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Award: SNAP
Age: Early Elementary School Years
Review Year: 2013

 

 
2013 Awards
Creativity for Kids Grow a Hedgehog
(Creativity for Kids $12 Score:)

Paint the plastic hedgehog planter, paste on the wiggly eyes and bow. Now, you are ready to grow a hedgehog! Add and fill the planter tray with the supplied potting mix. Plant the seeds and keep them moist with the spray bottle until the wheatgrass seeds sprout in 3-5 days. A little art, a little science, and a lot of learning fun. Be forewarned: the box shows the hedgehog's face blushed with yellow, but there is no yellow in the kit. It comes with white, tan and black paint. Perhaps you can use a yellow marker to add this detail. 5 & up.

SNAP: Keep a photo journal of the process with your child in the pictures. Turn them into a small book that tells about each stage. This kind of activity builds reading and pre-reading skills and puts the child in the center of the action.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Awards
LeapFrog Leap Pad Ultra
(LeapFrog $149.99 Score:)

How do you make a good thing better? We loved the original Leap Pad and now the Ultra takes it to a new level. It has a Hi-Res 7-inch light-touch screen, a built in 9- hour rechargeable battery, and is loaded with 11 Apps. It has a front and back camera and has 8 GB of Memory that can hold 40,000 photos or more than 100 Game apps. The Leap Pad Ultra has kid-safe Wi-Fi that will not take kids to the web locations they should not reach, but it gives them access to the Leap Frog library of more than 800 games, ebooks, videos and music that is child friendly and age appropriate. You can download learning games that are suited to you child's skill level. You'll find games to reinforce math, reading, art, science and social studies. This Leap Pad Ultra does it all and should it be accidentally dropped - not to worry. It can do that too and keep on playing. 4-9

Age: Preschool, Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Awards
Leap Frog LeapReader
(Leapfrog $49.99 Score:)

This updated product makes new uses of the earlier Tag technology to support kids' reading, but goes a step further with real writing, and listening skills. Like the original Tag reader, it can help them sound out letters, words, or read sentences. But now it can also be used like a pencil for learning to shape letters and numbers on special paper. The basic LeapReader comes with a Read, Write, and Listen Activity book and also comes with three apps and a USB rechargeable battery and holds audio for up to 40 books or 175 songs. There are more than 150 books, workbooks and special paper available separately. 4-8

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Phone: Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Awards
Eric Carle Wooden Magnetic Letters Uppercase
(Mudpuppy Press $17.99 Score:)

A handsome set of forty wooden letters with Eric Carle's colorful patterns on one side and magnetic backing on the reverse. Stored in a snap-shut container that is shaped like a milk carton, this can be used for knowing and naming the letters games as well as sound games and spelling. There is also a lower case set

Learning letter names and sounds just got to be more playful with these magnetic letters. Introduce the letters of their name first.Declare today with a single letter and feature things to eat that day that start with that sound. Go on a hunt for other things in the house that start with that sound. Bake cookies in that shape.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Awards
Plan Toys Fraction Fun
(Plan Toys $17.99 Score:)

Introduce preschoolers to fractions in a playful way with this handsome wooden puzzle. Whole, halves, thirds, and quarters are put together on this slightly curved two-sided puzzle board. One side features classic geometric shapes; the reverse invites exploration of how to use the shapes in new ways. 

SNAP: A good concrete way to reinforce fractions. To follow up: Declare a day as Halves Day... use sandwiches cut in halves, fruit cut in halves, etc. Declare another day as Quarters Day and serve foods cut to match.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Awards
Calico Critters Border Collie Family
(International Playthings $22.99 Score:)

Mama, Papa, brother and sister Border Coolies are done up with faces in crisp black and white markings. Also new this season, an Outback Koala Family. Mama is carrying the newest little one in a soft fabric backpack while their toddler size child is able to walk along with Papa. These are charming posable figures to use as props for the Calico Critter settings or for pretend play with blocks and other mini-settings.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Awards
Faber-Castell Connector Paint Box
(Creativity for Kids $14 Score:)

A cleverly designed paint box with 12 bright opaque watercolors (gouaches)and a tube of Chinese white paint. A larger set of 24 colors is also available. The paint tablets can be lifted out of the pan and arranged as one wishes. The lid of the pan becomes a palette for mixing colors and is easy to rinse off. Brushes store in the bux, though they do not come with this set. A step above the usual watercolor sets for children.

SNAP You don't need to introduce all the colors at once with this clever pan of paints. Gradually add other colors once your child gets the idea of how to use a few colors without getting them saturated. using the brush offers more freedom than a pencil and the colors are pleasing. This is a pleasing way to develop eye hand control and to explore the magic of mixing colors.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years, Tweens. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Awards
Learning Resources Science Plant and Grow Set
(Learning Resources $26 Score:)

For budding scientists, here is a 12-piece kit with see through rooting trays, pots, observation jar with vented lid, watering can, trowel, plant markers and best of all--10 on-the-mark activity cards that invite kids to grow a variety of plants. Use found materials, like the top of a pineapple, radishes, carrots, popping corn kernels, and a clove of garlic. For other experiments, bring home seeds for beans and chives. The round observation jar with a lid can become a small terrarium with plants found in the yard or park. The activity cards provide realistic gardening experiments that preschoolers can do with help from an adult or older sib. True, you could use many of the containers you own without the set, but this gives the process structure in a playful way. Hopefully you will do that, too. To enlarge the experiences, take photos as each experiment progresses to make a small personal log or simple personalized book of their growing experiments.  Our tester "loved planting the seeds and labeling the various pots. He lso loved wtering his plants. Finally, there is a clear rooting tray and an observation jar included with the set, so he loved observing his plants take root and grow within the soil. He had never seen how roots grow and develop before so it was a new experience for him."  They did report some things they thought were drawbacks: the set does not come with soil or seeds--so right from the start you need to buy things before you can start. The set also only comes with one observation jar even though there are five experiments that call for the observation jar. Our tester felt that the best part of the set were the in ten activity cards. They also gave Learning Resources high marks for having on line extension activities. 3 & up.

SNAP: This hands-on kit is an excellent set of activities that all children can enjoy on various levels. Involving children in the process is a very satisfying ongoing activity.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Awards
Springtime Collection, Max's Chocolate Chicken
(Scholastic $24.95 Score:)

After they finish coloring or hunting Easter eggs, we found a perfect seasonal collection featuring Max's Chocolate Chicken along with twelve stories on three DVD's. Among the other tales, Chicken Little, The Red Hen, and How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food. The collection also includes author/illustrator interviews and narrations by Lily Tomlin, Randy Travis, Michael McKean and others. The Max DVD also includes some Christmas stories, so this can be your go-to for seasonal celebrations. It also has a read-along option for beginning readers and these stories are mostly simple enough for young readers to decode or at least follow along. Most of the stories are for the younger family members. 2-7.

Age: Toddlers, Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2013.

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2013 Awards
I Spy on the Farm
(by Edward Gibbs, Candlewick $14.99 Score:)

Big bold illustrations of familiar farm animals are featured in the playful book with cutout holes that allow a partial view of the animal hidden on the next page. The text offers a clue to help the little listener guess who will show up when the page is turned. Based on the original game and always popular game of I Spy With My Little Eye, this is a fun way to introduce toddlers to knowing and naming, color concepts and animal sounds. It includes letter names. For young toddlers we suggest skipping the letter names - use the sound the letter make as a hint or skip the letters altogether for young listeners. That's something they can grow into.

Age: Toddlers, Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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