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Product Type: Toys

 


2015 Award
STAR WARS BB-8 Droid
(Sphero $149.99 Score:)

Move over R2-D2, there's a new droid in the galaxy. Our Star Wars loving testers couldn't wait to tester this new App-enabled droid from Sphero. You can guide BB-8 with your smartphone or tablet. It responds and will react to your voice. They also loved how his head would pop off if they directed him into a wall. (We are talking 9 year olds after all!)  Parents liked that it came with a well designed charging base to sit in - charging is via USB cable (included). On the flipside:  The holographic messaging was disappointing to our reviewers - it's not like the movie where we see Princess Leia. They also wished that the actual BB-8 made sound (the sound effects come from your phone or tablet). Our testers did love how BB-8 could move around more freely (not just back and forth like most remote-controlled vehicles). Even with the noted drawbacks, the kids loved this novelty toy from the big movie of the year!

 

Age: Later School Years, Tweens. Award Year: 2015. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2015 Awards
Mirari Pop Pop Piano
(Patch Products $27.99 Score:)

We ran into this at the Museum of Modern Art and had to wait a long while for a turn. Kids of all ages were drawn to this tot-sized keyboard with a see-through dome where music making also sets the colorful plastic stars in action. Pop, pop is right. Hit the keys and the stars pop up and jump from one cylinder to another. There are two sound modes, one musical the other funny sound effects; both pleasant enough. Older players may try to play tunes or get the colors into the matching cylinder; for babies this is more of an instant gratification toy that empowers their sense of being able to make things happen. Marked for 1 and up, we'd say this will be enjoyed even by sitting up babies who are gaining control of their hand movements.

 

SNAP: The sounds and sights of this little keyboard will lend motivation for using eye hand skills that are rewarding with payoffs they can see and hear. Kids can activate this with a swipe of a hand or with more regned finger movements. You may need to velcro this down to a table top so it does not move around.

Age: Infants, Toddlers. Award Year: 2015. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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Disney Infinity STAR WARS 3.0 Edition Starter Pack
(Disney Interactive $64.99 Score:)

Move over Skylanders, the force has come to virtual play. Beloved Star Wars characters join Marvel, Disney and DisneyPixar  characters in the Toy Box that is Disney InfinityWe were not entirely surprised that many parents were eager to try this one out with their kids. On the plus side our testers liked that they could mix characters to their own adventures. Our families did not love that they had to buy new base for each new pack.  (Editors' Note: We're not big on video games that pull kids into video gaming land that can become all-consuming with games that are often variations on the same "battle" intensive games.  That said, we took a look at the major three competitors this year to see how they stacked up with our reviewers. We still suggest putting off the gaming console as long as possible and if and when you bring one home, you set the limits ahead of time. You’ll soon notice that many other types of play will fall away if you allow them to. We also recommend that you play the games with your kids so you can judge the amount of intensity involved. . If you're new to these games, you buy the action figures that unlock characters and skills/powers that you can use on-line. You'll need to have a current gaming platform to play any of these games. Works on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo WiiU, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.)


Age: Tweens, Teens. Award Year: 2015. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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LEGO Dimensions Starter Pack
(Lego Systems, Inc. $99.99 Score:)

Move over Skylanders, LEGO Dimensions is vying for virtual playtime. Along with their own characters (a Wizard, a LEGO Master and a Dark Knight) as well as licensed characters (DC Comics, The Lord of the Rings, Jurassic World, The Simpsons, Back to the Future), LEGO Dimensions invites kids to use vehicles and gadgets as they play games and go on virtual adventures. The fun is combining the characters from different franchises to save the day. So you can have Gandolf riding the Batmobile. (Editors' Note: We’re not big on video games that pull kids into video gaming land that can become all-consuming with games that are often variations on the same "battle" intensive games.   That said, we took a look at the major three competitors this year to see how they stacked up with our reviewers. We still suggest putting off the gaming console as long as possible and if and when you bring one home, you set the limits ahead of time. You’ll soon notice that many other types of play will fall away if you allow them to. We also recommend that you play the games with your kids so you can judge the amount of intensity involved. If you're new to these games, you buy the action figures that unlock characters and skills/powers that you can use on-line. You'll need to have a current gaming platform to play any of these games. Works on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo WiiU, Playstation 3 and Xbox 360.)

Age: Tweens, Teens. Award Year: 2015. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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Skylanders Super Chargers Starter Pack
(Activision $74.99 Score:)

The leader in this new toy/video gaming category still remained slightly ahead of LEGO Dimensions and Disney Infinity STAR WARS with our testing families. Our testers loved the new vehicles and the ability to merge characters from previous sets into game play. The storyline remains the same good vs. evil. Skyland is in peril from Kaos - it's up to the special team with their super vehicles to save the day.


