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Product Type: Toys
Award: SNAP
Age: Early Elementary School Years
Review Year: 2013


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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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