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Product Type: Toys
Age: Early Elementary School Years

 


2003 Award
Ello
(Mattel $19.95 Score:) Designed to attract girls to construction toys, this is an innovative building system with panels and Matisse-inspired cutout disks that can be joined with square and circular connectors, string and slender sticks for adding extra flair. Research has indicated that playing with blocks and building sets help to develop important spatial relations and math skills needed for later achievement in math, engineering and science. Unfortunately too many sets on the market are geared only for boys. We particularly liked the look of the Ello-opolis set, which has a modern art feel, or the underwater Ello Aquaria set. (Imagine Matisse or Calder designing a construction set!) They have an engaging color palette (refreshingly not all pink!) and have interesting building pieces that lend themselves for open-ended play.

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

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Awards
Intelli-Train Deluxe Set
(Lego Systems, Inc. $99.99 Score:) The four drivers all have unique "driving ability" and when placed in the train, something new will happen. This is an update of one of our old favorites. This update has bigger train cars than the earlier version. Placing sensor bars on the track also changes the direction and/ or sound effects. There's a fuel hose with sound effects and a working crane plus vehicles that run on the "road". Comes with 92 pieces, but we suggest that you not wait too long to buy add-ons, since it's the kind of toy that comes and goes from the line. Great fun, but doesn't replace a wooden set. 4 & up.

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

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2003 Awards
Puzzibilities Block Party
(Small World Toys $40 Score:) A 48-piece wooden block set, finished with rolled edges, letters, and two objects that start with the sound of each letter. Preschoolers will build with these and play at letter naming, matching games, and sorting illustrations by categories. Use with older kids for letter/sound games, matching upper- and lowercase letters, and easy spelling. 2 1?27.

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

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2003 Award
Airplane & Tugboat Puzzibilities
(Small World Toys $11 Score:) These are the newest from a handsome line of puzzles that are just right for beginners. Pieces with images lift out with little red knobs, and images are also below the piece for matching. We especially like the Airplane with a multicultural cast (and female pilot). 35.

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

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2003 Awards
Lite-Brite Cube
(Hasbro $34 Score:) An updated version of a classic toy with four panels that comes with the original colored pegs but also includes interesting light loops that give it a different look from the one we grew up with. You can buy patterns in packages, but it's also fun to create your own designs. Good for developing fine motor skills. 48. It will be enjoyed even more by next age group.

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

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2003 Awards
Crayon Balance Beam
(Artistic Coverings $199 Score:) A pricey but neat piece of equipment that will be a hit with preschoolers and early school-aged kids who love the challenge of walking on a beam (with the safety of knowing that you're only inches off the ground). The crayon is 6' long and 10" wide with a 4" beam surface.

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

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2009 Award
Razor RipRider 360
(Razor $99 Score:)

The RipRider 360 Caster Trike is the update of the original Razor Scream Machine that we really loved in 2003. It has smaller caster wheels than the Scream Machine. But the fun remains the same. Like the Big Wheels we had as kids, this is low to the ground trike-like bike is great fun designed for kids 4 & up. We'd add a flag so vehicles can see riders low to the ground! Be forewarned: this does take some skill in putting it together. 48.

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

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2006 Awards
Dough Party
(Alex $17 Score:) Comes in a newly designed see-through canister with six bright colors, a roller, cutters, plus a mat to work on. If you prefer clay, consider their Clay & Play Party ($17 ). 47. (800) 666-2539.

Age: Preschool,Early School Years. Award Year: 2006.

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2003 Award
American Girl Kaya
(American Girl $84 Score:) Pleasant Company continues to make exquisite multiethnic dolls from different periods in American history with books for each doll-a wonderful way to introduce history to kids. New for 2003, Kaya, the first Native American doll from the Nez Perce people in the collection. 7 & up.

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

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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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