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Product Type: Toys
Age: Preschoolers

 

 
2014 Awards
LEGO DUPLO All-in-One-Box-of Fun
(Lego Systems, Inc. $29.99 Score:)

Introduce kids to building with a nice big Duplo box with 65-pieces to stack, sort, and build into all sorts of creations. It includes a wheeled base for making a vehicle, two working windows, variety of shaped blocks and a play figure and doggie. There are no right or wrong ways to build, though there are pictures for ideas. For beginners, this kind of open-ended construction toy is age appropriate. Don't hurry them into copying the pictures. Give them time to develop a sense of how the blocks fit together and what you can do with them and their imagination. Little children sometimes name what they are building after the fact, but more often than not they like exploring the materials and seeing how tall they can make a stack or how wide. The colorful blocks are also good for reinforcing color names.  Marked 1 1/2 -5, these will be used in ever more elaborate ways as time goes on.

Age: Toddlers, Preschool. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2014 Awards
LEGO DUPLO Truck
(LEGO $19.99 Score:)

With a prebuilt wheeled chassis as the base, this 16-piece truck kit will come together quickly with a little help. There are cards that show how to assemble the truck and the small building with a working window. This is a simple beginners build and a good way to introduce older toddlers to construction play. Best of all, this can be played with when it is built and can be rebuilt again and again. They say 2-5, we would say older twos and threes will have more in the way of dexterity and patience to stay with this kind of task.

SNAP: The big chunky pieces and pre-built base makes this a beginning construction set that builds a sense of success. It's also a toy that develops dexterity and "reading" skills with the pictorial step by step cards. Once complete, it becomes a vehicle children can use for play. Do it together the first few times, using color words to reinforce color concepts while they play.

Age: Toddlers, Preschool. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2014 Award
LEGO DUPLO Farm Tractor
(LEGO $19.99 Score:)

Using the prebuilt base chassis, the tractor and trailer with dumping action come together with relative ease. This 29-piece set is ideal for beginners with some adult help for getting started. In addition to the tractor the kit includes a corral for the cow figure and a grey-haired farmer with a pitchfork and other accessories. This simple beginners build is a good way to introduce older toddlers to construction play, which develops children's dexterity, patience, language, spatial skills and pretend power—so many important ingredients of learning. Best of all, this can be played with when it is built and can be rebuilt again and again. They say 2-5, we would say older twos and threes will have more in the way of dexterity and patience to stay with this kind of task.

Age: Preschool. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2014 Award
LEGO DUPLO Big Farm
(LEGO $59.99 Score:)

Farms have been traditional play settings for preschoolers, often prebuilt with miniature animals to move around for pretend play. This 121-piece set combines construction play with pretend in a child friendly way. The big chunky pieces are flexible and can be used to assemble farm buildings to house the cows, horse, and cat that come with the set and to incorporate some of the blocks with images of other critters. The farmer and his helper can drive the tractor, use the pitchfork for hay and open and close the working barn doors and windows. To top it all off there is a crank and pulley for lifting hay into the loft. To introduce a big set like this and to get the most mileage, adults often need to sit a while to help with assembling and getting the dramatic play started. This kind of play develops children’s dexterity, patience, language, spatial skills and pretend power—so many important ingredients of learning. Our test family’s two year old doesn’t get the concept of building a farm yet, but he likes putting the pieces together and pulling them apart. He likes the animals and vehicle and playing with the separate pieces. He does get frustrated when he cannot get the pieces together or apart; still, his dad feels they are helping his develop his fine motor skills.

Age: Toddlers, Preschool. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2014 Awards
LEGO DUPLO Creative Animals
(LEGO Systems, Inc. $14.99 Score:)

These chunky colorful blocks are designed for small hands and their first construction play. There are no absolute right or wrong ways to assemble the pieces, though some have faces or eyes that clearly will dictate where they belong. The colors may guide the building, but toddlers will probably use them in an open-ended way to begin with as they learn to put the blocks together--a skill unto itself. Once they have that they may be interested in the cards that show how specific animals can be built...a tall giraffe, pink bunny, black and white pooch, and  green caterpillar, among other imaginative critters. This simple beginners build is a good way to introduce older toddlers to construction play, which develops children's dexterity, patience, language, spatial skills and pretend power—so many important ingredients of learning. A 25-piece set that is marked for 1 ½-5; we'd say this is going to be a better bet for the upper range of 2's and up.

Age: Toddlers, Preschool. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2014 Award
Kidzoozie Push n Zoom Vehicle
(International Playthings $14.99 Score:)

Push the driver down and see how the cement mixer truck zooms along while the cement mixer spins. For kids who are into construction trucks there is also a steam shovel truck with a shovel that moves when the driver is pushed down. These make nice props for pretend play for older toddlers. The push action on the construction worker takes some muscle power so this may work best for slightly older kids than the 18 month old label suggests.

Age: Toddlers, Preschool. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2014 Awards
Eric Carle Musical Instrument Set
(Kids Preferred $30 Score:)

Designed for preschoolers, these colorful and mostly wooden instruments are beautifully finished in painterly Eric Carle style. You can buy a set or buy them individually. They not only look nice, they sound nice, too. All too often toy instruments are shrill and intrusive. These are not loud and have a pretty nice sound quality—mostly for keeping a beat. These are fun to use with a group of kids, but also fun for playing along to music at home. Obviously the harmonica and recorder, are the most difficult of the available choices. 3 & up.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2014.

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2014 Awards
Eric Carle Wood Clacker
(Kids Preferred $8 Score:)

Just shake the clacker and it taps out the beat. A bright green handle with yellow clackers on top. There's a Very Hungry Caterpillar on one side and a beautiful butterfly on the other. Makes a nice gift to go along with some music to march or dance to. Also a perfect fit for a holiday stocking gift or one of many nights of Hanukkah or Kwanza.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2014.

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2014 Awards
Eric Carle Wood Castanet Set
(Kids Preferred $7 Score:)

A pair of painted castanets will fit in small hands as they keep the beat to any music you play. There's an image of the Very Hungry Caterpillar on one and a colorful Ladybug on the other. Makes a nice gift to go along with some music to march or dance to. Also a perfect fit for a holiday stocking gift or one of many nights of Hanukkah or Kwanza.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2014.

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2014 Award
Eric Carle Wood Harmonica
(Kids Preferred $10 Score:)

A wooden harmonica painted with the Very Hungry Caterpillar on one side and an I love Music message on the other. Sandwiched between both is a plastic sound bar and a lot of notes that kids will like to try out. This is not easy to play, but preschoolers can easily play to the rhythm if not the right notes. Makes a nice gift to go along with some music to march or dance to. Also a perfect fit for a holiday stocking gift or one of many nights of Hanukkah or Kwanza.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2014.

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