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Product Type: Toys
Age: Preschoolers

 

 
2014 Awards
Hape Dream House
(HaPe $199.99 Score:)

Our tester loves the see-through elevator that runs up and down the outside of this three-story house with chalk siding so kids can customize the exterior walls. It not only comes mostly furnished, it has decorative wallpapered interior walls that are magnetized to hold easy-to-fill picture frames for original artwork or photos. The 32-piece doll house kitchen counter, refrigerator, sofa, loveseat, 3 rugs, coffee table, floor lamp, toilet, bathtub, bed with comforter, pillows, 2 side table, armoir, media cabinet, magnetized wall sconces, wall clock, 2 art frames, bath vanity, toilet paper roll, mirror, shower,LCD/TV, and wall shelf. Note: Dolls are available in families or individually and sold separately. 3 & up

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

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2014 Award
Disney Planes Matching Game
(Wonder Forge $10..99 Score:)

For kids who are fans of Planes will like playing the classic matching game of concentration. Put the cards face down and take turns turning over two to find a pair of matching planes. True, it may be an old game, but an important one for building memory skills. These cards with distinctive bright backgrounds make the task somewhat easier. 3 & up

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

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2014 Award
Vtech Lil' Speller Phonics Station
(Vtech $25 Score:)

Learning letter names and the sounds they say is an interactive game with the letters in the carry case that fit into the board and speak. That is just one level of play. Kids can spell hundreds of three letter words and hear them said or they can hear a word and find the letters to spell that word. This is a game for the beginning reader. We like that they have used lower case letters since that is what beginning readers need to learn to recognize and read. Often kids only know upper case letters and have to relearn the names of letters in the lower case form. The toy is marked for 3-6 and we would say that most 3s are not ready for most of the skills on this toy. That said, it can be a fun toy for preschoolers who are getting interested in letters and words—not being pushed into reading. This is very much like the first Leap Frog toy introduced several decades ago. It was a good idea then and still a good idea for a new crop of pre-literate children who are ready and eager to become literate.

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

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2014 Awards
Hasbro Lite Brite LED Flat Screen
(Hasbro $20 Score:)

This is not your old Lite Brite, it really is improved in multiple ways, with the play value still totally there. First improvement: the templates are no longer easy-to-rip but are sturdy and reusable--a real plus. The flat screen box is sleek and the storage box for the pegs can be attached or not. There are so many pegs kids may have trouble closing the storage box. Take the new big shapes out and the case will close. There are now more shapes than ever, adding new visual interest, as well. This is one of those toys that may seem mindless, but it does give fine motor muscles a tuning up—the same finger muscles they need to use for writing and such, only this is more fun. They also have to follow the pattern, calling for visual discrimination and sequencing, more reading and writing skills. Does this translate into school skills? No guarantees, but it might indeed help. The new board has 4 different modes to light up the creations and a 5th one to turn off the lights. 3 AA batteries required and not included. Keep this toy out of the reach of younger sibs who still mouth their toys. Marked for 4 and up, but school aged kids 5-8 will have more success, less frustration, and greater benefit. Available in blue or hot pink. 4 & up.

SNAP: A good choice for building fine motor skills without drillling with pencil and paper tasks. Also useful for developing visual discrimination and sequencing.

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

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2014 Awards
Hape All-In-1 Easel
(Hape $ Score:)

 
A versatile adjustable wooden easel with chalkboard on one side, a white magnetic board on the other side, a roller that holds paper for painting on top. There is a flat tray that will hold eraser and chalk as well as three paint pots. If you have room for it, this is an art center that will be used all through the early years from 3-7

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

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2014 Award
Geo Safari My First Microscope
(Educational Insights $21.99 Score:)

Designed for preschoolers, this allows young children to use both eyes instead of having to close one eye, as with a real microscope. The eye-piece can be raised and lowered for better views and it allows children to view coins and leaves and other familiar items under the lenses. Oddly, this is more like a magnifying glass than a microscope and the further up the lenses the more detail you see. It works with 8X magnification. 3 & up

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2014.

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2014 Award
Thomas & Friends Lumber Yard Waterfall Adventure
(Fisher-Price $139.99 Score:)

Thomas and Friends picks up a log and brings it the Sodor Lumber Yard to be cut into lumber. A magnetized crane lifts the log. As the train travels across the top of the track it activates the log cutter and the lumber run down the waterfall. Cleverly designed, the falling lumber is attached so the pieces cannot go lost. This wooden train set is from the new online Thomas & Friends collection. Although this is a self contained set up you can incorporate other tracks and accessories to enlarge and vary the play. We preferred this to the bolder set. The magnetized log is not for children who still mouth their toys. 3 & up.

Age: Preschool. Award Year: 2014.

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2014 Awards
Green Toys Seaplane, Safe Seas Set
(Green Toys $24.99 Score:)

With one propeller and two hefty pontoons this two toned blue seaplane is ready for plenty of dramatic action in the pool or bathtub. It not only floats, the pontoons take on water that is pun to pour out. Made from 100% post-consumer recycled plastic products that are tested for safety. This is a good choice for 1 & up, up, up. Forget the picturebook that is not going to appeal to toddlers. That said, the plane has miles of play value. 1 & up.

Age: Toddlers, Preschool. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2014 Award
Carry Case Finger Puppet Theater
(Babalu $42.99 Score:)

Cleverly designed, this wooden puppet theater fits into a small wooden case that becomes the base and proscenium arch that spans the top of the stage. It has a working curtain. Set it up for table top performances and after the show it all goes back in the base box. Puppets are extra. They make charming choice of wooden headed finger puppets:queen, prince,princess, fairy...no King in the samples we tested. ($5.50 each)

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

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2014 Award
Play-Doh Diggin’Rigs Buzz Saw Playset
(Hasbro $19.99 Score:)

With this fun truck kids create the play-doh logs with an extruder that pushes the tubular shapes out of the back-end of the truck. But that's not the end-all. Now they can use the crane with its child friendly buzz-saw blade to cut the logs to fit on the flat-bed of the truck. There are also molds all over the truck that can be used to make other tools. Even the play-doh containers can be used as barrels to carry things from one place to another. A nice choice that combines two of kids favorites--vehicles and fooling around with play-doh. 3 & up

Age: Preschool. Award Year: 2014.

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