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Product Type: Toys
Age: Early Elementary School Years

 


2003 Award
Lace-a-Saurus
(Lauri $11.99 Score:) These precut felt puppets with a dino theme are just right for your dinosaur fan with six pre-cut dinosaur hand puppets and one finger puppet. Kids lace them up and use them for storytelling. Kits come with yarn and big plastic needle for sewing (which develops fine-motor skills kids need for writing). 5 & up.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2003.

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Super Gymnast Barbie
(Mattel $19.99 Score:) No great unusual Barbies this year. Our top pick: Super Gymnast or, of the straight "pink" variety, the Ballet Star Barbie-comes complete with long and short tutus and two crowns. At least they're all active! Also Barbie Rapunzel with hair that grows (with extensions).

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

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2003 Award
Kart Maniax Stunt Pit
(Mattel $19.99 Score:) Of all the new track sets from Hot Wheels our testers gave the highest marks to the Kart Maniax Stunt Pit. However, they all thought the set should come with two karts ($9.99 for each additional kart). We agree! Our testers also liked the Octoblast ($39.99 ) - the marquee racing set of the year. The cars travel quickly and it is more stable than most of its predecessors. Like most of these closed sets it will likely have short-term appeal.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2003.

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Leap Pad
(LeapFrog $34.99 Score:) We really wanted to love this electronic reading aid, but found the content disappointing and beyond the targeted 4-7 crowd. Labeled 4 & up, it introduces skills way beyond preschoolers' ability. Leap Pad Pro, aimed at second-fifth graders, has so much text on a page, it's frustrating to young readers and limits older ones. The company should hook up with a solid beginning-readers series to match their innovative technology.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: .

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2003 Award
Scratch Magic Activity Kits
(Scratch-Art Co. $4.99 Score:) Remember making scratch art with crayon scribbles covered with black paint that you scratch away? These sheets give you the same effect. Come in small packs and in stationery kits. New for 2003, Scratch Magic Stickers (20 or 48 stickers in a pack). These are fun for notebooks, envelopes and gift wrap decorations! 5 & up.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2003.

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2003 Award
Down by the Docks Train Set
(RC2 Learning Curve $150 Score:) This "wow-ee" of a 45 piece gift set includes the Sodor Bay Bridge, a Lighthouse, and a Crane (with working magnet). Don't get caught up with the playmat, which is limiting—train layouts should be open-ended. Or, for a good, but less expensive layout ,consider the Conductor's Figure 8 Set (Learning Curve $44 ), a good starter set with 25 pieces, including a conductor's shed, tree, stop sign, signal, Sir Topham Hatt, and ramp. Comes with three train pieces. You can gradually add on bridges and other props for birthdays and other gift events. Still top rated, Around the Barrel Loader Set ($100/50 pieces ).

Age: Preschool,Early School Years. Award Year: 2003.

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2003 Award
Look-Alikes Playground
(Briarpatch $5.99 Score:) (Briarpatch $5.99 four ) Joan Steiner's wonderful scenes of everyday life are a perfect fit for puzzles (ha!). Sixty-three pieces make up this inventive playground, including a tambourine for a sandbox and a shoehorn for a slide! Also fun, Look-Alikes Harbor. 8 & up. Or try Look-Alikes Soda Shop with 500 pieces. They say 7 & up, we say a good family project!

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2003.

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Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine
(Hasbro $9.99 Score:) In the battle of the Snow Cone our 4th grade testers were initially attracted to Snoopy, but they reported that the directions were not as clear and it is harder to work than some of the others in the market.

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

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2003 Award
Paint Pail Beads
(Fashion Angels Enterprises $15 Score:) New and special this bead kit makes bracelets with round wooden beads that you paint with toothpicks! Comes with enough material for a play date that company will enjoy doing and wearing home! 8 & up.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2003.

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2003 Award
Mystix
(Fashion Angels Enterprises $16 Score:) This bead kit with semi-precious stones makes some mighty fine looking jewelry for older girls! Also special, the Bling Bling kit($16 ) with very fashionable and attractive metal and glass beads. Still top rated for younger beaders, Alphabet Suite ($23.99 four ) creates personalized bracelets. 8 & up.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2003.

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