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Product Type: Toys
Award: Gold
Review Year: 2012

 

 
2012 Awards
Blossom Cottage
(Big Jigs $119 Score:)

A relatively small painted wooden doll house with lift up roof that makes getting into the house easy. It has a carry handle feature, but would be a tad heavy for young children to handle on their own. That said, this is a good scale for a small space or as a good toy for Grandma's little visitors. It comes furnished with a family of four and 18 pieces of furniture. You fold the front down to reveal a painted garden, as well. Marked 3 & up. 

SNAP This small uncomplicated house will fit on a table top or wheelchair table.

Age: Preschool. Award Year: 2012.

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2012 Awards
Talking Tubes
(Alex $27.99 Score:)

An update from the can and strings inventions you played with in school, this plastic set works really well to the delight of our testers young and old. It comes with 3.3 yards of yellow tubing with a red and blue telephone on either end. Go around a corner so that you can't see each other and whisper something. Your voice comes through loud and clear. An early science lesson about sound! 3 & up.

SNAP: For kids who are working on speech, this is a fun prop that will add playful fun to their efforts. Try a game of echo. Say what I say...start with one or two words and buld. Reverse roles and you say what your child says.

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

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2012 Awards
ELT Whizz Around Mountain
(International Playthings $54 Score:)

Push the light switch on top of the mountain and watch the little cars speed down the spiral runway. Add the plastic boulders and they can chase the two little cars that can stick together or run solo. There's a switch on the runway to release the boulders separately from the cars. Loaded with batteries the lights will flash and sounds will be activated. However, kids will enjoy this with or without the sounds and lights. 18 months & up.

SNAP: A winning choice for learning about cause and effect and a sense of success as they use the two different actions to make thing happen. The cars do go too fast for tracking with ease, but they do invite some pretend play as well as plenty of pleasure from repetition.

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

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2012 Award
Folkmanis Nibbling Mouse Puppet
(Folkmanis $13.99 Score:)

Bigger than most finger puppets, this white mouse with a very long pink tail, has cheese in its paws and a rod that moves its head from side to side. There's room for two fingers to grasp the rod to active the mouse. A unusual little puppet for special effects in any drama...it could even be the narrator! This is about as loveable as a mouse can be.

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

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2012 Award
Folkmanis Mini Lop Ear Rabbit Finger Puppets
(Folkmanis $7.50 Score:)

Tuck one or more of these adorable little finger puppets into the Easter basket or your travel bag!

Folkmanis also makes one with upright ears. This kind of small plaything will be enjoyed long after the candies are forgotten.

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

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2012 Award
New Sprouts Cure It! My Very Own Doctor Kit
(Learning Resources $24.99 Score:)

The black bag is back! But are there still doctors carrying them? Never mind, it will store all the chunky plastic tools a pretend doctor needs: a stepthoscope, ear scope, thermometer, syringe, and bandage. These upsized pieces are intended for early games of make-believe. Ideal for playing out feelings about those well-baby check-ups. Our tester found that the sticker o the thermometer ripped when the prop was twisted in play. That said, she reports that the kit made an awesome hit! "He loved everything about this set! He loved organizing the tools into the cute doctor bag. He loved using each tool one after the other, and the syringe is especially cool because it has the plastic accordion piece inside to mimic giving a real shot. He loved using the ear scope to check not only ears, but eyes and mouths as well!"

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

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2012 Award
Lego Friends Heartlake Dog Show
(Lego Systems, Inc. $19.99 Score:)

A good place to start with this new collection. It includes Mia, 2 puppies, a podium with runway as well as a grooming area. And what would a dog show be without a trophy stand? Our tester liked all the small details: camera, bows, brushes, plate, bones, flowers, see saw, hurdle and flags. Building is just the first part of the fun. Our tester really liked using the props for pretend play. 183 pieces. Marked 5-12. We also had positive reviews for another smaller starter set, Andrea's Stage ($9.99/87 pieces). 5 & up.

