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Product Type: Toys
Age: Early Elementary School Years

 


2006 Award
Teddy the Teaching Bear
(Educational Insights $19.99 Score:) Colors, shapes, counting and other matching games are built into this clever little no-batteries needed quiz machine. More fun than a workbook, but the content is similar. There are 24 two sided cards that fit into a grid. Look at item on the left and find the matching item in the grid. Place the Teddy on the right match and its arm goes up. SO this is a self-correcting toy that reinforces reading symbols from left to right. No reading is required, but the mechanics of reading line-by-line and left to write and seeing details, as well as matching and language are all built into the play. They say 3 & up. We’d say more like 4-5. (800) 995-4436.

Age: Preschool,Early School Years. Award Year: 2006.

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Bella Dancerella
(Spinmaster $29.99 Score:) This dancing DVD with props did not impress our testers or their moms. One word: “Boring,” said our 8-year-old testers who felt the intro took way too long. The references to using your left and right foot are going to be well beyond most 4, 5 and 6s. One tester liked the new Tap Dance DVD but the adjustable tap dance shoes did not stay on—no matter what they tried. (800) 622-8339.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2006.

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2006 Awards
WonderFoam Big Letters
(Chenille Kraft Co. $11.5 Score:) Twenty-six big colorful foam letters. These are fun to trace and stick to the wet wall of the tub to spell out names and words. These have an interesting texture, as well, that make them an even better sensory learning tool. Activity: Because these letters have a textured finish they can be used for crayon rubs. Put a sheet of paper on top of a letter and use the side of a crayon to rub over the letter. Make a name sign with rubbings. Also, WonderFoam Magnetic Letters and Numbers ($10.50 )—unlike old-time plastic magnetic letters with tiny magnets that can be a choking hazard, these foam letters are completely backed with magnetic material that mirrors their shape. Also, new WonderFoam Dominoes SNAP AWARD ($15.50 ) Twenty-eight big dominoes with colorful dots that are color-coded to match. One can feel some sensory information in the cut-out form of the dots. They are not raised, but you can feel their outline. A great matching game. (800) 621-1261.

Age: Preschool,Early School Years. Award Year: 2006.

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2006 Award
Pixel Chix
(Mattel $29.95 Score:) Watch a 2-D image of a girl move about in her house. Help her pick what's she going to do (rollerblade vs. watch TV), what she's going to eat or wear. There are five different levels of play and, like a virtual pet, she'll let you know if she's happy or sad. The coolest feature: you can connect two houses together and the chix will visit each other. A little noisy at times but will fit in a backpack for on the go fun.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2006.

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Ribbon and Felt Tote
(Creativity for Kids $15.99 Score:) This wonderful hassle-free, no-mess craft kit features a pink cotton tote bag that is decorated with stick-on cutout shapes and a striped ribbon that trims the top by simply threading it through like a belt. This would have been a Platinum winner had it arrived earlier. Big enough to hold a small book and other treasures, this is an art project that will be worn with pride. No sewing or glue required. 6 & up.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2006.

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Lite Brite FX Flash Art
(Hasbro $19.99 Score:) Here’s the new twist on your old spin art machine. This one comes with neon paint and black cardboard designs cards. Turn off the lights and add paint as it spins. Watching paint turn into ever changing designs is the best part of this toy. But be forewarned, the end product is not as attractive when it stops AND there are only seven cards in the set. You’ll need lots of refills for this one at $6.99 a pop. It also has annoying music-that can be switched off but the label also warns that this paint can stain, so watch where they use this one! It’s one of those novelty items that will probably run out of pizzazz before the batteries run out. We tried it with big hot colored index cards and it’s not bad. 5 & up.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2006.

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2007 Awards
Crank 'N Glow Flashlight
(Playskool $9.99 Score:) Kiss the batteries goodbye! Here’s a “magic” flashlight that you wind, and the faster you crank it, the brighter it glows. This is a novelty item that kids may enjoy for a few minutes and then it will turn into a piece of equipment. 3 & up. (800) 327-8267.

Age: Preschool,Early School Years. Award Year: 2007.

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Animal Puppets
(Gund $16 Score:) Good news! Gund has reintroduced their beautifully made hand puppets. Choose from some of their classic bears such as Manni, or other animals, such as Luke the Lion or Bamboo Panda. PUppets give children a safe way to play out their feelings and develope their language. (800) 448-4863.

Age: Preschool,Early School Years. Award Year: 2007.

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2007 Award
Thomas and Friends Water Tower Figure 8 Set
(RC2/Learning Curve $39.99 Score:) This 25-piece set is a great buy and gives beginners a great place to start. Includes Thomas, a cargo car, water tower, and stone bridge for a figure 8. New for 2007, Edward the Great Set ($79.99, 29 pieces 41⁄2) features Edward & Spencer with Duke and Duchess Coach Car and Furniture Car; we’d pass on the Rheneas & the Roller Coaster Set ($129.99, 32-piece set 3) which looks great but the trains are hard to maneuver; Storm on Sodor Set ($179.99, 35-piece set) with tunnel, tumbling trees, breakaway shed, and collapsing windmill was not ready for testing. Still top-rated, Deluxe Aquarium themed set ($299 41⁄2). Call in the grandparents! (800) 704-8697.

Age: Preschool,Early School Years. Award Year: 2007.

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2007 Award
Geotrax All About Trains Motorized Starter Set
(Fisher-Price $24.95 Score:) A classic 20-piece figure-8 set with 13 pieces of track, motorized engine and trail car, yield sign, crossing sign, gantry with crate, coal loader and crossing gate. Comes with a wonderful live-action DVD (see p. TK for fuller review). A great value! Still top rated, GeoTrax Workin’ Town Railway ($39.99 4) This 30-piece set comes with a bridge, station, and windmill. Our testers found that it is possible for the train to get caught in a loop and fitting the tracks together is more challenging than with wooden tracks, since these only fit right side up. That said, kids liked the many features of this set and the flexibility of extending the system with other settings, such as the GeoTrax Coastal Winds Airport ($24.99 41⁄2). Marked 21⁄2—we’d say it’s a true preschool set. (800) 432-5437.

Age: Preschool,Early School Years. Award Year: 2007.

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