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Product Type: Toys

 

 
2005 Awards
Smart Splash Shape Shell Turtles & Number Fun Ducks
(Learning Resources $14.99 Score:) Two sets of tub toys that are fun as well as good teaching tools. A set of eight floating turtles have shells with shape cut outs that tots match and fit on and off the turtles backs. Also cute, A set of ten yellow ducks with dots on their backs and matching numeral underneath. These are marked 2 & up. There are no small parts, but we think the skills involved are more realistically for preschoolers. (800) 222-3909.

Age: Toddlers,Preschool. Award Year: 2005.

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2006 Award
Morphibians
(Kid Galaxy $24.99 Score:) These snappy vehicles run on land and water! With two button full-function radio control, these are less complex than some of the larger RC’s and have the added fun of float-ablilty. Very cool.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2006.

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2005 Award
Zolo Stacrobats
(Kushies $45 Score:) Five colorful fabric acrobats and three colorful balls can be balanced (sort of) and arranged in multiple ways on their colorful magnetic fabric balancing three-ring circus style pad. Magnets inside make for interesting experiments that will be going ka-boom on a regular basis. A fun toy for interacting with young toddlers. Play figures store in the magnetic base, so toss the plastic bag they come in. This is a pricey toy, but attractive. 1 & up. (800) 841 5330.

Age: Toddlers. Award Year: 2005.

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2005 Award
Paint Ice Jewelry
(3M $13.99 Score:) Make a whole wardrobe of rings and bracelets with the five funky rings and four bracelets. Jewelry is made of clear plastic that you paint on the underside. Kids can use decals as well as paints to make stripes, spots and other designs. A fine brush and bright paint do the task with ease. But kids do need to wait between colors so the colors dry one at a time. Also a good choice for a play date with enough pieces to go around. 8 & up. (800) 666-2539.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2005.

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2005 Award
Friendship Wheel
(Alex $13.99 Score:) Remember braiding friendship bracelets in multicolored threads? Well they are back, only now there is a weaving wheel that guides the process and takes just a few minutes to master. Kit comes with two foam wheels and enough thread for 10 bracelets. Kids can pass the wheels around and help make all of them or bring home a wheel for each guest. Also a great choice for play dates or keeping hands busy on a trip. Our ten year old tester said it would be the "perfect travel toy."

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2005.

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2005 Award
Pop Art Painted Jewelry and Nail Polish Kit
(Fashion Angels Enterprises $16 Score:) Plastic jewelry from the 60s is making a come back. Kids can be right in the middle of this retro fashion trend with this set that comes with six rings, two pendants and four bracelets. You paint the underside of the plastic for a "pop art" effect. We agree with the directions that you really need to paint with toothpicks (not included) to get the right color saturation. If you just paint with the nail polish brushes included we found the color is too light.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2005.

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I Knit this Poncho!
(Fashion Angels Enterprises $16 Score:) Ponchos are all the rage- so imagine the thrill of making your own poncho. This is a simple knitting project for the fashion conscious. Knitters make two panels with the basic garter stitch and then put them together following the simple instructions. They say it takes just four hours to make this child size poncho. The kit comes with one set of thick needles and soft off white bulky yarn. So, this is fast and fun to do and even more fun to wear.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2005.

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2006 Awards
PlasmaCar
(PlaSmart $69.95 Score:) Our testers from ages 4 to 12 could not get enough of this new ride-on that according to the manufacturer runs on “inertia, centrifugal force, and friction.” Sounds like a lot of serious scientific principles - but this is sheer fun rolled up in one zippy vehicle! There are no pedals, or batteries needed. Rotate the steering wheel and you’re off on any smooth surface. This was tested indoors in a room with the furniture moved out of the way for clear sailing. Your feet are your brakes and this will support riders up to 220 pounds on a smooth, even surface and 120 pounds on an uneven, rough surface. One mom suggested the manufacturer should add bumpers to the front and back to protect the walls. That said- it’s the new favorite toy in their neighborhood. 4 & up. (877) 289-0730.

Age: Preschool,Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2006.

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V Smile
(V-Tech $49.99 Score:) We plugged V Smile in and found it all to be so frenetic and certainly not age appropriate for 3's and up-as it is marked. We were playing the easy games and could not imagine how young kids will deal with the pace, content and levels of difficulty. The arcade formats may be easier to play because the joystick is bigger for small hands-but the skills involved are not intuitive…it's not like a touch screen where kids have more direct control with a finger or stylus. Threes, fours and most fives are not ready for letter sequences or spelling. Toys that push skills that are more appropriate for early school years give kids a poor sense of themselves as learners and apprehension about learning altogether. About the only age group the content is really right for would be the 6-7's --that is if what you want is to get them started on are arcade games that produce more agitation than education. We know this is getting a big play in the media, but we suggest you test it before you bring it home. A better choice from the same manufacturer is VTech's new and innovative Write N Learn Smartboard ($29.99). It is indeed a smart toy that works on letter and number skills in concrete ways that involve kids in writing and counting games. It recognizes the letters children write and names them! It has a magic quality that is sure to catch the attention of young players. This is a wise choice for a targeted audience that is learning to write and read. In other words, this is a smart toy that reinforces skills for late Kindergarten, first and second graders. It goes at your child's pace- not the stressful world of arcade gaming. UPDATE 2007 A console that also plugs into the TV and specializes in drill-and-review games that usually borrow from arcade formats. While seven year olds often enjoy reinforcing what they know, the pace of this product is way too fast to “learn” from and certainly way beyond the preschool crowd (its targeted audience). New for 2007 Art Studio and Dance Mat did not receive good ratings from our testing families. They complained that the games were not responsive and they disliked the graphics. (800) 521-2010.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2007.

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Cool Crew Magic Talking Kitchen Crew
(Playskool $39.99 Score:) Smaller than your average toy kitchen, this is more of a novelty item than the kind of play setting that should be open ended and have long term play value. It’s only 17.6 X 16.2 X 8.6. Hardly big enough for even pretend chefs over the age of 2 and a half. We don’t think kids need anthropomorphic doors that talk and ask them the same question again and again. For toddlers who are still sorting out real from make believe this kind of cartoon-ish toy only clouds their thinking. Young children are magical thinkers by nature- but they come up with enough magic without the added confusion of stoves with eyes and mouths that move. Nor do kids need toys that crack corny jokes. Keep in mind that these seemingly cute extras are apt to get “tired” with continued use. True, the price is low for a toy kitchen, but that’s about the only thing it has on the plus side. Think of a toy kitchen as an investment toy that will be used for three or four years and then can be passed on to another child. This is not that kind of kitchen.

Age: Preschool. Award Year: 2004.

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