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Product Type: Toys
Award: Platinum
Age: Early Elementary School Years
Review Year: 2012

 


2012 Award
K'NEX Build A Bunch
(KNEX $19.99 Score:)

Our testers really enjoyed exploring and building with this 30 piece plastic construction set.  Comes with building ideas for 30 models--but we're big on allowing this to be an open-ended experience with no right or wrong results. The process of problem solving how pieces go together is what's valuable here as well as the creative aspect of making your own creations!  "I like the wheels" and the "funny eyes" - were some of the running dialogue of our testers in action.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2012 Award
TinkerToy Transit Building Set
(KNEX $43.99 Score:)

Many may remember TinkerToy sets that came with wooden pieces with a happy sense of nostalgia.  We think in this case, that this new set with "bendy" plastic pieces are even better than the original. K'NEX has licensed the trademark from Hasbro (in case you were wondering).  Our testers also liked the ability to make vehicles with this set that comes with lots of wheels as part of this 150 piece set. Fun to explore together. There are 15 suggested builds, but encourage your child to create their own builds.  The box the set comes in is sturdy enough to be used again and again for storage, also a plus!  The only comment of our testers "we wish there were more bendy pieces!"

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2012.

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2012 Award
Nat Geo Wild Puzzles
(Uncle Milton $5.99 & up Score:)

Our testers gave high marks to this new collection of puzzles from Nat Geo Wild. We tested three different types of puzzles in the line: Panorama Puzzles that feature Penguins, Lions or Ring-Tailed Lemurs. This particular puzzle comes with three separate puzzles that you then connect to create a satisfying 34" x 15" puzzle.  The fact that you're working on separate puzzles makes this more accessible to younger children.  We also recommend the African Lion - contains 100 pieces  that creates a 12" x 9" puzzle.  We found the lion particularly challenging-- there are many dark pieces that take some time to figure out.  In otherwords, these are perfect for doing together-- but will likely be too frustrating to most younger school-aged kids. Even more gifty, are the two tin sets that come with three puzzles, each with 150 pieces. We tested the Big Cats Deluxe Puzzle collection, but there is also a Majestic Mamals set as well that features a Gorilla, Dolphin, and Elephant.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years, Tweens. Award Year: 2012.

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2012 Award
Janod Grand Xylo Confetti
(Janod $19.99 Score:)

We were delighted to find that this beautiful line of French toys is now available in the US market. The music line is particularly welcomed.  Most of the musical toys on the market in the past several years have had terrible tone. As Randy would say - way too "pitchy". This oversized wooden xylo is cheerfully designed in white with bold dots of color. Take a listen to the video so you can hear the lovely sound quality. 

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2012.

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2012 Award
Fibber Game
(Spinmaster $19.99 Score:)

A silly time is had by all when you play the game of Fibber. Players wear a pair of glasses with a knobby nose. Players who get caught fibbing about the cards they put down have to add another length to their nose. If a player calls another player a fibber and she is wrong, she has to pick up all the cards discarded and add a length to her nose. The object is to be the first to get rid of all your cards. It might be a stretch to call this an educational game. But maybe there is some learning going on. What do players learn? For future poker players or business dealmaker types, this may have some long term value.   Obviously, we would not be promoting a game that teaches lying as such. Bluffing, maybe. 

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2012 Award
Blabla Coral Mermaid
(blabla kids $42 Score:)

Soft and huggable, Coral, an 18"long mermaid is created with cotton yarn. Her multicolored braids are as bright as the coral reef and her tail has scalloped embroidery. An unusual huggable, she has no nose, but they did not forget her bellybutton.   Like other dolls in the line it is also available in a 12-inch size.

Age: Toddlers, Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2012 Awards
Blabla Giant Pumpkin
(blabla kids $196 Score:)

Three feet tall and ready to listen, dance, and play pretend, Pumpkin is dressed in an adorable striped dress. She has rosy cheeks, and reddish hair. Oversized dolls like this one become more than decorations in a child's room. They often become the play companion of tea parties, storytime, and bedtime, too. Blabla makes a number of giant size dolls. This is the most humanoid of the group and a smaller version of the doll is also available.

Age: Toddlers, Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2012.

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2012 Award
Hot Wheels TCR Total Control Racing Stunt Park
(Mattel $52.99 Score:)

Pure racing fun! The large track set comes with one yellow car and charger (of course, you can buy additional cars/chargers). The track has a  big loop and two pleasing ramps - providing plenty of satisfying motion. The cars are remote-controlled. We recommending buying an additional white car (and controller), so that another person can control that car separately (they use different radio frequencies).  We had a little trouble getting the clear plastic on the the larger ramp - but we got it to work. The racing action here is great fun and the fact that you can have more than one car and controller to the mix adds to the possibilities for races and collisions!  Each charger uses 4 AA batteries (not included).

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2012 Award
Hot Wheels Wall Tracks Power Tower Trackset
(Mattel $44.99 Score:)

Wall Tracks were a dream come true when they came out last year. If you're a Hot Wheels fan, then you've always dreamed of putting tracks everywhere--including your walls.  Most of last year's sets did not require batteries-- they were elegantly designed to take your speeding car down a maze of tracks. Mattel partnered with 3M to find a use for heir 3M Command Strips that would excite an 5 year old!  This new POWER TRACK is just that-- almost the muscle machine of the line with batteries that propel your car up a corkscrew elevator and watch out for the jaws that try to eat your car for lunch.  While we prefer the non-battery operated concept, our testers enjoyed the added bells and whistles of this set. Requires 2 D batteries.  One of our parent testers noted that the 3M Command Strips did not hold up on her textured dry wall. Take a look at last year's review and video before you buy.

 

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2012 Award
Playmobil Pirates' Ship 5135
(Playmobil $79.99 Score:)

Ahoy! Is that the infamous Captain Hook on deck shouting orders to the crew? They are sailing the blue sea in a two masted sailing vessel complete with crow's nest, flags, netting, a crane for uploading the treasure chest, parrot, and a good supply of weapons and stout red cannons. 176 pieces of fun to assemble and then use for pretend play or put on display. The ship is 26.8 inches from stem to stern and comes with four action figures and plenty of detailed accessories. There is also a magic coin that can be used on the Adventure Island kit. There are a lot of very small pieces on this that are a choking hazard for children who still mouth their toys. Set this up out of reach of younger sibs. The boat can float. They say 4-10, we'd say this is more like a 6 & up toy. Preschoolers who love pirates will enjoy this after it is built by an adult. They may enjoy handing you the pieces needed but this will be your build. Parental help will also be needed with early school aged kids. It should be part of the fun. Showing kids how to assemble a big model like this gives you a chance to model working from plans and doing the steps in a systematic way. It will not get completed in one sitting but that too is a learning experience. Be forewarned stringing the rigging on this ship was challenging to our adult tester.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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