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Product Type: Toys
Age: Early Elementary School Years
Categories: Construction Toys

 


2013 Award
Magformers Inspire Sets
(Magformers $24.99-49.99 Score:)

Getting some girls into construction play seems to work by coloring the building materials to their taste. Although we prefer gender free materials, we still think it more important for girls to be building, since this is one of the ways that kids develop their understanding of spatial relationships and basic math concepts. For generations, boys excelled in these areas, in part, because of the experience they had from building models and construction sets. Giving girls construction sets is one way to give girls the mindset and can-do math skills needed for wider career choices. New from Magformers, two gender specific sets of magnetic shapes colored in shades of pink, purple, aqua and blue. Choose a 14 or 30 piece set. Each comes with triangles and squares that can be used to copy models or for open-ended creations and discoveries. All magnets are safely inside the plastic forms. Hands-on experiments help kids discover not only some math concepts, they have to deal directly with the magnetic poles inside the plastic forms, turning them so that they attract. Also see: Magformers Light Show. This combines stealth learning: math, science, visual and manual dexterity, creative problem solving, construction play, imagination, and good fun.  Marked for 3 & up, we think these make more sense for slightly older players.

 

Age: Preschool, Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Award
Magformers Wow Set
(Magformers $49.99 Score:)

Clever set of 16 magnetic shapes in colorful squares and triangles plus wheels, and a driver square, that can be used in open-ended construction or by following the patterns for creating 20 kinds of working vehicles. The set also includes pattern cards that are like tangrams and challenge players to discover how to make a variety of larger geometric shapes from the squares and triangles. Hands-on experiments help kids discover not only some math concepts, they have to deal directly with the magnetic poles inside the plastic forms, turning them so that they attract. All magnets are safely inside the plastic forms. This combines stealth learning: math, science, visual and manual dexterity, creative problem solving, construction play, imagination, and good fun. 6 & up.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2013.

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2013 Award
Magformers Light Show
(Magformers $119.99 Score:)

Light up power adds a new dimension to this 55-piece set of magnetic shapes. With large and small triangles, squares, clear pyramids, and a chargeable light, kids can turn their constructions into showy towers that change colors. All magnets are safely inside the plastic forms. This kit comes with an idea booklet for building models and all sorts of light shows. Like all Magformers, it can be used in open-ended construction, as well. Hands-on experiments help kids discover not only some math concepts, they have to deal directly with the magnetic poles inside the plastic forms, turning them so that they attract. This combines stealth learning: math, science, visual and manual dexterity, creative problem solving, construction play, imagination, and good fun. 6 & up.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2013.

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2013 Award
Quadrilla Music Motion
(Hape $89.99 Score:)

This new twist of a marble run adds a new sound dimension to the fun. Among the 99 wooden pieces are ramps, blocks and six sweet sounding chimes that builders can place to ring as the glass marbles roll along and strike. There is no right or wrong way to build the runs; this is an open-ended toy that can be built and rebuilt in many ways. It is marked 4 and up, but although they will like playing with it, most preschoolers will not really be able to do this without a great deal of adult help. We think this makes a better choice for slightly older kids who have the dexterity and patience to build more complicated structures. If you have very young children in the family the marbles need to be kept out of reach. That said, this is a keeper that will be enjoyed by family members of all ages.

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

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2013 Award
Wondeworld Wonder Trix Track Spin and Swirl
(Wonderworld $59.99 Score:)

Like other Trix Track sets, this is a cleverly designed wooden ball run for younger builders. Chunky pieces and blocks make it more stabile than most and it comes with interesting steps, runs, and spinner that send the balls racing over the track. There is no absolute right or wrong way to put this together and this set can be used in combination with other Trix Track sets. Our test family really loved this set. Marked for 3 & up, we'd say three will have more luck playing with this than building it; but that is one way to start. Have your child find the pieces and help connect them as you model how it's done.

 

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

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2013 Award
Wonderworld Wonder Trix Track 2 Way Flipper
(Wonderworld $59.99 Score:)

A cleverly designed wooden ball run for younger builders. Chunky pieces and blocks make it more stabile than most and it comes with interesting steps, runs, and a 2 way flipper that will send balls to the left or right. There is no absolute right or wrong way to put this together and this set can be used in combination with other Trix Track sets. Our test family was really delighted with this set. Marked for 3 & up, we'd say three will have more luck playing with this than building it; but that is one way to start. Have your child find the pieces and help connect them as you model how it's done.

 

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

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2013 Award
Mega Bloks Barbie Build 'n Style Pet Shop
(Mega Bloks $24.99 Score:)

If you have a reluctant builder, the pink world of Barbie may be appealing.  In a head to head test with Lego’s Friends, the Lego directions got higher grades as being clearer to follow. That said, there were still some who liked the allure of their old pal Barbie. As one mother put it, "I am simply eager to get her working with construction sets that she has otherwise avoided." She really enjoyed building with this smaller set in the collection, although a larger set in the line was less than stabile and frustrating. They say 4 & up, but it will need a lot of help form an adult. Our tester was 8.

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

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2013 Award
LEGO Galaxy Squad Warp Stinger
(Lego Systems, Inc. $29.99 Score:)

We thought this was one of the most unusual LEGO builds we've ever seen. Comes with 310 pieces, including three minifigures. When built it's over 8" high and 10" wide. It was less flexible than we imagined (we thought a wasp would have a flying position.) Our testers agreed that the colors were pretty amazing. It comes with one ball that shoots out of the bottom of the tail (they thought it should come with more).  The set includes many really small pieces that require greater fine motor skills as well as strength to make happen.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Award
Plus Plus 300 Piece Basic Assortment
(Geared for Imagination $$19.99 Score:)

One of the most addictive new building sets we've ever tested. Pleasingly open-ended, this Danish-based company  has just come to the states. There are two different sizes of the shape, the mini (20 mm) and the midi (50 mm).  Each size come in different color schemes (basic, neon, pastel).  The pieces are made of soft plastic (that doesn't hurt your fingers) and can be used to build whatever your child wants them to be- which is why we love them. A fun way to build fine-motor skills. There are also themed sets that we have not yet reviewed.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Award
Lego Friends Rehearsal Stage
(Lego Systems $19.99 Score:)

Stephanie wants to be a superstar. She works out in her rehearsal studio with a revolving platform. She has a guitar, keyboard, and microphone. For dancing she has a ballet bar and mirror and before she goes on stage she puts on her make-up at a dressing table. A 198-piece set with one mini-figure. 5-12

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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