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Product Type: Toys
Age: Early Elementary School Years

 


2009 Award
BeeBoo Big Bubble Mix Kit and Dip Stix
(Extreme Bubbles, Inc. $10 & up Score:)

Hands down one of our new favorite products of the year! The unique bubble wand consists of two long wooden handles connected by soft rope. Dip the wand into the bucket with the handles closed. Take the wand out of the solution and open the handles slowly and amazingly, extremely large bubbles that will impress even the most "I'm so over bubbles"  teenager. Great fun for the backyard with mixed ages.  New for 2010, Dip Stix.  The big handles on the wands are now painted (they look less homemade)--and you can mix your own bubble solution in the built in container.  For the Tang generation, the mix your own mixture will seem like fun. Some of our parents (with younger kids) prefer the "it's good to go from the start" approach.  You can still buy the original bubble mixture.  While we found that younger children were delighted with running after these super big bubbles (and their parents had fun making them), this is truly one of the few outdoor toys that will capture the attention of teens and adults.   If you're having a family reunion--this is fun to have around!

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

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2007 Award
Pirate Ship Kit
(Creativity for Kids $5.99 Score:) This is just the right activity for a party full of crafty pirates. The kits require gluing the wooden parts together (always fun, but will need some adult supervision) and then they are ready to be painted. A nice take away craft for a pirate themed party.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2007.

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2007 Award
Par 3 Mini Golf Set
(Step 2 $39.99 Score:) Arrange the 21 piece set into a custom made 3 hole course. Pieces snap together easily and each “green” has a hole in one. Can be used indoors and out. Comes with two putter, two balls, three flags, a clown's mouth, windmill, and spinner. They say 2 & up, we'd say more like 3 & up. Our testers found that the first hole was very easy to do (and satisfying). The next two holes take more practice (and more shots)...which is fine with most kids and frustrating to those who feel that they should golf like Tiger already!

Age: Preschool,Early School Years. Award Year: 2007.

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2007 Award
Caribbean Seas Pirate Girl
(Small Miracles $29.99 Score:) Perhaps it's our own bias, but we were delighted that Small Miracle remembered that girls often like to dress up as pirates too! Their new Caribbean Seas Pirate Girl costume comes with a Jolly Roger head wrap (braids included), vest, sewn-on belt and buckle, and a skirt. They also have Pirate costumes for boys. Also special their Pirate's Treasure Kit ($29) that comes with 23 pieces, designed for two players, including two pirate's vests, eye-patches, pirate coins, and a treasure map.

Age: Preschool,Early School Years. Award Year: 2007.

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2007 Award
Woodland Adventures Pirate Ship
(Step 2 $49.99 Score:) A handsome pirate ship that makes a perfect centerpiece for a pirate themed party and a great birthday gift! The ship is 29"l x 22.5"h with a painted black hull, red and white sails (complete with crossbones and skull), and comes with five pirates. Our testers loved the secret aft door, the ship's wheel, crow's nest and other small details such as a treasure chest, cannon, lantern and flags. "Looks like it came from an expensive specialty store" wrote one tester.

Age: Preschool,Early School Years. Award Year: 2007.

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2008 Award
Lia Interactive Baby Doll
(Corolle $89.95 Score:) A high-tech doll from an unexpected source. The French doll Lia speaks four languages by placing one of three bracelets on her wrist (her default language is French, of course). Lia will tell you when she's hungry, needs to potty (just pretend), and most endearing, she asks for a kiss; but she’s not intrusive and demanding. You can also turn off the high-tech function and you have a classic vanilla-smelling baby doll. She’s a big armful, a 17" bald baby who comes with bib, spoon, feeding dish, and potty.

Age: Preschool,Early School Years. Award Year: 2008.

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2008 Award
Classique Nursery Twin Stroller
(Corolle $80 Score:) This blue 30" double stroller evoked a chorus of oohs and aaahs in our office and with our testers. Looks like the current double strollers in design, with three wheels and stacked seats. We especially loved the adjustable push bar. For a smaller on-the-go stroller, consider American Girl’s yellow and blue Collapsible Stroller ($34), designed for their 15" Bitty Baby Dolls. The Bitty Twins Double Stroller ($48) doesn’t compare to the quality of Corolle's.

Age: Preschool,Early School Years. Award Year: 2008.

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2008 Award
Woodland Adventures Castle of Courage
(Step 2 $79.99 Score:) There is great competition this year in wooden castles. It's rare to see a mass-market toy maker compete to the same level as a specialty supplier, but that's exactly what's happening this year. Step 2's Woodland Adventures Castle of Courage is equal in every way to Ryan’s Room Majestic Castle & Mighty Knights PLATINUM AWARD 2007 ($100), a truly majestic wooden castle, 20" ✕ 20". Both have working drawbridges and towers, and come with knights ready to defend their kingdom. You can’t go wrong with either. 4 & up. Also noteworthy: Tower of Doom (Step 2 $99.99) This painted grey castle is 45" tall and has several levels and hideouts. Has a working drawbridge, secret magnetic castle door, dungeon gate. Comes with three-piece set of monsters (we could have done without) which you may want to replace. This one looks older, more sinister than either of the two above and would be enjoyed by 5–8 year olds. Not to be left out, there is the Woodland Adventures Pink Princess Palace (Step 2 $79.90), a very pink palace that is home to a Princess, Fairy Godmother, King, Prince, and Queen. A perfect setting for Cinderella's ball, Rapunzel's rescue, and other such events. Two pink towers with fabric flags, this is almost 30" tall with many walkways and gates. Our testers loved it but their parents suggested that you keep the instructions on how to put it back together nearby! The company has signed verification forms that these products contain no lead or phthalates.

Age: Preschool,Early School Years. Award Year: 2008.

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2009 Award
Mini Automoblox Three Pack Sets
(Manhattan Toy $25 Score:)

For parents looking for "cool design" for the playroom, look no further. A set of three smaller versions of the PLATINUM AWARD-winning sleekly designed wooden cars. Part puzzle, part vehicle, these also got high marks from our testers who enjoyed taking the cars apart and putting them back together. The vehicles fronts and backs are interchangabel so kids can create original vehicles. 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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2008 Award
Ryan's Room Home Sweet Home Dollhouse
(Small World Toys $139 Score:)

Painted pink with yellow trim, this three-stories-high house has two staircases and lots of room for pretend play. It has a more traditional look of a colonial house with shutters and front door. Access is only from the rear. It comes furnished with bedroom, kitchen and bathroom furniture. For a less expensive house on a smaller scale, testers liked the A-frame Ryan's Room Home Again, Home Again that comes without furniture.  Also special, a three story unfurnished dollhouse Home Is Where the Heart Is ($130) that is opened front, back and from the top for easy side by side play by several children.  This company makes multicultural families and interesting furniture collections, including Livin'It Up ($15), a 9-piece set with chairs, lamp, and a flatscreen TV, of course. Also an unusual, the Fluff'n'Fold Laundry Room.

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

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