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Product Type: Toys
Award: Gold
Review Year: 2012

 


2012 Award
Tots Art Start
(Alex $16 Score:)

A collection of art supplies, chosen for young preschoolers. No glue or scissors are needed. There are no lines to color inside of, nor designs to copy. There are two colorful frames with a sticky background on which children can put pieces of flat, shredded, or fringed tissue paper, patterned stickers, and doilies. All of these are supplied in the package. There are four other non-sticky frames, two with white backgrounds, one shaped like a tree; another shaped like a horse. This is an open-ended kit that also includes three triangular shaped crayons. The latter are faint unless used on one of the points of the triangle. All the materials are ready for experimenting with making collages. Marked 18 months and up. We'd say that may be rushing it a bit for most toddlers. Once you start using this you may want to start a collage box of your own for further exploration.

Age: Toddlers. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2012 Award
3D Cityscape Puzzle
(Alex $21 Score:)

A colorful map-like cityscape floor puzzle. The 3-D part comes in with three tall buildings that can be assembled and attached to the giant 20 by 30 puzzle. Kids can use their toy cars to travel over the roadways and use this as a mat for dramatic play after they assemble all the pieces. Marked 3 & up. We think 3 year olds are going to need help the first few times they do this.

Age: Preschool. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2012 Award
Sassy Go-Go Friend
(Sassy $4.99 each Score:)

A jolly colorful birdie to dangle on an infant seat or stroller. It has licks of black and white striped patches, bright ribbon wings, and big embroidered eyes to grab baby's visual attention. Inside it has a quiet jingle that will attract listening. The dangly legs add to the motion. It attaches with a Velcro strap. Slightly older babies may like pulling on the legs to make it bounce. Newborns & up

Age: Infants. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2012 Award
Kiwi Crates-Color
(Kiwicrate $19.95 Score:)

A new on-line series of activity kits that are incredibly well conceived and designed.  We sampled a COLOR kit where the activities include making spinning tops and collages. We usually don't love most science kits - but these were just on target for early school aged kids (and we'd say older fours with adult assistance). The materials are lovely and the instructions are clear.  One of the downsides of most science kits, is that the instructions become too complicated for most kids and adults.  Here, the instructions are a playful blend of written and pictorial. The site also invites you to post your results.

These kits are really terrific parent/child or grandparent/child projects that can be completed in an afternoon. We also tried the company's WIND kit that was great fun (but is no longer available). 

NOTE: This is a subscription service so we have not been able to test all the kits going forward.  To order the COLOR kit shown on the Today Show, click here.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2012.

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2012 Award
Laser Peg Bot
(Laser Pegs $19.95 Score:)

Want a fun introduction to circuits?  This intro set from Laser Pegs comes with instructions for 6 different models, but our testers loved treating this as an open-ended set. Make the connection between the pieces and they light up.  The low watts come from the 3 AA batteries (not included).  The company makes more extensive (and expensive kits)-- one of our favorites was last year's award winning 3D Light board.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years, Tweens. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2012 Award
Early Years Honey Bear
(International Playthings $19.99 Score:)

An update of a classic; a multi-armed ball that infants can easily grab.  This one is done in a short no-shed plush and felt-like finish. A smiling honey bear's head sits on top and plump paws with different patterns are attached on the side. Inside the arms of the ball is a fabric bee. Pull it out and it vibrates as it goes back into place. A quiet jingle bell is safely hidden inside.  A good choice for sitting-up babies.

Age: Infants. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2012 Award
Ravensburger Race Through Space Game
(Ravensburger $20 Score:)

Players are on a mission to the moon, you will travel over ten galaxy cards landing on space stations. But watch out. The galaxy shifts as you move through space! If you land on a black hole you'll be rocketed backwards. Land on an Asteroid field and you will be stuck! This is a fun game with a few molecules of science thrown in. Game play is about 15 minutes. 2-4 players. 6 & up.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2012 Award
MegaBloks Mini Bloks Tub Pink
(Mega Bloks $24.99 Score:)

Choose a yellow and blue tub with 120 pieces or the pink and raspberry version. Either of these come with one action figure, a wheeled base, a working doorway and window, a plastic mini computer, stickers, and a variety of block shapes. It's a truly open ended set with room for storing more, although it contains enough to get builders started. These are the same size as Lego Duplos and compatible. Unlike many Duplo sets, this is marked more realistically for 3 & up. As we have indicated in the Pink Duplo reviews, we don't prefer gender specific blocks, but we recognize that some girls were not building at all with the primary color sets. So, if pink is the only way to get your girls to build, we say bring them on. It's more important that we give girls the opportunity to develop the spatial skills that boys have historically honed with their building toys. These are basic skills that are needed in math and science for boys and girls. 3 & up.

Age: Preschool. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2012 Award
MegaBloks Mini Bloks Tub Yellow and Blue
(Mega Bloks $24.99 Score:)

Choose a yellow and blue tub with 120 pieces or the pink and raspberry version. Either of these come with one action figure, a wheeled base, a working doorway and window, a plastic mini computer, stickers, and a variety of block shapes. Itís a truly open ended set with room for storing more, although it contains enough to get builders started. These are the same size as Lego Duplos and compatible. Unlike many Duplo sets, this is marked more realistically for 3 & up. As we have indicated in the Pink Duplo reviews, we donít prefer gender specific blocks, but we recognize that some girls were not building at all with the primary color sets. So, if pink is the only way to get your girls to build, we say bring them on. It's more important that we give girls the opportunity to develop the spatial skills that boys have historically honed with their building toys. These are basic skills that are needed in math and science for boys and girls. 3 & up.

Age: Preschool. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2012 Award
MegaBloks CAT 3-In-1 Ride-on
(Mega Bloks $49.99 Score:)

Finding a low-to-the-ground ride-on that actually steers but doesn't tip over is not so easy. At last, we have good news! This yellow construction truck is a combo fun for beginning walkers it can be used as a push toy and for foot to the ground riding. Sound buttons on the steering wheel will make a hit with toddlers and happily for adults, it has a volume control. It also comes with a detachable toolbox for beginning pretend play-for the older tots. The seat is more comfy than the company's earlier ride-on dump truck. This is really basic gear for active play and building big muscles. They say 1 & up. We say this is best for toddlers who are steady on their feet, which is often a little later.

Age: Toddlers, Preschool. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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