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

 


2012 Award
Playmobil Sports Action Take along Soccer Set
(Playmobil $59.99 Score:)

There's no real building or assembling of this soccer field. The case opens to a big self-contained playing area with four players and two goalies. You will want to add more players. The goalies cannot kick but can block with a left to right motion. Pull back a leg and load the ball and the players kick the ball down the field. There are a lot of add-ons for this theme. Young soccer players will like the dramatic play of controlling a field of players. This is a play setting that is a lot younger than a foosball table that has a lot more action. The box shows boys, but there is a girls soccer team set as an add-on....of course.  5-8

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
Barbie Photo Fashion Doll Camera
(Mattel $49.99 Score:)

Camera meets Barbie again! This time instead of a video camera, she's sporting a point and shoot 5- megapixel camera. The camera's eye is on Barbie's back, but the images are displayed on her torso and can be shown in a slideshow, too. Dressed in dark stretch denim skinny jeans, pink platform shoes and a semi-glitzy top, this Barbie camera doll stores up to 200 photos she has 4 MB of memory and comes with her own USB cable, so photos can be downloaded. Added to all that, she has a fun feature that allows kids to use extra design features from Barbie's website.  6 & up.

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
SilverLit Interactive Bluetooth R/C Porsche 911 Carrera
(Silverlit Toys $79.99 Score:)

We asked our 19-year old summer intern, Matthew Weinstein, to test this vehicle and give us a review. This was the right toy for the right tester! Here is his review: "One of the most thrilling toys to come through in quite a while. The Porsche will have children and parents jumping up and down with excitement. The car itself is a thing of beauty that matches its real counterpart. Through use of a free app the user connects to the Porsche with Bluetooth. Once connected the car's movement can be controlled two ways. The first uses modern tilting-technology to accelerate and turn the car, while the second method utilizes two old fashioned joysticks that appear on the screen of your device. The latter is much easier to control. The joysticks allow a precision of movement that the wildness of tilting a device does not. The Porsche also comes fully equipped with hazard and head-lights. This SilverLit product is as near perfection as a remote controlled R/C can get, but Iíll have to wait for the bat-mobile version with working rocket boosters before I am truly happy."

Age: Later School Years, Tweens, Teens, Adult. Award Year: 2012.

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2012 Award
Jumbo Bananagrams
(Bananagrams $39 Score:)

Instead of the usual small letter tiles, this Jumbo set comes with 144 tiles that are over 3-inches squares and made of a pliable material. Ideal for playing out of doors, on the floor of the family room, or in the classroom. Players do not take turns as you do in Scrabble. Game play is faster and everyone plays at their own level. With younger kids, try playing on teams or cooperatively. Each play takes 11-21 tiles, depending on the number of players. Someone says SPLIT and all players turns over their tiles and arrange and rearrange them until someone, who has used all his tiles yells PEEL! And takes one more tile from the spare Bunch. Everyone else must also take one tile. A player who cannot use a tile can throw it back but has to take three in exchange.  Play continues until there are no tiles left in the spare Bunch and one player has gotten rid of all his or her tiles. This is great multigenerational game for family gatherings. Be forwarned this Jumbo Set is physically heavy!

For a smaller and less expensive game, check out the original Banangrams($14.99) or the company's Zip It!, both good games for home or easy to pack travel toys.

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

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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
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
K'NEX Corkscrew Coaster
(KNEX $20 Score:)

This 337 piece set  makes a great parent-child build or an independent build for an advanced K'NEX builder with a satisfying end product. The motorized car travels the coaster with enough speed to make our testers happy.  "The instructions are clear" and it was "challenging and fun."  Unlike the super big K'NEX sets of the past, the Coaster is much more manageable for intermediate builders.  We also give high marks to the redesign of their classic Ferris Wheel that comes with 475 pieces. 

Age: Later School Years, Tweens. 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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2012 Award
Pathwords Jr.
(ThinkFun $19.99 Score:)

Remember your word maze games? Playing Pathwords is a bit like finding those words. It's a single player game with a book of words that fits under a playing board grid. The player must find the words in the "Find" list and then cover them with the colored see-though playing pieces. The words can be spelled backwards and forward and require overcoming some spatial challenges. There are 40 puzzles in the spiral book that progress from easy to far more difficult. 6 & up.

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
Jumbo Zip-It
(Bananagrams $44.95 Score:)

Like the original Zip it Game, this is a 2-player game with wooden cubes that are used to form crossword grids. These cubes are several times larger than the original cubes and may be easier for beginning spellers to read quickly. Each player takes twelve cubes and can use any side of the cube to make a crossword grid with her own cubes. The first person to use all her cubes wins the round and advances the zipper on the cloth container one point. The first player to move their zipper ten times wins the game. As with other games from Bananagram, the game play is faster since you are not taking turns but making your own crossword as best you can. Be forewarned, these jumbo playing pieces are physically heavy. A good choice for mixed age groups. The game comes with ideas of how to play a rhyming version as well as ways of scoring long words and palindromes. Your kids will probably come up with their own playful ways of using these cubes, such as a stacking the cubes to make words that can be read from the top down or bottoms up.

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

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