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Product Type: Toys
Age: Preschoolers

 

 
2008 Awards
Step2 50s Diner
(Step 2 $149.99 Score:)

Kudos to Step2 for coming up with a really fun, gender-free play setting. Our preschool and toddler siblings enjoyed playing diner (the older sister was running the place, of course!). On one side you have all the kitchen equipment of a traditional toy kitchen (sink, frig and oven) with the bonus of a grill top! The other side has a place for two customers to sit at the “booth”, complete with tabletop jukebox that plays a few tunes from the era, and a bell when you need service (our testers thought the bell could be louder). Diner also comes with coffee pot, dishes, silverware, and play food (our testers were big fans of the ice cream cones).

The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements. We did not independently test this toy in a lab.

Age: Toddlers, Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2008. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2009 Award
Acting Out Musical Can Can Skirt
(Acting Out $37 Score:)

The latest in the line of play skirts that have motion activated music. The black and white shirt with black and pink ruffles is very grown up. Your child will most likely love the skirt and the can-can music. Be forewarned, if you have a headache, this is not the skirt for small spaces! We can't stop activating the music in our office--and now we keep singing the song too! Just like being at the Folies Bergère! Ooo,la la!

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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2008 Awards
LeapFrog Tag Reading System
(LeapFrog $49.99 Score:)

Touch the pages of the Tag books with a chunky pen shaped infrared sensor. It reads the words, letters, numbers, and even sings! Unlike so many so-called reading systems, this one has real books such as Olivia, Chicka, Chicka Boom, Boom, I Spy, Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type, and The Little Engine That Could among others in the library of choices. There are activity books as well as some popular licensed characters. We're hoping they will add even more real books to the list. A fun tool that beginning readers can use independently, the way you probably listened to recordings. Only Tag improves on that. It's not just listening, kids are actually seeing the words, moving the sensor from left to right and turning the pages from front to back. In other words it reinforces how a book "works" in a child friendly and playful way. Parents will need to download the audio onto the sensor from their MAC or PC. The toy comes loaded with just one program, but there are 16 titles available to add on. ($13.99 each)  4-8.

The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements. We did not independently test this toy in a lab. SNAP ADAPTATION: The chunky sensor will be easier than most to grasp. If it needs to be futher adapted, a glove with velcro in the mitt and a strip of velcro on the sensor may do the trick. Unlike simply reading along with a recording, this learning tool enables beginning readers to follow along and get the sense of how the text moves from left to right. It encourages readers to learn the mechanics of how a book works from front to back, from left page to right. Add to this the fun of exploring the pages and art to make things happen and this goes a few steps beyond any other read aloud story system with real books!

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2008. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2009 Award
Disney Pix Jr Digital Camera
(Disney $59.99 Score:)

Testers loved being able to add Disney characters to the photos they can take with this easy to use digital camera with all sorts of special effects. A great way to give you beginners hands on without getting their hands on your camera! This 1.3 Megapixel kid-friendly camera has easy-to-grab rubber grips, icon-labeled function buttons (no reading required), and a large display screen for easy viewing! Thanks to the memory (32MB), the kids can click rapidly. They only need two seconds between pictures! It has 1.3 Megapixel Resolution, holds up to 150 photos, USB enabled, built-in Auto Flash, 1.5" Color LCD Screen, long battery life - up to 15 hours of continuous use (requires 4 AA batteries - not included.) WARNING: Not compatible with a MAC. They say 3 & up - we'd say 4-7's would be more like it.

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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2008 Award
Acting Out Musical Waltz Dress
(Acting Out $40 Score:)

Like so many of their wonderful musical costumes, this charming tutu is done in layers of pink and blue tulle with shimmering sequins on the top of the stretchy top and edges of the gossamer skirt. Best of all it is motion activated. It will play the Beautiful Blue Danube waltz when your young ballerina begins to twirl. This company makes simpler tutus--just the skirt loaded with music from the Nutcracker or Swan Lake. They come in many sizes and colors. A dreamy gift for the sugar plum fairy in your life! 3 & up.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2008. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2008 Award
Playskool Kota My Triceratops Dinosaur
(Hasbro $300 Score:)

The ultimate fantasy toy for the youngest dino-lover. This fabric covered huge, life size baby dino comes loaded with animatronics. No, it does not walk, but kids can sit on is back, hold onto the handle hiding behind its head and by touching one of 11 areas on its body make Kota moves its head, tail, and horn. 40” long this gentle monster makes some not-too-scary dino sounds. Kota, a plant-eater, “munches” when fed “leaves” and plays a little music as well as making jungle noises and laughing sounds. Looks like a gift that will not be forgotten—for better or worse. (Editor’s note: Don’t be upset if some children find Kota a little over the top scary, despite his smiling face and gentle sounds.) Maximum weight of child is 60 pounds.

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: 2008. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2008 Award
Corolle Naima Calin
(Corolle $39.99 Score:)

We're always on the look out for dolls that reflect our diversity. Among the most adorable African American dolls is a huggable, soft-bodied 12-inch baby doll named Naima from their Calin collection. Her beanbag body makes her easy to pose. Dressed in a red and white cotton knit outfit with red headband, she is a bald headed baby with big brown eyes that open and close. She does not come with the usual extras such as a pacifier or bottle or toy that would be risky with toddlers who tend to mouth their toys. This one is an adorable armful for beginning pretend play.

The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements. We did not independently test this toy in a lab.

Age: Toddlers, Preschool. Award Year: 2008. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2008 Award
Big Ben Bear
(Mary Meyer $9 Score:)

Big Ben is part of the new Bennett Bear family from Mary Meyer. Big Ben is available in a 12" and 15" size. There's also a Baby version (9"). The Bennett family is alone as our Bears of the Year. Most of the other entries weren't huggable enough for our testers. Still a huge hit with every child that visits our office- the over-sized, extremely cuddly Creamy Bear from Mary Meyer.

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: 2008.

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2008 Award
Miss Corolle Collection
(Corolle $54.95 Score:)

We are always delighted to find a multicultural collection of beautiful dolls and every one of these 14" girl dolls is adorable. The three Caucasian dolls are named for their hair and skin tones: Vanilla Blonde, Redhead and Brunette. Of the three, the redhead with freckles is the cutest. Our personal favorite is Coralie, a very pretty girl of color. Each are dressed in contemporary clothes and look like girls of today. They have soft bodies and long hair to style. They cannot sit independently without a pillow or something supporting their backs. That may be frustrating for some younger children. These are play dolls marked for girls from 3 & up. Frankly, we’d save these for a little later, say the 4’s and 5’s on your list.

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: 2008. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2008 Award
Plan Toys Road and Rail Play Set Railway Station
(Plan Toys $169.99 Score:)

We have always been huge fans of wooden train sets. Last year's safety scare with many of the wooden trains had to understandably put a chill on this category. Which is why we were really excited when we first saw this new set at toy fair. The container is the railway station-- it opens up (your child will need some help here) and then you have an amazing play setting complete with track, trains, and station. Will work with other train tracks you may have from Thomas the Tank or Brio. A memorable holiday gift for any preschoolers.

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: 2008. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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