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Product Type: Toys
Award: Platinum
Age: Late Elementary School Years
Review Year: 2012

 


2012 Award
American Girl Caroline Abbott, War of 1812
(American Girl $105 Score:)

Newest addition in the historical doll and book collection, Caroline Abbott lived during the time of the second American War of Independence, the War of 1812. Caroline, a lovely blonde 18" doll has blue eyes and comes dressed in a long pink dress, pantaloons, and pink shoes. She is the daughter of a shipbuilder and lives in Sackets Harbor, New York. When her father is captured by the British, Caroline has to try to live up to a promise she gave her father to prove her steadiness and courage. Her dream is to captain her own ship one day. Kathleen Ernst has authored six books about this brave young girl. Meet Caroline is the first and comes with the doll. No doubt there will be a sailing boat, craft kits, historically accurate clothes, and other accessories. We know a lot of little ones can't wait for this kind of doll, but the story part and the details are really most appropriate for the school years girl.

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

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2012 Award
LEGO Star Wars Gungan Sub
(Lego Systems, Inc. $69.99 Score:)

Our LEGO Star Wars fans gave this set high marks: "the shape of the pieces are different", "the tail spins!", "fun build", "I like the minifigs!"   This 465 piece set comes with a cockpit that opens, two cargo containers and a rotating tail. You can detach the mini-sub -- providing more room for dramatic play.   The plus of these sets is that most kids both build and PLAY with the sets once they're together.  Cleverly, each set comes with different minifigures-- so that's also part of the appeal of putting together the fleet.  This build comes with Queen Amidala, OBi-Wan Kenobi, Qui-Gon Jinn and of course, Jar Jar Binks.

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

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2012 Award
LEGO Star Wars Sith Fury-Class Interceptor
(Lego Systems, Inc. $89.99 Score:)

A big build featuring a ship from the Star Wars: The Old Republic series. With 748 pieces, this is not for beginners!  Our older LEGO builders loved working on this set ("it took a long time"). The folding wings open and close for flight/fight.  Comes with the truly evil (and fully caped) Darth Malgus and two Sith Troopers.  Nice that not everything is instantaneous and that our testers enjoyed the experience.

Age: Later School Years, Tweens, Teens. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2012 Award
LEGO Star Wars X-Wing Starfighter
(Lego Systems, Inc. $59.99 Score:)

One of the best new builds from the LEGO Star Wars line for 2012.  Our testers loved that that wings can move from an open to closed position. The set comes with 560 pieces making this a comfortable intermediate build. For beginner builders we'd suggest starting smaller and having them build their confidence before buying a bigger set.  If only the big box will do, make it a parent/child project--but just be careful not to take over the building!  There are lots of moving pieces (the canopy over the pilot) and there is of course a special compartment for R2-D2). Comes with JEK Porkins, R2-D2, Luke Skywalker and R5-D8. Also fun and smaller (only 376 pieces) is the Republic Striker-class Starfighter.

Age: Later School Years, Tweens, Teens. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2012 Award
LEGO Star Wars TIE Fighter
(Lego Systems, Inc. $54.99 Score:)

If you're shopping for a LEGO Star Wars fan, to us this is basic gear.  (The bad guy needs to have a way to get around.) Our testers found this intermediate set was sturdy once built (and you know this one will be swished around the room). Comes with 413 pieces and comes with mini figures: Death Star Trooper, TIE Fighter Pilot, IMperial Officer and R5-J2.  "The canopy that goes over the pilot is a good feature." 

Age: Later School Years, Tweens, Teens. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2012 Award
LEGO Star Wars Jabba's Palace
(Lego Systems, Inc. $119.99 Score:)

The big STAR WARS set of 2012 that will make any fan very happy. Something about having a LEGO version of Jabba is super cool. The palace comes with both the main building that was featured in the movie as well as a tower.  The set comes with 717 pieces and features Han Solo, Gamorrean Guard, Dola, Bib Fortuna, Han in Carbonite (how neat is that!), Chewbacca, Boushh, B'omarr Monk, Salacious B. Crumb and Jabba the Hutt. There's a trap door in the floor just like the movie, but no Princess Leah in a bikini.  What we really love about this set is that once it's built, there will likely be a lot of pretend play.

Age: Later School Years, Tweens, Teens. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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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 Award
LEGO Creator Highway Pickup
(Lego Systems, Inc. $79.99 Score:)

For more experienced builders this 3-in1 construction set can be used to make a Highway pick up, a sports car, and a crane truck. There are 805 pieces in this elaborate set and includes 2 light bricks for extra pa-zazzz. There is a working crane, and a truck bed that tilts, The sports car has steering that works and doors that open and close.   The Crane truck has push button headlights that work and a crane that rotates.  A good choice for 9 & up.

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

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2012 Award
LEGO Creator 3-in 1 Transport Chopper
(Lego Systems, Inc. $34.99 Score:)

Kids can build a helicopter, a pontoon seaplane, or a ferry. The set comes with 383 pieces that can be rebuilt again and again. Our tester liked the motion of the propellers and the ramps for uploading vehicles. These are relatively easy builds with plenty of pretend play potential after the construction puzzle part is complete. 8 & up.

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

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