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Product Type: Toys

 

  
2011 Awards
Guidecraft Unit Blocks
(Guidecraft $40 & up Score:)

If there's one toy every child should have, blocks are it! Nothing is more basic to play than a set of wooden unit blocks. A set with 34 pieces is a place to start, although a 76-piece set ($90) would be even more versatile. Pictured here is a school size set that has 28 shapes($200+)Unit blocks come with built-in possibilities for discovery as they are scaled to each other; putting two squares together, kids discover the two equal one rectangular block; two of the triangles makes a square, etc. Blocks develop kids' spatial understanding, their eye hand skills, their problem solving abilities, imagination, and language. They are the raw materials for dramatic play that put kids in charge. They are great for using with wooden trains for making bridges and roadways for toy cars, barns for small animals. Be sure to add some scaled down vehicles, and animals and even some doll house or action figures to the mix. Give them a place where the blocks can stay up for a while so that they can make settings for their dramatic play.  Blocks can be used solo and in cooperative play. Beginners often will start off by building horizontially...but soon enough preschoolers will start building upwards. These are basic gear for kids with lasting play value because they are completely open-ended and can be used in multiple ways. They may be a farm one day and a bridge the next. One of a favorite lines of props for blocks are the Jungle and Farm Animal sets from Learning Resources($25.99).

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2011. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2007 Award
Bebe Do Graceful
(Corolle $49.99 Score:) A very sweet 14" baby doll that is just right for pretend play. Our testers love this collection of dolls that feel so soft and smell like vanilla. The head and limbs are vinyl with a soft fabric body that is extremely huggable. Comes with a bunny and bottle. We'd recommend pairing this doll with a stroller or the Play Nursery from Corolle.

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

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2007 Award
American Girl Jess
(American Girl $87 Score:) Jess, is this year's Girl of the Year from American Girl's contemporary collection of dolls. She's an Amerasian, 18" tall with dark brown eyes and her hair comes in loose braids. Her dad is Irish American and her mom is Japanese American. While the book points out that they come from different backgrounds, they both love archeology. Her family goes to Belize so the accessories that you can also add include a passport, a camera and a kayak.

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

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2007 Award
Scrabble Premier Edition
(Restoration Hardware $149 Score:) If Scrabble is a family favorite, you may want to bring home this deluxe set that comes in a handsome mahogany-finished case with storage below the board and a lazy-Susan platform for easy viewing. The board is approximately 17" x 16" wide and comes with a timer, rulebook, scoreboard and pencil. We'd also recommend the Scrabble Electronic Dictionary ($55) for those heated word challenges!

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2007.

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2007 Award
Xbox 360 Wireless Racing Wheel
(Microsoft $149.99 Score:) Our testers were really thrilled with the force feedback and rumble motor sensation while using this racing wheel. Parent testers also gave high marks to the "wireless" aspect --"less wires for us to trip on!" (There are wires from the steering wheel to the footpedal, but none to the platform). Comes with Project Gotham Racing 3 and a table mount so that you can secure the wheel to your desk. What we really liked about the xbox experience is that kids can interact with friends and family members by racing them via the internet.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2007.

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2008 Award
Spunky Key Wind Motion Musical
(Gund $24.95 Score:)

Spunky is an adorable puppy (available in tan, blue or pink). When you turn the plastic wind up key, Spunky begins to play Rock a Bye Baby--and Spunky moves his head slowly along with the music. An old fashion toy that is still just right as a first musical toy. The musical sounds like a music box-- a refreshing departure from the more commonplace electronic music that has taken over most baby toys.

Age: Infants. Award Year: 2008. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2007 Award
Emperor Penguin Chicks
(Wildlife Artists Inc. $20 Score:) Choose either the handsome 21" traditional plush Emperor Chick($40) that looks half grown or the 13 Emperor Penguin Chick ($20) that has downy like plush with a recently hatch look. Either are an adorable armful and a welcome huggable for the very current penguin craze.

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

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2007 Award
eeBoo Classic Bingo
(eeBoo $14.95 Score:)

Each player collects matching transportation, animals, clothing, colors, or nature cards as they are drawn from the bag. Winner is first to cover all eight pictures on his playing board. Cards are printed with words, so sight vocabulary is being built for beginning readers, although no reading is needed. A good game for building vocabulary and turn taking. Also, of interest for those learning Spanish or French($14.95 each) the same game with vocabulary in those languages.

The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements. We did not independently test this toy in a lab.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2007. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2007 Award
eeBoo Paper Doll Game
(eeBoo $14.95 Score:) Our testers really loved this game. Four cardboard adorable multicultural paper dolls, created by illustrator, Lizzy Rockwell, come ready to be dressed. Hit the spinner and players take turns pulling shoes, hats, tops, bottoms, and other parts to make a complete outfit. Winner is first to dress her 10 doll. For 2-5 players. The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements. We did not independently test this toy in a lab.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2007.

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2007 Award
Seek and Find Let's Go to the City!
(Cranium $9.99 Score:) First players put together the 24 piece puzzle. Then they draw illustrated cards that show them the objects they must find and circle with a dry marker that wipes off. The illustrations are pleasingly busy (somewhere in between a Where's Waldo and a Richard Scarry's illustration). Each puzzle comes with 15 beginner cards and 15 more advanced cards so the game can be played by mixed aged groups. They say 3 & up, wed say more like 4 and up to start. Also in this line and recommended, Seek and Find Take Me to the Carnival!

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

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