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Award: SNAP
Age: Preschoolers
Review Year: 2012

 

 
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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2012 Awards
LOL Elmo
(Playskool $39.99 Score:)

Happy-go-lucky Elmo is bubbling over with laughs again. Press his foot and his laughing begins, squeeze the remote control fishbowl and he laughs and wiggles even more. Tickle his tummy and Elmo not only laughs, he tells little jokes, too. Guaranteed to bring on a case of the giggles, this season's Elmo is smaller than he used to be and not too cuddly. You can feel the mechanism through his plush body. That said, this is a novelty toy that will be a sure fire favorite of kids and grown-ups alike. 18 months and up.

SNAP: Activating Elmo just might interest kids who need to work on strengthening hands and fingers. Elmo certainly will motivate them and there are three different ways to discover and remember how he moves. Squeeze his foot, tickle his tummy and press the remote. That's a lot of ways to make things happen. Is it a long term toy? Probably not. This is one of those novelty items that has some redeeming features.

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

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2012 Awards
Mice on Ice
(by Rebecca Emberley and Ed Emberley, Holiday House $14.95 Score:)

Though the shape is larger than the usual easy-to-read series book, this true beginner's book uses very few words and colorful illustrations that will appeal to new readers. Fun for working on rhyming, as well. Level 1

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

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2012 Awards
All About Grandmas
(by Roni Schotter/ illus. Janice Nadeau, Dial $16.99 Score:)

Told in lyrical verse, this ode to grandmas takes a look at the diversity of grandmas in the world. Far from the old stereotypes, the artist and author remind us that they not only donít all look alike, they all do different things, though they all have one thing in common--the love they have for their grandchildren. A keeper! 3 & up

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

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2012 Awards
Mega Bloks First Builders Build'n Learn Table
(Mega Bloks $44 Score:)

From toddlers to preschoolers, this 25-piece set will work flat on the floor or standing on stout legs. The surface has a roll around roadway for the vehicle and figure. Blocks can be stored under the four pieces of the tabletop that lift out. This has chunky pieces that are safe for toddlers and fit little hands. The figure is upsized as well for safe play. Set includes stickers that can be added. Marked 1-5.   Probably optimal use is 1-3.

SNAP: Big chunky pieces make this a useful first building set. As you play with your child, use the playing pieces for building dexterity as well as language and hands-on understanding of size and color concepts.Ideal for use on the floor or on tabletop. To adapt, you can velcro the flat table to a surface that is the right height for your child.

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

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2012 Awards
Hape Gourmet Kitchen
(HaPe $129.99 Score:)

A classic piece of equipment for pretend play. This has no sounds except the ones your child will make. Beautifully finished in white, with licks of yellow and natural wood, this is not the usual gender specific pink and will be enjoyed by boys as well as girls. Crafted with round edges and smooth surfaces, this wooden kitchen has red dials that turn on the stove with two pretend burners, an oven, and frig underneath. We like the sink with turning faucets and a small take-out plastic tub that can actually hold water for sudsy play. There is a rack at the top for storing plates and utensils, however the plates, etc. do not come with the kitchen. You can buy Hape wooden accessories or stock up on sturdy plastic ones for soap and water fun. Unlike so many oversized kitchens, this will not take up most of a room. It is scaled down but ideal for 3 and up.

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

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2012 Awards
Huggalo Collection
(Huggalo $19.95 Score:)

Huggalos are soft huggable dolls with a dedicated place on their chest for placing a photo of someone special. There's Doodle Dude (made of canvas and intended to be written on), Camo Joe (done in green fleece camaflouge), Huggsley (our favorite - he comes with a cape and is clearly the super hero of the line), and Camo Flo (same idea as Camo Joe but done in pink).  We think this collection will have an audience with not only the preschool set--but tweens/teens.  The line has a sense of humor and whimsy to it that will likely have wide appeal.

SNAP: Having a photo of a family member can be a comfort take-along when going out into the world. This one is less young looking than most and a little more amusing.

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

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2012 Awards
Blabla Giant Pumpkin
(blabla kids $196 Score:)

Three feet tall and ready to listen, dance, and play pretend, Pumpkin is dressed in an adorable striped dress. She has rosy cheeks, and reddish hair. Oversized dolls like this one become more than decorations in a child's room. They often become the play companion of tea parties, storytime, and bedtime, too. Blabla makes a number of giant size dolls. This is the most humanoid of the group and a smaller version of the doll is also available.

Age: Toddlers, Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2012.

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2012 Awards
Fisher Price Kid Tough Apptivity Case
(Fisher-Price $15 Score:)

If you are handing your iphone or ipod touch to your child you may want to seriously consider the Fisher Price case that protects the screen against drips and sticky hands. It has a sturdy shell that should cushion a fall, but the company does not make that claim. There is a hole for the camera and you can download free learning apps. This is available in blue or pink. We are not recommending that preschool apps are a great learning tool or that time spent playing with the small screen is time well spent. We have serious concerns and recognize that small children learn best by interacting with people and real things. But, recognizing that this is one of many ways children try on the world, we are simply suggesting this as a way of protecting your equipment.

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

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2012 Awards
Roll & Play
(Thinkfun $19.99 Score:)

Designed as a first game, this is likely to be a hit with your older toddler. It comes with a big fabric cube with different color on each face. Toss the cube and then pick a card that matches. Take turns with your toddler doing what the card shows. The cards have words and actions such as wave bye-bye, count your fingers, moo like a cow, etc. Learning to take turns and matching the colors of cards and cube all provide active playing and interacting. This is as much about playing together and having your attention as it is about the actions involved. Roll & Play is a cleverly designed toy for developing color concepts as well as other early language and pre-reading skills. Most of the actions will need modeling, but that will be part of the fun, especially if you ham it up. They say 18 months and up.  We think this is a better bet for twos and up, but a clever idea for 2 or more players.

SNAP: Introduce the cards before you play. Read through them and practice what they say to do. You might want to introduce just one of each color for the first game or two and add another set of six the next time you play. There are 48 cards, so this will be a game you can build on gradually. The cards are well designed so that no real reading is needed once they get the idea of what the card is showing. The color cube can also be used for other games. New for 2014, is Move & Groove, intended as your child's first dance game. It comes with the same cube and cards that you follow along. Our problem with this version is that "Walk Like an Egyptian" or "Sleepwalk" or "Snap Your Fingers" or "Turn to the Right" are concepts way beyond 18 month olds.  While we think older preschoolers will like this game, we find the age too low.

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

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