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Award: SNAP
Age: Preschoolers
Review Year: 2012

 

 
2012 Awards
Fisher Price, Thomas The Train: Steam 'n Speed R/C Thomas
(Fisher-Price $44.99 Score:)

Imagine a train engine that sends up blue steam! Really! Kids control the motion with a child-friendly radio controller that lets them activate the steam and send Thomas rolling backwards or forward. Thomas also chugs and whistles and says a few phrases. The steam is created with cold water - like a cold-water vaporizer; so there is no danger. It needs 4 AA batteries to run.  2 & up.

SNAP: As remote vehicles go, this is less complex than most. Yet, there is a sense of power to be gained as children gradually come to master and recall the buttons to push that make this little engine go. The magic of the blue smoke make this a toy that will wow a wider age range of players...probably even the  grown ups in the room.

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

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2012 Awards
Fisher Price Little People Wheelies Loops 'n Swoops Amusement Park
(Fisher-Price $44.99 Score:)

Toddlers will like the repeat action of this two foot tall runway. It comes with two little vehicles that will twist and turn on the ramp way or zip down the slide into a 360 degree loop. At the end of the ramp it plays a sound effect salute. This is a big, big piece of plastic that will make a really big show for gift giving and will probably give your toddler play value for a while. We tested it with balls from other ball runs and found it works well that way too. If you leave the batteries out, it will still work perfectly well and be less intrusive in a small space if you are annoyed with repeated sound effects.

SNAP: A good choice for developing visual tracking and sense of making things happen with independence. Concrete experiences help to develop color concepts and position words such as top and bottom, down and up, high and low, in and out. 

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

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2012 Awards
Imaginetics Race Day
(International Playthings $7.99 Score:)

A magnetic board with a race track graphic and lots of colorful cars to move around the track. A 16-piece set that invites imaginative play, story telling, and quiet time. Take it along on your next trip to a waiting room or for making time fly as you travel.

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

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2012 Awards
eeBoo About Face
(eeBoo $15 Score:)

Assemble the strips to create an endless cast of zany faces. Created by artist Saxton Freeman uses his photos of found objects to create images that can represent eyes, noses, mouths and other features from leaves, ribbons, coins and such. There is no right or wrong. Good fun. 4 & up.

SNAP: A good talking game with objects to know and name and extend vocabulary. Use this game for solo play or taking turns adding the top, middle and bottom of faces.

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

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2012 Awards
Poppin Play Piano
(LeapFrog $24.99 Score:)

Toddlers will like the action of hitting the keys and making the color balls jump. But this poppin' piano goes way beyond that simple play mode. It is an electronic toy and has a load of built-in bells and whistles. As electronic toy pianos go, this one has pretty good sound. It plays a variety of instruments --piano, organ, harpsichord, synthesizer, and something called popping sounds. But you cannot go from one instrument to another without going to another activity and returning to the "choose an instrument" mode and then striking a different note on the keyboard. In other words, there is nothing easy about the choices. There are several modes, most well beyond the 12-36 month age group on the package. Mode one is a number drill with the audio telling children to hit the numerals on the big colorful keys. Mode two tells children the color of the key they are striking and makes a ball jump up. Another skill set that does not match the age group. There is another mode that plays premade music and kids can hit whatever notes they choose while the song is playing. Kids need to be in the instrument section to have free playtime. It has loud and soft volume settings.

SNAP: This child friendly keyboard will encourage children to use fine motor skills as well as giving them the powerful satisfaction of making music with a swipe of the hand. 

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

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2012 Awards
eeBoo Carnival Glitter Glue
(eeBoo $5 Score:)

Who can resist the thrill of a fresh pack of glitter glue? Use them for drawing, decorating cards or packages, add it to gift tags. eeBoo has several mixed sets with narrow tips that allow you to draw with some accuracy. Each set comes with four glue sticks of related hues.  They do look a bit like candy sticks and choosing the colors you may be hard to do...they all look so tempting to kids who like crafts.

SNAP: An appealing way to get kids to develop hand strength. Cover up the work space, cover up the cloths and let the fun begin. Allow kids to explore in an open-ended way for starters. Then, print your child's name on a big piece of paper and have her trace the lines to make a name sign.

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

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2012 Awards
Hape Farm Animals Mix and Match
(HaPe $20 Score:)

A 28-piece set of picture dominoes with colorful graphics painted on the wooden playing pieces. Turn them over and have a game of traditional dominoes with dots. This is a good game for pre-readers learning to match images before they begin matching letters. Or, for early counting skills, dominoes helps children begin to sight read sets of two, three, or more and match them. 3 & up.

SNAP: A perfect choice for knowing and naming animals as well as beginning matching skills and counting.

Age: Preschool. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2012 Awards
Hape Ring-Around-A-Rosy
(HaPe $45 Score:)

A classic toy for developing dexterity as well as imagination. Toddlers love sliding the colorful beads over the maze of wires. Safely tethered, the colored beads and rings are fun to move up, up, up and see them slip and slide down. This is a good manipulative plaything. Children often turn the beads into cars, people, animals or whatever they choose to imagine as they move them up and over. It's also a great plaything that opens the way to color names, sizes (the beads are of differing sizes) and even simple counting. There are ten beads on each of the maze wires. 24 months & up.

SNAP: Use this for developing fine motor skills as well as counting and color concepts.

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

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2012 Awards
Farm Activity Mat
(North American Bear Co. $75 Score:)

A scrumptious set of 12 fabric farm animals. Each fits into a pocket inside this zip up mat with a bright red barn and grassy green meadow all around. We could have done without the numerals on the animals. They each fit into a pocket that shows a small graphic of the related number of animals. For example, the cow with a numeral three on its side fits into the pocket with the image of three cows. Similarly, a pig with a  nine on it goes into a pocket with the image of nine pigs. The images are very small and hard to count for the age group this toy is going to reach. That said, this is a fun "knowing and naming" toy and the soft animals will be fun to use for pretend lay on the farm side. As for matching number words and numerals, or sequencing numbers, those are kindergarten and beyond skills that are beyond toddlers. The toy seems much younger than school years, but it is beautifully made and will also be a fun toddler toy for talking, pretending and for un-filling and refilling with help.

SNAP: Lots of knowing and nameing games can be played with this set of animals.

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

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2012 Awards
Blossom Cottage
(Big Jigs $119 Score:)

A relatively small painted wooden doll house with lift up roof that makes getting into the house easy. It has a carry handle feature, but would be a tad heavy for young children to handle on their own. That said, this is a good scale for a small space or as a good toy for Grandma's little visitors. It comes furnished with a family of four and 18 pieces of furniture. You fold the front down to reveal a painted garden, as well. Marked 3 & up. 

SNAP This small uncomplicated house will fit on a table top or wheelchair table.

Age: Preschool. Award Year: 2012.

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