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Product Type: Toys
Age: Early Elementary School Years

 

 
2009 Awards
Les Cheries
(Corolle $45 Score:)

We loved these dolls when they first hit the market back in 2003. They received a Platinum Award and we are now giving them a Blue Chip Award for 2009. Chloe, Camille, Clare, Cecile and Cathy are a multicultural collection of 13" dolls and are marketed as "best friend" dolls and are purposefully not fashion dolls. Our favorites this year are Cecile, an African American girl, with jeans, a knit shrug and glorious hair or Chloe, a brunette ballerina in a gossamer tutu. They are meant to look like girls of today. There are new clothes almost every year--but this is a collection that should not be missed.

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

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2003 Award
3D Labyrinth
(Ravensburger $20.99 Score:) Here's a 3-D maze game that's fast and lots of fun to play, and that develops important visual discrimination skills. The maze-like board has a center portion that slides back and forth. Depending on the card you draw, you need to move the sliding portion of the board to capture one of the treasures printed on the board. Our testers preferred this to Magic Hill, a 3-D-styled chutes-and-ladders game where they found the directions unclear. 4-8. The company has submitted our safety verification form. Note, we did not test this independently in a lab.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2003.

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2003 Award
Gobblet
(Blue Orange Games $29.95 Score:)

"This has a nice feel to it," remarked our 11-year-old tester after a long day of testing a lot of plastic games. The wooden box stores the playing board and birch playing pieces that are six stacks of nesting "gobblets" (half natural/half black). The object is to be the first player to have four gobblets in a row. The game is easily learned but quickly becomes more challenging as you discover all the strategy involved! Fast-paced rounds for beginners. (415) 572-3885.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2003. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2008 Awards
Elmer's 3D Washable Paint Pens
(Elmer's $14.99 Score:)

Imagine getting a set of 31 squeezable "pens" with writing tips for drawing on posters or cards. Paints puff when dry and set includes primary colors plus pastels, glitter, and pearlized pens. This is a wow-wee kind of present that will get lots of use. Editor's note: These pens have been updated this year with gender-specific themes from Disney (fairies, cars, and princesses). While we preferred the gender-free cast of the original sets (Platinum from 2003) --these are still a great choice and the price still makes this a really affordable gift.

SNAP Activity: Motivating kids to practice writing just got easier with this huge set of colorful gluepens. To get the feel for shaping letters or numbers, this is a terrific material. Write letters that he needs to practice on separate index cards. Now have child trace the letters and make them big enough to see with ease. Make one card with the upper case and a matching card with the lower case. When the cards are dry your child will be able to play a mach it up game, matching the upper and lower case letters. The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements. We did not independently test this toy in a lab.

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

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2003 Awards
Playmobil Airport
(Playmobil $99 Score:) Build the Boarding Gate and Tower with working elevator and baggage carousel. Other accessories: Jet Liner with 20" wingspan ($44.99 ) with pilot and flight attendant, folding steps, and removable roof. These are good parent/child building projects, but make no mistake, an adult must do most of the building. Once it's built, it will be a wonderful mini-play setting for dramatic play. 5 & up.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2003.

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2003 Award
Lego Bionicle
(Lego Systems, Inc. $7.99 Score:) Our testers enjoyed these futuristic robots that have become a hot collectible. Not the Lego toys you remember, but not too dark or menacing-and they're easy to put together.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2003.

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2003 Awards
Talking Clever Clock
(Learning Resources $34.95 Score:) Hands down, the best electronic clock for teaching kids how to tell time. Our nine-year old tester had given up on ever learning how to tell time-but within minutes he was having fun using the clock that has self-checking features with both digital and analog clock faces. He liked moving the hands of the clock to match the digital readout. There are buttons that will tell you the time out loud, along with quiz-and-answer buttons. 5 & up. If time is an issue in your house, look no further! SNAP: For kids with disabilities, having a clock that uses several senses may be a real plus. This clock talks and gives digital as well as analog read-outs. So it's a great learning tool for exploring telling time. Our tester liked setting the time and then pressing the button to hear the time said. The same company's non-electronic clock is less expensive and still a great choice, but hearing the time out loud may be worth the extra money. Activity: Set the clock for typical times when you eat, rise, go to bed, leave for school. Concentrate on the hour first and then the half hour. Minutes come after those are pinned down. Learning to tell time- takes time. As the old adage goes- Rome wasn't built in a day. To build interest you might want to consider one of the craft kit clocks that kids paint, as well. (888) 800-7893.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2003.

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2003 Award
Deluxe Home Is Where the Heart Is Dollhouse
(Small World Toys $130 Score:)

This is a three stories high dollhouse with lots of rooms to fill with scaled wooden furnishings. It comes unfurnished and it is open front, back and roof, so it is easily accessible for many children to play with together. This is not furnished so you need to factor that into the cost.  Or consider their smaller Home Again, Home Again A-Frame ($130) that can be enlarged with an add-on basement and stairs($70). Multi-cultural families and furnishings are sold separately and run between $15-20 per room. We thought Ryan's Room Making Muscles exercise equipmet set was a sign of the times.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2003. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2009 Awards
Plan Toys My First Dollhouse Without Furniture
(Plan Toys $99 Score:)

Choose this modern A-frame house with open roof for easy access that allows for playing from the front of the house or back in the traditional manner. This is a smaller house than their Green model or the CHalet, but a good choice for beginning pretend. Multicultural families and furnishings are available and run between $15-20 a set.

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

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2003 Awards
Crunch Art
(Hands on Toys $6 Score:) An innovative, open-ended designing project that is easy to do. Kids simply place a small piece of fabric on the foam board and push down with the "cruncher/puncher" tool (which is not sharp) and the fabric is in place. They can make designs or draw pictures to fill with colorful fabric, mylar squares, or chenille stems. A great office/quiet time toy. New for 2004, themed kits (Butterfly, Dinosaur, Rainbow, Panda, Fish and Toucan ). We prefer the open-ended kits, but some kids find the framework comforting. 5 & up. SNAP Award. This new art kit develops hand power as well as creativity. This does call for the ability to grip and press, but unlike a rug hook it is easy to do. It is pretty open-ended and mess-free.(888) 442-6376. SNAP: Grasping the puncher-cruncher calls for a firm grip. Using it may in fact strengthen hand muscles. Since this is a fairly openended product the act of doing this may be totally satisfying. For added stucture you can trace the child's initials on the foam board and encourage him to use ne color to to trace the letters. Once this is done he can use other colors as background.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2003.

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