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Product Type: Toys
Age: Early Elementary School Years

 

 
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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2007 Award
Thomas and Friends Load and Sort Recycling Center / Echo Tunnel /Sodor Fire Sta
(RC2/Learning Curve $49.99 Score:) Three pieces of cargo slide through the Recycling Center ($49.99 5) and magically drop down the can, paper, or glass chutes and onto a waiting truck. Clever use of technology with a built-in message! Also great fun, Echo Tunnel ($49.99 5). Our tester loved speaking into the tunnel and hearing his own words echo back! There are also a train whistle and rackety track sounds that echo as trains run through the small tunnel that fits into any track set-up. One parent noted: “The ability to record one’s voice is so much fun for this age.” Also wonderful, Sights & Sounds Deluxe Fire Station ($69.99 5). An alarm activates lights and sounds of the fire crew with their fire truck and fire train. Switches above the doorways turn on lights and sounds, and open the double doors. 3 & up. (800) 704-8697.

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

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2007 Award
Brio Double Suspension Bridge
(KNEX $25 Score:) This is the longest bridge in the line—three and a half feet long! Can also be used side by side for two-way traffic. Our tester liked the Stop & Go Station ($16.50 ); with a simple push button the train is locked into the station and then released to go. (800) 822-5639.

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

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2007 Award
Airport Action
(Lego Systems, Inc. $49.99 Score:) One of the most satisfying Duplo sets of the year (no matter how old you are). Your preschooler will need a lot of help putting this set together but he will love playing with it! Comes with a plane, airport with tower, and ground crew! Still top rated, last year’s PLATINUM AWARD-winning Fire Station ($29.99 5), which can be built as a tower or horizontally. Past winners include: The Big Farm Set, Bob the Builder, and Dora the Explorer sets. We also highly recommend a big bucket ($19.95) for open-ended creations. 3 & up. (800) 233-8756.

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

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2007 Awards
Magneatos Intermediate
(Guidecraft $15 Score:) This year we heard tragic news about toddlers who swallowed the small round magnets from sets designed for older children. If you have mixed aged children, this kind of toy will need super supervision! The good news is that there are larger rod and magnet sets designed for younger kids who still mouth their toys. Last year’s Jumbo Magneatos (Guidecraft $30 & up 5) are still a great choice for younger children because they are oversized primary-colored plastic rods and balls, safe and easy to manipulate. Comes in 36 ($30), 72 ($50), or 144 pieces ($100). 2 & up. PLATINUM AWARD ’06. New for 2007, Magneatos Intermediate PLATINUM AWARD (Guidecraft $15–$100 5). Smaller in scale than the jumbo set, these colorful magnetic rods and balls can be mixed with the Jumbos and are the right size for kids from 4–7. They are big and chunky compared to sets for older kids, but the short rods do fit in a choke tube and are not appropriate for kids who still mouth their toys. An open-ended building toy that develops dexterity and problem solving skills. 4–7. (800) 524-3555. Also worth a look, Magtastik (Mega Bloks $29.99 4)—oversized magnetic balls and rods that are less pricey than Jumbo Magneatos, but set includes some smaller pieces that fit in a choke tube. Not for kids under 3 or those who still mouth their toys. (800) 524-3555.

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

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2007 Awards
Superstructs Big Builder
(Waba Fun $35.95 Score:) Looks a lot like your old Tinkertoys, but brighter. Made of bright-colored plastic rods and connectors, this is an open-ended building set. Comes with directions for making many kinds of vehicles, but allows for kids’ original creations, as well. The Big Builder set has 126 pieces; or consider the 230-piece set. (303) 926-0848.

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

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2007 Awards
Dive, Dodge 'n Slide Bouncer
(Little Tikes $299 Score:) The neighborhood that tested this 16' x 7' x 7' bouncer raved. It requires lots of space but delivers a great deal of play value. “Larger kids were able to enjoy it too,” “easy to blow up with built in pump.” Kids have to make their way through the obstacle course and then down one of two red slides. As with any inflatable toy, lots of parental supervision is a must. There are larger inflatables in this line (notably a rock wall that looks like fun, but we are concerned about smaller children climbing and potentially falling awkwardly). Still top rated, last year’s Jump ’n Slide ($200 41⁄2). 3 & up. (800) 321-0183.

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

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