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Product Type: Toys

 

Swingball Tetherball Set
(Spinmaster $49.99 Score:) We took this out to the beach and watched as both kids and adults took a turn. The idea here is very much like the original tetherball, except the ball is a tennis ball and you're hitting it with a plastic racket rather than your hands. You start by placing the rope in the middle of the corkscrew like track on the top of the pole. One person wants to get the rope to the top of the pole and the other wants to go the bottom. Our only concern was that someone would get hit with the tennis ball and that it would sting. During the course of the day, that only happened once with teens who were playing pretty intensely. For younger kids this is a really fun way to work on hand eye coordination. Adults enjoyed taking a turn as well. Note: We have not received our safety verification form back from this company and we have not tested it in an independent lab for lead or phthalates.

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

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2008 Awards
Step2 50s Diner
(Step 2 $149.99 Score:)

Kudos to Step2 for coming up with a really fun, gender-free play setting. Our preschool and toddler siblings enjoyed playing diner (the older sister was running the place, of course!). On one side you have all the kitchen equipment of a traditional toy kitchen (sink, frig and oven) with the bonus of a grill top! The other side has a place for two customers to sit at the “booth”, complete with tabletop jukebox that plays a few tunes from the era, and a bell when you need service (our testers thought the bell could be louder). Diner also comes with coffee pot, dishes, silverware, and play food (our testers were big fans of the ice cream cones).

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

Age: Toddlers, Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2008. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2008 Award
Schylling Color Roller
(Schylling $19.99 Score:)

Finding a great toddler toy can be really tough going- they're done with baby toys and not quite ready for more complicated preschool toys (they tend to sit on them!). So we're really always excited when we find a great new toy right on the mark for this age group. This color roller has a big color wheel built into the enclosed base. At rest, you can see blue, yellow and red...but start pushing and those colors combine to create the colors of the rainbow. Very neat. One parent found the clicky noise annoying, but other testers really thought it was fun. We loved the elegance of the design. No batteries required.

The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements. We did not independently test this toy in a lab. SNAP AWARD:Holding on while letting go is not so simple for kids who are just getting up and about on their wobbly feet. Letting go of your hand or the furniture can be encouraged with this kind of push toy that makes sounds and spinning colors.

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

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2008 Awards
Tiny Love Sweet Island Dreams Mobile
(Tiny Love $44.99 Score:)

One of our pet peeves is that most mobiles don't have objects that point down towards the baby. Most are just bland room decorations that go round and round with no focus on the intended user- your baby! In contrast, this new mobile from Tiny Love (as with their other entries in this category) get the point. Here, there's a monkey, giraffe and bird that all are tilted towards your baby. They move slowly so that they provide great tracking opportunities. Also a plus there is a remote control so that you can turn on the music (Mozart or Bach) or two nature sounds. They each play for twenty minutes. Remember mobiles need to be removed as soon as your baby can reach them (usually by 5 months).

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

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

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2009 Award
Acting Out Musical Can Can Skirt
(Acting Out $37 Score:)

The latest in the line of play skirts that have motion activated music. The black and white shirt with black and pink ruffles is very grown up. Your child will most likely love the skirt and the can-can music. Be forewarned, if you have a headache, this is not the skirt for small spaces! We can't stop activating the music in our office--and now we keep singing the song too! Just like being at the Folies Bergère! Ooo,la la!

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: 2009. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2008 Award
Haba Discovery Wagon
(Haba $230 Score:)

Beautifully designed for the get-about-toddler, this smooth handsome (pricey) wooden cart is less tippy than most push toys for beginners. There’s a seat in the front for Teddy Bears to ride on, a mirror and gem stones set into the back of the seat. There are spinners and a maze to move a little toy car about, as well as a fabric side pocket for storing a small grey fabric mouse passenger. Finished in natural wood and colorful panels, this is a toy that will go the distance. For toddlers there are few toys that get as much use as this sort of combo cart. Just right for that stage when kids are ready to walk but still like the security of holding on. This is weighted and the center of gravity is solid enough, even for tots who are just getting their land legs. This age varies, so you need to know the individual child. Some are ready at 12 months—more are not ready till 14-16 months.