(Editors' Note: We're not big on video games that pull kids into video gaming land that can become all-consuming with games that are often variations on the same "battle" intensive games. That said, we took a look at the major three competitors this year to see how they stacked up with our reviewers. We still suggest putting off the gaming console as long as possible and if and when you bring one home, you set the limits ahead of time. You’ll soon notice that many other types of play will fall away if you allow them to. We also recommend that you play the games with your kids so you can judge the amount of intensity involved. If you're new to these games, you buy the action figures that unlock characters and skills/powers that you can use on-line. You'll need to have a current gaming platform to play any of these games. Works on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo WiiU, Playstation 3 and Xbox 360.)


Age: . Award Year: 2015. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2015 Awards
Kid O Wobbles
(Kid O $8.99 Score:)

These colorful Wobbles are weighted at the bottom so they move easily, but not too far, with a swipe of the hand and then bounce back up. For sitting up babies they are a hands-on exercise in cause and effect. Choose fox, owl, or raccoon or all three. Wobbles are just the right size for small hands to hold and for toddlers, who like to take small playthings along. Done in bright slick plastic they are totally easy to grasp, attractive and also fun for playing the "stupid parent game" in which baby drops it from high chair and parent picks it up...again and again.  Cause and effect for grown ups learning about who is in charge. They say 1 & up; we'd say 6 month and up, up, up.

Age: Infants, Toddlers. Award Year: 2015. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2015 Award
Lottie Doll Collection
(Arku $19.99-34.99 Score:)

Lottie arrived a little late this season but better late than never! She's one of those special collectables, only 7.5 inches tall, available with different hair color, styles and interests. Best of all the Lottie collection conveys positive messages about the many roles girls can play. While her clothing choices are vast, she is more than another fashion plate. Like girls today, she has interests as varied as karate, soccer, riding and the solar system. Lottie Stargazer ($24.95) is dressed in a warm jacket, boots and hat to go out on a wintery night and view the sky with her own telescope (included along with solar system cards). Girls are encouraged to visit the European Space Agency website, www.esa.int/kids to find space information, quizzes and games. Pony Club Lottie ($34.95) is the biggie of the season; a blonde Lottie dressed in riding clothes and packaged with her own black beauty pony. There are many other accessories for the young rider and this is sure to make a hit with the young horsie set. Also new and less pricey this season, Lottie Fossil Hunter with her backpack and hiking clothes, or Muddy Puddles in her yellow slicker and Rockabilly, a musician who wears a vintage school jacket and glasses. Each are $19.99. Like a number of other doll collections this year, you can find Lottie dolls with the accent on sports, active life and several with a link to STEM learning. For a small collectable, she has a lot of versatility. Marked for 3 and up, we think these will be easier for slightly older girls, who will be able to get the clothes both on and off. Preschoolers generally do not have the fine motor skills to handle the tiny shoes and clothes; they do well with the undressing part and then will need adult help to get the tiny clothes back on or add this to their collection of naked dolls.

 

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2015. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2015 Award
Kosmos Ubongo
(Thames & Kosmos $39.99 Score:)

oRace against the timer and your competition to be the first to cover your puzzle board with the interlocking geometric forms. Each player gets a set of 12 polyominos that they must fill in the empty spaces. With each round players get a new board to fill and a roll of the die to determine which polyominos they must use. A fast-paced game for solo or up to four players. Players win gems for the rounds they win- blue for the fastest and amber for second. Colors have different point values and at the end of nine rounds the score is tallied to see who has the highest number of points.

8 & up

 

 

Age: Later School Years, Tweens. Award Year: 2015. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2015 Award
HearthSong Monarch Connectagons
(Hearthsong $49.99 Score:)

A beautiful building set with painted wooden pieces that fit together to form a garden of milkweed on which to perch the painted monarchs. There is no right or wrong way to build this, yet it involves dexterity, symmetry, problem solving and creativity. 139 pieces. Marked 4 and up, but a better choice for slightly older children with the eye hand skills needed to make this stand.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2015. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2015 Award
Faber-Castell Create With Clay Kit
(Faber-Castell $14.95 Score:)

The perfect kit for beginning artists who are new to the world of clay. It comes in a nice carrying case with 10 colors that do not dry out. Includes a rolling tool, 8 cutters, a texture plate, and push mold. This kind of art material builds not only creativity, it's a good way to develop eye hand control as well as strengthening fime motor skills they need for writing. Comes with a generous supply of clay--enough for a play date without running out of supplies. 

 

 

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2015.

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