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Product Type: Toys
Age: Early Elementary School Years

 


2008 Award
I Spy 3D
(Briarpatch $24.95 Score:) Put the playing cards out, put on the 3-D glasses, and you are ready to play I Spy. A reader reads one of the riddle cards and players search for the objects in the riddles. The images are really small (you kids wonít have a problem, but you might!) They say 3 & up. We think given the size and number of the objects, this will be a better choice for 5s & up. Of course we really recommend bringing home Jean Marzollo's wonderful I Spy books!

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2008.

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2008 Award
Digital Arts and Crafts Studio
(Fisher-Price $50 Score:) This tablet allows kids to do lots of different arts and crafts projects. The layout of the board eliminates the complicated menus that past craft software had. The stylus makes it easy to draw and color. Kids can make arts and crafts projects like paper flowers, jumping frogs, and greeting cards. Kids can also color in pictures and fill in dot to dots. As with other computer plug-ins by Fisher-Price, kids cannot exit the software without a password, which the parent sets, so the kids canít access any part of the computer that they shouldn't.

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

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2008 Award
Circus Tent
(Bazoongi Kids $129 Score:) There's something very pleasing about this old-fashioned colorful tent (61" tall, 54" diameter) done in vivid circus colors. Our testers found the frame easy to put together and the kids loved the window and opening. "At first we thought it was going to be shaky but once we put the fabric cover over the frame it was sturdy."

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

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2008 Award
ESPN Better Batter Baseball
(Fisher-Price $69.95 Score:) We had mixed reviews about this batting toy. All of our testers loved that the each time the ball is loaded, it plays music from ESPN and says encouraging baseball phrases. We agree, that part is really fun. In order to start the ball loading, you push (with your bat) or step on the red target on the "plate". That was also fun and easy to do. Here's where there was a source of disagreement. The ball is suspended (in the zone) by an arm that has Velcro on it. The ball sticks to the Velcro. For some of our testers hitting it off the Velcro was not a problem. Even some of our hard swinging 3 year olds could do. Others (including some grown ups) had great difficulty getting the ball off the Velcro. For this group, it was necessary to pull the ball of and then re-attach it. Once reattached (but not on as tightly) this group could now also hit the ball. We also found that if you hit out and down, it is easier to get the ball off the suspended arm. For some, a simple t-ball will do the trick. If your child is not a slugger, this may be the way to go. Our best advice, try your neighbor's before you invest in this one. It is much more expensive than a simple t-ball.

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

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Restoration Hardware Roll Up Chess and Checkers
(Restoration Hardware $39 Score:) We really love this new take along chess and checker set from Restoration Hardware. It has a full sized board (approximately 15" x 11") with pleasing wooden pieces (that are magnetic) - making this a great choice for playing on the go or at the beach. Easy to throw into a suitcase or into the car.

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

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2008 Award
Pottery Barn Kids Water Balloon Toss
(Pottery Barn Kids $29 Score:) You're either a water balloon family or you're not. If water balloons are your thing, check out this new Water Balloon Toss game from Pottery Barn Kids. The banner comes with four different holes (of varying sizes) for kids (and adults) to try their hand at. The concept here is to throw the water balloons at the canvas, not at each other-- no guarantees! The banner comes with some rope for hanging purposes.

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

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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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