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Product Type: Toys

 


2006 Award
Naturally Playful Welcome Home Playhouse
(Step 2 $550 Score:) This oversized 66" high house will accommodate growing children and has bay windows, full kitchen, doorbell, and room for multiple children. “She loves playing peek-a-boo and having her own special space,” wrote our tester’s mother. The smaller Adobe House ($299) is 55" high, has small kitchen, sand tones, red “tile” roof, and stucco adobe look. (800) 347-8372.

Age: Preschool. Award Year: 2006.

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2006 Award
Jump 'n Slide
(Little Tikes $200 Score:) The neighborhood kids that tested this new inflatable toy had one word: “Great!” Ideal for the 2–5 year old range. (Older testers were disappointed that it didn’t have enough bounce for them.) Parents liked the protective walls on the sides and loved the extra-wide slide. Great fun for a birthday party and just backyard fun, but does require parental supervision. Like an air mattress, it inflates quickly with the built-in pump (also a plus). 3 & up. (800) 321-0183.

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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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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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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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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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
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
Hairstyling & Make-Up Head
(Corolle $29.95 Score:) If your child is into serious hair play, here’s a dream gift (although it might creep other family members). Corolle’s Hairstyling & Make-Up Head ($29.95 ) is just the head and shoulders of a beautiful blond doll with plenty of hair to brush and style. Kit also comes with make-up for the doll (of course). (800) 668-4846. If you’re looking for a more grown-up head of hair (with really bad chunky highlights), consider Barbie Fashion Fever Styling Head (Mattel $19.99 ). (800) 524-8697. (Editors’ note: We’re not big on hair play as a pre-occupation, but these styling heads might help encourage good grooming and reduce the common hassles over real hair care.)

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2006.

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2006 Award
Polar Bear Puppet
(Folkmanis $36 Score:) Polar bears are beloved in our office. This is a formidable bear. On a more domestic scale, there is also a new adorable 13" brown Tabby Cat ($22 ), the favorite of one of our toddler testers! Also interesting, dragon puppets that sit on a shoulder and are operated with a hand lever. Not ready for testing. Still charming, a 30" honey-colored Golden Retriever ($60 ). (800) 654-8922.

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

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