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

 


2008 Award
Mars Mission
(Lego Systems, Inc. $89.99 Score:) "This is so different" was the consensus of our builders. The command base includes three different tubes for the figures (both mining specialists and glow-in-the-dark aliens) to travel through (an air pump propels the characters). While we usually don't recommend toys with projectiles, these are very soft rockets for shooting at the alien craft. Set also comes with its own space shuttle that would get high marks on its own. This is the type of set that has lots of play possibilities once the building is done. For underwater adventure our testers enjoyed building Aqua Raiders Aquabase Invasion ($69.99/840 pieces) complete with giant squid!

Age: Early 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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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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