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Award: SNAP
Age: Toddlers
Review Year: 2012

 

 
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
Haba Zoolino Effect Building Blocks
(Haba $74.99 Score:)

24 colorful wooden blocks, some with animal faces can be stacked in various open-ended ways. The pieces have interesting shapes and some have holes that fit on posts to hold the critters kids create. These are attractive pieces, nicely finished and pretty abstract. We do wish they came with a storage bag since it is nearly impossible to fit the pieces back into the box for storage. You will need to find a container for these to keep them together once you open the box. It is marked 1 and up, but a better choice for 18 months-3.

SNAP: These open-ended blocks can be used for simple stacking or to create creatures and whatever the child imagines. They also lend themselves to building color and pattern concepts as well as language. As you put them away together, ask you child to give you all the pink blocks, all the blue blocks, etc. These are teachable but playful moments. For kids who are not ready to follow such directions, build language by describing the block your child wants to put in the basket first, next, and so on. You supply the words for beginners. You take your lead from where they are and build from there.

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

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2012 Awards
Cruise and Groove Ballapalooza
(Fisher-Price $60 Score:)

Finding toys that are just right for sitting up babies and toddlers can be difficult. The Cruise and Groove Ballapalooza fills the bill.  You'll need space for this large "making something happen" toy that both older babies and toddlers will enjoy exploring.  There are two different ways for the big balls to go from the top of the structure to the base. Of course at first, you'll be making it happen--but soon enough your toddler will enjoy making the balls drop again and again.  The small green "gate" will be another aspect of the toy your child will enjoy pushing back and forth.  There is also an arch for babies to go under.  There is music that happily you can turn off and still enjoy the toy. A definite plus in our book. The tripod design of the base makes the toy steady but of course a cruising baby will still need a watchful hand. Our older toddler twin testers loved how the ball could be placed at the top so that it bounces off a platform onto the ramp: "high marks for innovative design." Comes with 8 oversized balls so if two end up under the sofa, you're not out of business. 

SNAP: This is big enough to satisfy slightly older kids who may not have the dexterity for more complex ball runs and tracks. Though our testers found this pretty steady, you may want to stabilize it with some tape to the floor. This is not just a good social toy that two or more can use, it is a great hands on setting for dexterity, tracking, color concepts and language.

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

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2012 Awards
Rattle Rumble Push Toy
(Melissa & Doug $69.99 Score:)

One of the first weighted push toys we've seen in years. The wooden frame is smooth and finished in bright primary colors. Three see-though rollers turn as it is pushed forward. The primary colored balls and blocks inside rumble as they tumble. We can picture a toddler racing this from room to room delighting in the action and sound. This is a great choice for toddlers who like using their new found locomotion to make things happen. They also like holding on as they get used to walking on their own. You may need to tighten the screws on the side of this from time to time or at least heck them to be sure they are staying secure. We usually prefer hardware not to be exposed, but these are nicely encased, but we are simply suggesting you check them as the toy gets used. For beginning walkers.

Age: Toddlers. Award Year: 2012.

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2012 Awards
ELC Music Garden
(International Playthings $29.99 Score:)

Talk about making things happen, this is it! Touch the flowers and set off the music and lights and sounds. There is no right or wrong way to make this work. We really like the musical selections, not because they ar classic melodies, but the quality of the sound is excellent! That alone sets this toy apart from all too many of the so-called musical toys for tots. There are several modes of play to explore: the scale, animal sounds, silly ones and pure music. The tote handle will please toddlers who like carrying their favorite toys as they move from one room to another.  This does have a volume control and teaches kids about cause and effect as well as empowering them to make music.  6 months & up.

SNAP: For all the reasons above, this is a pleasing and interesting toy for learning about cause and effect and giveing children a sense of power, by making things happen. It has a lot of sensory play value.

Age: Infants, Toddlers. 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
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
North American Baby Long Legs Puppy
(North American Bear Co. $28 Score:)

These black and white puppies, an 18-inch or 8-inch squeaker will grab the attention of newborns and continue to please for a long time ahead. Like the other Baby Long Legs from the same maker, these dolls are a lovely combination of knit and plush. The big one is totally on the mark for toddlers who like a big but light enough huggable to drag about. The photo of this soft cuddly doll with long legs and arms and floppy ears does not really convey just how cute it is. The legs are not rigid or wired, but soft and easy for little ones to grasp. The features are stitched and baby safe. There is also a grey elephant version as well as a pink mouse and a pink or blue bunny. Also adorable, Baby Long Legs Squeakers, Puppies, Bunnies, Elephants and Pink Mouse ($12.99 each) 8-inch miniatures of the bigger dolls that are good for tracking games and will be easy for baby to clutch and carry. Baby safe and machine washable.   All ages.

SNAP: We suggest the Baby Long Legs Squeaker from this collection. Use the small high contrast black and white pup for tracking games. It is eye catching and the squeaker inside will attract baby's listening as well as visual attention. Soft,safe and totally cleanable for infants and toddlers.

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

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2012 Awards
Wimmer-Ferguson Learn and Play Ball
(Manhattan Toy $20 Score:)

Amazing play value has been rolled into one fabric ball. For newborns, the high contrast images printed on the fabric ball will be interesting to gaze at. They have used faces, targets, and patterns that will attract the visual attention of infants. The panels of the ball are piped with bright satin with lots of colorful ribbon taggies. Give it a shake to hear the jingling bell. This is one of those wonderful fabric toys that plays to all the senses and invites you to play early socializing games with your sitting up baby. A terrific gift for a baby shower or first visits.  Marked for 6 months but this will be good as visual stimulation long before baby can reach out and touch.

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

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