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

 


2005 Award
Nano Case Vehicles
(Mega Bloks $5.99 Score:) You need dexterity, patience and good visual skills to assemble these small vehicles with working parts. Some come with sound chips and all come in sleek cases that convert into play platforms. Collect them and link their roadways together. If you need a lot of not too pricey gifts for birthdays and holidays these sets are a classy choice-but only if the child at the other end loves the challenge of building and the staying power to get the job done. They say 7 and up- we ‘d say that only some 7’s will be able to do this without help. (800) 465-6342.

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

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2005 Award
WEBZ 108
(Progressive Trading Inc. $49.95 Score:) Another generation of magnetic connectors and steel balls have arrived in time for the holiday season. This amazing set has 48 gem-toned transparent web plates in three different sizes and 60 steel balls to create a never-ending variety of constructions. This set includes 3, 4,and 5-armed pieces that can be combined with bars and balls. There is no right or wrong way to do this, but lots of ways to experiment with creating domes, towers and other inventive creations. A smaller set, Webz 54 ($24.95)is fun but not nearly as versatile as the larger set. Both sets are compatible with Magz X and Skrooz- the original rod and magnet sets we have reviewed in the past.

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

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2005 Awards
MagneBlocks
(MagneBlocks $10 Score:) During the past few years we have seen an abundance of magnetic toys. This is a new concept that works differently from the rod and ball construction sets. It comes with colorful cubes, pentagons, prisms, pyramids, tetrahedrons, and steel balls. A challenging instruction guide walks players through interesting combinations that give children hands-on understanding of magnetic poles as they experiment with making complex shapes. These blocks come in smaller kits, but with limited pieces we suspect they will get little use. An excellent math and science toy that encourages children to use divergent thinking skills as they explore the physical attributes of various shapes and how they can be combined. With the big Constructa set ($99) the possibilities are endless. Be forewarned: Getting the pieces back in the box with the plastic holders is not likely. You can remove the liner or you may want to keep the pieces in an open basket on a coffee table for quiet moments.

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

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2006 Award
Magbots Scorpion
(Mindscope $19.95 Score:) A magnetically assembled robotic scorpion, was “awesome.” “This is totally different from anything else,” noted our tester. The embedded magnets make putting together this 96-piece futuristic scorpion a unique building experience. (800) 903-6249.

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

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2006 Award
Quadrilla
(HaPe $30 Score:) A new line of imported marble run toys caught our attention for their design (they are beautiful). An unusual funnel-shaped piece is the center post of both the Basic Set ($49.95) and the big Twist Set ($149.95). Their Rail Set ($129.95) is also a beauty, with releases that add surprise motion. The first batch of these sets had some rough pieces that impeded the marble from rolling, but this issue has been addressed. If you got one of the old sets, exchange it. (800) 661-4142.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2006.

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2007 Award
Playmobil's Soccer Match
(Playmobil $39.99 Score:) Both Playmobil and Lego introduced new soccer sets for 2007 that scored high with our testers. Playmobil’s Soccer Match ($39.99 ) comes with six players with kicking action and an oversized 38" x 26" soccer mat that you build the frame around. Comes with a suggested scoring game, which our testers tried; then they made up their own games. The Lego Grand Soccer Stadium (Lego Systems $49.99/386 pieces) is an updated version that is much improved, with greater stability in the core playing field. The goalies have the greatest mobility and two players are also on slides to cover more of the field. Other players can kick (our testers thought two of them should also be on slides for great coverage). Much smaller and different in feel from Playmobil’s—our testers thought both were fun. Younger builders will need help putting both together. 7 & up. Lego (800) 233-8756/Playmobil (800) 752-9662.

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

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2007 Award
Airport
(Lego Systems, Inc. $79.99 Score:) You can’t go wrong with any of the new airport/plane sets from Lego—they’re all Lego at its best in terms of design. Really depends on what size plane you want and how much you like helicopters. The Airport set is wonderful, comes with a passenger plane, control tower, and baggage truck. Our testers loved the see-through ramp to the plane and the revolving door. 5–12. The City Airport ($89.99/863 pieces 5) comes with two helicopters, a smaller plane, control tower, and vehicles. Marked 9 & up. Passenger Plane PLATINUM AWARD ($39.99/401 pieces 5) is fun to put together down to the beverage cart, swivel chairs, and cockpit controls. The age label 5–12 is misleading on both this set and the Airport. You’d need to be an experience Lego builder to do this on your own—although we agree that 5s would love to play with this plane after putting it together with a parent. For a chunkier plane, look at Airport Action on page TK. The City Hospital ($49.99/377 pieces 4) also has a lot of play value after it’s built, with building, helicopter, and ambulance. For race fans, you’ll want to bring home the Lego Competition Racers set ($64.99/573 pieces) that features a Ferrari, pit stop, and all the props for race day. 8 & up. (800) 223-8756.

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

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2011 Awards
Guidecraft Unit Blocks
(Guidecraft $40 & up Score:)

If there's one toy every child should have, blocks are it! Nothing is more basic to play than a set of wooden unit blocks. A set with 34 pieces is a place to start, although a 76-piece set ($90) would be even more versatile. Pictured here is a school size set that has 28 shapes($200+)Unit blocks come with built-in possibilities for discovery as they are scaled to each other; putting two squares together, kids discover the two equal one rectangular block; two of the triangles makes a square, etc. Blocks develop kids' spatial understanding, their eye hand skills, their problem solving abilities, imagination, and language. They are the raw materials for dramatic play that put kids in charge. They are great for using with wooden trains for making bridges and roadways for toy cars, barns for small animals. Be sure to add some scaled down vehicles, and animals and even some doll house or action figures to the mix. Give them a place where the blocks can stay up for a while so that they can make settings for their dramatic play.  Blocks can be used solo and in cooperative play. Beginners often will start off by building horizontially...but soon enough preschoolers will start building upwards. These are basic gear for kids with lasting play value because they are completely open-ended and can be used in multiple ways. They may be a farm one day and a bridge the next. One of a favorite lines of props for blocks are the Jungle and Farm Animal sets from Learning Resources($25.99).

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2011. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2009 Award
Wedgits Building Blocks Imagination Set
(ImagAbility $20 Score:)

There's something extremely elegant about Wedgits. The plastic shapes stack and combine together without effort, which makes playing with them so appealing. They have an open-ended quality to them that invites exploration. This isn't the type of building set that you make once - it's easy to take the pieces apart and try something new. A new 15 piece set is $20 and a good starting place. You can add to this set with more pieces, a base for building on, and patterns for older kids to follow. They have gender specific pink set, but we prefer the primary colors. Unlike many building sets, this does not have any themed pieces. The geometric shapes invite experiments with symmetry, balance and exploration with nesting, stacking, linking and wedging together the shapes to create designs. We gave the 60 piece Wedgits on Wheels an award back in 2006. But it was very pricey and really more appropriate for older builders. New this year are the Mini Wedgits, smaller sets for building a Mini Wedgit Frog, Dog or, Owl. The mini-sets can also be mixed in with the larger expandman sets. In such a high tech world, this may seem too old fashioned for some--there are no motors or lights, but it is still a very interesting toy.

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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2008 Award
Arena
(Playmobil $89.99 Score:) Playmobil meets the Gladiator, with this ancient arena that includes audience seating, trap doors to the lion cages, a wide gate, and a large battle area. Comes with eight figures, two lions, a double harness chariot, and more. One of the most unusual pretend settings we've seen in a long time! They say 5 & up, but will be of more interest to older kids.

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

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