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Product Type: Toys
Award: Blue Chip
Age: Early Elementary School Years

 

 
1997 Awards
Kids' Tom Tom
(Woodstock Percussion $40 Score:) If you're lucky, they'll let you play this colorful drum while they dance—or switch roles and boogie! Comes with mallets, but testers say that tones are better when played by hand. Also terrific: a Kids' Konga Drum, Two-Headed Bongo, and Ocean Drum.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 1997.

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2001 Awards
Gearbotics
(Learning Resources $58.95 Score:) This series of motorized plastic gears are interesting to construct. We still highly recommend the Robot, Oogly Googly, Sonic Insect, and Space Station (more than this year's Monster). The original nonmotorized Gears! Gears! Gears! sets remain our favorites because they are more open-ended and develop problem-solving skills as kids make their own moving machines. ($20/$40 ). New for 2003 , Under the Sea Set ($29.95 ) with 67 pieces including fish, turtles, whales, and an octopus. 6 & up.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2001.

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1995 Awards
Music Maker Harp
(Peeleman-McLaughlin $50 Score:) No electronic sounds here. This is a cross between a zither and an autoharp, but much easier to learn to play. Slip one of 12 follow-the-dot song sheets under the strings and pluck on the dotted lines. Has a soft and lovely tone. Includes folk, Beatles, and classical music sheets. You can buy extra music for this once the first set is mastered. 6 and up.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 1995.

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1995 Awards
Giant Periscope
(Tasco $15 Score:) For exploring around corners, this sturdy, plastic double-handled periscope is just right. Made of sturdy plastic this is a fun toy for dramatic play as well as visual discoveries. This company also makes a full line of microscopes and telescopes.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 1995.

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2007 Awards
Groovy Girls and Groovy Boys
(Manhattan Toy $10 Score:)

This continues to be a BLUE CHIP collection of soft 13" multi-ethnic dolls with stitched features, yarn hair, and groovy clothes. Happily, there is a boy doll in this line.  Still the superlative gift, consider Supersize Yvette or Gwen ($50 each 5), a 40" child-sized fabric doll that’s like a pretend play pal. We found the new Groovy Girls’ PetRageous ($16.99) disappointing. If you didn’t see the hangtags you wouldn’t know they were from the same folks—they lack the wonderful design quality and spirit of the dolls. 3 & up.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2007. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2006 Awards
Gertie Balls
(Small World Toys $8 Score:)

Preschoolers need soft, lightweight, easy-to-catch balls that will not bend back a finger or hurt when they hit. Gertie Balls are gummy and soft enough for kids who may be scared of big heavy balls coming toward them. Also fun, Supersized Gertie Balls ($13), really oversized and great fun for this age group and next.  There's also a super cool Magic Gertie Ball that changes color with hot and cold water. 3 & up. 

SNAP INFO: These colorful balls are soft and slightly sticky to the touch, making them easier to catch and hold onto. They come in a variety of sizes and with different textures. Testers especially liked the knobby one which gave kids an extra way to grip and hold. These are not for toddlers because the air tube can come out and could pose a choking hazard. ACTIVITY: Getting control takes practice. Hang a big hoopla hoop from a tree branch and try to get the ball through the hoop.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2006. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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1997 Awards
Hot Potato Game
(Parker Brothers $14.99 Score:) Squeeze this soft electronic musical talking spud to turn on his sound. Pass him around fast! If you are holding him when he yells "Yahoo!" you take a hot card. Three cards and you're out. A fast, fun game for two or more players. May be hard for preschoolers to deal with-especially the hot cards. SNAP INFO: Squeeze this soft electronic musical talking spud to turn on his sound. Pass him around fast! If you're holding him when he yells "Yahoo!" you take a hot card. Three cards and you're out. A fast, fun game for two or more players. May be hard for preschoolers to deal with-especially the hot cards.

Age: Preschool,Early School Years. Award Year: 1997.

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1998 Awards
Rainbow Play Systems
(Rainbow Play Systems $1100 Score:) Steel parts are vinyl dipped, the wood is chemical free, built of redwood and cedar. This is the Cadillac of gym sets. You'll need to buy a toddler swing for the under three set. Also, avoid tall climber attachments with toddlers and young preschoolers who may climb higher without understanding how to get down. Also, avoid frames with climbers that run across the top of the swings.

Age: Toddlers,Preschool,Early School Years. Award Year: 1998.

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1995 Awards
Windows & Doors
(Haba $25 Score:)

We're always on the look out for props to add to building blocks and these are good fun. Add these working doors and windows that are scaled to unit blocks. Fitting them in place takes some problem solving.

Age: Toddlers, Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 1995. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2001 Awards
Razor Scooter
(Razor Scooter $99 Score:)

Since we first reviewed the Razor Scooter in 2001, it has become the granddaddy of them all. When they first arrived on the scene, it was hard to walk around the streets of our Greenwich Village office without seeing dozens of kids on them (or parents carrying them to their kids for pick up!)  They have maintained their apply with kids as one the experiences of childhood. Here in New York City--they have replaced the "first bike" as the main mode of childhood transportation. We are always amazed by the really little kids that have mastered the scooter! 

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2001. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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