Almost four years later, these pipe cleaner people are still played with nearly every day. They turned out to have all of the traits I was looking for, and have been used in many wonderfully different ways and scenarios by my kids and their friends. Often, kids who visit us will pick out a small one and say, "This is me."
And now for something completely different:
Once or twice a year, I move this gangly, strange plant inside from its usual favorite location out back by the dryer vent. I got it as a bridal gift from a dear friend who was once my preschool teacher. She told me that even though it wasn't much to look at yet, it was a Night-Blooming Cereus, a cutting from her own plant, and that after a couple of years it would flower for me and I would understand why she gave it to me.
It blooms late at night, for one night only, and the enormous flower is a stunning and deliciously fragrant spectacle. By the following morning, it is limp and closed.
Tonight's the night.
If I can stay up late enough, I'll have some pictures of the flower for you tomorrow.