Search Results for -
Product Type: Toys
Age: Early Elementary School Years
Categories: Games
Subcategories: Letters, Words and Reading

 

V Smile
(V-Tech $49.99 Score:) We plugged V Smile in and found it all to be so frenetic and certainly not age appropriate for 3's and up-as it is marked. We were playing the easy games and could not imagine how young kids will deal with the pace, content and levels of difficulty. The arcade formats may be easier to play because the joystick is bigger for small hands-but the skills involved are not intuitive…it's not like a touch screen where kids have more direct control with a finger or stylus. Threes, fours and most fives are not ready for letter sequences or spelling. Toys that push skills that are more appropriate for early school years give kids a poor sense of themselves as learners and apprehension about learning altogether. About the only age group the content is really right for would be the 6-7's --that is if what you want is to get them started on are arcade games that produce more agitation than education. We know this is getting a big play in the media, but we suggest you test it before you bring it home. A better choice from the same manufacturer is VTech's new and innovative Write N Learn Smartboard ($29.99). It is indeed a smart toy that works on letter and number skills in concrete ways that involve kids in writing and counting games. It recognizes the letters children write and names them! It has a magic quality that is sure to catch the attention of young players. This is a wise choice for a targeted audience that is learning to write and read. In other words, this is a smart toy that reinforces skills for late Kindergarten, first and second graders. It goes at your child's pace- not the stressful world of arcade gaming. UPDATE 2007 A console that also plugs into the TV and specializes in drill-and-review games that usually borrow from arcade formats. While seven year olds often enjoy reinforcing what they know, the pace of this product is way too fast to “learn” from and certainly way beyond the preschool crowd (its targeted audience). New for 2007 Art Studio and Dance Mat did not receive good ratings from our testing families. They complained that the games were not responsive and they disliked the graphics. (800) 521-2010.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2007.

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2006 Award
Big Brain Book Interactive Dictionary
(Oregon Scientific $34.99 Score:) We don’t love the cartoonish illustrations in this big book of words, but that said, it has a stylus that reads the definitions on the oversized pages. Children will need to learn how to click the stylus each time they change pages, but once learned they can enjoy this independently. This is a better choice than the Encyclopedia from the same maker, with information that seems more appropriate for middle school. 5–8. (949) 608-2848.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2006.

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2009 Awards
LeapFrog Fridge Phonics Magnetic Set
(LeapFrog $24.99 Score:)

For the 21st-century child, magnetic letters that talk! Put the "magnetic phonics reader" onto the fridge and it will play one capital letter at a time. The toy will say and sing each letters name and sing the sound they say. Letters are raised to give kids the feel for their shapes. Use these for letter name and sound recognition.  Look for the Fridge Words Magnetic Word Builder version for simple three letter word games. This is labeled 2 & up, but is more appropriate for preschoolers and early school kids. We're heard that the toy will scratch stainless steel fridge doors...so find another home for this if that is what you have. The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements. We did not independently test this toy in a lab.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2009. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2007 Award
LeapFrog Fridge Words Magnetic Word Builder
(LeapFrog $27.99 Score:)

Kids can create more than 325 three-letter words with magnetic letters that speak and sing. This is a step beyond the original Fridge Phonics Letters Set, which plays one letter at a time. World Whammer is played with three letters to help kids learn to blend sounds and make words. It includes single letter names and sounds, plus word hunt games with rhyming words. Some 4s may be ready, but this is really a better game for 5-7.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2007. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2008 Award
Scrabble Me
(Winning Moves Games $19.99 Score:) Two to four players, each with a small individual Scrabble board is the way you play this new and faster paced version of a classic. Players put their words down at the same time on their own little boards and score each round. Game play goes on until all 100 tiles are gone. But watch out! When you play a wild tile (a blank tile) you swap boards with another player. High scorer is the winner. 8 & 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,Later School Years. Award Year: 2008.

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2009 Award
Kinder-Ready Alphabet Clue Cards
(Elmer's $10 Score:)

Two piece puzzles fit together when kids match the two parts of a butterfly or caterpillar, etc. This alphabet set is done with art by renowned illustrator, Eric Carle. The matching halves show upper and lower case images of the letter illustrated. The reverse side of the puzzle shows the name of the picture with upper and lower case. These may be useful for building sight vocabulary for beginning readers.

We were less happy with the Rhyming and Opposite Clue Cards because the two concepts are not the same, though the playing pieces will be mixed up in one box. We also found the opposite concepts a bit confusing. For example, one set shows a peanut in a shell and another with the shell cracked—the concept here is suppose to be open and closed; we think a window or door would have done this more clearly. This is just one example of several pairs that are easily misunderstood. If you decide to buy these, we suggest you put the two sets into separate ‘baggies’ for less confusion and talk about the opposite concepts. 3 & up.

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

This toy is only available at Barnes & Noble until 2010

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2009.

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Leap Pad
(LeapFrog $34.99 Score:) We really wanted to love this electronic reading aid, but found the content disappointing and beyond the targeted 4-7 crowd. Labeled 4 & up, it introduces skills way beyond preschoolers' ability. Leap Pad Pro, aimed at second-fifth graders, has so much text on a page, it's frustrating to young readers and limits older ones. The company should hook up with a solid beginning-readers series to match their innovative technology.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: .

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2006 Award
Teddy the Teaching Bear
(Educational Insights $19.99 Score:) Colors, shapes, counting and other matching games are built into this clever little no-batteries needed quiz machine. More fun than a workbook, but the content is similar. There are 24 two sided cards that fit into a grid. Look at item on the left and find the matching item in the grid. Place the Teddy on the right match and its arm goes up. SO this is a self-correcting toy that reinforces reading symbols from left to right. No reading is required, but the mechanics of reading line-by-line and left to write and seeing details, as well as matching and language are all built into the play. They say 3 & up. We’d say more like 4-5. (800) 995-4436.

Age: Preschool,Early School Years. Award Year: 2006.

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2006 Awards
WonderFoam Big Letters
(Chenille Kraft Co. $11.5 Score:) Twenty-six big colorful foam letters. These are fun to trace and stick to the wet wall of the tub to spell out names and words. These have an interesting texture, as well, that make them an even better sensory learning tool. Activity: Because these letters have a textured finish they can be used for crayon rubs. Put a sheet of paper on top of a letter and use the side of a crayon to rub over the letter. Make a name sign with rubbings. Also, WonderFoam Magnetic Letters and Numbers ($10.50 )—unlike old-time plastic magnetic letters with tiny magnets that can be a choking hazard, these foam letters are completely backed with magnetic material that mirrors their shape. Also, new WonderFoam Dominoes SNAP AWARD ($15.50 ) Twenty-eight big dominoes with colorful dots that are color-coded to match. One can feel some sensory information in the cut-out form of the dots. They are not raised, but you can feel their outline. A great matching game. (800) 621-1261.

Age: Preschool,Early School Years. Award Year: 2006.

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2009 Award
Polar Bear A B C
(Hasbro $9.99 Score:) If you're working on letter recognition, this is a fun game to play at home. There is a fishing pole and letters to go fishing for...kids will learn how to spell 15 different words that they are asked to go find the letters for. What's really nice about this game is that it isn't overwhelming--there are only 13 letters. Very straight forward with the added bonus of getting to put the polar bear figure in the water if you finish spelling your word. Marked for preschoolers, but will be a good game for 5s and 6s working on their letters. Safety note: the letters are backed with a magnetic sheet--so if there are kids in your house that still mouth their toys be sure to keep this one out of range. The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements. We did not independently test this toy in a lab.

Age: Preschool,Early School Years. Award Year: 2009.

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