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Product Type: Toys
Age: Early Elementary School Years
Categories: Construction Toys

 


2010 Award
LEGO CITY Fire Station
(Lego Systems, Inc. $79.99 Score:)

A multi-level fire station that also includes a ladder truck and a smaller vehicle. We love that the truck ladder extends and turns 180 degrees. The Fire Station is part of the LEGO CITY theme - a fun collection of rescue vehicles and figures. We also like the new Fire Boat. Our only complaint about this set is the scale- as with many of the new LEGO structures, they have gotten smaller over recent years.  Our testers, unaware of the skrinkage issue, have no complaints. In fact, he really loved working on this set.  His review was so detailed that we need to share the mini-interview he had with his mom in regard to this product:

1. The set is very easy to build.  (He is an 8 year old experienced LEGO builder--and felt this set was particularly easy. He had to be dragged away to go to a ballgame!

2. The "storage" spaces on the building where the accessories go click  in". He mentioned fire hoses, axes, fire hydrants. "It makes it less confusing because every little piece has a place where it goes."

3. "I never thought the Lego City stuff was cool,  but it actually is really AWESOME." (This from a die-hard Lego "action" afficionado. )

4. He likes the moving parts -- sliding garage doors, swinging doors, removeable "hatches," etc.

5. He  also really likes that the bunk beds and all of the spaces for the mini-figures.

What I really love about his review is that the Fire Station has now become a "base" for all of his action figures--including his Star Wars characters--they all think the base is a pretty cool place to hang out!

The Fire Station comes with lots of props for pretend play after the building is done (there's even a cat  and tree). Five year olds will enjoy playing with this set, but they will not be able to build it independently-there are 662 pieces! We recommend making this a parent/child project for less experienced LEGO builders. 

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: 2010. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2010 Award
Lego Storage & Play Sets
(Neat-Oh! $12.99 & up Score:)

Just about the neatest new toy/storage idea we've seen in years! Unzip the sides of these soft fabric boxes and they become mats for building and dramatic play. They have roadways and city scenes on them for giving story ideas a jumpstart. Best of all when playtime is over, simply zip the corners and all the pieces are stored away for another day. They come in various sizes; some with lids and handles to take along on a play date or trip, others more like a tote with strap handles for easy picking up. Look for the Lego Head ZipBin($12.99) an 8"square box with handles and lid that opens to 21" play mat with roadway graphics. Lego City ZipBin ($19.99) A 13” box that opens to a 29 inch mat with city graphics and roadway. Lego City Fire ZipBin( 24.99) A 16" box that opens to 35" playmat with firefighters, roadways and graphics for dramatic fire fighting. Lego City ZipBin($19.99) A 16"tote that opens to 29" mat with city construction scenes, has with no lid, but tote handles cut outs on the side. Lego Racers ZipBin ($17.99) is a clever tool box shape with lid and handle that open up to a ramp for racers to ride down. Also newest addition to the line, Lego Duplo Zip Bins with simpler graphics when the storage container is opened into a play mat. THere's one with a big fire engine graphic with cut out hand grips and lid or one with animal graphics and the play mat has a fenced in scene for playing zoo or farm. NOTE: Lego bricks do not come in these boxes. They are all about the storage, play mat and neat clean- up to keep all those little bricks contained. Great idea. Neat-oh! also makes container/playmates for Hot Wheels. Farm, Dinos, Road & Rail. Airport, and Train Depot. A good way to take some of the jumbled chaos out of the usual mess. 3-8

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

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2010 Award
Constructibles In the City
(Mudpuppy Press $13 Score:)

Newest in the line of cardboard interlocking puzzle pieces. A city set with 5 basic shapes and graphics with vehicles and buildings. There is no right or wrong to this, but it is useful for developing fine motor skills and first hand experience with symmetry and balancing pieces. 25 piece set that will spark imagination as well as problem building skills. Our 5 1/2 year old tester loved them and did not seem distracted by the city graphics on the cards. Personally, we preferred the other Constructible cards with solid colors and abstract patterns.  4 & up.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2010.

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2010 Award
Hot Wheels Custom Motors Power Sets
(Mattel $14.99 Score:)

Kids can customize these nifty Motorized Power Sets that each have a pull-back motor and 25 interchangeable parts. Buy more than one and the pieces of all vehicles in the collection are interchangeable. They come with several sizes of wheels, skis, treads, and jazzy racing trims to make unique vehicles. Choose a yellow Humvee, a red pickup or a black Baja Truck. They say 4 & up, we think this will take more dexterity than most 4's have at their fingertips.

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

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2009 Award
Wedgits Pink & Purple Activity Tote
(ImagAbility $44.99 Score:)

We've told you about the Wedgits construction sets in primary colors. What's new is a gender specific Pink & Purple set. In years past we have rejected gender colors in the belief that toys should be gender neutral. In our heart of hearts, we still think that is true and that the primary colored Wedgits or Legos are good for both brothers and sisters. However we recognize that some girls will not be attracted to building toys if they are not pink-a-fied. We'd rather girls did some building, strengthening their math and spatial reasoning skills, than to be absolutists. We need female engineers, architects and mathematicians. Since this kind of thinking begins early...we'll think pink if we must. This 20 piece tote set comes with base and a set of design cards all in a carry/storage case. Or, if you prefer, there are all pink or all purple 15 piece sets without tote or cards. ($22.99 each set.)

