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Product Type: Toys
Award: Platinum
Review Year: 2012


2012 Awards
LOL Elmo
(Playskool $39.99 Score:)

Happy-go-lucky Elmo is bubbling over with laughs again. Press his foot and his laughing begins, squeeze the remote control fishbowl and he laughs and wiggles even more. Tickle his tummy and Elmo not only laughs, he tells little jokes, too. Guaranteed to bring on a case of the giggles, this season's Elmo is smaller than he used to be and not too cuddly. You can feel the mechanism through his plush body. That said, this is a novelty toy that will be a sure fire favorite of kids and grown-ups alike. 18 months and up.

SNAP: Activating Elmo just might interest kids who need to work on strengthening hands and fingers. Elmo certainly will motivate them and there are three different ways to discover and remember how he moves. Squeeze his foot, tickle his tummy and press the remote. That's a lot of ways to make things happen. Is it a long term toy? Probably not. This is one of those novelty items that has some redeeming features.

Age: Toddlers, Preschool. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on

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2012 Award
Corolle Babicorolle Lili Cherry
(Corolle $39.99 Score:)

With all fabric features (including her eyes) and soft plush body, the Babicorolle makes an ideal first huggable. We loved the bright, cheerful colors of Cherry's outfit.  As you would expect from a little French doll, she is very stylish.  For older babies and toddlers, this vanilla-scented armful will be a favorite.

Age: Infants, Toddlers. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on

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2012 Award
Guitar Confetti
(Janod $30 Score:)

A handsome colorful first guitar. This is not a toy, but a first instrument with a bright painted wooden body and six steel strings. The instrument does not come with music or instruction, though the company plans to put music on their website. This French company is new to American markets. They also make a ukulele and a neat xylophone. These are marked 3 and up, but more appropriate for older preschoolers and early school years children.

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

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2012 Award
Small World Deco Bathroom Set
(Small World Toys $29.99 Score:)

A four-piece porcelain set that can be painted with original designs. The set comes with a cup, liquid soap dispenser, four-place toothbrush holder and soap dish. The permanent paint dries in the air, no baking needed, though you will want to protect the work surface and clothes of young artists. This is not a craft kit for young children, since the pieces are breakable. Older kids can paint the pieces and give them to grandparents, teacher, or for their own bathroom. 8 & up.

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

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2012 Award
Jack and the Never Land Pirates Challenge Game
(Wonder Forge $19.99 Score:)

An active early listening / reading game. An adult either reads the directions on the cards or kids use their beginning reading skills to follow the directions. On a player's turn he chooses a red doubloon and a blue one and reads the challenge that the two combined create. If he thinks he can do what it says to do he shouts, Yo Ho, Let's Go! If he does it successfully he wins gold doubloons for his team. If he can't do it, then he can pick another blue one. But be careful! If a player picks three game-over cards the game is over and his team loses! The cards have images that help the beginning readers and the idea of a pirate game will often charm beginners into playing and building their reading or listening skills.  Marked for 3 & up. We think this will be a better bet for older 4-7.  A fun game for a pirate themed birthday party, too.

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

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2012 Awards
Sassy My First Rattles
(Sassy $5.99 Score:)

Choose a predominantly hot pink or blue set of ring or dumbbell rattles. These are classic rattles that have been updated many times, but the basic shapes are exactly on the mark for baby. There are patterns for visual stimulation, textures to interest little hands, and quiet rattle sounds that are not too loud. In other words, this is just right.

SNAP: Use these colorful rattles for tracking games and early interactions. At first you will do all the actions to get a reaction. These are easy to grab and fit well in little hands when your child is ready to reach out and take hold of things.

Age: Infants. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on

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2012 Award
Wonderworld Red Buggy Car
(Wonderworld $99 Score:)

Toddlers can't wait to climb on board this wooden red ride-on with four-wheel drive for stability and a steering wheel for maneuvering. Low to the ground this pedal free ride on is powered by foot to the floor action. It has rubber tires for better traction indoors or out. This is one of those basic toys that older toddlers, with their new-won mobility are going to enjoy for a short but important stage when they are not ready for pedals or complicated ride-ons. This has a small beep-beep horn in the steering wheel and will be good for early pretend play as well as satisfying the need for using those big leg muscles. 2 & up.

Age: Toddlers. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on

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2012 Award
SmartLab DJ Rock Dock
(SmartLab $20 Score:)

A science toy that will get plenty of play. First things first, kids follow the step by step directions to make a circuit that will turn into a plug in set of portable speakers. Now put them into one of the easy to assemble paper housing boxes. No special tools are needed. Now, plug it into your ipod and play!  A small scienctific fact: the sound is greatly amplified when the speakers go into the housing that ceates a sound box. This set of real speakers will work with an ipod, smart phone or any mp3 player.

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

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2012 Award
LEGO The Lord of the Rings The Battle of Helm's Deep
(Lego Systems, Inc. $129.99 Score:)

For many tweens, teens and even adults-- when we mentioned that there would be Lord of the Rings LEGO sets it was like a dream come true. With over 1300 pieces, this is a tah-dah kind of build that recreates the fortress with towers, a main gate,  an exploding wall, a side door attack function and, of course, a catapult.  The set comes with one horse along with eight mini figures: Aragorn, Gimli, Haldir, King Theoden, Berserker Uruk-hai and three Uruk-hai.  Somehow we think this kit will end up on the holiday wish list of many "big" kids! 

Our 13 year old tester pointed out that an experienced younger LEGO builder (like his 10 year old  brother) would not have a problem with this set. "There are lots of pieces, but none of it difficult."  He thought the older label on the box was to appeal to the middle school audience that likes the books and movies. We agree.  He did note that the tower was a little more challenging to put together, but even that was not too difficult.

Our tester also thought this was a "really good" LEGO set in general. His rationale: "I have never seen most of these (Minifig) accessories before – They’re all new except for one battleaxe…" (His mother wanted us to share that this is a boy who, despite growing up in a pacifist home, knows his Lego medieval weaponry…) "The bows are more detailed, and the swords are a new model that is different from the Lego Kingdom sets. There is also a new type of pike. And they (the accessories)  all just seem more detailed."

We loved the parent report that this tester was mixing this set with other LEGO sets including the Kingdom and Star Wars to make his own fantasy story "set ups" that he builds.  His version of Middle Earth is populated with not only LOTR & LEGO Kingdom guys, but also pirates, dwarfs, an Ewok, a chef from Lego City (who is being held prisoner in the keep and being forced to cook for the general!), Prince of Persia guys, Chewbacca from StarWars, and a "space criminal."
And if there was any question that sometimes licensed sets prevail, check out this response to how he would spend his money:  "If I were going to spend the same amount of money on a Lego Kingdom set or a LOTR set, I would definitely choose the Lord of the Rings set."

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

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2012 Award
Cinderella Happily Ever After Carriage
(Disney $59.99 Score:)

We believe this comes under the heading of biggest piece of fantasy plastic of the season. That said, we know a lot of girls are going to love it. Cinderella's coach actually has a pumpkin shell that turns to reveal a royal style coach to take her to the ball and her wedding. She wears a white satin gown and looks every inch a princess! Marked 3 & up, we think this is more like a big box gift item for older 4 and 5 year olds.

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

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