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Product Type: Toys

 


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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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 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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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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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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GeoSafari Challenge Globe
(Educational Insights $59 Score:) We had trouble knowing how to "buzz in" on the quiz-styled globe with 7,500 questions for up to four players. Like all the new talking globes, you can't answer many of the questions by simply using the globe-better have an atlas! 8 & up. The GeoSafari World ($59) has 5,000 questions, but again you'd need an atlas, since many questions cannot be answered by looking at the globe.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: .

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2003 Award
Scratch Magic Activity Kits
(Scratch-Art Co. $4.99 Score:) Remember making scratch art with crayon scribbles covered with black paint that you scratch away? These sheets give you the same effect. Come in small packs and in stationery kits. New for 2003, Scratch Magic Stickers (20 or 48 stickers in a pack). These are fun for notebooks, envelopes and gift wrap decorations! 5 & up.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2003.

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2003 Award
Down by the Docks Train Set
(RC2 Learning Curve $150 Score:) This "wow-ee" of a 45 piece gift set includes the Sodor Bay Bridge, a Lighthouse, and a Crane (with working magnet). Don't get caught up with the playmat, which is limiting—train layouts should be open-ended. Or, for a good, but less expensive layout ,consider the Conductor's Figure 8 Set (Learning Curve $44 ), a good starter set with 25 pieces, including a conductor's shed, tree, stop sign, signal, Sir Topham Hatt, and ramp. Comes with three train pieces. You can gradually add on bridges and other props for birthdays and other gift events. Still top rated, Around the Barrel Loader Set ($100/50 pieces ).

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

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2003 Award
Extreme Sports X Mountain
(Ritvik (Mega Bloks) $19.99 Score:) Our extreme sports fans gave high marks ot this set because it had lots of play figures to use (although they noted that the ramp "didn't stay on as well as it should!"). Our 8- and 9-year-old testers preferred this to the Island Adventure series from Lego, because it came with more cool vehicles. Either way, no trips to the ER! (800) 465-6342.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2003.

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2003 Award
Look-Alikes Playground
(Briarpatch $5.99 Score:) (Briarpatch $5.99 four ) Joan Steiner's wonderful scenes of everyday life are a perfect fit for puzzles (ha!). Sixty-three pieces make up this inventive playground, including a tambourine for a sandbox and a shoehorn for a slide! Also fun, Look-Alikes Harbor. 8 & up. Or try Look-Alikes Soda Shop with 500 pieces. They say 7 & up, we say a good family project!

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

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