Search Results for -
Product Type: Toys
Age: Early Elementary School Years
Categories: Pretend Play

 


2014 Award
Calico Critters Berry Grove Elementary School
(International Playthings $79.99 Score:)

Fans of Calico Critters will love this two-level school setting that comes with desks, chairs, a working clock, books and even an apple for the teacher. Our testers always love the minature world of these little animal families. In keeping with the new school theme, there is also a wonderful new School Bus that comes with a working handle that opens the door (very neat). Critters can also be accessed through the opening on the top of the bus. New families for 2014 include: Beavers, Chipmunks and Polar Bears. The "family" can also get about in the new very spiffy Cherry Cruiser. One note: The school and bus do not come with any Calico Critters even though the box shows them so occupied.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Award
My Girl's Dollhouse
(Good Toy $399 Score:)

A wow-wee (pricey) over-the-top 6 feet tall and 5 feet wide dollhouse that's big enough to use with American Girl and other 18" dolls. Our testers couldn't get over how enormous this pretend setting is when fully constructed.  Our parent testers thought this 100% pine wood frame went together well. The front of the house has a design --but here's the deal.  SAFETY NOTE: You have to use the SAFETY STRAP included to prevent this oversized structure from tipping over. So the design on the front isn't something you're going to see once you've put it together and secured to the wall. Of course this means that this is also a dollhouse for playrooms with lots of space. The product is marked for kids 8 & up, but we know it will be purchased for kids much younger - and even tall 8 year olds will need a stool to reach the top. So the safety strap is essential.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2013.

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2013 Award
Hexbug Nano V2 Black Hole
(Innovation First $49.99 Score:)

Hexbugs are fun all on their own, but we really love this new system with see-thru tubes. The little robotic vibrating bugs now make their way up and down the chutes and then free fall into the black hole - only to re-emerge on the base of the set and begin the trek again. We combined the Black Hole set (with 58 pieces and two nanos) with the Infinity Loop and the Watch Tower. Putting these sets together will require some parental assistance. What we really love about this set is that involves some building and then the play begins. Everyone who plays with this toy starts talking about what may happen next and where the bugs may go. You can change the set around so it's not static - there are also gates that can be moved to change the direction of the bugs. Occasionally the bugs did get jammed in one of the chutes - usually a little shake will move them. Sometimes we had to open the chute to unclog - but that's part of the fun.

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

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2013 Award
International Playthings Calico Critters Supermarket
(International Playthings $60 Score:)

Our brother/ sister tester team really loved all the details in this super elaborate supermarket. They spent hours putting the merchandise on display and then hours more playing pretend games. It comes with over 100 pieces including fruits, vegetables, bread, fish, canned food, drinks, cookies, ice cream, shopping cart, check-out counter with cash register, display stands, and more. However, like other sets in this collection, it does not come with critters, though they are shown on the packaging. So, be sure to add some critters for their dramatic play. Marked 3 & up, but we think older children will appreciate all the tiny pieces even more. Our testers were 6 & 8 and not too old for these settings.

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

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2013 Award
Calico Critters Lakeside Lodge
(International Playthings $60 Score:)

A small summer house of logs with an orange roof; perfect for vacation living. Instead of beds there are two hammocks and a loft with ladder. It has a raised entry and a terrace with a hot tub, plus a clever little upstairs balcony--just right for critters to use for viewing the great outdoors. In fact, this small house might be just the right scale as a dollhouse to keep at a summer cottage. Although it is shown with furniture and critters on the box, they are not included, but sold separately. The Lodge can also be combined with the new Treehouse, making a miniature setting of grand proportions.

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

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2013 Award
Calico Critters Ice Cream Truck
(International Playthings $35 Score:)

Get ready for soft ice cream and scoops of the regular kind, too. We don't see any good humor pops or fudgicals, but maybe they don't know about them at Cloverleaf Corners. Our brother/sister testers loved the working soft ice cream machine. They spent many happy hours puttiing the stickers on and playing to sell yummy treats once they got the shop all set up. Like other settings in this line the critters are not included, although they are shown on the packaging. 3 & up.

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

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2013 Award
Calico Critters Adventure Tree House
(International Playthings $70 Score:)

Get your critters ready for real adventure in this three level tree house with a two-story slide, a cabin on top, and ladders for getting up and down. There is a swing big enough for two to share as well as a bucket on a pulley for getting supplies up and down with ease. There is plenty of room inside for cozy living. You can combine this setting with the Lakeside Lodge vacation house. Like all settings in this line, the animals and furniture pictured on the packaging are not included in the set, but sold separately.

Our tester loved the little log cabin playhouse that is on the top of the tree house and the slide. She also likes the pulley for transporting small treasures to the different levels of the tree house.  The only negative comment was that the swing comes off the branch easily. This experienced 6 year old Calico Critters fan, incorporated her Tree House into her other settings to create a village.  Her mom noted that she would recommend Calico Critters to other parents because the line has lasting play appeal. 

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

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2013 Awards
Calico Critters Border Collie Family
(International Playthings $22.99 Score:)

Mama, Papa, brother and sister Border Coolies are done up with faces in crisp black and white markings. Also new this season, an Outback Koala Family. Mama is carrying the newest little one in a soft fabric backpack while their toddler size child is able to walk along with Papa. These are charming posable figures to use as props for the Calico Critter settings or for pretend play with blocks and other mini-settings.

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

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2013 Award
eeBoo Animal Village Play Masks
(eeBoo $14.95 Score:)

A set of seven cardboard play masks. These do not get worn on the face like your old Halloween mask. They are flat faces with cut out eyes and handles to hold onto. Fun for making up stories and playing them as you would with puppets, only here the players use their whole bodies if they like. Also available, Mystery in the Forest Set with three humanoid faces, with hat, crown or flowers in addition to four animals. Marked 3 and up. We think children who are slightly older and have more language will enjoy these even more.

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

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2012 Awards
Plan Chalet House with Furniture
(Plan Toys $167.49 Score:)

An unusual modern-style dollhouse. This big three story chalet comes in two parts. Kids can rearrange them into different configurations. The open wall and roof design makes it accessible by several children at a time. We are not crazy about the color scheme and we wish it came with play figures as well as the furniture. Note: the colors online are different from the toy we tested. The roof is orange not yellow as pictured. Figures are extra. Made of recycled rubber wood, it has the look of pressed or composition board and it is stained, rather than painted. 3 & up.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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