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Product Type: Toys

 

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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2003 Awards
Playmobil Airport
(Playmobil $99 Score:) Build the Boarding Gate and Tower with working elevator and baggage carousel. Other accessories: Jet Liner with 20" wingspan ($44.99 ) with pilot and flight attendant, folding steps, and removable roof. These are good parent/child building projects, but make no mistake, an adult must do most of the building. Once it's built, it will be a wonderful mini-play setting for dramatic play. 5 & up.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2003.

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2003 Award
Lace-a-Saurus
(Lauri $11.99 Score:) These precut felt puppets with a dino theme are just right for your dinosaur fan with six pre-cut dinosaur hand puppets and one finger puppet. Kids lace them up and use them for storytelling. Kits come with yarn and big plastic needle for sewing (which develops fine-motor skills kids need for writing). 5 & up.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2003.

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2003 Award
Griffin puppet
(Folkmanis $50 Score:) All of this company's oversized puppets double as big huggables that older kids enjoy. The mythical Griffin had great appeal to older kid testers and adults. 5 & up. We fell in love with the company's 30" honey-colored Retriever. Also special, a furry 23" Giant Panda puppet ($56 ) with velvety paws and leathery claws. 5 & up.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2003.

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2003 Awards
Paint-Your-Own Chair
(Action Products $34.99 Score:) A '50s-styled 36" folding canvas sling chair that kids paint with their own design. However, the company's Bubble Chair ($16 ) received poor marks from our testers for being too small and hard to paint.

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

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2003 Award
Le Most Cute Objects & Hand Painted Shakers
(Creativity for Kids $14 Score:) Three charming ceramic boxes, shaped like an over-stuffed chair, a tiny birdhouse, and a stack of luggage. These come glazed in white with metal rims, hinges and clasps. Kids can paint and either bake them or simply leave them for a week to lock the colors. Since these have more details to paint than most, they are a better choice for older painters with the dexterity for fine details. Also new for 2003, Hand Painted Shakers ($12 12) Two hefty white ceramic shakers for salt or pepper. Still top rated, Paint Your Own Ceramic Tea Set ($15 ) or a Dog Dish ($18 ). Adult supervision required for baking. 7 & up.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2003.

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2008 Awards
Elmer's 3D Washable Paint Pens
(Elmer's $14.99 Score:)

Imagine getting a set of 31 squeezable "pens" with writing tips for drawing on posters or cards. Paints puff when dry and set includes primary colors plus pastels, glitter, and pearlized pens. This is a wow-wee kind of present that will get lots of use. Editor's note: These pens have been updated this year with gender-specific themes from Disney (fairies, cars, and princesses). While we preferred the gender-free cast of the original sets (Platinum from 2003) --these are still a great choice and the price still makes this a really affordable gift.

SNAP Activity: Motivating kids to practice writing just got easier with this huge set of colorful gluepens. To get the feel for shaping letters or numbers, this is a terrific material. Write letters that he needs to practice on separate index cards. Now have child trace the letters and make them big enough to see with ease. Make one card with the upper case and a matching card with the lower case. When the cards are dry your child will be able to play a mach it up game, matching the upper and lower case letters. The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements. We did not independently test this toy in a lab.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2008. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2003 Award
Crayola Window FX
(Crayola $3.99 Score:) Remember using glass wax with stencils for holiday decorations? Here's a much more colorful and easy-to-use update! These window paint markers allow kids to draw directly on windows and glass doors, AND it comes right off with water. An open-ended product for all seasons. 4 & up.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2003.

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2003 Award
Scrambled States of America
(Gamewright $11.99 Score:)

There was disagreement from our testers on this geography game, where the object is to collect as many state cards as possible by matching factoids with the right state. One parent noted that a good part of the game has nothing to do with geography, which is true. But it is a painless way to introduce kids to the US map, states, capitals, and nicknames. Given the poor level of geography knowledge in our country--any opportunity to work on these skills is a plus in our book. We'd also recommend putting up a map in your house--Where does grandma live?  Where have you been on vacation?  Where does the President live?  8 & up.

The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements. We did not independently test this toy in a lab.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2003. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2003 Awards
Monopoly: The American Edition
(Parker Brothers $29.99 Score:) Our Monopoly fans were delighted with additions to the traditional game, which include trivia questions in order to get out of jail! Play pieces include slices of Americana, including apple pie and the Liberty Bell. You're playing for the Grand Canyon, the Declaration of Independence, and the Phonograph.

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

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