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Product Type: Toys

 


2003 Award
Ello
(Mattel $19.95 Score:) Designed to attract girls to construction toys, this is an innovative building system with panels and Matisse-inspired cutout disks that can be joined with square and circular connectors, string and slender sticks for adding extra flair. Research has indicated that playing with blocks and building sets help to develop important spatial relations and math skills needed for later achievement in math, engineering and science. Unfortunately too many sets on the market are geared only for boys. We particularly liked the look of the Ello-opolis set, which has a modern art feel, or the underwater Ello Aquaria set. (Imagine Matisse or Calder designing a construction set!) They have an engaging color palette (refreshingly not all pink!) and have interesting building pieces that lend themselves for open-ended play.

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

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FurReal Friends Kitten
(Hasbro $35 Score:) If you have a child who is allergic to cats but wants one madly, this might do the trick! Our tester loved the way this big white furry angora type cat responded with motion and sounds to the touch. Looks a lot like Snowbell in the Stuart Little movie. With sensors in its cheeks, head, back, shoulder and tail this is the most life-like cat we've ever tested. But it doesn't always do what's expected. It purrs, meows, moves its head and tail. The problem is it also seems to roar with some very un-cat like sounds! Comes with a brush for grooming and an adoption certificate. 6 & up. (800) 752-9755.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2002.

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Awards
TotSports Bowling Set
(Little Tikes $14.99 Score:) Six see-through plastic pins are loaded with colorful balls that shake rattle and roll when they are knocked over with the big but lightweight bowling ball. A good classic toy with a fresh new look. Fun for active play indoors or out. Says 2 & up, but 2's won't understand this or enjoy it as much as preschoolers and even early school aged kids. See the SNAP suggestions for making a math game for older kids (800) 432-5437. SNAP Activity: This is a good game that develops eye hand coordination and requires repetitive setting up and fetching the ball. Taking turns and following rules are also built into the fun. Young kids love such games for their own sake and especially if the grown-ups in their lives are bowlers, too. If appropriate, you can build some simple counting or adding skills with this,as well. With preschoolers, keep track of how many pins were knocked down. Keep a tally with chalk or pencil and paper. Make bundles of five stick marks. Player who gets two bundles first is the winner of that round. For school aged kids, tape numerals 1-6 to the pins and have your child add up the scores. Set a number for grand slam winner. First player to knock down ten wins the round!

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

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Awards
Plan Toys Fruit Play Set
(Brio $15 Score:) Like a real knife, there's a right and wrong side of the wooden "knife" that kids use to cut apart Velcroed halves of three wooden fruits. Veggies set also available. SNAP: Wooden fruits and veggies can be “cut” apart with wooden knife that seems to cut the Velcro-ed segments. Comes with lemon, orange, pear, mushroom, carrot, and tomato, plus board and wooden knife. Activity: Use fraction words when you ask child to cut you a half of one fruit or a quarter of something else. (888) 274-6869.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: .

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2002 Awards
Lacing Beads in a Box
(Lights, Camera, Interaction! $15 Score:) Thirty painted wooden shapes (rectangles, squares, triangles, circles and ovals) come with colorful patterns. The squares are marked with numerals from 1 to 10. Comes with two long laces (red and green) and all are neatly contained in a wooden box with a plexiglass sliding top for storage. An open ended toy with multiple types of learning possibilities. Talk with your child about making patterns with the numbers, patterns and shapes. SNAP Award: Encourage your child to sequence the numerals in order; also work on making patterns with shapes or colors. If you use a red, then a green, then a red, ...what comes next? Work on simple patterns and gradually make them more complex. This is really an open ended set for developing language, fine motor and math skills.

Age: Preschool,Early School Years. Award Year: 2002.

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2002 Award
Buy It Right Shopping Game
(Learning Resources $19.95 Score:) Making change and shopping is not always clear to kids who don't get to handle more than their milk money at lunch. This game involves a lot of buying and selling and some flexible thinking. Kids roll three numeral dice and decide if they want to call a 4, 2, 1 $4.21 or $1.24...a choice that depends on if they are buying or selling. This comes with 100 realistic looking plastic coins and 40 play bills and a working calculator. Unlike a lot of mall shopping games aimed at girls, this is a gender free game that will be enjoyed by boys and girls. 6 & up.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2002.

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2003 Award
Talking Math Mat Challenge Game
(Learning Resources $29.95 Score:) This is one way to help kids learn math facts while thinking on their feet! Kids step on the vinyl mat to answer the math quiz that's programmed with two levels of difficulty. Level one asks kids to find a numeral named, simple addition, and subtraction. Level two asks for the "next" number in a sequence of three as in 5,4,? Or 5,6,?; Addition and subtraction jumps to missing factors as in 11 + ? is 15. Keep in mind that beginners need concrete materials to count before they learn the facts in rapid fire fashion. So this is more fun than flash cards, but not very different in content. It's for children who are ready for drill. Labeled 4-7, most fours will do only the numeral game. This is far more appropriate for mid-first and second graders. Forget the newer Factor Frenzy () and Light ‘N Strike Math (). Both require too many steps to enter an answer—totally frustrating. We passed on the Alpha-Bug Step ’n Spell, which became too difficult too quickly and was not especially responsive. Also, testers gave the new-for-2007 ABC Chalk Talk! ($39.95 ) thumbs down because it is “buggy.” Players correctly identified “c” as the first letter of cup, but were told repeatedly that they were wrong. The tone of the machine isn’t mean but isn’t very pleasant, either. (800) 222-3909. SNAP AWARD ChIldren who avoid pencil and paper tasks, for any number of reasons, will find this active math drill game entertaining as well as getting practice with beginning math skills. However this is not a tool for kids who still need concrete materials to count. It's several steps beyond that.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2003.

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2002 Award
Hisss
(Gamewright $10 Score:)

This game is fun, fast-paced, interactive and helps reinforce color concepts. Comes with 50 snake tiles that are part of the snake (head, tail, body section). The object is to build and collect the most snakes for your snake pit. Players take turns drawing cards and matching colors to the snakes under construction on the desk. The cards are made of sturdy stock and the graphics are colorful and not scary! As the instructions indicate you did need a large playing surface for this game which we believe would be most enjoyed by 4-7s.

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

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2002. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2002 Award
Dreamy Ribbon Jewelry
(Creativity for Kids $12 Score:) You'll need to help younger rtists thread the organdy ribbon into the needle and you'll want to keep track of tha needle,too, since it is pretty sharp. That said, this makes an assortment of charming necklaces and bracelets. Kit includes colorful gems and silver beads plus magnetic clasps. We think this will appeal to slightly younger girls than the Bead SHop version which has more serious looking beads and organdy that needs to be cut in a point and stiffened with nail polish. Kids are going to love the finished pieces. This is as the maker says, on the mark (with adult help) for 7s and up.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2002.

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Dot to Dot Markers To Go
(Alex $19 Score:) An updated version of Markers to Go with a new see through red polka dotted vinyl finish. Both boys and girls will enjoy using this container with 50 assorted colorful markers that unfolds like a make-up case with a velcro closure. (Don't let the make-up case reference throw you off- this will appeal to boys as well. It has blue trim and a green handle). There are four zippered compartments that hold 28 fine tip markers, 14 brush tip markers and 8 broad markers. Great for homework assignments and traveling with an young artist. Makes a terrific birthday present.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2002.

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