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Product Type: Toys
Age: Early Elementary School Years

 


2005 Award
3x49 Puzzles
(Ravensburger $8.5 Score:) Comes with 3 forty-nine-piece puzzles (that you sort out first by using the different patterns on the puzzle backs). Choose either the dinosaur or jungle animals motif. Challenging but satisfying.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2005.

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2005 Awards
Ceramic Allowance Bank
(Creativity for Kids $14.99 Score:) A chubby white ceramic pig ready to paint and hold spare change or allowance. It has an easy-to-pull-out rubber stopper, so they don’t need to break the bank when they want to spend some of their savings! Includes a “chores” booklet with star stickers… the idea being that they earn their allowance. We have mixed feelings about paying kids for chores… but we do like the idea of encouraging them to save their pennies, nickels, and dimes! Also new from the ceramic line, Le Most Petite Purses ($15.99 ) comes with three different small ceramic purses, paint, and rhinestones. Our testers thought these would make great gifts for mom or a decoration for their own vanity. 7 & up.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2005.

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2005 Award
Box of Rocks
(GeoCentral $21.99 Score:)

If you have a young rock hound in the family, this box with 16 specimens and an informative booklet will be a hit and may inspire further discoveries. Activity Rocks ($5.25 ) has four specimens—including one that floats!

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2005. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2005 Award
Road Trip Activity Journal
(Mudpuppy Press $10 Score:) There's lots to keep a tween busy with this clever activity journal that has a place for addresses, bingo, lots of other games, and space to write and draw as they travel. 9 & up. Still top rated, Totable Journals ($10) These 144-page journals come with a handle, stickers, and an assortment of lined, graph, and blank pages for kids to keep track of their adventures. 7 & up.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2005.

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2005 Awards
Story Reader
(Publications International $19.99 Score:) We were happy to find that we could hear and read along with a set of Beatrix Potter’s classics: The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddle-Duck, and Tom Kitten. The original art has been used, as well as the language. This platform is less complex than some other electronic book readers on the market. Simply plug in the cartridge and no touching or stylus is needed. The “reader” turns the pages and follows along. Other books in the series are licensed properties such as Dora, Scooby Doo and Bambi. We hope they will consider using more true storybooks with the artistic and literary merit of Peter Rabbit. (800) 454-9006. SNAP:New for 2006: The only new additions to this collection are more licensed characters—Sponge Bob, My Little Pony and more Dora. We preferred last year's set of Beatrix Potter’s classics: The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddle-Duck, and Tom Kitten. The original art has been used, as well as the language. This platform is less complex than other electronic book readers on the market. Simply plug in the cartridge, and no touching or stylus is needed. The “reader” turns the pages and follows along. Other books for the series are more licensed properties such as Dora, Scooby Doo, and Bambi. Still recommended, 2004 SNAP AWARD winner, Active Pad ($24.95 ). This looks a lot like so many talking book platforms. Touch the pictures with a stylus and it says the name of the object. It’s a knowing-and-naming book with lots of familiar objects to talk about. Look for the shape and counting book version of this, too. (800) 454-9006.

Age: Preschool,Early School Years. Award Year: 2005.

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2005 Award
Nano Case Vehicles
(Mega Bloks $5.99 Score:) You need dexterity, patience and good visual skills to assemble these small vehicles with working parts. Some come with sound chips and all come in sleek cases that convert into play platforms. Collect them and link their roadways together. If you need a lot of not too pricey gifts for birthdays and holidays these sets are a classy choice-but only if the child at the other end loves the challenge of building and the staying power to get the job done. They say 7 and up- we ‘d say that only some 7’s will be able to do this without help. (800) 465-6342.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2005.

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2006 Award
Back Yard Flyer
(Kid Galaxy $15 Score:) "One of the best toys of the year" was the consensus among our tween testers. They were thrilled with this small blue and yellow plane that is launched by using the battery powered hand-held launcher. Everyone found the launcher easy to use and had a great time running after the plane that really took off! The company says that when the trigger is pulled the plane will fly for 30 seconds or more. It kept our testers (parents included) well occupied for part of an afternoon--even when it went flying into the neighbor's backyard! A great toy for the price. (While our testers gave rave reviews to this product, they found the company's remote control plane very difficult to make work.)

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

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2005 Award
WEBZ 108
(Progressive Trading Inc. $49.95 Score:) Another generation of magnetic connectors and steel balls have arrived in time for the holiday season. This amazing set has 48 gem-toned transparent web plates in three different sizes and 60 steel balls to create a never-ending variety of constructions. This set includes 3, 4,and 5-armed pieces that can be combined with bars and balls. There is no right or wrong way to do this, but lots of ways to experiment with creating domes, towers and other inventive creations. A smaller set, Webz 54 ($24.95)is fun but not nearly as versatile as the larger set. Both sets are compatible with Magz X and Skrooz- the original rod and magnet sets we have reviewed in the past.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2005.

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2005 Awards
MagneBlocks
(MagneBlocks $10 Score:) During the past few years we have seen an abundance of magnetic toys. This is a new concept that works differently from the rod and ball construction sets. It comes with colorful cubes, pentagons, prisms, pyramids, tetrahedrons, and steel balls. A challenging instruction guide walks players through interesting combinations that give children hands-on understanding of magnetic poles as they experiment with making complex shapes. These blocks come in smaller kits, but with limited pieces we suspect they will get little use. An excellent math and science toy that encourages children to use divergent thinking skills as they explore the physical attributes of various shapes and how they can be combined. With the big Constructa set ($99) the possibilities are endless. Be forewarned: Getting the pieces back in the box with the plastic holders is not likely. You can remove the liner or you may want to keep the pieces in an open basket on a coffee table for quiet moments.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2005.

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V Smile
(V-Tech $49.99 Score:) We plugged V Smile in and found it all to be so frenetic and certainly not age appropriate for 3's and up-as it is marked. We were playing the easy games and could not imagine how young kids will deal with the pace, content and levels of difficulty. The arcade formats may be easier to play because the joystick is bigger for small hands-but the skills involved are not intuitive…it's not like a touch screen where kids have more direct control with a finger or stylus. Threes, fours and most fives are not ready for letter sequences or spelling. Toys that push skills that are more appropriate for early school years give kids a poor sense of themselves as learners and apprehension about learning altogether. About the only age group the content is really right for would be the 6-7's --that is if what you want is to get them started on are arcade games that produce more agitation than education. We know this is getting a big play in the media, but we suggest you test it before you bring it home. A better choice from the same manufacturer is VTech's new and innovative Write N Learn Smartboard ($29.99). It is indeed a smart toy that works on letter and number skills in concrete ways that involve kids in writing and counting games. It recognizes the letters children write and names them! It has a magic quality that is sure to catch the attention of young players. This is a wise choice for a targeted audience that is learning to write and read. In other words, this is a smart toy that reinforces skills for late Kindergarten, first and second graders. It goes at your child's pace- not the stressful world of arcade gaming. UPDATE 2007 A console that also plugs into the TV and specializes in drill-and-review games that usually borrow from arcade formats. While seven year olds often enjoy reinforcing what they know, the pace of this product is way too fast to “learn” from and certainly way beyond the preschool crowd (its targeted audience). New for 2007 Art Studio and Dance Mat did not receive good ratings from our testing families. They complained that the games were not responsive and they disliked the graphics. (800) 521-2010.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2007.

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