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Product Type: Toys
Age: Early Elementary School Years
Categories: Construction Toys

 

 
2015 Awards
Guidecraft Power Clix Solids
(Guidecraft $99 Score:)

A 70-piece set of translucent magnified pieces in geometric shapes. These handsome pieces are an invitation for kids to explore creating new shapes and forms. It's a more open-ended kind of building material that can be used to make abstract designs rather than heavily representational art. Kids are likely to reproduce what they see on the back of the box or in the creativity guide, but hopefully, before long they will try inventions of their own and learn about symmetry and balance in a hands-on unique way. This set, unlike others in the collection is designed for the younger players and all magnets are embedded inside the plastic for safety. 3 & up.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2015.

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2015 Award
LEGO Juniors Supermarket Suitcase
(Lego Systems, Inc. $19.99 Score:)

For your older preschooler and early school age child who has outgrown Duplos and is ready for a little more complex building, this 134-piece Lego Juniors Supermarket Suitcase is a great transition set. It includes a easy to build supermarket with an ice cream bar, vegetable stand plus a bright red scooter and two minifigures and a cat. It becomes a mini-setting for dramatic play as they sort the fruit and other accessories, such as flowers, bread, bottles, and veggies. Testers liked all the small details, including a cash register, money and ice cream. We think it's unfortunate that this one is packed in pink. Supermarkets are fun for boys and girls and this one could have been gender neutral. That said, it is a fun set. 4-7

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2015. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2015 Award
LEGO Juniors Fire Suitcase
(Lego Systems, Inc. $19.99 Score:)

For that older preschooler and early school age child who has outgrown his duplos and is ready for more complex building, this 134-piece Lego Juniors Fire Suitcase is on the mark. Kids can build a fire helicopter, motorbike and a base station. It includes a number of fun accessories for dramatic play: 2 firefighter minifigures, a water hose, map, barrier, fire and lights. Includes easy instructions for the easy build. 4-7

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2015. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2015 Awards
Guidecraft 74-piece Organics-Powerclix
(Guidecraft $80.00 Score:)

Colorful translucent plastics in interesting new magnetic shapes give kids a new range of possibilities for creating some amazing constructions with 74-pieces in eight different shapes. There are instructions for reproducing some 3-D constructions and following those pictorial instructions will challenge kids to stay with a task and use visual clues as they hone their eye hand skills. But it's not just about reproducing a model. These pieces allow for discovery and open-ended creations. This is one of those STEM toys that gives children hands on experience with symmetry and spatial concepts and will be interesting to both girls and boys. 5 & up.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2015. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2015 Awards
Lincoln Logs 100th Anniversary Set
(KNEX $73 Score:)

A giant size tin container holds a 111-piece set of Lincoln Logs; truly a collector's item with all wooden pieces. This is you dad's all wooden Lincoln Log set...if he is old enough. In any case, it is just the way today's grandparents remember their Lincoln Logs days before premade plastic eaves and roof pieces came along. A great set for multiple kids to enjoy together. Pull this out if you have frequent visiting grandkids. It will keep them busy or get down on the floor and build a village of log structures with them. Labels on Lincoln Logs are often marked for 3 and up. Forget that! All a three year old can do is watch you build, knock them down or be frustrated trying to build them up. Save this for your older 5, 6 and 7 year olds and be prepared to work with them until they get the hang of how the logs fit together and how to stack the roof pieces so they donít all clatter down. Kids get a real sense of accomplishment from learning how to do this and trying to assemble different structures. It calls for visual discrimination as well as dexterity and problem solving. This is no instantaneous toy. It takes patience and thinking.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2015. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2015 Award
Lincoln Logs Oak Creek Lodge
(KNEX $39.99 Score:)

This season's mid size Lincoln Log set has 137 pieces and a relatively simple build. A lodge built of traditional wooden logs with plastic door, windows and roof. Not quite your classic log cabin, by any means. Marked for 3 and up, this is simply not for 3's or most 4's. Getting the logs in place takes more visual and manual dexterity than any three year old can bring to it. You may have loved this toy, but if you are doing the building for them, you are simply diminishing of the real worth of this timeless building set. Save the Lincoln Logs for 5's, 6's and even 7's. That is when they can really figure out how these logs work and have the pleasure of making a house stand. For 3's bring on the wooden blocks or duplo blocks.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2015. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2015 Award
K'nex Mighty Makers: Up, Up and Away Building Set
(K'nex $19.99 Score:)

Designed to appeal to girls, this is one of many models that K'nex has packaged with a female character and pastel building pieces. Though we think girls should not need gender specific building toys, we take seriously the fact that learning from building is a basic and too long overlooked. This up, up and away set comes with clear instructions for building a small but satisfying airplane. Build it four different ways with directions for optional vehicles. 7 & up.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2015. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2015 Awards
Learning Resources Gears Build & Bloom Building Set
(Learning Resources $39.99 Score:)

Gears, Gears, Gears have always been a favorite of our testers. This new set, is clearly designed to appeal to girls with flowers and butterflies and bugs added to the basic gears. Done in bright pinks, greens, blues and oranges, the green base serves as the garden where the gears, bugs and butterflies can spin. A 116 piece set of gears comes with colorful stickers. An early science toy that invites kids to build basic machines by meshing the gears into continuous action. Problem solving and dexterity are built into the fun. 4 & up

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2015. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2015 Award
Hape Dynamo Dominoes
(Hape $39.99 Score:)

There is no one right way to build with the 100 colorful dominioes. Stand them on end and place the bridges, bells, rails and other tricks in their path. Give on a tap and watch the whole parade go tumbling down. An open-ended toy that probably will need parent-child building for starters. Predicting outcomes calls for some strategies that will come with experience. Develops problem solving skills as well as dexterity; most of all a fun kind of building designed to fall down! Marked 3 and up, but using it for this kind of building will be more like a late 4-5 year old trick.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2015. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2015 Award
K'nex Mighty Makers Inventor's Clubhouse
(KNEX $49.99 Score:)

Designed to appeal to girls, this is the top of the line building set complete with motor and over 528 K'nex pieces and parts. Along with the motor it comes with pulleys and gears, wheels, star snaps, graphic panels and color coded intructions for many kinds of mechanical builds. Although we think gilrs should be able to enjoy gender free building sets, we know from research that they are less often chosen or gifted to girls. We are happy to see the options in play expanding as more building toys are being marketed to girls and such toys will help enable girls to develop spatial skills and enthusiasm for engineering and problem solving. This is a set that gives girls the tools for building from the instructions and then going on to build their own creations. Keep in mind that K'nex requires strong hands and is not always easy for beginners. Marked for 7 and up, we think 7's will need lots of help to get started. We also suggest it will be enjoyed more by slightly older girls.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2015. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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