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Product Type: Toys

 

Erector Vehicles
(Brio $32 Score:) One tester told us that the starter set was hard but "awesome" while another said it was "way too frustrating." That's how it is with Erector sets—you either love 'em or you don't. That said, your best bet is to try a smaller "starter" set. Design Set 1 builds three different motorcycles and tested better than last year’s small models. New for this year, Design Radio Controlled 4x4 Truck ($100/618 pieces) is the first remote-controlled Erector vehicle. Builds three models with a 9.6V motor. For advanced builders, Renault Formula 1 Car ($200/809 pieces). Both looked promising, but were not ready for testing. 10 & up. (888) 274-6869.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: .

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2004 Award
Fancy Prancy Princess Tooth Fairy
(North American Bear Co. $14 Score:)

With a special little bag for a newly lost tooth, this little 8" fairy winged doll in lavender, yellow, or pink can wait up for the regular tooth fairy to arrive and leave something special for this major event. 5 & up.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2004. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2004 Award
Olivia Saves the Circus Set
(Madame Alexander $99 Score:) This collection is as scrumptious as Olivia herself. The Circus Set comes in a big hatbox with ringmaster, clown, tight rope-walker, and dog and lion trainer outfits. Lion, dog, and pop-up tent also included. Olivia's Trunk Set ($85) also is very special with Olivia plus ball gown, bathing suit, tutu, two dresses, and lots of jewelry. You can buy Olivia in her red sailor dress with her red purse, striped tights-with articulated ears. 3 & up.

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

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2004 Award
American Girl Kailey
(American Girl $84 Score:) The company alternates each year between historic dolls and current dolls. This year, Kailey is a very California girl with long blond hair and boogie board! Her story focuses on saving the tide pools from a local developer. Still top rated, Kaya, the first Native American doll from the Nez Perce people in the collection. PLATINUM AWARD '03. 7 & up.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2004.

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2004 Awards
Teaching Cash Register
(Learning Resources $44.95 Score:) A clever way to combine math skills with pretend play! When kids play store with this smart new register they learn to use a calculator, make change, use coupons and charge cards, and even check the customer's credit! It has a pretend scale plus a three-level coin game that asks kids to deposit specific amounts. The screen tallies and kids press enter to self-correct. Be sure the "CB" (Coin Bank) cover is snapped in place! Still recommended, the quiz-free Play Calculator Cash Register ($39.95). PLATINUM AWARD '00. SNAP: Use real coins for a knowing naming game.the calculator says the names of the coins in one mode and asks for certain coins in another mode. A good tool for building practical money-math skills. ACTIVITY: PLay a swapping game...trade two nickels for one dime...what other coins will you trade for another dime? Check out answers in the coin bank that talks on this toy. Play money or real work equally well.

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

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2005 Award
Sew and Decorate Lacing Puppets
(Lauri $4.99 Score:) Choose from a variety of precut felt puppets, such as a green witch, bunnies, bugs, or circus animals. New this year, a big Fairy Fantasy Set with six precut 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. (800) 451-0520.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2005.

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2004 Award
Costumals
(Manhattan Toy $10 Score:) It's hard not to play with these animals dressed up in costumes. There's Beesly Bear, Daisy Dog, and Cleo Cat. Still top rated, Knightingtales Puppets ($10 each). You need all five fingers to make the most of these velour royals-a king, queen, and knight. Perfect for fairy tales.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2004.

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2004 Award
Border Collie Puppy
(Folkmanis $36 Score:) Black and white with long silky fur on underside, jowls, and tail, this is a huggable full-body puppet with sweet face and mouth that moves. Still charming, a 30" honey-colored Golden Retriever ($60 ) Also new for , an amazing Great Horned Owl ($50 ) with moving head and eyes that close.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2004.

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2004 Award
Royal Treatment Theatre Set
(Manhattan Toy $50 Score:) A royal blue brick velour tabletop stage has a foldout platform on which finger puppets can perform. Or consider Puppettos Theatre Stage (same idea but done in teal with a red curtain—not our favorite color combo, but that’s a personal preference). Top-rated puppets include the new-for-2007, Finger Puppets Under the Sea, and Paws at Play (dogs and cats) collections. Still top rated: Metropolicity Community worker types, Birthday Belles, and Royal Rumpus Finger Puppets. 4 & up. (800) 541-1345

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2004.

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2004 Awards
Music Blocks Composer
(Small world toys $49.99 Score:) A less costly version of one of our favorite toys. Like the original Music Blocks Maestro, it comes with five colored plastic blocks, each side making a different sound. Match the shapes on the blocks or play them in random order-there's no right or wrong way. The "composer" allows you to record and play back your composition. Comes with one jazz cartridge; we'd suggest bringing home the Mozart cartridge, too. The original Music Blocks Maestro is still available ($59.99) with compositions from Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven. SNAP:Kids with visual disabilities can "read" raised symbols with their fingertips on the blocks.

Age: Toddlers. Award Year: 2004.

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