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Product Type: Toys
Award: Gold
Age: Toddlers
Review Year: 2012

 


2012 Award
Eco-Bonk Jackson
(Pueri-Elemental $59.99 Score:)

Remember your old inflatable bop toy? You punched it and it popped right back up. A classic that has always been great for letting off steam or pent up energy on long winter days when going out is not possible. They were standard fare, although they often deflated into a useless heap after the patch kit was misplaced. These days there are still plenty of vinyl bop toys around, but this new collection comes with a choice of cotton fabric covers that will reduce the chances of the inflatable getting a quick knick. Choose a friendly brown bear, a goofy penguin, or a smooshed grey elephant. They are made of  eco-biodegradable vinyl that will eventually disappear rather than clog up the land fill. Yes, they are pricey and we hope the small start-up company will be able to bring their price down before long. That said, it is a toy that will see a lot of action. 2-6

SNAP:A great toy for active venting without getting scolded for punching or kicking. It's also big enough to be enjoyed by kids who are 5 or even 6.

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

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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 Award
Janod Kubix with Letters and Numbers
(Janod $28.99 Score:)

A colorful set of solid wood blocks with letters and numbers imprinted on them. They are marked 18 months and up. We suspect kids that young will like filling and dumping them and eventually lining them up. Building upwards will be something adults or older sibs can do for little ones. They will like knocking them down. This is definitely a toy that will get lots of mileage. Learning letter names and the sounds they say comes much later. 18 months and up, up,up.

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

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2012 Award
Fisher Price Laugh and Learn Apptivity Case
(Fisher-Price $14.97 Score:)

We recognize that parents are handing their iphones off to toddlers and allowing them to play apps designed for young children. We have serious reservations about the wisdom of this, but we do think a case that protects the screen and phone from inexperienced hands makes a lot of sense. This one has side handles and rings to play with. The see through screen protects the phone from dribbles and sticky fingers. The home button is blocked so your toddler wont be making any calls. It also gives you access to free learning apps. Marked 6 months & up. We think that is really way too young for little screen watching games. Remember the more you put a screen on in their face, the more they will be hooked on screens...babies and toddlers learn best from people and real things, not images on a screen.

Age: Toddlers. 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
Tranquil Turtle
(Cloud B $44.99 Score:)

Our parent tester aptly described this electronic turtle as a night light with spa music. It is a purple fabric turtle with a light in the clear plastic shell. Put it on a cabinet in baby's room and the wave-like light will reflect on the ceiling while two tunes of quiet spa music play. It will turn off automatically after 23 minutes. This does not go in the crib. Newborn and up.

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

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2012 Awards
Poppin Play Piano
(LeapFrog $24.99 Score:)

Toddlers will like the action of hitting the keys and making the color balls jump. But this poppin' piano goes way beyond that simple play mode. It is an electronic toy and has a load of built-in bells and whistles. As electronic toy pianos go, this one has pretty good sound. It plays a variety of instruments --piano, organ, harpsichord, synthesizer, and something called popping sounds. But you cannot go from one instrument to another without going to another activity and returning to the "choose an instrument" mode and then striking a different note on the keyboard. In other words, there is nothing easy about the choices. There are several modes, most well beyond the 12-36 month age group on the package. Mode one is a number drill with the audio telling children to hit the numerals on the big colorful keys. Mode two tells children the color of the key they are striking and makes a ball jump up. Another skill set that does not match the age group. There is another mode that plays premade music and kids can hit whatever notes they choose while the song is playing. Kids need to be in the instrument section to have free playtime. It has loud and soft volume settings.

SNAP: This child friendly keyboard will encourage children to use fine motor skills as well as giving them the powerful satisfaction of making music with a swipe of the hand. 

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

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2012 Award
Parents Perfect Peacock Puzzle
(Manhattan Toy $15 Score:)

An eight-piece wooden puzzle with big enough pieces for small hands. This is not as simple as it appears at first glance. Learning to rotate the peacock's feathers will take some practice and although they are similar in appearance they are not entirely interchangeable. Well crafted, the wood is smooth and the pieces sit above the puzzle board so that they are easier to take out and place back in the cut out. 2 & up.

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

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2012 Awards
Hape Little School Bus
(HaPe $10 Score:)

Beep, beep! A little wooden yellow school bus with finger holes for easy grasping. It has no sounds, except the sounds you and your little one provide. Scaled for early games of pretend, this is a good choice for crawling babies 10 months & up.

SNAP: The finger holes on this little vehicle makes it easier for grasping than others. 

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

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2012 Awards
Eric Carle 10 Stackable Learning Blocks
(Kids Preferred $20 Score:)

A surprisingly muted set of cardboard blocks designed with Eric Carle's images. There are images to name and know, colors to know, objects to count and numerals and letters. Basically, they will be fun for toddlers to stack in size order with help and even more fun to knock over. As for nesting them, that will come even later. Marked 6 months and up, but wed say this is a better choice for 18 months and up.

SNAP: A sturdy set of cardboard blocks make basic gear for languge games of knowing and naming as well as friendly way to work on size order. Start with two blocks instead of the whole set and gradually add more pieces.

Age: Toddlers. Award Year: 2012.

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