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Product Type: Toys
Award: Gold
Age: Late Elementary School Years
Review Year: 2013

 


2013 Award
Back 2 Back
(Smart Games $14.99 Score:)

Our testers loved the challenge of this grid puzzle where you are working both sides of the vertical board. You have to completely fill both sides of the board with the 11 colored pieces. There are 60 challenges included. Each of the pieces have different configurations which makes it all that more difficult. The game is small and compact enough to take along as a "real life" game.

Age: Later School Years, Tweens, Teens. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Award
Backyard Safari Critter Shack
(Backyard Safari Outfitters $12.99 Score:)

Kids can collect and observe their live finds in this clearview housing that works with wet or dry conditions. The clear view container is water-tight and has a mesh lid so critters can breathe. There is a sturdy carrying handle. 5 & up.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Award
Backyard Safari Mini Scoop Net
(Backyard Safari Outfitters $9.99 Score:)

Our testers fought over taking turns over who would use this sturdy net to catch moving things in their backyard. We don't usually recommend toys that involve fighting, but in this instance we simply suggest buying two. Great for catching pollywogs, butterflies, lizards or whatever. The lightweight net is perfect for wet or dry tasks and like your old Ivory soap...it floats! 

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Award
Barbie Digital Makeover Mirror
(Mattel $69.99 Score:)

We're not really big fans of toys for apps. That said, if you have a child who loves pretend, make-up, has access to an i-pad, and you have an extra $70 to spend - you will want to know about this latest Barbie interactive toy. The actual toy is a small plastic vanity with lights on either side. In addition to an i-pad, you'll need batteries, too. There is a palette of make-up on the platform and a magical applicator. The makeup is not real--but has colors that you select, but I'm getting ahead here. The mirror of the vanity is your ipad. Just be sure it's really securely in place. You'll need to download the app and now the fun begins. For any kids who have dreamed about putting on lots of makeup (but knows they'll get in trouble for invading mom's makeup) this is really a fantasy world. The app takes your picture and then you can get busy adding eye shadow, lipstick, blush...you name it.  Remember the palette of makeup that wasn't really make-up?  You can select any color and brush it on with applicator. Blue lips, purple eyes, green rouge - whatever you can imagine, you can put on.  There are fun masks and pre-made face art to explore as well. The app allows you to save your "face art."

Our general problem with such App gear? Something feels a little off about recommending toys that require a $400+ tablet to play. There's also the issue that since kids spend enough time playing on tablets and smartphones, do we really need to buy toys that encourage them to stay on longer? We think not so much. Screen time of any kind is screen time. Just like TV time, video game time, handheld gaming...this is not a new debate - just new technology.

With all of those reservations - we know this toy will be a HUGE hit with a certain audience. It's well executed and fun to play.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years, Tweens. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Award
Justice League Axis of Villains Strategy Game
(Wonder Forge $24.99 Score:)

Wonder Forge's Justice League: Axis of Villains is a great game for DC Comic fans. Players control Superman, Batman, Flash, and Green Lantern in their fight against each character's numerous villains. Through a combination of dice rolling, Justice Power cards, and Villain cards the heroes and villains duke it out until either the satellite is destroyed or all the villains are captured.  This is an old fashion and fun strategy game for fans of the Justice League.

Age: Later School Years, Tweens. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Award
Kilter
(SimplyFun $36 Score:)

A fun way to learn about levers and predicting outcomes. Players take turns getting rid of their blocks on the four-way see-saw. The object is to put as many of your blocks out on each turn without tipping the see-saw. If you make blocks fall you have to take those. The first player to get rid of all their blocks is the winner. There was a lot of giggling and silliness as this was played by a multigenerational group and enjoyed by all. 8 & up.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2013.

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2013 Award
eeBoo Swirly Rainbow Glitter Glue
(eeBoo $14.95 Score:)

Perfect for making cards, posters, or any art project that needs multicolored glitter glue. This comes with 12 colors. Be sure to keep this out of the reach of kids under three since the caps are a small parts hazard and cover the work surface before you get too much of a good thing on the floor or tabletop.  5 & up.

 

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Award
Educational Insights Freeze Up!
(Educational Insights $27.99 Score:)

Fun for a small group of up to 8 players or one on one play, this handheld quiz machine is passed around. Each player has sixty seconds before getting eliminated from the game--so quick thinking is rewarded. The machine asks you to name objects from 170 categories (including capital cities) that start with a specific letter. You answer, stop the timer, and pass it on to the next player. If you have a brain freeze you can push for a different letter. If you give an answer that others question they can hit the challenge button and the group votes if the answer is acceptable. Good for family gatherings, too. 8-adult.

Age: Later School Years, Tweens, Teens, Adult. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Award
Fresh Artists Memory Games
(Fresh Artists $24 Score:)

We have reviewed lots of memory or concentration games over the years, but here is a notable new direction that will challenge players while supporting children's art education in underfunded public schools. Created by a not- for-profit-organization, the art on the handsome cards has been donated by young artists grades K-12 from New York City, Philadelphia, and Norristown, PA. Choose from several sets, each with a different theme: Fresh Faces, Mini-Masters-Barnes Edition, Fresh Food Edition, Fresh Art, and Fresh Architecture. There are 27 pairs in each set and though they are marked 3-103, we'd say these are a lot more challenging than most; a better choice for 6 and up. www.freshartists.org

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2013.

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2013 Award
Magformers Wow Set
(Magformers $49.99 Score:)

Clever set of 16 magnetic shapes in colorful squares and triangles plus wheels, and a driver square, that can be used in open-ended construction or by following the patterns for creating 20 kinds of working vehicles. The set also includes pattern cards that are like tangrams and challenge players to discover how to make a variety of larger geometric shapes from the squares and triangles. Hands-on experiments help kids discover not only some math concepts, they have to deal directly with the magnetic poles inside the plastic forms, turning them so that they attract. All magnets are safely inside the plastic forms. This combines stealth learning: math, science, visual and manual dexterity, creative problem solving, construction play, imagination, and good fun. 6 & up.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2013.

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