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. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2009 Award
Lego Pink Brick Box
(Lego Systems, Inc. $16.99 Score:)

While we're usually not big fans of such gender-specific toys, if this product will get your daughter interested in building --go for it!  Playing with construction toys improves spatial relations and related math skills--so if we want more female engineers--we need to start when they're small with opportunities that introduce them to these concepts. While this set suggests you can build a house and does come with a pony, it also is open-ended (just stop looking at the box color)...with 216 pieces. Earlier color-coded building sets for girls,that were  introduced a while back tended to provide gender specific themes such as beauty shops, mall, kitchens (really!) At least this Pink Brick Box is more open ended. The models shown are a vehicle, people, pets, and a house. We can live with that. As always we're big fans of these sets that come in sturdy buckets for easy storage. 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, Later School Years, Tweens. Award Year: 2009. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2009 Award
Playmobil Pyramid & Egyptian Collection
(Playmobil $109 Score:)

For history buffs, here is an amazing build! Enter the world of mystery and danger! A world of mummies and ancient curses! A 20" X 20" pyramid with removable side panels, a hidden chute with buried treasures, secret chambers with a trapdoor, collapsible stairs, and a deadly scorpian trap to ward off grave robbers. The kit includes four figures, golden trinkets, scorpions, snakes, and other accessories.  Pyramid measures 20.6"Lx20.6"Wx13.7"H. Marked for 4 " up - we'd say this is a good set as a follow-up to a museum visit or for kids who are studying Ancient Egypt in school. This is not an easy build and may require parental help, even for school aged kids. Like most big Playmobil settings, this is a good parent & child together project. Also great are the smaller builds: a Sphinx($34.95), Chariot ($17.99), Royal Ship($45), Tomb and Treasures ($39.95).

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

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2009 Award
Lego City Crawler Crane
(Lego Systems, Inc. $59.99 Score:)

A working crane that fits into the Lego City scene. This is not an easy build. It has working treads, a massive rotating boom, and stands 17.7 inches tall. The crane rotates 360 degrees and comes with a stout lifting mechanism along with 2 mini-figures, a house section, and safety barrier. They say 5-12. Inexperienced builders will need adult help. This is not an instant out of the box build. It takes time and attention to details.

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, Tweens. Award Year: 2009. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2010 Award
Lego Star Wars Collection
(Lego Systems, Inc. $19.99 Score:)

The number one requested LEGO sets from our testers continues to be STAR WARS. There is a set for every budget. Top-ratings went to the Freeco Speeder (177pieces) ages 7-12., the Droid Tri-fighter (268pieces) ages 7-12  and the larger ARC-170 Starfighter (396 pieces) ages 8-14.  Yes, this is an exception to our non-violence rule. It's fantasy--good prevails--we're ok with it.

more details from our reviewers:

For the Droid-Tri-Fighter our 9 year old tester thought the design was great, really accurate (but he feels that this is true of the LEGO Star Wars line in general).  He felt it was more structurally sound than many of his other Star Wars models. There weren't too many cool features but he did like that you could put hte action figure into the center ball like space. "The clear ball in which you can put a figure connects with the normal Lego connection, so opening and shutting it is a pain. I would have expected a hinge-like apparatus as most enclosures on Lego Star Wars vehicles have." Our parent tester thought that kids beyond 9 would not be too interested in this particular model--because there weren't may gadgets. 

Our 7-year old builder took on the Freeco Speeder and was able to do this set independently--a feat that pleased both our tester and his mom. "This does have a hinge-like apparatus to open and shut the round cover over the driver. The hinge (bar) makes it easy to put figures in and take them out. The 2 figures that came with this, Anakin Skywalker and Thi-Sen, were very popular, especially Anakin. This really seems to make a difference, especially for a 7-yr-old.

This too feels much stronger than most Star Wars vehicles, it doesn't feel like it will fall apart if you drop it. It has interesting and accurate details like the ski-like parts on the bottom, but it should be noted that the picture on the box leads you to believe that this vehicle has shooting things, or shooting capabilities, when it does not. And other than the ski-like things on the bottom, and the clear cover on the top, this vehicle has no moving parts."


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, Tweens. Award Year: 2010. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2009 Award
Lego City Corner
(Lego Systems, Inc. $59.99 Score:)

Just as the name suggests, this mid sized set comes with several buildings: a two story pizza parlor, a bike and skate board repair shop, a bus stop, and a charming yellow bus with large see-through European-style windows, red seats, a driver and folks in the shops who can get on board to go home. There are street lights, bikes, skateboards, fire hydrant and other such details of a city corner. This is part of Lego’s modular City theme. Set includes 483 pieces and is suggested for kids 5-12. Kids may need help in getting started. They need to work on one main piece at a time instead of emptying all the pieces and ending up with a mish-mosh! A lot of learning comes from the process, not just focusing on the end product. Be there to assist, but don't take over. A kit this size will take more than a day to build. Learning about taking time and problem solving is part of the learning process. So is stick-to-itivness. Parents can act as consultants, not buildes. If it is too hard for your child, put the set away for a while. Start with simpler building projects and reintroduce this one a few months from now. Only the most experienced 5 year old builder will be able to do this set. Note, the box says 5-12.


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: 2009. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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