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Product Type: Toys
Age: Toddlers

 

 
2013 Awards
Chicco 3-in-1 Music Band Table
(Chicco $49 Score:)

A versatile activity table with three different musical instruments: drum, maracas and DJ. Kids can play rhythms and keep time with the music, or spin their own music. For music lovers, it may be a stretch to call this a musical toy, but it is about giving tots the powerful sense of making things happen. Sitting-up babies can play their own tunes on the floor while standing-up toddlers can play side by side. Either way, this is a fun way for kids to make things happen. The sounds are not too intrusive. Happily, there are no A-B-C's or numerals to give a false impression of being more educational. But, not to worry. Babies learn a lot about cause and effect from playing with open-ended toys that invite them to turn knobs, spin barrels, and push big buttons. They are also developing eye hand skills and manual dexterity.

SNAP: You may want to tape on a fat foam hair roller to the tiny green knob of the green DJ disk. That will add texture and be easier to grasp for children who need a larger knob. For children who are not standing, the separate pieces can be enjoyed in the lap or the three pieces can fit in the white stand and be played on the floor without the legs.

Age: Infants, Toddlers. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Award
Big Hugs Elmo
(Hasbro $59.99 Score:)

Elmo is back this year and ready to give your child a big hug. This oversized version asks for hugs, tighter hugs and then says "too tight." Preschoolers will love the hugs. He encourages kids to pretend. Some of the choices seem off..."let's pretend to be rabbits...let's pretend to be astronauts"...not two things that jump to mind as the most interesting. Do toddlers/preschoolers even know what an astronaut is anymore? The body is a blend of soft red fur and a hard core (where the batteries are stored). The arms do bend so that they can be placed around a neck for a proper hug.  You will feel the mechanism in the arms - the equivalent of doll bones?  Elmo says over 50 phrases, sings songs and best of all, he goes to sleep after a pretty cute bedtime routine. Not clear whether Elmo will be as popular this year given the scandal, but as a straight forward novelty doll, he is pretty cute.

Age: Toddlers, Preschool. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Awards
Plan Toys Fruit and Veggie Domino
(Plan Toys $29 Score:)

28 playing pieces with 7 different fruits and veggies to match up in a traditional domino game. The pressed planwood is smooth and splinter free, though it feels different from old wooden dominos. Use this for reinforcing language and color concepts as well as matching skills and turn taking. They say 2 & up, we think 3's will be better able to do the matching.  Twos may like sorting and stacking them or knocking them down if you line them up and make them go kaboom!

SNAP: Use these for color matching sorting and knowing and naming, before playing a traditional matching game of dominoes. Fun for counting, too. Make stacks of two kinds of fruit. Are there more grapes or more apples.

Age: Toddlers, Preschool. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Awards
Infantino Stack, Sort & Ball Drop Elephant
(Infantino $25 Score:)

Sitting up babies will love the fill and spill action of this clever elephant with a shape sorter as well as a ball drop. Put the pieces in the big opening at the top or match the shapes on the side and ab-ra-ka-dab-ra they set off music or elephant trumpet as they come rolling out. Or, show baby how to stack the rings o the elephants trunk or press the big button and set the wheel spinning. Best news is the volume control lets you turn the sound down. This well designed activity center is not random as so many electronic toys tend to be. Baby can actually begin to understand that his actions cause reactions - with repetitive lessons of cause and effect babies gain an empowering sense of making things happen.

SNAP  Unlke so many electronic toys, the connection between actions and reactions is clear. Children can actually connect their actions that cause reactions - so repetitive lessons of cause and effect empower the child's sense of making things happen. The actions also involve dexterity and refining fine motor skills.

Age: Infants, Toddlers. Award Year: 2013.

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2013 Award
Fisher-Price Musical Walking Lion
(Fisher-Price $24.99 Score:)

A great push around toy for toddlers who still feel more secure holding on as they begin to let go and toddle. The back end has some give, so as baby pulls up it is less likely to go flying, though it is not weighted. For sit and play time, the front end has a jolly looking lion with lots of moving parts that give sensory feedback--a peek-a-boo mirror, musical keys, colorful beads, and a butterfly that slides. A gender-free toy that helps develop both gross and fine motor skills. They say 6-36 months.  It will fit better somewhere between that time--say for beginning walkers of 12-24 months, depending on when your child begins to walk.

