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Product Type: Toys
Award: Platinum
Age: Late Elementary School Years
Review Year: 2012

 


2012 Award
Matilda, Your Tudor Girl for All Time
(A Girl for All Time $135 Score:)

A lovely 16" Tudor girl comes dressed in a long gown of grey velvet with a plum colored underskirt, known as a kirtle. She wears historically styled undies and a petticoat and wears typical Court shoes, a key necklace and a grey headdress. A book about the 13-year old Matilda and her life in the court of Henry VIII makes for good reading. Stunning wardrobe choices are also available. We loved the silk lined velvet cloak ($29.99) and her masked ball gown($29.99). Like other Girl for All Time dolls she is fully articulated at the knees, and elbows for more playability. Though she is designed for play, she is totally collectible and likely to be treasured by anyone lucky enough to receive her as a gift. They say 5 & up. We'd say more like 8 & up. 


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

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2012 Award
Style Me Up Romantic Scarf
(Style Me Up $23.99 Score:)

A loom for making something special you can really wear...naturally this craft kit made a huge hit with our tween tester. What you get is a knitting loom with 2 rows of 12 pegs. It’s not hard and the instructions are clear and easy to follow. You just wind the yarn in a zig-zag fashion going back and forth. The end product is great and even better when you buy a heavier yarn and make another one or more. 10 & up, up, up.

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

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2012 Award
Colorfall
(Marbles the Brain Store $44.99 Score:)

Dominoes move over! Colorfall is a set of wooden playing pieces that look like dominoes without the dots. Matching is done by color, if matching is what you want to do. However, there is so much more to do with these handsome playing pieces. Have kids create their own patterns or play a pattern game of what comes next. Then, for real challenges, use the cards to build colorful "pictures" of creatures. The cards tell how many dominoes of each color are needed to make the picture. So there is counting and sorting. But arranging them calls for problem solving and spatial visual skills. There are designs that will fall with a tap if the pieces are put close enough to fall on each other as they drop. All the pieces can be stored in the big canvas drawstring bag it comes in. A good cooperative or solo game that invites planning, dexterity, and patience. 8 & up

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

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2012 Award
Ukulele Confetti
(Janod $24.99 Score:)

A handsome colorful first ukulele. This is not a toy, but a first instrument with a bright painted wooden body and steel strings. The instrument does not come with music or instruction, though the company plans to put music on their website. This French company is new to American markets. They also make a guitar and a neat xylophone. These are marked 3 and up, but more appropriate for older preschoolers and early school years children.

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

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2012 Award
Merida Collector Doll
(Disney $99 Score:)

A stunning 18" version of Merida steps out of the film Brave and onto the shelf where she can be admired by young collectors. We do not usually do collector dolls and this red-haired beauty in her royal robes and velvet gown is not a play doll. That said, she will fill a special place for older girls. There are several other versions of Merida that have soft bodies, tons of hair and a much lower price tag. Our testers especially liked the Merida Toddler girl($20) with her quirky smile and jaunty look. Fashion doll fans like the 16" princess ($20) who is wearing a much less pricey knockoff of the same outfit the collector doll is wearing. 6 & up.

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

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2012 Award
Amelia, A Girl For All Time Doll
(A Girl for All Time $134.99 Score:)

From our friends across the pond, comes a new collection of girl dolls that will give our well-loved historic American Girl Dolls a run for the money. The dolls, each from a different time period, are executed with the kind of finesse of a Masterpiece Theater production. Amelia, a Victorian girl, is about to turn 13. Her wardrobe, a pink Victorian party dress, her velvet opera cloak, and a gauzy blue stage costume are all part of the fare. She comes dressed in a charming school girl's blue cotton dress, a straw hat, and two toned button shoes. Her jointed arms and legs make her playable, although she looks in every way like a worthy collectible - the kind you were supposed to keep on a shelf. Each additional outfit is pricey, but a stunning time piece that older girls (and even collectors) will appreciate. Her two-piece pink party dress has a lace-trimmed bodice with tiny buttons, a skirt with bows, a lace hat with a puff of white feathers, and pink silk slippers. The A Girl for All Time collection actually begins with a sterner looking doll, Matilda, a Tudor girl of 13, who becomes a lady in waiting in the court of Henry VIII. She also has a marvelous set of clothing and an interesting back-story. Each of the dolls has a novel (we have not read them yet) that will introduce older girls of 8 & up to a chapter of English history. These are seriously designed for older girls, for that last beautiful doll that is often remembered or even treasured as a lasting gift of childhood. Our review of the books will come later. 8 & up. These are only available at this time online.
www.agirlforalltime.us

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2012.

