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Product Type: Toys

 


2014 Awards
The Amazing Wubble Bubble Ball
(wubble-ball.com $19.99 Score:)

Our testers were thrilled with the soft, light-weight Wubble Bubble ball that inflates to an amazing 3-foot size and still has some give. Fun to bounce, catch, toss and and kick. You inflate it with a pump that comes with the ball, but you will need 4 D size batteries to make it work. It does come with warnings about keeping it away from pets and branches. It comes with a lifetime replacement guarantee, but we didn’t read the fine print on that. If you have a crowd and a big enough yard, we’d say this will be a star attraction for getting the gang up and moving. You can deflate it when you are finished playing and use it on another day. Comes in multiple see-thru colors.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years, Tweens, Teens, Adult. Award Year: 2014.

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2014 Awards
Rand McNally U.S. Wall Map
(Rand McNally $14.95 Score:)

A giant 50” X 32” wall map for young geographers. Bring home this or a similar World Map ($8.99) for their room. Kids will like putting stickers on their personal map--marking the places they have been (or want to see) and following sports or world news; locating where in the world things are happening. An interest in mapping begins early if encouraged by making maps relate to their interests and experiences.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years, Tweens, Teens. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2014 Awards
The Amazing Wubble Bubble Ball
(Wubbleball.com $19.99 Score:)

Our testers were thrilled with the soft, light-weight, Wubble Bubble ball that inflates to an amazing 3-foot size and still has some give. Fun to bounce, catch, toss, and and kick. You inflate it with a pump that comes with the ball, but you will need 4 D size batteries to make the pump work. It also comes with warnings about keeping it away from pets and branches. It claims to have a lifetime replacement guarantee, but we didn't read the fine print on that. If you have a crowd and a big enough yard and not a lot of very little kids, we'd say this will be a star attraction for getting the gang up and moving. You can deflate it when you are finished playing and use it on another day. Comes in multiple see-thru colors.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years, Tweens, Teens, Adult. Award Year: 2014.

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2014 Award
Faber-Castell Connector Pens
(Faber-Castell $19.99 Score:)

A set of fifty colorful fiber-tip pens that can be used solo or clipped together for multi-colored effects. In vibrant colors, these pens can be used to draw fine lines, dots, and sideways for broader lines. This bucket includes extra connectors so kids can make a variety of playful constructions. There are smaller sets of these, but fifty is nifty. 6 & up

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2014 Awards
LEGO DUPLO Truck
(LEGO $19.99 Score:)

With a prebuilt wheeled chassis as the base, this 16-piece truck kit will come together quickly with a little help. There are cards that show how to assemble the truck and the small building with a working window. This is a simple beginners build and a good way to introduce older toddlers to construction play. Best of all, this can be played with when it is built and can be rebuilt again and again. They say 2-5, we would say older twos and threes will have more in the way of dexterity and patience to stay with this kind of task.

SNAP: The big chunky pieces and pre-built base makes this a beginning construction set that builds a sense of success. It's also a toy that develops dexterity and "reading" skills with the pictorial step by step cards. Once complete, it becomes a vehicle children can use for play. Do it together the first few times, using color words to reinforce color concepts while they play.

Age: Toddlers, Preschool. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2014 Award
LEGO DUPLO Farm Tractor
(LEGO $19.99 Score:)

Using the prebuilt base chassis, the tractor and trailer with dumping action come together with relative ease. This 29-piece set is ideal for beginners with some adult help for getting started. In addition to the tractor the kit includes a corral for the cow figure and a grey-haired farmer with a pitchfork and other accessories. This simple beginners build is a good way to introduce older toddlers to construction play, which develops children's dexterity, patience, language, spatial skills and pretend power—so many important ingredients of learning. Best of all, this can be played with when it is built and can be rebuilt again and again. They say 2-5, we would say older twos and threes will have more in the way of dexterity and patience to stay with this kind of task.

Age: Preschool. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2014 Awards
LEGO DUPLO Big Farm
(LEGO $59.99 Score:)

Farms have been traditional play settings for preschoolers, often prebuilt with miniature animals to move around for pretend play. This 121-piece set combines construction play with pretend in a child friendly way. The big chunky pieces are flexible and can be used to assemble farm buildings to house the cows, horse, and cat that come with the set and to incorporate some of the blocks with images of other critters. The farmer and his helper can drive the tractor, use the pitchfork for hay and open and close the working barn doors and windows. To top it all off there is a crank and pulley for lifting hay into the loft. To introduce a big set like this and to get the most mileage, adults often need to sit a while to help with assembling and getting the dramatic play started. This kind of play develops children’s dexterity, patience, language, spatial skills and pretend power—so many important ingredients of learning. Our test family’s two year old doesn’t get the concept of building a farm yet, but he likes putting the pieces together and pulling them apart. He likes the animals and vehicle and playing with the separate pieces. He does get frustrated when he cannot get the pieces together or apart; still, his dad feels they are helping his develop his fine motor skills.

Age: Toddlers, Preschool. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2014 Awards
LEGO DUPLO Creative Animals
(LEGO Systems, Inc. $14.99 Score:)

These chunky colorful blocks are designed for small hands and their first construction play. There are no absolute right or wrong ways to assemble the pieces, though some have faces or eyes that clearly will dictate where they belong. The colors may guide the building, but toddlers will probably use them in an open-ended way to begin with as they learn to put the blocks together--a skill unto itself. Once they have that they may be interested in the cards that show how specific animals can be built...a tall giraffe, pink bunny, black and white pooch, and  green caterpillar, among other imaginative critters. This simple beginners build is a good way to introduce older toddlers to construction play, which develops children's dexterity, patience, language, spatial skills and pretend power—so many important ingredients of learning. A 25-piece set that is marked for 1 ½-5; we'd say this is going to be a better bet for the upper range of 2's and up.

Age: Toddlers, Preschool. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2014 Award
Kidzoozie Push n Zoom Vehicle
(International Playthings $14.99 Score:)

Push the driver down and see how the cement mixer truck zooms along while the cement mixer spins. For kids who are into construction trucks there is also a steam shovel truck with a shovel that moves when the driver is pushed down. These make nice props for pretend play for older toddlers. The push action on the construction worker takes some muscle power so this may work best for slightly older kids than the 18 month old label suggests.

Age: Toddlers, Preschool. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2014 Awards
Rand McNally World Map
(Rand McNally $11 Score:)

Having a big 50” x 32” map of places you've been or those you long to visit, offers a good way to spark their interest in maps and geography. Give them a set of stickers to label the places they've been or hope to get to.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years, Tweens. Award Year: 2014.

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