Age: Toddlers. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Awards
Manhattan Toy Turn & Discover Rattle
(Manhattan Toy $10 Score:)

A new look and interesting shape for baby to explore with almost all their senses. Unusual vibrant colors and patterns to look at, bumpy edges to chomp on for teething and touching, three different clicking sounds to hear when the bug knobs are turned, and a rattle sound when the toy is shaken. Turn all the keys in one direction and then spin it to make it look like a flying saucer. Marked for 3 months and up, but this seems more like a toy for sitting up babies who are getting into two handed play.

SNAP: A good choice for developing hand muscles to twist and turn the three oversized"keys" give kids three different rewarding sounds. This will be of interest to children well beyond the age marked on the box.

Age: Infants, Toddlers. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Awards
Lamaze Franky the Hanky Whale
(Tomy $25 Score:)

A soft textured fabric whale comes with bright colored hankies that can disappear into the whale's ribbon trimmed spout and peek-a-boo--they reappear when pulled out of its wide mouth. It has a bold black and white pattern on its underside and crinkle sounds in its fins. A cute way to play around with object permanence and develop fine motor skills in little hands. 9 months & up

SNAP: Use this toy for reinforcing color concepts as you pull the hankies out. Look for other things in the room that are the color of the hankie you put in the spout. Once children have the hang of this add other peek-a-boo surprises to this clever toy that has no finger catches or hard edges. This plays on an old favorite game of filling and dumping. Putting things into a container and taking them develops manual skills as well as proving repetition and a sense of empowerment. Changing the objects to be filled and dumped--or in this case pushed and pulled, adds variety to a useful play mode.

Age: Infants, Toddlers. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Award
Rock n' Ride Talking Lotty
(Mamas and Papas $129.99 Score:)

A plush seated ride on that converts from rocker to wheeled toy. Unlike other ride- ons, this has a cushioned seat that is more like a soft chair. The wheels do not come off, but slide and are held in place with Velcro straps. Squeeze its ears and it talks or plays music, though you may find the sound a bit loud for very young toddlers. They say 9 months & up, but since there is no safety harness, we think this is a better bet for older tots with more balance than most babies of nine months. We also suggest the soft seat may fall victim to leaking diapers and can only be surface washed, since it is not removable.

Age: Toddlers. Award Year: 2013.

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2013 Awards
Fisher-Price Rockin Tunes Giraffe
(Fisher-Price $39.99 Score:)

Rockin' Tunes Giraffe responds to your toddler's movements with music, lights, and phrases. The more kids rock the more the lights in Giraffe's mane blink and the music and phrases build. Happily, you can also turn off the sounds and lights or choose a lower volume. We like the low seat, the bat-at roller in  Giraffe's mane. Best of all, the stabile rockers make this ride-on a fun choice for steady on their feet toddlers to mount with some independence. Unlike heirloom style wooden and plush ride-ons, this plastic rocker is quite affordable and will go the distance. A big gift for a little toddler. Need a big 1st or 2nd birthday gift that won't break the bank? This is it! 12-36 months.

SNAP: Aside from the stability of this rocker, it's invitation to physical gross motor play, and its affordability, we like the cause and effect lessons built into the action. The idea of making music go faster the faster you rock gives tots instant feedback that links their actions to making something happen.

Age: Toddlers. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Award
Bunnies By the Bay Lily Mae
(Bunnies By the Bay $16 Score:)

Sweet Lily Mae, a soft green froggie wears a petal tutu and purple ballet slippers that do not come off. Lily is a lot cuter in person than her photo shows. She has stitched features and a beanbag bottom that allows her to sit without toppling over. Her skinny legs and arms are easy for tots to grab. She is machine washable and tumbles dry on low heat. Newborns & up.

Age: Infants, Toddlers. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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