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Product Type: Toys
Age: Preschoolers
Categories: Games

 

 
2014 Awards
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 the toy uses 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 their lower case form. The toy is marked for 3-6 and we would say that most 3's 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 original Leap Frog phonics 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.

Reinforcing sounds and shapes they can hold in their hands and touch give young learners double sensory feedback to help them master the names, sounds, and shapes of letters. Making letter play appealing, this format allows children to play solo as well as with an adult. Use the letters for spelling their names as well as the words in the program. 

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

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2014 Award
Stacking Veggie Game
(Hape $30 Score:)


Talk about healthy living. Here's a Janga-style stacking game played with colorfully painted wooden veggies. Once they are stacked the object is to pull the greatest number of veggies without making all the others tumble. A 55-piece set. The playing pieces can also be used for sorting, counting and other original games. Marked for 3 & up, but we think you need more dexterity and predicting skills than most 3's have. We think old fours and fives would find it fun, if tricky.

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

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2014 Award
Wonder Forge Dr. Seuss Charades
(Wonder Forge $10 Score:)

Charades for the preschool set. Players select the Dr. Seuss Character they want to be. One player draws a card and picks one of three actions to act out. Other players guess what the action is. The player who guesses first and the actor-outer both get to move on the playing board. First to cross the finish line wins. There is no reading in this game so it is designed for preschoolers. However the playing board has some twists along the way that can send players backwards (like Candlyland) and may be upsetting to younger players. They say 3 and up, we think doing charades may be tough for most threes and some fours. You may want to save this for older 4-5 year olds.

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

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2014 Awards
Number Pops
(Learning Resources $19.99 Score:)

For the youngest players, this is a color matching game that also involves beginning counting skills. Marked for two and up, we'd say this is probably a much better choice for threes and fours. That said, we can see how kids will be attracted to fitting the ice cream shaped pops into the colored pretend shells on top. These are color-coded with dots on the ice cream matching the colored shell that is marked with a numeral. Aside from pretend play these can be used for putting them in numerical order as well as matching dots and numerals. Or play, "I'm thinking of a pop that is one less than 6 or two more than five. For two's start with 1-3 and no more than five pops and gradually add more pops once they have a good grip on 1-5.

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

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2014 Awards
Crazy Pants
(Chatterbox Toys $20 Score:)

You'll like the quality of the art and feel of this sturdy board game that can be played in multiple ways—all of which challenge kids to use their listening and looking skills while also learning the rules of turn taking and the ups and downs gamesmanship. There are enough rounds so that kids can experience the fun of winning and inevitable alternative. There's no reading required but the games do play on matching, memory, color concepts, and listening. Cards can be used for Bingo style game, concentration, and sequencing. Develops a child's ability to see and hear differences as she finds not just a green dress, but a green dress with the purple bow. That kind of detail calls for more than chance, but is an important skill needed before reading. A good choice for 3-5.

Use this for language development as well as matching skills. A rich variety of games that can be adapted to your child.

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

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2014 Award
Pancake Pile-Up!
(Educational Insights $17.99 Score:)

An active fun game that's a lot like an egg and spoon race only this one is played with pancakes--made of plastic. Here's how it works. Players pull a card that shows a stack of pancakes with strawberries, blueberries, banana slices and chocolate chips. Players have to race to stack and serve a pile of pancakes that matches the order card. Teams or two players compete to carry the pancakes on the spatulas and be the first to make a stack topped with a pat of butter. This is an active game that can be played like a relay race with teams or a two-player match. One test parent thought it would be great for family gatherings or birthday parties with as many as 12 people playing. Test families liked that the sturdy materials and simple directions led to quick game play and it's a game that gets everyone moving! They usually ended up "out of breath and our hearts pumping by the end." One family also changed things up by putting the pancakes in other rooms and on the 2nd floor for extra challenges. Younger kids can play alternate set of rules. Challenges visual matching, dexterity, and speed. A good party game. They say 4 & up, we think older 5-8's will like it best.

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

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2014 Awards
Seek-a-Boo Game
(MindWare $19.99 Score:)

One of the most age appropriate games for older toddlers and younger preschoolers. The game can be scaled down for the youngest players by using fewer sets of matching images. There are six categories: food, toys, clothing, things found outdoors, animals and colors/shapes. For each category there are large circles with clear photos of each image- these are called the "Seek Me" cards. You place those on the floor. Now you select from the matching "Find Me" cards. Ask your child to find the image on the find me card.  You play until you have found all the matches. While this may seem very basic, it's just right for older toddlers and young preschoolers as a way of developing their vocabulary.  You can add more categories for older players. Bravo to Mindware for making a game on target for this age group!

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

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2014 Award
Dream Cakes
(Ravensburger $16.99 Score:)

Dream Cakes is great fun to play. The idea is to create the "biggest" cake by adding to the cake plate with tiers, frosting, and toppings.  There are LOTS of pieces to this game designed for 2 to 4 players. On your turn, spin the wheel to determine which kind of cake piece you get to add to your cake. The added fun comes with the cake measuring stick. Depending on how tall your cake is you get ribbons with point values. The player with the highest points (when there are no more pieces to play) wins! The pieces are sturdy and have a lovely storybook quality to the illustrations.

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

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2014 Award
Janod Who Am I? Game
(Janod $19.99 Score:)

Who Am I is a two player attribute game that is something like the classic game of Battleship for younger players. Each player picks one animal face that the other player cannot see. Players take turns asking questions about their opponent’s animal. Does your animal have glasses? If the answer is no the questioner crosses out all the animals with glasses. A marker is provided with a sponge eraser that removes the markings at the end of each round. By a process of elimination players deduce what animal their opponent has selected. This is a game that requires players to look at details and listen to clues. The game board reverses to reveal a whole other set of creatures. We have had other similar games, this one is slightly more complex and beautifully executed.  They say 4-7, we think fours can play this with a partner but not solo. That said this is an excellent choice for beginning readers who need to learn about looking closely at details. Instead of looking for the fine difference between bed and bad, here the game is played with pictorial details that are less abstract for beginners.

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

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2014 Award
Peaceable Kingdom Sunny Day Pond
(Peaceable Kingdom $15.99 Score:)

A ducky cooperative game that develops color matching, puzzle building, and fine motor skills. The big playing board has the images of three different four-piece puzzles. Players use the spinner on their turn that tells them what color puzzle piece they can take and match on the playing board. If you spin a rain-drop you must put one under the cloud. The object is for everyone to cooperatively finish the puzzles before there are no rain-drops left. So you are all playing against the game and the rain. Good fun, as well as helping beginners use their fine motor skill by learning how to rotate jigsaw puzzle pieces and fit them together. 3 & up.

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

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