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Product Type: Toys
Award: Blue Chip
Age: Early Elementary School Years


2010 Awards
Calico Critters 2010
(International Playthings $19.99 Score:)

A wonderful collection of animal families are ready for pretend play in the Calico Critter Treehouse or with use them with blocks or other miniature settings. Among our favorites this year are the Pickleweed Hedgehogs, Ellwood Elephants, Sugar Bears, and Milky Mouse families.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2010. Click here to purchase the product on

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2001 Awards
Lauri Alphabet Puzzle Boards
(Patch $29.99 Score:)

Crepe rubber puzzle boards.  There is one 5 piece puzzle for each letter of the alphabet. Each board has an upper and lower case letter and an object that starts with that sound. There are a lot of Alphabet puzzles around, but these have cut out letters that give kids a 'feel' for the shape and direction of the letters.

SNAP IDEAS: Kids can trace the letters or use them for spelling out their names. When kids are learning letters it's fun to put three in a bag and have child feel inside without looking. Can she pull out the letter "T" or one that says "M-m-m-m."

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2001. Click here to purchase the product on

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1996 Awards
Master Builder Block System
(T.C. Timber $25 Score:) These wooden blocks are 40 percent smaller than regular unit blocks but maintain their size relationships. Aside from mini-unit shapes there are interesting architectural sets for school-age builders: Roman, Egyptian, Mayan, Middle Eastern, Russian, and Japanese, and new for , the Coliseum ($50/110 pieces ) and the Leaning Tower of Pisa ($45/27 pieces).

Age: Preschool,Early School Years. Award Year: 1996.

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2001 Awards
Safari Rush Hour
(ThinkFun $20 Score:)

The object of this brainteaser is to get your jeep safely out of the African Savannah by sliding around all the wild animals in your path. Comes with pattern problem moves from beginner to advanced level. Develops visual perception, strategy, and patience! This is a variation of Rush Hour, PLATINUM AWARD '98. 8 & up. Also fun, a Jr. version of Rush Hour. 6 & up.

The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements. We did not independently test this toy in a lab.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2001.

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Push/Pull Wagon
(Radio Flyer $60 Score:) Bigger than the classic red wagon, this plastic update has higher sides, a well, and a stout handle for pushing or pulling kids or cargo. This and the BLUE CHIP classic version are ideal for carting plants, tools, imaginary playmates—you name it.

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

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Emergency Rescue Squad Puppets
(Learning Resources $19.95 Score:) Multicultural worker puppets include a doctor, paramedic, police officer, and firefighter. They have vinyl heads and cloth bodies and are ready for dramatic play. The same company makes multicultural families. 4 & up.

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

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1997 Awards
American Girl & American Girl of Today
(American Girl $84 Score:) This company has made its name with exquisite dolls from different periods in American history. New for 2001 is Kit Kittredge, a nine-year old growing up in the Depression Era. There are books for each doll—a wonderful way to introduce history to kids. The American Girl of Today collection allows you to choose one of 20 contemporary-looking dolls with Caucasian, African American, Hispanic, and Asian American skin tones and features. 7 & up. SNAP INFO: A wheel chair is available for the American Girl doll. It's sturdy and a welcome addition to an excellent line. You can order the doll of your choice with skin, eye and hair color to match your child.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 1997.

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Lego System Classic Building Sets
(Lego Systems, Inc. $3.99 Score:) Lego, the granddaddy of plastic building blocks, is a must-have for this age group. Unlike the themed models in the line these open-ended sets with a mix of bricks, wheels, doors, and mini-figures allow kids to build and design their own creations. Also a great value, Lego Classic Play Desk ($19) comes with 225 pieces. 5–7.

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

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1999 Award
Mad Math Dice Game
(Patrix Communications $23.99 Score:)

If math facts are a source of tension in your house here are two games for working on those skills. Mad Math is a board game that has addition facts on one side and multiplication on the other. The goal is to get three pawns in a row on the board. You collect spaces by rolling the dice and finding the corresponding math fact on the playing board. The board is self-correcting which is a plus. It's not like some dreaded "game" that's good for you—it's actually "edutaining." (This game has been modified this year by the addition of the "addition" side of the playboard). 9 & up.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 1999.

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1995 Awards
A–Z Panels
(Lauri $8.95 Score:) Not only does fitting the rubbery letters in and out of the puzzle frame help kids learn to know and name the letters, but handling the 3-D letters also gives kids a feel for their shapes. Also, Kids Perception Puzzle ($7.50), figures in slightly different poses that help kids look at small differences, just as they must when reading words that look almost alike, such as "cap" and "cup." Also recommended: Number Play ($14.95) with 10 puzzle boards each with a numeral and matching number of objects. 4–7. SNAP INFO: Getting a feel for the shape of letters is easier with the rubbery letters in this A-Z puzzle. Kids can use the empty puzzle board as a stencil to trace the letters, too. ACTIVITY: Use the letters to play a find my sound game. Put three letters on the table and say several words that stat with one of the letters. For example, if you say "sun, sit, smile" the child will pick up the S.- If the child picks up the right letter he keeps it.

Age: Preschool,Early School Years. Award Year: 1995.

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