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Product Type: Toys

 


2007 Award
Mag XL Magformers
(Rainbow Products $16.99 Score:) Here’s the newest fun in magnetic toys! Choose a set of either 14 or 30 geometric squares and triangles that can be set down on a flat surface. Give them a lift and—abracadabra—you have a 3-D ball that clicks together! Kids will have fun exploring the countless ways to invent new connections and constructions. Safe enough to leave out on the coffee table with no small magnets to worry over. This will entice grownups as well as kids. 5 & up. (541) 826-9007.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2007.

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K'nex Vertical Vengeance Coaster
(KNEX $59.99 Score:) Here is the latest twist on a K’nex roller coaster. This one is over 5 feet high, with a motorized chain lift that takes two cars to the top—where they zoom down the loops and spiral turns of 33 feet of track. Our crack K’nex testers gave the directions very poor ratings. Ages 10 & up. For younger K’nex builders, Light ups! 30 Models Kit ($29.99) looks challenging with rods that light, but not available for testing; also Gear Action Building Sets ($29.99 3) that have gear-driven motion; these work, but directions are not clear. 7 & up. (800) 543-5639.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2007.

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2007 Award
Star Wars
(Lego Systems, Inc. $34.95 Score:) For Star Wars fans there are several new kits worth noting: Jabba’s Sail Barge ($74.99/781 pieces 4): Our 11-year old tester thought the age label (8–12) was off—you’d need to be older to do this kit. He liked the toy, but had tough comments for the directions: “pictures were too dark on the instructions and that really threw off some of the building.” For the hard-core Star Wars/Lego fan, consider the Imperial Star Destroyer ($99.99/1366 pieces), and of course you’ll need the B-wing Fighter ($34.99/435 pieces) to go along with that! (800) 223-8756.

Age: . Award Year: 2007.

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2007 Award
Prehistoric Planet Dinosaur Fossils T-Rex
(Toysmith $ Score:) Much like their original sets, but now the pieces have a laminated design instead of plain wood. We tested the 40"-long T-Rex (watch out!). This is way too hard for 5s & up (as marked), but a good parent/child project. 9 & up. Still one of our favorites (but again needs parental help), B.C. Bones Empire State Building ($19.99 & up 4) one of a series of stunning wooden structures that includes the Eiffel Tower and Golden Gate Bridge. The company has updated their instructions, which we found to be an improvement but still not enough for the starting age on the box. (800) 356-0474.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2007.

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2007 Award
Airport
(Lego Systems, Inc. $79.99 Score:) You can’t go wrong with any of the new airport/plane sets from Lego—they’re all Lego at its best in terms of design. Really depends on what size plane you want and how much you like helicopters. The Airport set is wonderful, comes with a passenger plane, control tower, and baggage truck. Our testers loved the see-through ramp to the plane and the revolving door. 5–12. The City Airport ($89.99/863 pieces 5) comes with two helicopters, a smaller plane, control tower, and vehicles. Marked 9 & up. Passenger Plane PLATINUM AWARD ($39.99/401 pieces 5) is fun to put together down to the beverage cart, swivel chairs, and cockpit controls. The age label 5–12 is misleading on both this set and the Airport. You’d need to be an experience Lego builder to do this on your own—although we agree that 5s would love to play with this plane after putting it together with a parent. For a chunkier plane, look at Airport Action on page TK. The City Hospital ($49.99/377 pieces 4) also has a lot of play value after it’s built, with building, helicopter, and ambulance. For race fans, you’ll want to bring home the Lego Competition Racers set ($64.99/573 pieces) that features a Ferrari, pit stop, and all the props for race day. 8 & up. (800) 223-8756.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2007.

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Roboreptile and RS Media
(WowWee $350 Score:) RS promises to provide all of your media needs in the package of an interactive robot. Comes with a small color LCD screen on his chest, tweeters and woofer, a USB connector, and music playback; you can input data from your PC. Comes loaded with four personalities (each with its own distinct animations and expressions). Comes with 50 MB of internal memory or you can use an external memory card (additional purchase required). Also new, Roboreptile ($120 4), the latest in the robo “creature” line, 21⁄4' long, is truly creepy in that Jurassic Park/Terminator kind of way, with 28 remote functions. We found him less responsive to commands than his predecessors. 8 & up. Still top rated, the less expensive earlier versions: Robosapien ($99) and Robosapien V2 ($250); and Roboraptor ($100 ), a scary 32"-long white robotic dino that thinks he’s in a scene from “Jurassic Park.” He hisses and snaps. For our older toy testers this was cool. (Some little siblings may truly be freaked out by his aggressive nature). 10 & up. (800) 310-3033.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2007.

