word games that stretch minds, dolls that encourage us to learn about children in other countries, a portable fort for friends real and imaginary, or a board game inspired by a video game, here are 11 terrific toys for 2011, and each budget-friendly item on the list is under $50.

Jungle Jam

The large leopard-faced conga drum with its 10-bell tambourine lid holds an antelope slide whistle, a hornbill water whistle, two giraffe maracas, a crocodile cabasa-clacker, a twister hand drum and two snake drumsticks. (2-6, $49.95,

Toobers and Zots

A twist on traditional construction toys, each colorful foam piece can take on many different shapes. Make a crown, a flower, an animal, or a microphone. Straighten out the shapes, and start again. (3+, $24.99,

Fortmajig Fun Fort

Stretchy loops attached along the sides and center of this 8’x8’ square of lightweight material can be attached or suspended from just about anything – indoors or out. Durable, washable, and travel friendly. (3+, $34.95,

Sneaky Snacky Squirrel

This charming game introduces strategy to preschoolers. The first player to fill the five spaces with different colored acorns wins. But along the way, a spin may result in a wind-storm that blows the acorns away or having another player steal a needed color. (3-5, $19.99,

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Mystery Case Files

In this Nancy Drew meets “I Spy” game for the Wii, there are picture-hunt objects to be collected requiring sharp eyes, and handles to be pulled, logic-exercising puzzles to be solved, sparkling dust to be found in this game filled with suspense and fun. (ESRB rated E, $29.99,


Linked to the informative Geopalz website, this user-friendly pedometer encourages healthy eating and exercise. The next time your child orders a large order of fries, tell her to be prepared to walk 11,000 steps. (5+, $19.99,

Brilliant Creations Advance Notebook

Resembling big sister’s laptop, the Brilliant Creations Advance Notebook is pre-loaded with 120 games and activities designed to teach young children reading, math, creativity, science, social studies, and Spanish skills. A full QWERTY keyboard and mouse introduce young learners to computer skills. (5-8, $49.99,

Tetris Link

Based on the classic video game, Tetris Link players face-off to connect their colored Tetronimoes (flat shapes made from four adjoining squares) without leaving empty spaces in the clear upright game board grid. (6+, $24.99,

Hearts for Hearts Girls

Representing five countries, the Hearts for Hearts Girls dolls are designed with the appropriate features, clothing, shoes and jewelry, and a booklet about life in the doll’s native country. For each doll purchased, the company makes a donation to a children’s cause. (6+, $29.99,

Knock Your Blocks Off

Knock Your Blocks Off is a combination visual puzzle and dexterity challenge where players compete to build a wall, gate, fort, tower, or steps by matching patterns on six block cubes. The first to collect eight victory tokens by building, leveling, and defending the structures wins. Develops strategic thinking and fine motor skills. (8+, $15.99,


is a fast-moving word game where players race to create five words: one each of a six, five, four, three, and two-letter word out of twenty randomly chosen letter tiles. Builds quick thinking, vocabulary, flexibility, and strategy. Very clever; very fun. (10+, $24.95,

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