As we always note with LEGO sets, it's always better to start off with smaller sets. These allow your child to get used to the step-by-step instructions and build their sense of confidence as they go along. While it may be tempting to buy the "big box" - hold off.  We have found this also is true with these sets. In other words, we found no real difference between boys and girls in this regard.  Our testers, many building for the first time, enjoyed the experience of these smaller sets-and were eager to move to other builds.

Note: Our first reaction to this gender specific product was negative. After a lot of reflection, it's still not our preference, but we have to share that our testers generally loved the kits. The most important piece of feedback we received, is that girls that were not building (many had left LEGO behind after DUPLO) were now building, enjoying the experience and asking for more sets. So if pink is the only way to get girls building then--bring it on. Girls have traditionally been left behind in fields that involve spatial relationships and math that are built in to toys for boys that typically play with building sets. We still think that girls could and should build with the same primary colored bricks that boys use, but if this will encourage them, we would rather have them building than not. At least LEGO has tried to expand on ideas of what will interest school-aged girls by offering a vet set, an inventor's kit and a cafe. It's not about the mall and shopping which was the emphasis of "girl's building kits" in the '90s.

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

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2012 Award
LEGO Friends Heartlake Vet
(Lego Systems, Inc. $39.99 Score:)

After building this set our test builder asked for more of the Friends collection for her birthday! She wants the Dog Show next. First step is building the office veterinary office run by Vet Sophie and her helper Mia. The buildings are interchangeable and have movable pieces so the building can be designed and redesigned. The set includes Mia, Sophie, a horse, dog, and hedgehog. It includes aquarium, examination table, mailbox, horse pen, hedgehog cage, x-ray and scale. Our tester especially loved all the small details, as well: a thermometer, clipboard, ice pack, stethoscope, spoon, syringe, registration chart and flower accessory pack with 3x4 flowers, 4 butterflies and 4 ladybirds. 343 pieces. 6-12

Note: Our first reaction to this gender specific product was negative. After a lot of reflection, it's still not our preference, but we have to share that our testers generally loved the kits. The most important piece
of feedback we received, is that girls that were not building (many had left LEGO behind after DUPLO) were now building, enjoying the experience andasking for more sets. So if pink is the only way to get girls building then--bring it on. Girls have traditionally been left behind in fields that involve spatial relationships and math that are built in to toys for boys that typically play with building sets. We still think that girls could and should build with the same primary colored bricks that boys use, but if this will encourage them, we would rather have them building than not. At least LEGO has tried to expand on ideas of what will interest school-aged girls by offering a vet set, an inventor's kit and a cafe. It's not about the mall and shopping which was the emphasis of "girl's building kits" in the '90s.

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

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2012 Award
LEGO Creator Propeller Adventures
(Lego Systems, Inc. $19.99 Score:)

Take your choice and build one of three different models or build one and then take it apart and try the other two. This features a handsome propeller plane with working props and landing gear that fold up and down for landing and take-off. After playing with that gets tired, convert the prop plane into a sleek stealth-like fighter plane or reuse the bricks and props for making a powerful looking hovercraft. Three challenging builds with clear directions and the need for plenty of attention to details. 241 pieces. Designed for 7-12.

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

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2012 Award
Lego Ultimate Race Set
(Lego Systems, Inc. $26 Score:)

Based on the Disney Pixar, Cars, this racing car set features Raoul CaRoule, the world's greatest rally car that is about to race his biggest rivals, Lightning McQueen and Max Schnell. Can Raoul win the race or will he be our maneuvered? First players have to assemble the cars and slammers. There are three separate building plan booklets that show step by step how to build the racing pieces. Hit the slammers to see who is the fastest! Includes the following vehicles: Lightning McQueen, Max Schnell, Raoul CaRoule and Raoul's pittie. This is the kind of set that does more than gather dust on a shelf. It's a fun setting to play with when the building part is done. It's marked 6-12 but kids at the younger edge will need help with the building.

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

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