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Product Type: Toys

 


2006 Award
Star Wars Game Saga Edition
(Tiger Electronics $49.99 Score:) Plug the training droid into your TV and players with wireless light saber are ready to become Jedi warriors. Testers had an aerobic workout swinging the light saber and ridding the galaxy of droids and other evildoers! We don’t usually review zap-it games, but this is more fantasy than war, and multi-generational—may even get parents up and on their feet! May the Force be with you. 8 & up. (888) 836-7025.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2006.

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2006 Award
Roll-a-Rounds Swirlin' Surprise Gumballs
(Fisher-Price $17.99 Score:) Roll-a-Rounds Swirlin’ Surprise Gumballs is a ball drop with a lever that pops the gumballs out. It employs more direct cause and effect, but it does tip over easily. Either is a better choice than the Jungle Friends Treehouse, a frenetic ball drop with over-the-top sounds and twirling bases. We really like the big Drop & Roar Dinosaur best. (800) 432-5437.

Age: Toddlers. Award Year: 2006.

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2006 Awards
WonderFoam Big Letters
(Chenille Kraft Co. $11.5 Score:) Twenty-six big colorful foam letters. These are fun to trace and stick to the wet wall of the tub to spell out names and words. These have an interesting texture, as well, that make them an even better sensory learning tool. Activity: Because these letters have a textured finish they can be used for crayon rubs. Put a sheet of paper on top of a letter and use the side of a crayon to rub over the letter. Make a name sign with rubbings. Also, WonderFoam Magnetic Letters and Numbers ($10.50 )—unlike old-time plastic magnetic letters with tiny magnets that can be a choking hazard, these foam letters are completely backed with magnetic material that mirrors their shape. Also, new WonderFoam Dominoes SNAP AWARD ($15.50 ) Twenty-eight big dominoes with colorful dots that are color-coded to match. One can feel some sensory information in the cut-out form of the dots. They are not raised, but you can feel their outline. A great matching game. (800) 621-1261.

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

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2005 Award
IZ
(Zizzle $39.99 Score:) IZ looks like a playful alien. Twist his ears,nose and eyes and you will activiate a random collection of sound effects and music. Plug IZ into your MP3 player and he now becomes a speaker. We put IZ to the test against I-DOG, the ipod inspired pup from Hasbro. IZ appealed much more to boys (young and old). Our girl testers felt that IZ was cute but "younger looking" than I-DOG. Our 11 year old boy tester wrote: "It was still appealing after the newness wore off. It would be a cool desk toy to fool around with in the duller hours of the day." Boys generally liked the robotic, alien design of IZ. This same tester hit the toy on the head: "I found IZ, besides being entertaining, a bit pointless. But, then again, fun can sometimes be pointless, right?" We agree.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2005.

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Dora the Explorer Talking Kitchen
(Fisher-Price $79.99 Score:) If you have a fan of Dora at home, this will be a very tempting gift. Our recommendation would be to buy a Dora doll or Dora DVD to fulfill that Dora need, but to pass on this toy kitchen. Our first objection to this kitchen is that it talks, alot. Preschoolers can and should make up their own pretend stories about what they're cooking. To have the toy direct the action misses the point of having kids use their own language and imagination -- trust us they have plenty of both once they get started. Our other complaint about this toy is its design. It looks like a licensor's fantasy. While we like many licensed based toys, the kitchen has a very large plastic Dora that struck us as over the top. Instead, we'd recommend one of the non-talking plastic kitchens from Step 2 or Little Tikes or the wooden appliances from Small World Toys.

Age: Preschool. Award Year: 2006.

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2006 Award
Pixel Chix
(Mattel $29.95 Score:) Watch a 2-D image of a girl move about in her house. Help her pick what's she going to do (rollerblade vs. watch TV), what she's going to eat or wear. There are five different levels of play and, like a virtual pet, she'll let you know if she's happy or sad. The coolest feature: you can connect two houses together and the chix will visit each other. A little noisy at times but will fit in a backpack for on the go fun.

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

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Furby
(Hasbro $ Score:) Furby is back this year with what the company calls "Emotio-tronics". This larger furry creature now promises to display happiness,sadness, surprise, fear and of course, sleepiness (what's an electronic creature without the sleep mode?) Sometimes Furby sounds a bit like Yoda as he speaks his Furbish. A pure novelty that will likely end up sitting on the shelf after the initial furbishness wears off.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2006.

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VCamNow
(Hasbro $74.99 Score:) Our testers were looking forward to putting the VCamNow and Mattel's Vidster to the test. The idea of a video camera for kids under $100 is very appealing. Rather than hand off your own expensive video camera and hoping for the best, these small kid friendly options seemed like a great breakthrough. Both cameras got initial high marks for design. "Kids this age want gadgets that look like the real thing" noted one parent. However, both products did not test well with our tech savvy kids and their parents. The Vidster view finder was blurry and the output was too dark even when the testers added lots of light. The VCamNow had a clear view finder image, but the output was very blurry. "I would have taken both products back" noted one parent.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2006.

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Ribbon and Felt Tote
(Creativity for Kids $15.99 Score:) This wonderful hassle-free, no-mess craft kit features a pink cotton tote bag that is decorated with stick-on cutout shapes and a striped ribbon that trims the top by simply threading it through like a belt. This would have been a Platinum winner had it arrived earlier. Big enough to hold a small book and other treasures, this is an art project that will be worn with pride. No sewing or glue required. 6 & up.

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

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Lite Brite FX Flash Art
(Hasbro $19.99 Score:) Here’s the new twist on your old spin art machine. This one comes with neon paint and black cardboard designs cards. Turn off the lights and add paint as it spins. Watching paint turn into ever changing designs is the best part of this toy. But be forewarned, the end product is not as attractive when it stops AND there are only seven cards in the set. You’ll need lots of refills for this one at $6.99 a pop. It also has annoying music-that can be switched off but the label also warns that this paint can stain, so watch where they use this one! It’s one of those novelty items that will probably run out of pizzazz before the batteries run out. We tried it with big hot colored index cards and it’s not bad. 5 & up.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2006.

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