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Product Type: Toys

 


2007 Award
Only Hearts Club Collection
(OHC Group $15 Score:) These 9" dolls have bendable bodies, delicately etched faces, and charming accessories, as well as small books that relate to typical problems of girlhood. Girls will need considerable dexterity to get the little shoes and clothing on and off. Unlike most fashion dolls today, these have outfits that would be acceptable to well-heeled parents and grandparents. They are dressed like girls—not funky streetwalkers in training. Our testers were thrilled with the Ballet Studio Theater ($50) and Stable ($75)—both were PLATINUM AWARD winners last year. New Platinum Award winners for 2007, a Sleeper Sofa ($19.99)—a first in Toy Land! And Sleeping Bags ($9.95), a clever tie-in to a favorite activity, sleepovers! Our testers also loved the Rock Star Collection. (We pass on the My Little Pony-inspired Fantasy Pet collection of plush animals that includes lavender horses and dolphin riding mermaid—just not our thing.)

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2007.

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2006 Award
American Girl Elizabeth
(American Girl $87 Score:) The American Girl collection of dolls each comes with a book that introduces girls to a bit of history through stories. Elizabeth is an English girl from a prominent Loyalist family (and best friend of well-known Felicity). She’s 18" tall with long blond hair and blue eyes. Still top rated, Nellie O’Malley (Samantha’s best friend). PLATINUM AWARD ’05. 7 & up. (800) 845-0005.

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

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2006 Awards
YOUniverse ATM Machine
(Summit Inc. $39.95 Score:) After setting the ATM with your name and PIN, you can make deposits and withdrawals, and check your balance. Comes with an ATM card and will take both coins and bills. The machine recognizes the coins and adds them to your total automatically. For younger kids we prefer the less complicated Amazing Money Jar ($12.99 ); it tallies up coins only—but still very neat. Activity: Learning to count money and exchange coins is a process that takes time. Playing store or restaurant with real money is a good way to start. Also allowing children to pay for small items in the course of an outing gives them a hands-on way to understand the give and take of money. (205) 661-1174

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2006.

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2006 Award
Rock Castle
(Playmobil $79.99 Score:) Playmobil’s Knights’ Empire Castle uses the company’s new SystemX, which is designed for shorter assembly time and durability. Comes with a working gate and dungeon and looks like the classic friendly Playmobil settings of years past. By comparison, Rock Castle ($79.99 ) has a more sinister feel to it. Suggested add-on, the Red Dragon (because you always need a dragon), is sold separately. Projectile cannons sold separately. Also darker in feel than their previous castles is Lego’s new Vladek’s Dark Fortress ($99 ), which comes with catapults. Most kids love the action of projectiles until one hits them. 8–12. (800) 233-8756.

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

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2006 Award
Knights' Empire Castle
(Playmobil $179 Score:) Playmobil’s Knights’ Empire Castle uses the company’s new SystemX, which is designed for shorter assembly time and durability. Comes with a working gate and dungeon and looks like the classic friendly Playmobil settings of years past. By comparison, Rock Castle ($79.99 ) has a more sinister feel to it. Suggested add-on, the Red Dragon (because you always need a dragon), is sold separately. Projectile cannons sold separately. Also darker in feel than their previous castles is Lego’s new Vladek’s Dark Fortress ($99 ), which comes with catapults. Most kids love the action of projectiles until one hits them. 8–12. (800) 233-8756.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2006.

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2006 Award
Grande Mansion
(Playmobil $170 Score:) Part construction set/mostly pretend setting, Grande Mansion has two stories and a usable attic; this yellow house has an old world charm that will be a memorable gift. Younger kids will need help with assembly. This is a fun parent child project if you're so inclined!

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

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See 'n Write
(Educational Insights $39.99 Score:) The good thing about this writing machine is that kids get to see how to shape upper and lower case letters in both script and cursive on a small LCD screen. In game mode player tries to recognize letters as the machine writes. But, unfortunately, there is no direct writing on the screen--no tracing or free form writing. So, this is pretty remote. The only way kids get to try their hand is with paper and pencil. (800) 995-4436.

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

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Playskool Video Now
(Hasbro $49.95 Score:) Poses as an interactive game for preschoolers...but the DVD keeps playing without any intervention from the player. The characters on screen ask the child to answer questions but it does not require any action to make something happen- it just keeps going. This does not play any DVD’s but the ones made for this toy. Buy a DVD player and have real videos to watch instead of this stuff. (800) 752-9755.

Age: Preschool. Award Year: 2006.

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2006 Awards
Woodstock Band
(Woodstock Percussion $29.99 Score:) Beat out that rhythm with this six-piece set with wooden tambourine, recorder, maraca, egg shaker, castanet, and sleigh bell jingler with big wooden handle. Solid-sounding instruments. (800) 422-4463.

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

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2006 Award
Super Rolling Art Center
(Alex $129 Score:) You need a lot of room for this generously sized art cart that has two easels and place for storing your child’s creations and supplies in between. The wheels gives this good-looking piece of equipment some portability. It does require a fair amount of assembly which was not always easy. That said, it looks like it belongs in a Pottery Barn catalog. If space is an issue, consider the BLUE CHIP Tabletop Easel ($40 ). Folds flat for convenient storage. (800) 666-2539.

Age: Preschool. Award Year: 2006.

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