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Product Type: Toys

 


2004 Award
Magz-x 106
(Progressive Trading Inc. $34.95 Score:) We’ve seen a lot of these magnetic building kits. Thanks to the X shaped pieces in this set it’s possible to build curved structures by making a cube and adding a triangular connection. Our builders were delighted to find more steel ball connectors in this kit, as well as the new shape. Kit comes with 28 bars, 53 steel balls and 25 “X” bars. 5 & up.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2004.

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2004 Award
ETX 90AT Telescope
(Meade $595 Score:) Our reviewers gave high marks to the ETX-90AT because it comes with the Autostar computer controller (usually only found on much more expensive models). The Autostar computer allows the viewer to find celestial objects by using the hand-held automated controller. (This technology was recently featured on the West Wing.) The AT model also comes with a tripod. We would recommend this model for tweens and up. A worthy investment for a family of star gazers!

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2004.

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2004 Award
Soccer Guys
(Kaskey Kids $14.99 Score:) If you're looking for non-violent action figures that your child will love, look no further! Here's a truly satisfying kit that comes with 24 players, one referee, two soccer goals and a generous green felt 24" x 36" playmat. The carrying case (with a handle) makes this a great take along. The company also makes a Football Guys set. Both sets are great for dramatic play. We like the fact that there are no directions--leaving the play up to your child's imagination. Hooray! (or should we say Score!)

Age: Preschool,Early School Years. Award Year: 2004.

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2004 Award
Bucket Blast
(LoLo $34.99 Score:) This arrived too late for our 2004 book, but it's a winner! Our mixed-aged testors(5-9) had fun not only playing inside and outside but also making up their own games. About thte only thing they didn't like was misplacing a few beanbags! The product not only held interest after the newness wore off...our testors friends asked if they could play Bucket Blast at a sleep over party this weekend. These are 9 year old girls- but the 5 year old brother in the group loved it,too. The buckets that strap onto the and belts are sturdy, and easily assembled. The kids were able to assemble them. This is a fun active game with 15 suggested games and room for kids to make up their own. It's a fun game set for indoors, outdoors. Our parent tester wrote, "Easy to take to the beach or even just fun day trips where there is a block of time whether a picnic or something, great time could be had by all." Kids learn a lot about turn taking, color recognition, counting and team playing. According to our parent tester ...."There was very little bickering going on with this. The kids all seemed to find their own place and were able to play at whatever level they could. They all enjoyed it." (800)760-9930.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2004.

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2003 Award
Timely Reader Booklights
(Capstone Industries $14.95 Score:) Better than the old flashlight under the covers trick for avid readers! The light plastic booklight attaches easily to your book and even comes with a timer. A great choice for inspiring reluctant readers and true readers will appreciate the added light! You can set the timer for up to 90 minutes. Comes in red, neon colors, and animal prints.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2003.

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Learn Through Music System
(Fisher-Price $29.97 Score:) We had great hopes for this interactive toy that features learning familiar concepts with well known characters (Blue, Barney, Dora, Elmo), a moving screen and touch screen technology. Sounds like everything you'd want in an electronic toy for older tots and preschoolers - not 18 mos., though. But it's not just the age label that is off. While our testers liked pushing the buttons, we found the content confusing.  On the Blue's Clue color concept game, the "blue" page had way too much purple on it.  The "red" page has more orange than red to add to the confusion. The lights that go off whenever a new color is announced are always "yellowish/orange".  If your child already knows his concepts, this might be a fun interactive toy but it will be likely to confuse kids still working on gaining an understanding of these concepts. Using paints would work a lot better and especially in the mixing color department-hands on experience with food coloring or paint will make the whole concept a lot clearer than words can do!

Age: Preschool. Award Year: 2004.

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2004 Award
Bitty Baby Double Stroller
(Pleasant Company $48 Score:) With so many real double stroller around, it seemed only right that there should be a version for dolls. Designed to go with the American Girl's Bitty Baby collection which offers a wide range of multi-ethnic dolls. There is also a twins collection (unfortunately only available in fair skin). The stroller does collapse for storage purposes.

Age: Preschool,Early School Years. Award Year: 2004.

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2004 Award
Musical Ferris Wheel
(KNEX $49.99 Score:)

This product has been DISCONTINUED. Our 11-year old female tester raved about this ferris wheel that plays music as it spins. It took her a good part of a Saturday morning to finish. She found the directions to be clear and was even thinking about taking it apart to try the other two models you can build with the same pieces. The ferris wheel is a satisfying 3 feet tall when fully built. As with all building kits, if you have a beginner, this is not the place to start! However, this would be a fun parent child project for a cold winter's day.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2004.

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2006 Award
LeapFrog Leapster L MAX
(LeapFrog $79.99 Score:)

We told you about the Leapster way back in 2006. It's still a great travel toy, plus a simple cable connection that will put Leapster games on your TV screen, so it can be used either way. Now it's a good take-along that can also be plugged in at Grandma's. Without the usual frenetic pace, these games respond to your child and are more than zap and blast games. If you have been looking for a hand held game machine that's more appropriate than Gameboy for the youngest player look no further. Billed as a learning machine it’s a lot more playful than most. The games and skills are well targeted to older preschoolers and early school age kids. It has a larger screen and games that can be played at three levels of difficulty. There are math, phonics, reading and spelling games and an art program that takes some help to learn how to use. We really liked the Letters on the Loose cartridge but we'd skip the Batman cartridge (too scary looking for the age group). The Spiderman cartridge is recommended and has a softer edge to it than Batman. This is a little heavy for hand held operation, but not too big for a lap or table top. The stylus is easy to use and the screen responds well. Software cartridges are available for pre-K, Kindergarten and 1st Grade. 4-8. Among our favorite games, Letterpillar, and Cosmic Math with addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. 4–8. PLATINUM AWARD ’06. (800) 701-5327. 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: 2006. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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LittleTouch Leap Pad
(LeapFrog $34.99 Score:) As electronic readers go this one is a breakthrough product that actually uses real picture books on their talking platform-granted so far there are just a few titles but the manufacturer promises more. “Guess How Much I Love You” ($14.99) one of our award winners has been adapted to the talking machine with add-on activities that will entertain and delight young listeners. Many of the other titles are “knowing & naming” books, All this would be fun for toddlers and parent to explore together. However, our testers noted, as we did that you need a BIG touch to activate the story. One needs to use a fair amount of pressure, so this may require more parental involvement. We think that’s a plus when you are dealing with toddlers- but probably needs some fine tuning by the manufacturer. Others have also complained about the on off switch being too easy for tots to find and use! We think all these problems will be reworked soon. Will this replace a book for tots to taste, toss, and explore without sounds? Not at all. Nor will it replace a warm lap and a book in hand. But as a first electronic reader- it’s a brave new world choice. They say 6 months & up--we’d say more like 18 months.

Age: Toddlers,Preschool. Award Year: .

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