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Product Type: Toys
Age: Early Elementary School Years

 


2008 Award
HearthSong Great Big Outdoor Playball
(HearthSong $59.98 Score:) When they say BIG, they really mean it. This ball is 52" in diameter! We highly recommend that you buy the electric pump they sell ($29.98) if you don't already have a pump. Each chamber of the blue and green ball must be inflated separately. The ball will be enjoyed by early school aged kids. EDITORS NOTE: Because the ball has two openings that a child can climb into (it was the first thing everyone wanted to do)--this toy requires complete supervision. The company has submitted our safety verification form. Note, we did not test this independently in a lab.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2008.

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Dont Tip the Waiter
(Fundex $14.99 Score:) We wanted to love this new balancing game that has a wobbly waiter with a tray--where you're supposed to keep adding dishes until he tips over. Our testers found that he wasn't tippy enough--"it took way to long for him to go over". We hope they tweak the tip factor to make it just right! 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,Later School Years. Award Year: 2008.

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2008 Award
Jakks Pacific Ultimotion Swing Zone Sports Motion Controlled Video Game
(Jakks Pacific $74.99 Score:) There's really no other way to say this--but Ultimotion Swing Zone Sports is really a watered down but MUCH less expensive version of the wii. Comes with many of the same active sport games that you play with a sports adapted wireless controller. Cleverly, you plug the controller into either a golf club, bat, football, tennis racket, or bowling ball. Much like the wii, kids have to stand up and play (a good thing). The graphics aren't the same quality-but they're not bad either. With budgets tighter this year, the Ultimotion may fill the bill with kids who are not as brand aware. To their credit, the players are multi-cultural (one has an interesting mohawk).

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2008.

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2009 Award
Lego Duplo Dino Valley
(Lego Systems, Inc. $49.99 Score:) Preschoolers who are into dinos will enjoy this new play setting that comes with a triceratops (and baby), a Pteranodon (and baby) and a T-Rex. While we believe the inclusion of cavemen is unfortunate, preschoolers will enjoy all of the pieces included in this set. We recommend that you can even discuss the historical inaccuracy. This is also true of the Playmobil dinosaur sets (although those people are dressed in modern clothes a la Jurassic Park or King Kong). In either case, it should be pointed out that most preschoolers are able to enjoy the ferociousness of dinosaurs because they are assured right from the start that dinos and man did not share this great planet at the same time! 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.

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2007 Award
Lucky the Incredible Wonder Pup
(Zizzle $39.99 Score:) “Works right away,” noted our parent tester. Lucky is a two-toned dog that responds to 15 different commands including “speak,” “come here,” “lie down,” and “shake hands.” Very clever and gets high marks for really being well trained. Lucky made such a huge hit with all adults and children who came into our offices that we had trouble getting down to work. Everyone wanted to play with Lucky! Marked 5 & up, we think older fours will love it too! 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: 2007.

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2009 Award
National Geographic Kids Animals
(International Playthings $19.99 Score:) A wide range of animals are available in this line. Whether you have a child fascinated by reptiles or mammals (ice animals or jungle)...there's probably a winner to bring home. Our suggestion- bring one of these plush toys home with a book that you can share. Learning more about the creatures we share this planet with is one of the "greenest" messages around. 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.

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2009 Award
Polar Bear A B C
(Hasbro $9.99 Score:) If you're working on letter recognition, this is a fun game to play at home. There is a fishing pole and letters to go fishing for...kids will learn how to spell 15 different words that they are asked to go find the letters for. What's really nice about this game is that it isn't overwhelming--there are only 13 letters. Very straight forward with the added bonus of getting to put the polar bear figure in the water if you finish spelling your word. Marked for preschoolers, but will be a good game for 5s and 6s working on their letters. Safety note: the letters are backed with a magnetic sheet--so if there are kids in your house that still mouth their toys be sure to keep this one out of range. 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.

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2008 Awards
Super Structs Fairy Garden
(Waba Fun $39.95 Score:) This is a lot like your old Tinkertoys, only this set is color coded to appeal to girls. We generally shy away from such gender-specific toys, but getting girls to build is more important than being politically correct. Keep in mind that it is generally believed that boys do better in math later in life, because they are more apt to get building toys early on and develop their spatial reasoning skills through such playful experimenting. This set comes with fairy wings for figures and pink flowers to add flourishes to structures. The pieces are good sized for small hands and open-ended invitations to create their own settings and small dramas. For less gender specific version see the companies Big Builder set. The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements. We did not independently test this toy in a lab. SNAP: This is a good choice for fine motor development. You may need to anchor the round pieces in play dough so that they hold still and allow children to fit the rods into the pegs. That said, there are opportunities built into playing with these playing pieces. A fun way to talk about color and length comparisons...long, loner, longest...two holes, three and six hole bases. Using these words in concrete ways with real objects gives meaning to numbs, size and color concepts.

Age: Preschool,Early School Years. Award Year: 2008.

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2009 Award
I Spy Ready, Set, Silhouette!
(Briarpatch $16.95 Score:) Good fun! A new matching game that uses approx. 3” square color playing cards with multiple images and see through silhouette cards that players must match to the colored cards. Winner is the one who has the most pairs. This challenges looking at details, but also turning the cards to find the matches. Many have similar images but in varying arrangements, so this is harder than it appears at first glance. Also a good game for knowing and naming the items pictured to develop vocabulary. A great game for 2-4 players or even fun for solo matching. 5 & up. 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
Scrabble Slam Card Game
(Parker Brothers $6.99 Score:) This is a slam dunk winner with testers of mixed ages. Faster than Scrabble and paced for fun, this is a four letter game where players race to change the word by slamming a letter card on the current word to make a new word. The object is to be first to use all your cards. 2-4 players, 15 minutes a round(maybe) and fun for 8 & up.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2009.

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