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2013 Award
Mindstorms EV3
(Lego Systems, Inc. $349.99 Score:)

LEGO is rolling out a completely revamped version of the robotics kit for a new generation of kids. Knowing how essential smart phones have become, the new design enables them to operate their robots via their phones. The set comes with 17 suggested builds with three different levels of programming. Comes with a hefty price tag - but if you think of this as an after-school program in robotics, it seems more approachable.  We are waiting for our testers feedback. This toy made our Platinum Award list in 2007.

We sent it to a family with 4 builders (14, 12, 10 and 9 years old). The 9 year old let his brothers fill us in. They did a great job reviewing this product. Here's what they reported:  

Mindstorms is a really fun robotics set. It is really awesome because you can program it to do anything you want. The programing itself is very easy. You just click and drag, and it is very intuitive. There are more advanced setting if you want to be more detailed. The directions to build were easy to follow even though they were online. The robot that we built could track its remote and then when it got close enough, would shoot it with a ball. It could usually hit it within two or three shots. The set is made of Lego technics, which are a slightly more complicated Lego. But it makes building moving parts very easy. It comes with a touch sensor, a color sensor, and an ultra sonic sensor, so it can see where it is going. The sensors are really fun to work with, and you can make things you can't usually make. Over all it is a great robotics kit. One of the best I've ever worked with.
-14 year old

Mindstorms is easy to use and is appropriate for ages 10 and up. It comes with directions to make certain robots, but you can also make things you want. The directions are easy to follow, and the parts seem really durable.
-12 year old


...each robot has a specific mission. For the humanoid, you could set it up to find and shoot the remote control. And that was really cool. Also you could switch it to a mode where you can control it with the remote control. Each side of the remote would control a side of the robot. Or you could switch it to channel two and when you press forward, he would shoot low, and you press backwards it would shoot high. The remote control has 4 buttons and 4 channels. Which makes it pretty easy to use.
-10 year old

Here's what their mom wanted other parents to know:

The technic legos are more difficult to work with than regular lego blocks. The kids really had to pay attention to which piece they were supposed to take (a 6cm rod vs an 8cm rod to connect things made a big difference). I found the directions on the website a little trickier to follow than the ones in a physical book. But the kids didn't have as much trouble as I did. Also, some of the directions were harder to actually do like when you had to flip some pieces around that you had built to connect it to the wires. They were able to get them, but the 9 year old had to ask for help occasionally from the older boys.
They built the trickiest humanoid robot first...but were excited about all the different choices. I think they will make most of them over time. After they took the pictures, they were going to take it apart and try something else. Overall, very well done. But definitely for the older set of kids.

A picture from our testers:

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

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2007 Award
Hot Wheels Flashfire
(Mattel $89.99 Score:) Newest from the Pro Power Series, this oversized RC is an all- terrain racing car that can splash through water, leap over rocks, and thrill young drivers. It has an 8 multi-channel system that means you can race up to 8 cars at once—pretty cool! (800) 524-8697.

Age: . Award Year: 2007.

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Air Hogs Hydro Launcher
(Spinmaster $99.99 Score:) Promises to take flight from the water! Marked appropriately 14 & up (the propellers have a potential to really hurt). Equally neat looking, Air Hogs Helix Helicopter ($69.99)—a small-scale copter designed for indoor use. If this works, it will be great. No assembly required. 8 & up. Neither ready for testing. (800) 622-8339.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2007.

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2007 Award
Elephant
(Folkmanis $36 Score:) An oversized floppy-eared grey elephant with a clever two-ring mechanism that raises and lowers the trunk, this full-bodied puppet is sure to take over the show! On a more domestic scale, there is also an adorable 13" brown Tabby Cat ($22 4), the favorite of one of our toddler testers! Still charming, a 30" honey-colored Golden Retriever ($60 4). (800) 654-8922.

Age: Preschool,Early School Years. Award Year: 2007.

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