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Product Type: Toys
Age: Early Elementary School Years

 


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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2008 Award
Toss Your Cookies
(Gamewright $11.99 Score:)

Players must gather five of the same cookie card and the only glass of milk pictured on the circular cards. Players get the right combination (or not) by following the actions on the dice and passing cards left or right. This is a good game for matching skills, directionality, and turn taking. Aside from all that, each round is quick and fun. 3–8 players; 15 mins. 8 & up.

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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2008 Award
Cat In the Hat I Can Do That Game
(I Can Do That Games $19.99 Score:)

The Cat in the Hat wants to see what players can do. Players flip three cards over and then try to do what the cards say, using the playing pieces provided? For example, can you jump up and down while holding a fish under your chin? There's reading, memory, action, and lots of fun built into this entertaining game for kids 4–8. Also fun, You to the Rescue! Game ($19.99). As in a scavenger hunt, you hide tiny Who cards around the house. Players race against a timer, wearing a Horton hat with Velcro trunk, to find missing Whos. The one who rescues the most Whos wins. 4–8.

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

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2008 Award
Arena
(Playmobil $89.99 Score:) Playmobil meets the Gladiator, with this ancient arena that includes audience seating, trap doors to the lion cages, a wide gate, and a large battle area. Comes with eight figures, two lions, a double harness chariot, and more. One of the most unusual pretend settings we've seen in a long time! They say 5 & up, but will be of more interest to older kids.

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

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2008 Award
Crayola Telescoping Crayon Tower
(Crayola $14.99 Score:)

We think everyone needs this tower. It makes everyone smile. Remember the really big box of crayons that smelled just like the beginning of the school year? This is better, but you don't have to do third grade again. Comes with 150 crayons in a round plastic tray; pull up the center, and now you have a tower of colors and a sharpener. Also special, Telescoping Mini Marker Tower with 50 washable mini-markers stored in a holder that lifts into a tower. 5 & up.

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

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2008 Award
Me By Me
(Alex $29.99 Score:)

A really wonderful parent-child activity kit that will result in a memory box you will all enjoy now and even more down the road. The colorful memory box comes with an attractive 15-page book that you fill with photos, drawings, and information about your child’s favorite things. There is also air-hardening clay for making a hand cast, a growth chart, stickers, markers, and glue. 5 & up.

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

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