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Product Type: Toys
Award: Platinum
Age: Preschoolers
Review Year: 2012

 


2012 Award
Pony Flag Race Lottie
(Arklu $19.99 Score:)

One of an adorable collection of 7-inch dolls with removable clothing and moveable joints for poseable play. They have painted faces with big eyes and plenty of hair to arrange. These are not fashion dolls in the traditional sense, but girl dolls. Their clothes have a high-end look, though the girls are plastic and not overly pricey. Marked 3 & up although kids under 5-6 will seldom have the dexterity to dress them. Also see Snow Queen doll and Spring Celebration Ballet doll from the same line.

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

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2012 Award
Snow Queen Lottie
(Arklu $19.99 Score:)

One of an adorable collection of 7-inch dolls with removable clothing and moveable joints for poseable play. They have painted faces with big eyes and plenty of hair to arrange. These are not fashion dolls in the traditional sense, but girl dolls. Their clothes have a high-end look, though the girls are plastic and not overly pricey. Marked 3 & up although kids under 5-6 will seldom have the dexterity to dress them. Also see Pony Flag Race rider doll and Spring Celebration Ballet doll from the same line.

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

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2012 Award
Spring Celebration Ballet Lottie
(Arklu $19.99 Score:)

One of an adorable collection of 7-inch dolls with removable clothing and moveable joints for poseable play. They have painted faces with big eyes and plenty of hair to arrange. These are not fashion dolls in the traditional sense, but girl dolls. Their clothes have a high-end look, though the girls are plastic and not overly pricey. Marked 3 & up although kids under 5-6 will seldom have the dexterity to dress them. Also see Pony Flag Race rider doll and Snow Queen from the same line.

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 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
Jack and the Never Land Pirates Challenge Game
(Wonder Forge $19.99 Score:)

An active early listening / reading game. An adult either reads the directions on the cards or kids use their beginning reading skills to follow the directions. On a player's turn he chooses a red doubloon and a blue one and reads the challenge that the two combined create. If he thinks he can do what it says to do he shouts, Yo Ho, Let's Go! If he does it successfully he wins gold doubloons for his team. If he can't do it, then he can pick another blue one. But be careful! If a player picks three game-over cards the game is over and his team loses! The cards have images that help the beginning readers and the idea of a pirate game will often charm beginners into playing and building their reading or listening skills.  Marked for 3 & up. We think this will be a better bet for older 4-7.  A fun game for a pirate themed birthday party, too.

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

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2012 Award
Cinderella Happily Ever After Carriage
(Disney $59.99 Score:)

We believe this comes under the heading of biggest piece of fantasy plastic of the season. That said, we know a lot of girls are going to love it. Cinderella's coach actually has a pumpkin shell that turns to reveal a royal style coach to take her to the ball and her wedding. She wears a white satin gown and looks every inch a princess! Marked 3 & up, we think this is more like a big box gift item for older 4 and 5 year olds.

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

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2012 Award
LeapsterGS Explorer
(LeapFrog $69.99 Score:)

Looking for an age-appropriate hand-held game for your younger child that longs to have one like the "big kids"?  Look no further than the LeapsterGS Explorer. While we still urge that "screen time" be monitored and not allowed to take over playtime, this child-centered version is a better choice in terms of content and ease of use. The LeapsterGS leverages the large library of games and eBooks that the company has developed over the years. There are more than 300 learning games to select from (three come loaded on the console). There is a built-in camera so that your child can insert their picture (or yours!) into some of the game play.  As with most LeapFrog educational products, you can load your child's spelling lists into the Leapster-- making studying for Friday's quiz a little less painful.  What's important to know: as with any educational quiz machine, they rarely "teach" new skills but do provide an opportunity to become more comfortable with material that your child has already been introduced to in school.  Practicing your math facts or spelling words gives your child more confidence as they pick up speed through repetition. The trick here is that the academic skill is packaged in fun games.  Let's just say, this is not your old-fashion workbook!  (Remember those?)

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
LeapPad2 Explorer
(LeapFrog $99 Score:)

This updated version of last year's breakthrough LeapPad Explorer remains our top pick in high tech toys for 2012. Just like the original, it delivers on all counts in terms of being age appropriate, engaging and easy to use.

What we wrote last year: The LeapPad is not your iPad. In many ways, we think it's better. Well, better for the young audience for which it was designed. At $99, the white, lightweight tablet delivers satisfying speed and graphics to your older preschooler and early school age child. Unlike your iPad, everything is meant for your child. The games pull from LeapFrog's library of 100+ educational games- so you can select those that are most appropriate for your child and her needs. You can use all Leapster Explorer games and apps you already have- also a plus. Our testers also loved exploring the art program- here's an example of where an adult may want a turn! The LeapPad also has a built in camera and video camera. All in all- a great use of technology that will entertain and engage your child.

What's new this year: it's lighter, smaller,  has 4 GB Memory, both a front and back camera, video capability, a faster processor, and you can recharge (although recharger sold separately).  There are now 325 plus games to access from the LeapFrog library as well as eBooks. Comes loaded with 5 apps.  We recommend that you download the more open-ended art studio (it no longer comes loaded).  It comes in both green and pink.

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 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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