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Award: SNAP
Age: Toddlers
Review Year: 2012

 

 
2012 Awards
Tranquil Turtle
(Cloud B $44.99 Score:)

Our parent tester aptly described this electronic turtle as a night light with spa music. It is a purple fabric turtle with a light in the clear plastic shell. Put it on a cabinet in baby's room and the wave-like light will reflect on the ceiling while two tunes of quiet spa music play. It will turn off automatically after 23 minutes. This does not go in the crib. Newborn and up.

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

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2012 Awards
Roll & Play
(Thinkfun $19.99 Score:)

Designed as a first game, this is likely to be a hit with your older toddler. It comes with a big fabric cube with different color on each face. Toss the cube and then pick a card that matches. Take turns with your toddler doing what the card shows. The cards have words and actions such as wave bye-bye, count your fingers, moo like a cow, etc. Learning to take turns and matching the colors of cards and cube all provide active playing and interacting. This is as much about playing together and having your attention as it is about the actions involved. Roll & Play is a cleverly designed toy for developing color concepts as well as other early language and pre-reading skills. Most of the actions will need modeling, but that will be part of the fun, especially if you ham it up. They say 18 months and up.  We think this is a better bet for twos and up, but a clever idea for 2 or more players.

SNAP: Introduce the cards before you play. Read through them and practice what they say to do. You might want to introduce just one of each color for the first game or two and add another set of six the next time you play. There are 48 cards, so this will be a game you can build on gradually. The cards are well designed so that no real reading is needed once they get the idea of what the card is showing. The color cube can also be used for other games. New for 2014, is Move & Groove, intended as your child's first dance game. It comes with the same cube and cards that you follow along. Our problem with this version is that "Walk Like an Egyptian" or "Sleepwalk" or "Snap Your Fingers" or "Turn to the Right" are concepts way beyond 18 month olds.  While we think older preschoolers will like this game, we find the age too low.

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

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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
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
Hape Little School Bus
(HaPe $10 Score:)

Beep, beep! A little wooden yellow school bus with finger holes for easy grasping. It has no sounds, except the sounds you and your little one provide. Scaled for early games of pretend, this is a good choice for crawling babies 10 months & up.

SNAP: The finger holes on this little vehicle makes it easier for grasping than others. 

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

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2012 Awards
Eric Carle 10 Stackable Learning Blocks
(Kids Preferred $20 Score:)

A surprisingly muted set of cardboard blocks designed with Eric Carle's images. There are images to name and know, colors to know, objects to count and numerals and letters. Basically, they will be fun for toddlers to stack in size order with help and even more fun to knock over. As for nesting them, that will come even later. Marked 6 months and up, but we’d say this is a better choice for 18 months and up.

SNAP: A sturdy set of cardboard blocks make basic gear for languge games of knowing and naming as well as friendly way to work on size order. Start with two blocks instead of the whole set and gradually add more pieces.

Age: Toddlers. Award Year: 2012.

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2012 Awards
Creeper Sleeper Cozy
(North American Bear Co. $10 Score:)

We love the many various forms of these cozy toys. Easy to grasp, soft and comforting. Look for the new Cozy sets that are coming soon with  two super soft cozy dolls in a pack($20). That way, if one goes missing you have a replacement. Choose from the Bunny, Cat, or Dog Cozy. These are the kind of unstuffed easy-to-clutch “lovies” that babies often find a great comfort to hold as they make the transition to sleep.

SNAP: Comfort toys need to be easy to wash and to hold. These soft bodies dolls are easier for children with physical challenges to grasp.

Age: Infants, Toddlers. 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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