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Product Type: Toys

 

Doucette
(Corolle $24.95 Score:) A multiethnic collection of soft-bodied dolls. We love their polka-dotted outfits and charming faces with painted-on features. These would have been PLATINUM AWARD winners, except for the age label. While these are a perfect choice for 3s & up, small hair accessories and silky hair make them inappropriate for toddlers (the collection is marked 18 mos. & up). Other multicultural collections: Bebe Do ($50 ) come in two skin tones, and Les Minis Calins BLUE CHIP ($16 each) come in Asian and African American versions. (800) 668-4846.

Age: Preschool. Award Year: 2006.

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2006 Award
Shout Elmo
(Fisher-Price $29.99 Score:) This season's Elmo is designed to get kids up and dancing along. He moves his hands around and moves as he asks kids to sing louder and (thankfully) softer. He takes four AA batteries. Marked for 18 mos. and up, we think these are a better choice for prechoolers 3 & up.

Age: Preschool. Award Year: 2006.

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Twin Time Dollhouse
(Fisher-Price $69.95 Score:) This big eight-room house has a patio, garage, a mom and dad and twins, plus 10 pieces of furniture and accessories. It opens to a spacious setting that folds up after playtime is done. The color scheme screams plastic, but a good value for the price. 3 & up. (800) 432-5437.

Age: Preschool. Award Year: 2006.

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2006 Award
Shake 'N Go Speedway
(Fisher-Price $39.99 Score:) This is a closed system with looping tracks, but the upside is kids can use the cars off the track, too. Kids loves the two innovative cars in this racing set that have to be shaken to make them go. Does this mean no batteries? Sorry, Charlie! Still, this is going to make a memorable gift and a better choice than electric trains for this age. 4 & up. (800) 432-5437.

Age: Preschool. Award Year: 2006.

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2006 Award
Thomas & Friends Tidmouth Timber Yard
(RC2/Learning Curve $49.99 Score:) For older train players this is a must-have prop! The wood splits (courtesy of a plastic saw and magnets). The crane is then used to pick up the timber and load the trains that come by. Very, very neat but will be difficult for 3s to use independently—a better choice for 4s and up. Also great fun (and easier to operate), Thomas & Friends Sodor Cement Works ($39.99 )—“cement” drops down from the mixer onto the waiting train below. Fans of castles and trains will also enjoy the new Rolf’s Castle Bridge ($44.99 ) with a castle wall that comes down and a moat below (of course!). (800) 704-8697.

Age: Preschool. Award Year: 2006.

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2006 Award
Double Suspension Bridge
(Brio $25 Score:) This is the longest bridge in the line—three and a half feet long! Can also be used side by side for two-way traffic. Also new, the Speaking Station ($30 1⁄2) A smart station master speaks in English, German, or French, depending on the city shown above the ticket master’s window. Our tester liked the new Stop & Go Station ($16.50 ); with a simple push button the train is locked into the station and then released to go. For the techno-minded engineer, there’s a new sleek Remote Control Express Train, but it was not ready for testing. Still one of our favorites for drama on the tracks, the Collapsing Bridge ($20 ) With a press of a button, the bridge really does collapse. Great for suspenseful train rides. PLATINUM AWARD ’05. (888) 274-6869.

Age: Preschool. Award Year: 2006.

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Bendos
(Kid Galaxy $5 Score:) Perfect for pretend, two new playsets: King’s Court ($15) with throne, king, queen, jester, crowns, and coat of armor; and Jousting Set ($15) with two knights with horses, and plenty of armor. These will appeal to older preschoolers and early school-age kids as well. These bendable action figures are also available as multiethnic athletes, community workers, and animals. They stand up with blocks, fit into vehicles, and satisfy young collectors. 3 & up. (800) 816-1135.

Age: Preschool. Award Year: .

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2006 Award
Flocked Animal Sets
(Melissa & Doug $14.95 Score:) Set of nine Barnyard Friends (or nine Prehistoric Pals, or Pasture Pals, 12 different horses), are perfect for block play. Sets come in wooden display storage boxes that make order out of preschool chaos. 3 & up. (800) 284-3948.

Age: Preschool. Award Year: 2006.

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2006 Award
Kid K'nex Crimpy Critters
(KNEX $9.99 Score:) These up-sized K’nex look related to your old Tinkertoys—our testers especially like the “crimpy pieces.” Testers liked the larger Wild Ones kit ($14.95 ). We’d pass on the new Story Book Pals ($7.99 ) with cheesy (very merchandisy) books (e.g., featuring Chicken Little made out of K’nex). Fitting the pieces together can be challenging and requires finger strength as well as visual discrimination. Marked 3 & up, but we’d say more like 4 & up. (800) 543-5639.

Age: Preschool. Award Year: 2006.

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2006 Award
Dora the Explorer Candy Land
(Milton Bradley $4.5 Score:) Fans of Dora will enjoy this variation of the classic color matching game that incorporates Dora and her friends. Still top rated, Duck Duck Goose ($19.99 ) a fun, easy-to-learn color concept game. PLATINUM AWARD ’05. (888) 836-7025.

Age: Preschool. Award Year: 2006.

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