Search Results for -
Product Type: Toys
Age: Early Elementary School Years
Categories: Construction Toys

 

Mgears
(Learning Resources $36.95 Score:) From the folks that brought you the open-ended Gearbotic sets (BLUE CHIP), here's a more advanced 350-piece set that comes with gears and a motorized wheelbase. We thought this was going to be a huge hit but our testers found the set difficult to do independently and then they didn't think the vehicles went fast enough. We still highly recommend the original nonmotorized BLUE CHIP Gears! Gears! Gears! sets because they are more open-ended and develop problem-solving skills as kids make their own moving machines. ($20/$40). Also new this year, Dizzy Fun Land ($36.95), a gear set with an amusement park theme that our five-year-old tester enjoyed. 5 & up.

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

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2005 Award
Supermag
(Plastwood $24.99 Score:) We love these open-ended magnetic sets. Put one on the coffee table and everyone will take a turn. Testers enjoyed working with these magnetic rods and steel balls. The rods are thinner and more tapered at the ends than Geomag (although our testers judged them to be equally enjoyable to use.) We recommend the colorful 50-piece sets. New model sets sound promising but were not ready for testing.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2005.

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2005 Award
Prehistoric Creatures and Titan XP
(Lego Systems, Inc. $29.99 Score:) The large red T-Rex that you can build with this set is "amazing looking." Our experienced builders warned: "It's very delicate and could break easily." Set comes with instructions for 10 creatures. Marked 7 & up, we’d say more like 9 & up. About Titan XP ($49.99/782 pieces ) from the same series, our tester wrote "wow, there are a lot of pieces!" Builds a 14"-tall creature that swivels at the waist—but he too is very fragile. (800) 223-8756.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2005.

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2004 Award
Skrooz
(Progressive Trading Inc. $15 Score:) Here's a new twist on the rods and metallic ball construction sets. These new rods can be lengthened and shortened with a twist so they are more versatile than the original rods with fixed sizes. Add these to existing sets or start here with a 168, 84, or 42 piece set. Available in metallic or bright gem colors. These are compatible with the original MAGZ-X and the amazing new WEBZ from the same maker. Put these on the coffee table in your family room and let the fun begin! 5 & up.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2004.

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2006 Award
Knights' Empire Castle
(Playmobil $179 Score:) Playmobil’s Knights’ Empire Castle uses the company’s new SystemX, which is designed for shorter assembly time and durability. Comes with a working gate and dungeon and looks like the classic friendly Playmobil settings of years past. By comparison, Rock Castle ($79.99 ) has a more sinister feel to it. Suggested add-on, the Red Dragon (because you always need a dragon), is sold separately. Projectile cannons sold separately. Also darker in feel than their previous castles is Lego’s new Vladek’s Dark Fortress ($99 ), which comes with catapults. Most kids love the action of projectiles until one hits them. 8–12. (800) 233-8756.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2006.

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2006 Award
Rock Castle
(Playmobil $79.99 Score:) Playmobil’s Knights’ Empire Castle uses the company’s new SystemX, which is designed for shorter assembly time and durability. Comes with a working gate and dungeon and looks like the classic friendly Playmobil settings of years past. By comparison, Rock Castle ($79.99 ) has a more sinister feel to it. Suggested add-on, the Red Dragon (because you always need a dragon), is sold separately. Projectile cannons sold separately. Also darker in feel than their previous castles is Lego’s new Vladek’s Dark Fortress ($99 ), which comes with catapults. Most kids love the action of projectiles until one hits them. 8–12. (800) 233-8756.

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

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2006 Award
City
(Lego Systems, Inc. $19.99 Score:) The consensus from our builders this year was, “no way a 5 year old could do this.” That said, our older testers enjoyed the city-themed sets that include a Fire and Construction set. Our 8-year-old tester enjoyed building and playing with the Fire Truck ($19.99/214 pieces ) that comes with a movable ladder, two firefighters, and a boat for sea rescues. The same family had more difficulty with the Fire Station ($29.99/260 pieces ). One tester’s parent commented that it’s “like a boy’s ultimate dollhouse,” but the 6-year-old builder had trouble following the directions and the lift in the station “did not work well.” Once assembled it was enjoyed as a pretend setting. Marked 5 & up, but most 5s will need assistance. (800) 223-8756.

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

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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 Award
Tall Stacker Pegs Building Set
(Lauri $40 Score:) Our tester was not sure at first about this toy, an unusual combo of big chunky pegs with crepe rubber shape pads with peg holes. Kids can build horizontally as well as vertically. Our tester wrote, “In my kindergarten class, the children . . . didn't seem to tire of it . . . I also loaned it to friends with children who are 5 and 7 . . . they absolutely loved it!!! They kept building hotels, etc.” This unusual construction set builds eye-hand coordination along with open-ended creative designing. Set has 100 pegs, large base, and 17 mats in varying colors, sizes and shapes. 4 & up. (800) 451-0520.

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

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