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Product Type: Toys
Award: Blue Chip

 

  
2011 Awards
Guidecraft Unit Blocks
(Guidecraft $40 & up Score:)

If there's one toy every child should have, blocks are it! Nothing is more basic to play than a set of wooden unit blocks. A set with 34 pieces is a place to start, although a 76-piece set ($90) would be even more versatile. Pictured here is a school size set that has 28 shapes($200+)Unit blocks come with built-in possibilities for discovery as they are scaled to each other; putting two squares together, kids discover the two equal one rectangular block; two of the triangles makes a square, etc. Blocks develop kids' spatial understanding, their eye hand skills, their problem solving abilities, imagination, and language. They are the raw materials for dramatic play that put kids in charge. They are great for using with wooden trains for making bridges and roadways for toy cars, barns for small animals. Be sure to add some scaled down vehicles, and animals and even some doll house or action figures to the mix. Give them a place where the blocks can stay up for a while so that they can make settings for their dramatic play.  Blocks can be used solo and in cooperative play. Beginners often will start off by building horizontially...but soon enough preschoolers will start building upwards. These are basic gear for kids with lasting play value because they are completely open-ended and can be used in multiple ways. They may be a farm one day and a bridge the next. One of a favorite lines of props for blocks are the Jungle and Farm Animal sets from Learning Resources($25.99).

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2011. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2007 Award
Scrabble Premier Edition
(Restoration Hardware $149 Score:) If Scrabble is a family favorite, you may want to bring home this deluxe set that comes in a handsome mahogany-finished case with storage below the board and a lazy-Susan platform for easy viewing. The board is approximately 17" x 16" wide and comes with a timer, rulebook, scoreboard and pencil. We'd also recommend the Scrabble Electronic Dictionary ($55) for those heated word challenges!

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2007.

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2000 Awards
Tomy Roll Around Tower
(International Playthings $24.99 Score:) When people ask us for our favorite two year old birthday present, this ball run is high on the list. It's just right for toddlers who love the repetitive action of making something happen. The plastic colorful balls are oversized and fun to drop into the tower. The balls make a pleasing sound as they move down the tower. Unlike many new ball runs, kids can track the balls from beginnning to end- a plus in this category. Also fun and a little more advanced, Ball Party Bounce (here you can position the ball to bounce off one level and into another chute).

Age: Toddlers. Award Year: 2000.

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2009 Awards
Wikki Stix Activities
(International Playthings $30 Score:)

This carrying case is loaded with waxed strings known as wikki stix that come in many colors and can be bent into letters, numerals and animal shapes. This set includes activity cards that can be used as templates or the materials can be used in an open ended way. This kind of activity involves the fine motor skills kids will need for writing, so this is a fun way to develop those finger muscles without drilling with pencil and paper tasks. 4 & up.
       The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements. We did not independently test this toy in a lab.
 

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2009. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2003 Awards
Scrabble Game Folio Edition
(Parker Brothers $19.99 Score:) If Scrabble is your game, here's a convenient take-along version that zips up. Best of all, the pieces lock in so that you can stop in the middle of a game and come back to it later. Players need more dexterity to play with these small tiles. They won't fall all over the place on a plane, but this takes finer motor skills. For younger players the traditonal game may be a better choice. 10 & up. (800) 752-9755.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2003.

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2000 Awards
ChildLIfe Ultimate SuperChief
(Childlife $3600 Score:) This isn't your father's playset! ChildLife's play gyms are made from yellow cedar that is then covered with green enamel- giving it a smooth, splinter free finish. Older climbers will be attracted to the rock wall, the buoy ball swing, and the clubhouse. Starter sets begin at $800 but you can always add more and more features (kind of like designing a kitchen). The company will help design your "dream" system on their website, by phone or with an authorized dealer. With all climbing equipment, adult supervision is a must. The government recommends a minimum of 6 inches of ground covering (wood chips, recycled mulch, pea stones, fine sand) and a minimum perimeter of 6 feet. For more guidelines, please visit www.cpsc.gov.

Age: Preschool,Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2000.

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Award
No Spill Bubble Tumbler
(Little Kids $2.99 Score:) The No Spill Bubble Tumbler solves that oh so familiar and upsetting moment when the bottle of bubble solution spills all over the ground. Here the wand goes into the container and is loaded with just the right amount of solution to make a bubble. If you turn the container upside down, nothing will spill out, really! The containers come in mini, regular and super sized (with three wands). A great example of a classic toy made even better by an innovative design.

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

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