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Product Type: Toys
Age: Early Elementary School Years

 


2007 Award
Sticky Foam Garden
(Alex $8.99 Score:)

Some of our readers may be surprised that we really liked this product that comes with outlined artwork (butterflies and flowers). It's not particularly open-ended since the idea is to follow the instructions and add the appropriate layers of brightly colored foam pieces. The pieces come with self-adhesive backing. Here's the appeal from our point of view--it's really much more like a puzzle in terms of putting the pieces together in an ordered fashion. Kids can certainly ignore the instructions and flow their own sense of color, but many will find this a satisfying project. We'd recommend this kit for quiet time on an airplane or for an office visit (when you still need to get some work done!). A Dinosaur themed set is also available.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2007. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2007 Award
Tin Tea Set
(Alex $24.99 Score:)

The problem with so many tea sets is that they are too delicate for preschoolers. In fact by law those beautiful porcelain sets must be marked 8 & up. Yet it's really the preschool crowd that loves a tea party! So here's a great (and safe) alternative. Done in pinks and greens with a splash of yellow, this set is all tin. Comes with 16 pieces including the tea pot, four cups, plates and a tray (for proper serving!). Better yet, the whole set comes in an attractive case (with a sturdy handle) for on the go tea parties.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2007. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2009 Award
Wedgits Building Blocks Imagination Set
(ImagAbility $20 Score:)

There's something extremely elegant about Wedgits. The plastic shapes stack and combine together without effort, which makes playing with them so appealing. They have an open-ended quality to them that invites exploration. This isn't the type of building set that you make once - it's easy to take the pieces apart and try something new. A new 15 piece set is $20 and a good starting place. You can add to this set with more pieces, a base for building on, and patterns for older kids to follow. They have gender specific pink set, but we prefer the primary colors. Unlike many building sets, this does not have any themed pieces. The geometric shapes invite experiments with symmetry, balance and exploration with nesting, stacking, linking and wedging together the shapes to create designs. We gave the 60 piece Wedgits on Wheels an award back in 2006. But it was very pricey and really more appropriate for older builders. New this year are the Mini Wedgits, smaller sets for building a Mini Wedgit Frog, Dog or, Owl. The mini-sets can also be mixed in with the larger expandman sets. In such a high tech world, this may seem too old fashioned for some--there are no motors or lights, but it is still a very interesting toy.

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

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2007 Award
Sand and Sea Play Table
(Little Tikes $79.99 Score:) Cleverly designed for separate sand and water play, this is nevertheless, likely to lead to some muddy exploration. These two tables are side by side and ideal for digging, spilling and messing around. This comes equipped with an umbrella, sand and water wheels, tools, boats and bridge. It comes with lids to protect the sand (which is not included) from the elements. 2-6 The company has signed a verification form that this product contains no lead or phthalates.

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

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2008 Award
Twister Scram
(Milton Bradley $14.95 Score:) Twister Scram is not really Twister in the traditional sense but lots of fun to play for the 4 & up crowd. Here the play is more like musical chairs. Comes with 20 round colored mats and a spinner. When the caller spins and announces the color everyone runs to be the first to jump on the corresponding colored mat. The challenge – you use one less mat than you have players. Designed for 3-5 players. Rounds are quick so there are lots of opportunities to win. Also fun and more in keeping with the original game is Twister Take Out ($14.95). Here the original mat folds up into a take along bag and the spinner comes on top of a Frisbee styled disk (take the spinner part off when you want to play with the disk). This version will appeal to tweens and teens (and their parents). 8 & up.

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

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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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