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Product Type: Toys
Age: Early Elementary School Years

 

 
2009 Awards
LeapFrog Scribble & Write
(LeapFrog $22 Score:)

There is a screen on this little letter toy that asks you to trace the shapes shown. Like your old magic slate, you can “erase” the shapes you trace. Here’s the problem…it will tell you good job even when you do not trace what is there! We like electronic toys to be kind, but giving false praise can be confusing. The letter games are simple tracing. You push a letter on the keyboard and it says the name of the letter and then lights up a template on the screen to trace. Unlike so many toys, this one does have both upper and lower case letters---that is a good thing. The curves on the screen are not exactly round, but they are not bad. After the letter has been traced the child is also told what sound the letter makes. The final game asks kids to watch the lines on the screen form a letter and when recognized push the right key on the keyboard. We’d say, skip the shape game with its misleading praise and go right to the letters. They say 3 & up, we’d say 4-5 is closer to the truth.

The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements. We did not independently test this toy in a lab.

 

This is a straightforward toy for helping children who are learning to shape their letters. Keep in mind that following the lighted up letters is just one way to develop those skills. You can also give them a more direct experience by having them “write” with their fingers in wet sand or in a pan of flour…trace the first letter of your child’s name in the sand….have him trace it. Wipe it away and demo again how you do this and have him trace again. Eventually ask him to draw the letter so you can trace the letter he writes.
Avoid trying to do all the letters at one time. Pick two or three at most and keep the letters related in shape…i.e. do three stick shaped letters on the same day, such as L, T, and X. Or on another day work on C, O, and Q.

 

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

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2009 Award
Dressable Madeline
(Kids Preferred $30 Score:)

Welcome back, Madeline! From time to time this storybook character exits for a season or two and then happily resurfaces. This season she is back in a all her classic glory. This all fabric doll with her red hair, her bright yellow hat and blue velour coat, plaid school girl dress and black shoes is ready to be dressed and undressed. Oh, yes, she has her requisite appendix scar. Bring her home with one or more of the books or the many videos with Christopher Plummer narrating. Also new this season, a 70th Anniversary version of Madeline in a toile print dress. We think this version will be of more interest to collectors. We prefer the classic Madeline in coat and hat. 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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2009 Award
eeBoo Friendship and Forest Companions Puzzles
(eeBoo $15 Score:)

There are four 25-piece puzzles in each set designed by well known artists. Brandon Reese did the charming Friendship collection and Kevin Hawkes did the Forest Companions. Each of the puzzles has a distinctive backing pattern and there are fames that also help should the pieces get mixed up. Giving kids strategies for putting the frame together first will help beginners in jigsaw puzzles get started. 5-8.
     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. Award Year: 2009.

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2009 Award
Rainbow Race
(International Playthings $18 Score:)

Each player gets playing pieces that are the colors of the rainbow. A card is drawn that shows the colors in different order. Players race to stack their colors to match the rainbow card. This is a game that calls for visual memory, sequencing and speed, not to mention dexterity. They say 3 & up, we think this would be challenging but fun for older 4’s-7.
        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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2010 Award
Bendaroos 3D Activity Pack
(All Star Products $20 Score:)

Kids can bend, draw and create all sorts of shapes and letters with these colorful waxed strings. The kit includes 500 building sticks in rainbow and neon colors. It comes with 16  templates they can trace that tell them how many of each color is needed to make the pictured objects.  It also comes with 3 Bendamodels- little plastic forms that kids can add their bendaroos to in order to make their own unique designs. Our testers also liked the crimper cutter for when they wanted to move on to another color. While the step by step process encourages kids to match and work in a step by step sequence, these waxed strings can also be used in an open-ended way to make whatever the imagination desires. This art material can help develop fine motor skills of little fingers as well as eye/hand coordination kids need for writing, in a more entertaining way than repetitive pencil and paper tasks. Bendaroos hold their shape better than pipe cleaners and will actually stick to walls or windows.  Marked for 3 & up, this is a toy that will be used in far more complex and interesting  ways by early school aged kids of 5-7.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2010. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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Awards
TotSports Bowling Set
(Little Tikes $14.99 Score:) Six see-through plastic pins are loaded with colorful balls that shake rattle and roll when they are knocked over with the big but lightweight bowling ball. A good classic toy with a fresh new look. Fun for active play indoors or out. Says 2 & up, but 2's won't understand this or enjoy it as much as preschoolers and even early school aged kids. See the SNAP suggestions for making a math game for older kids (800) 432-5437. SNAP Activity: This is a good game that develops eye hand coordination and requires repetitive setting up and fetching the ball. Taking turns and following rules are also built into the fun. Young kids love such games for their own sake and especially if the grown-ups in their lives are bowlers, too. If appropriate, you can build some simple counting or adding skills with this,as well. With preschoolers, keep track of how many pins were knocked down. Keep a tally with chalk or pencil and paper. Make bundles of five stick marks. Player who gets two bundles first is the winner of that round. For school aged kids, tape numerals 1-6 to the pins and have your child add up the scores. Set a number for grand slam winner. First player to knock down ten wins the round!

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

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2003 Award
Musical Hands Mat
(International Playthings $29.99 Score:) Following the flashing lights above each handprint on the 45" mat allows children to play a tune. This calls for visual attention and sequencing. Marked for 2s, but this will be hard for most toddlers under 2. A much better choice for preschoolers and beyond!

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

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2003 Award
Lily's Purple Plastic Purse
(Mudpuppy Press $7.95 Score:) This company continues to make marvelous puzzles from picture-book art. Select 20 pieces in a frame or 24- and 36-piece puzzles in handsome, sturdy storage boxes. Favorites: Katy Cat and Beaky Boo, Martha Speaks, and Where the Wild Things Are. 4 & up.

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

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2003 Award
Fire & Rescue Activity Pack
(Lauri $14.99 Score:) Loaded for dramatic play with lacing and tracing figures of firefighters and trucks; has 20 stringing pieces with firehouse theme and a small setting with firehouse, trees, and animals. Plenty of activity here for developing fine motor skills along with pretend play. Also top rated, Space Odyssey Pack. 47.

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

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2003 Award
Search & Rescue GI Joe
(Hasbro $24.99 Score:) A departure from GI Joe's regular tour of duty, here he is a hero in the community. Comes in firefighter's uniform, with thermal imaging camera, air tank, and other rescue gear. This is a multicultural collection. 5 & up.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2003.

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