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Product Type: Toys
Age: Late Elementary School Years

 


2014 Award
Zingo! Word Builder
(Thinkfun $19.99 Score:)

Our testers loved the fast-paced action of sliding the zinger machine to reveal two letters. Players take letter that they can use to complete a word on their playing boards. Possible words do vary so this game is rarely ever the same. In fact, it helps beginners see all the variations they can make as well as demonstrating the need to look at all the letters to see the difference between words that look almost alike. First player to fill his board is the winner. A fun way to reinforce reading skills for beginners who are learning to build phonetically regular three letter words. 5 & up

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2014 Award
Hape Happy Harp
(HaPe $36.99 Score:)

A charming and not too noisy instrument that kids can play instantly with the sheet music that goes under the strings. The sturdy wooden harp with nylon strings comes with two picks for strumming and several song sheets with familiar folksongs such as Row, Row, Row Your Boat, Happy Birthday, Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and more; songs that kids will soon be able to play and sing along to. Although there are songsheet, in time, children will be picking out songs they know and play by ear. You will need to tune this lovely auto harp before you present it. It comes with a tuner, so just keep track of that since it will need adjusting from time to time.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2014 Award
Klutz Felted Friends
(Klutz $19.99 Score:)

You start this craft kit with soft fuzzy wool and by following the instructions in the excellent book, transform that wool into adorable felt critters. The kit includes the special tools and materials you need to create really cute little animals. Use the six different colors and the special needle tool on the foam cushion to poke and form a cute little mouse, squirrel, bunny, fox, and cat into one-of-a-kind creations. Following instructions, staying with the task, and patience are all required along with a good deal of care with how and where the tool is used, since it is sharp and not for younger kids to handle. 10 & up.

Age: Later School Years, Tweens. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2014 Award
Klutz My Style Studio
(Klutz $21.99 Score:)

Our tester liked this fashion designer kit because it really involved tracing, coloring, and allowed for flexibility in designing. It has restickable stickers that you put on the transparent form. Then you trace and color the unique model. The kit comes with a drawing board, four sheets of clothing, hairstyles and faces to mix and match, plus colored pencils, textured rub sheets and tracing paper. The book gives ideas for designing and adding accessories. This is not an instantaneous reward giving kit. Designing takes time, patience, and skill along with creative ideas. Though we generally prefer more open-ended toys and steer clear of coloring and tracing, we know that older kids are often frustrated with their own drawings and like the safety net this gives them for trying new skills. 8 & up.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2014 Award
LEGO Creator 3-in-1 Roaring Power
(Lego Systems, Inc. $29.99 Score:)

Newest in the clever 3-in-1 builds the 374-piece set gives kids instructions for a roaring race-car, a T-Rex, and a sea plane. A mid-size kit that shows kids they can use the same pieces for new constructions.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2014 Award
LEGO STAR WARS Droid Gunship
(Lego Systems, Inc. $49.99 Score:)

The grey and blue Droid Gunship is an intermediate build with 439 pieces. If your Star Wars fan is building his fleet from the cartoon show (as opposed to the movies), this is a fine addition. Comes with a spring-loaded shooter, Chewbacca, Super Battle Droid, Battle Droid and 41st Elite Corps Trooper. We find that the included minifigs are a big part of the collectability appeal of the line for fans of the line. 8-14.

Age: Later School Years, Tweens, Teens, Adult. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2014 Award
LEGO STAR WARS V-Wing Starfighter
(Lego Systems, Inc. $24.99 Score:)

STAR WARS fans will love building this small red and grey spaceship. With 201 pieces this is a good place to start if you have a beginning LEGO/STAR WARS fan. Set comes with a V-Wing Pilot and an Astromech Droid. Also new this year and in the same level of building experiences: the yellow and grey Jedi Interceptor ($24.99 with 223 pieces and comes with Anakin Skywalker and R2-D2) and the blue/grey Vulture Droid ($24.99 with 205 pieces and comes with Buzz Droid, Pilot Battle Droid and Neimoidian Warrior). All marked 7-12. All come with new spring-loaded shooters which need some supervision.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years, Tweens. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2014 Award
Mudpuppy Shadow Puppets, Monster Mania
(Mudpuppy Press $16.99 Score:)

Eight laser cut monster faced shadow puppets on sticks come in this set that invites kids to explore the science of making shadows and the ancient art form of storytelling with those shadows. These come with no premade story. Cast the shadow on a light or white wall with a flashlight and let the action begin. Try using them to dance to spooky monsterous sounding music or tell a story of three monsters, a la Three Bears or create a totally original story. There is also a set of premade Madeline shadow puppets for younger players. They are marked 3 & up, but this is really a toy that is more appropriate for school aged players.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2014 Award
Mudpuppy Shadow Puppets, Madeline
(Mudpuppy Press $16.99 Score:)

Eight laser-cut shadow puppets on sticks are ready to lights and action as kids retell some of their favorite Madeline tales or make up their own stories based on thie classic adventures of young Madeline. The puppets give kids a chance to explore the science of making shadows and the ancient art form of storytelling with those shadows. We were surprised not to find all those girls in a long straight line as one of the puppets, but this set does include Madeline, the Eifel Tower, a house all covered with vines, Miss Clavel, and several of Madeline’s friends and pooch. Older kids will enjoy the Monster Mania set in the same line. Marked for 3 & up, we think older 4 and 5 year olds would be better able to make this happen.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2014 Award
LEGO CREATOR Turbo Quad
(Lego Systems, Inc. $24.99 Score:)

The 3-in-1 series is always a hit with our testers who love the ability to take their models apart and try their hand at another two builds. This one has instructions for the Turbo Quad, a Monster Truck or a Buggy. With 186 pieces, this is a beginning/ intermediate build for kids 7-12. Also new in this line this year, the Twinblade Adventure (models also include making a biplane or helicopter). For even smaller builds, look at Red Thunder (66 pieces) and Power Digger (64 pieces) - ideal for stocking stuffers.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years, Tweens. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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