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Product Type: Toys

 

Leap Pad
(LeapFrog $34.99 Score:) We really wanted to love this electronic reading aid, but found the content disappointing and beyond the targeted 4-7 crowd. Labeled 4 & up, it introduces skills way beyond preschoolers' ability. Leap Pad Pro, aimed at second-fifth graders, has so much text on a page, it's frustrating to young readers and limits older ones. The company should hook up with a solid beginning-readers series to match their innovative technology.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: .

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LeapFrog Explorer Globe
(LeapFrog $99 Score:) This new talking globe comes with a sensor pen and lots of information (although the pace is frenetic). The good news is that it costs a lot less than the original Odyssey Talking Globe- it's also much smaller. At first, our testers liked their novelty appeal. But before long the quizzes can become a negative factor. Unfortunately, the more questions they add, the less well they work. Why ask questions that can't be answered by looking at the globe? Testers liked pushing the buttons but quickly felt frustrated. 8 & up. (800) 701-5327.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: .

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2003 Award
Girl Trends Girl Wear
(Creativity for Kids $12 Score:) Our nine-year-old tester was thrilled with the dog tag and belt buckle she decorated. While she thought younger kids would have trouble picking up the small rhinestones and placing them "just right" on the metal, she enjoyed the project that took her approximately 45 minutes to complete (with some popcorn breaks in between!). Comes with glue, over 150 rhinestones, two dog tags, and a pink, black and grey camouflage belt (yes, you read that combination correctly!). 8 & up. Also fun, Hair ChopSticks ($8 ).

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2003.

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2003 Awards
Talking Clever Clock
(Learning Resources $34.95 Score:) Hands down, the best electronic clock for teaching kids how to tell time. Our nine-year old tester had given up on ever learning how to tell time-but within minutes he was having fun using the clock that has self-checking features with both digital and analog clock faces. He liked moving the hands of the clock to match the digital readout. There are buttons that will tell you the time out loud, along with quiz-and-answer buttons. 5 & up. If time is an issue in your house, look no further! SNAP: For kids with disabilities, having a clock that uses several senses may be a real plus. This clock talks and gives digital as well as analog read-outs. So it's a great learning tool for exploring telling time. Our tester liked setting the time and then pressing the button to hear the time said. The same company's non-electronic clock is less expensive and still a great choice, but hearing the time out loud may be worth the extra money. Activity: Set the clock for typical times when you eat, rise, go to bed, leave for school. Concentrate on the hour first and then the half hour. Minutes come after those are pinned down. Learning to tell time- takes time. As the old adage goes- Rome wasn't built in a day. To build interest you might want to consider one of the craft kit clocks that kids paint, as well. (888) 800-7893.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2003.

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2003 Award
K'NEX Electronic Arcade
(KNEX $89.99 Score:) You can build this as either a one-person pinball or a two-person speedball machine. Very challenging to build but satisfying to our advanced K'nex testers. Even our teen testers needed adult assistance. 10 & up.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2003.

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2003 Award
K'nex Downhill Thrill
(KNEX $19.99 Score:) Our extreme sports fans at first gave a mediocre rating to this new 3'-tall ramp that you build for a street luge racer because they could not make him go through the finish line properly. But once they adjusted the position of the finish line, the rating shot up way up! A good playdate toy. 8 & up.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2003.

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2003 Award
Lego Bionicle
(Lego Systems, Inc. $7.99 Score:) Our testers enjoyed these futuristic robots that have become a hot collectible. Not the Lego toys you remember, but not too dark or menacing-and they're easy to put together.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2003.

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2003 Award
K'nex Burn Out
(KNEX $49.99 Score:) You can build three different models of racing cars with this 246-piece set that also comes with a remote control. Our 12-year old Knex builder constructed the first model in under an hour. For less advanced builders, some assistance will probably be needed but this is a manageable kit. Available with two frequencies so that you can race a friend's car, too. One model is 3' long-very neat. 9 & up. (800) 543-5639.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2003.

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2003 Award
Kart Maniax Stunt Pit
(Mattel $19.99 Score:) Of all the new track sets from Hot Wheels our testers gave the highest marks to the Kart Maniax Stunt Pit. However, they all thought the set should come with two karts ($9.99 for each additional kart). We agree! Our testers also liked the Octoblast ($39.99 ) - the marquee racing set of the year. The cars travel quickly and it is more stable than most of its predecessors. Like most of these closed sets it will likely have short-term appeal.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2003.

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Super Gymnast Barbie
(Mattel $19.99 Score:) No great unusual Barbies this year. Our top pick: Super Gymnast or, of the straight "pink" variety, the Ballet Star Barbie-comes complete with long and short tutus and two crowns. At least they're all active! Also Barbie Rapunzel with hair that grows (with extensions).

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

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