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

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

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2008 Awards
Crayola Glow Station
(Crayola $29.99 Score:)

We do have to admit that we have a thing for glow in the dark toys. We pile into the small office bathroom and try things out. Most of them don't work so when we find one that does we do a little dance (we play with toys for a living after all). The new Glow Station from Crayola is really cool. The over-sized (25" x 15") canvas works with a special light wand (that comes with a crystal attachment for really neat effects!). The set comes with stencils that are fun to work with but we really enjoyed the open-endedness of just drawing on the canvas. A great toy for the car at night or right before bed. An entertaining way to encourage kids to use the small muscles needed for writing. It’s a lot like your old magic state with sizzle! The glow fades and you start again. Also has a dry erase marker for coloring and tracing on acetate transfer sheet that will put the images onto your glow pad. A novelty that is "light-years" away from your old Magna-doodle. Designed for older kids 6 & up. Smaller travel version is also available and fun for backseat fun.

The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements. We did not independently test this toy in a lab. SNAP ACTIVITY/ADAPTATION:Getting kids to work on fine motor skill needed for writing is often a hard sell. Yet, this chunky drawing tool is an entertaining and playful way to get those little hand muscles tuned up. If you need to adapt the sensor, try a mitt lined with Velcro and Velcro on the pen itself. The stencils may give added encouragement and produce realistic images that kids cannot draw themselves. All of these extras make writing a fun thing to do.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2008. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2008 Awards
Follow Me Fred and Crawl Along Leo
(Tiny Love $19.95 Score:)

Sadly, Leo has been discontinued. A fun toy for active floor play with a sitting up or crawling baby. Turn on the fabric headed dog (Fred) or happy faced lion (Leo of course) and they will slowly roll a few feet and stop. Touch the accordion center of the pooch or lion’s body and it rolls some more. Their bodies are of bright colored plastic with fabric tail. This “magical” motion toy invites little crawlers to follow or use them like a roly poly ball for back and forth fun with sitting up tots. Loaded with sounds, we prefer playing with the “mute” button on most of the time. Fred, a floppy eared dog is more realistic looking than Leo. They say 6 months, we’d say more like 8 months and up.

The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements. We did not independently test this toy in a lab. SNAP ACTIVITIES:Motivating children to crawl is a lot easier with these easy touch activated toys. These little animals have interesting textures, colors and patterns to talk about. They do not move too quickly, so they are easier to play with than wind up toys that may roll away too quickly. Choose Fred the dog or Leo the little lion and play a game of “Got It!” Put the toy in easy reach and activate it with a touch. When it reaches your player, encourage him to send the pup back to you. Another game can be played with a box that you can turn into little tunnel. Who can make the pup walk through the box to the other side? Take turns getting the pup through the tunnel.

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

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2008 Award
TIny Love Follow Me Fiona
(Tiny Love $19.95 Score:)

Decidedly pink Fiona joins last year's primary colored winners Fred (a dog)  and Leo (a lion).  All three toys are for active floor play with a sitting up or crawling baby. Turn them on and they will slowly roll a few feet and stop. Touch their accordion middles and they will roll some more. Their bodies are of bright colored plastic with fabric tail. This “magical” motion toy invites little crawlers to follow or use them like a roly poly ball for back and forth fun with sitting up tots. Loaded with sounds, we prefer playing with the “mute” button on most of the time. Marked 6 months and up, but we'd say more like 9 months and up. This is the type of toy that young toddlers will also enjoy!  The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements. We did not independently test this toy in a lab.


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

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2008 Awards
LeapFrog Tag Reading System
(LeapFrog $49.99 Score:)

Touch the pages of the Tag books with a chunky pen shaped infrared sensor. It reads the words, letters, numbers, and even sings! Unlike so many so-called reading systems, this one has real books such as Olivia, Chicka, Chicka Boom, Boom, I Spy, Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type, and The Little Engine That Could among others in the library of choices. There are activity books as well as some popular licensed characters. We're hoping they will add even more real books to the list. A fun tool that beginning readers can use independently, the way you probably listened to recordings. Only Tag improves on that. It's not just listening, kids are actually seeing the words, moving the sensor from left to right and turning the pages from front to back. In other words it reinforces how a book "works" in a child friendly and playful way. Parents will need to download the audio onto the sensor from their MAC or PC. The toy comes loaded with just one program, but there are 16 titles available to add on. ($13.99 each)  4-8.

The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements. We did not independently test this toy in a lab. SNAP ADAPTATION: The chunky sensor will be easier than most to grasp. If it needs to be futher adapted, a glove with velcro in the mitt and a strip of velcro on the sensor may do the trick. Unlike simply reading along with a recording, this learning tool enables beginning readers to follow along and get the sense of how the text moves from left to right. It encourages readers to learn the mechanics of how a book works from front to back, from left page to right. Add to this the fun of exploring the pages and art to make things happen and this goes a few steps beyond any other read aloud story system with real books!

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2008. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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