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2012 Award
Guitar Confetti
(Janod $30 Score:)

A handsome colorful first guitar. This is not a toy, but a first instrument with a bright painted wooden body and six steel strings. The instrument does not come with music or instruction, though the company plans to put music on their website. This French company is new to American markets. They also make a ukulele and a neat xylophone. These are marked 3 and up, but more appropriate for older preschoolers and early school years children.

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

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2012 Award
Small World Deco Bathroom Set
(Small World Toys $29.99 Score:)

A four-piece porcelain set that can be painted with original designs. The set comes with a cup, liquid soap dispenser, four-place toothbrush holder and soap dish. The permanent paint dries in the air, no baking needed, though you will want to protect the work surface and clothes of young artists. This is not a craft kit for young children, since the pieces are breakable. Older kids can paint the pieces and give them to grandparents, teacher, or for their own bathroom. 8 & up.

Age: Later School Years, Tweens. Award Year: 2012.

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2012 Award
SmartLab DJ Rock Dock
(SmartLab $20 Score:)

A science toy that will get plenty of play. First things first, kids follow the step by step directions to make a circuit that will turn into a plug in set of portable speakers. Now put them into one of the easy to assemble paper housing boxes. No special tools are needed. Now, plug it into your ipod and play!  A small scienctific fact: the sound is greatly amplified when the speakers go into the housing that ceates a sound box. This set of real speakers will work with an ipod, smart phone or any mp3 player.

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

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2012 Award
LEGO The Lord of the Rings The Battle of Helm's Deep
(Lego Systems, Inc. $129.99 Score:)

For many tweens, teens and even adults-- when we mentioned that there would be Lord of the Rings LEGO sets it was like a dream come true. With over 1300 pieces, this is a tah-dah kind of build that recreates the fortress with towers, a main gate,  an exploding wall, a side door attack function and, of course, a catapult.  The set comes with one horse along with eight mini figures: Aragorn, Gimli, Haldir, King Theoden, Berserker Uruk-hai and three Uruk-hai.  Somehow we think this kit will end up on the holiday wish list of many "big" kids! 

Our 13 year old tester pointed out that an experienced younger LEGO builder (like his 10 year old  brother) would not have a problem with this set. "There are lots of pieces, but none of it difficult."  He thought the older label on the box was to appeal to the middle school audience that likes the books and movies. We agree.  He did note that the tower was a little more challenging to put together, but even that was not too difficult.

Our tester also thought this was a "really good" LEGO set in general. His rationale: "I have never seen most of these (Minifig) accessories before – They’re all new except for one battleaxe…" (His mother wanted us to share that this is a boy who, despite growing up in a pacifist home, knows his Lego medieval weaponry…) "The bows are more detailed, and the swords are a new model that is different from the Lego Kingdom sets. There is also a new type of pike. And they (the accessories)  all just seem more detailed."

We loved the parent report that this tester was mixing this set with other LEGO sets including the Kingdom and Star Wars to make his own fantasy story "set ups" that he builds.  His version of Middle Earth is populated with not only LOTR & LEGO Kingdom guys, but also pirates, dwarfs, an Ewok, a chef from Lego City (who is being held prisoner in the keep and being forced to cook for the general!), Prince of Persia guys, Chewbacca from StarWars, and a "space criminal."
 
And if there was any question that sometimes licensed sets prevail, check out this response to how he would spend his money:  "If I were going to spend the same amount of money on a Lego Kingdom set or a LOTR set, I would definitely choose the Lord of the Rings set."

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

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