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Product Type: Toys

 


2006 Award
Rock Castle
(Playmobil $79.99 Score:) Playmobil’s Knights’ Empire Castle uses the company’s new SystemX, which is designed for shorter assembly time and durability. Comes with a working gate and dungeon and looks like the classic friendly Playmobil settings of years past. By comparison, Rock Castle ($79.99 ) has a more sinister feel to it. Suggested add-on, the Red Dragon (because you always need a dragon), is sold separately. Projectile cannons sold separately. Also darker in feel than their previous castles is Lego’s new Vladek’s Dark Fortress ($99 ), which comes with catapults. Most kids love the action of projectiles until one hits them. 8–12. (800) 233-8756.

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

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2006 Award
Hairstyling & Make-Up Head
(Corolle $29.95 Score:) If your child is into serious hair play, here’s a dream gift (although it might creep other family members). Corolle’s Hairstyling & Make-Up Head ($29.95 ) is just the head and shoulders of a beautiful blond doll with plenty of hair to brush and style. Kit also comes with make-up for the doll (of course). (800) 668-4846. If you’re looking for a more grown-up head of hair (with really bad chunky highlights), consider Barbie Fashion Fever Styling Head (Mattel $19.99 ). (800) 524-8697. (Editors’ note: We’re not big on hair play as a pre-occupation, but these styling heads might help encourage good grooming and reduce the common hassles over real hair care.)

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2006.

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2006 Award
Polar Bear Puppet
(Folkmanis $36 Score:) Polar bears are beloved in our office. This is a formidable bear. On a more domestic scale, there is also a new adorable 13" brown Tabby Cat ($22 ), the favorite of one of our toddler testers! Also interesting, dragon puppets that sit on a shoulder and are operated with a hand lever. Not ready for testing. Still charming, a 30" honey-colored Golden Retriever ($60 ). (800) 654-8922.

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

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2006 Award
Farm Puppets Lacing Craft Kit
(Lauri $12.99 Score:) The latest in the wonderful collection of precut felt puppets (among other themes: bunnies, bugs, circus animals). 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: 2006.

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2006 Award
Magical Mystique Puppets
(Manhattan Toy $10 Score:) These hand puppets are perfect for fairy tales: a splendid new dragon, a unicorn, and a pup who’s dressed as a wizard. Still top rated, Knightingtales Pup-pets ($10 each). You need all five fingers to make the most of these velour royals—a king, queen, and knight. (800) 541-1345.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2006.

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2006 Award
City
(Lego Systems, Inc. $19.99 Score:) The consensus from our builders this year was, “no way a 5 year old could do this.” That said, our older testers enjoyed the city-themed sets that include a Fire and Construction set. Our 8-year-old tester enjoyed building and playing with the Fire Truck ($19.99/214 pieces ) that comes with a movable ladder, two firefighters, and a boat for sea rescues. The same family had more difficulty with the Fire Station ($29.99/260 pieces ). One tester’s parent commented that it’s “like a boy’s ultimate dollhouse,” but the 6-year-old builder had trouble following the directions and the lift in the station “did not work well.” Once assembled it was enjoyed as a pretend setting. Marked 5 & up, but most 5s will need assistance. (800) 223-8756.

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

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K'nex Pirate Ship Park
(KNEX $49.99 Score:) Pirate Ship Park is over two feet tall. This motorized kit can build three different amusement park-style rides with screaming sounds and swinging action.Not for beginners! Not available for testing.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2006.

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2006 Award
Bialo
(HaPe $14.95 Score:) Beautifully crafted with bamboo wood, the object here is to launch your wooden play piece into one of the colored circles (this determines how you move around the board). First to complete the outer circle wins. Requires finesse rather than strength. 5 & up.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2006.

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2006 Award
Poppin' Puzzlers
(International Playthings $17.99 Score:) This is a new twist on your old game of Perfection. Only two players use separate sections of the board to try to be the first to put all their playing pieces into the slots before the timer pops the playing pieces. Winner is the one with the fewest playing pieces left. 5 & up. (800) 445-8347.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2006.

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2006 Award
Pretty Pretty Princess Cinderella Game
(Milton Bradley $12.99 Score:) The playing board fits together like a puzzle and girls play to “win” necklaces, rings, and tiaras from the jewelry box in the middle. Kids loved wearing their winnings and the only problem was keeping the game pieces for the next game. 5 & up. (888) 836-7025.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2006.

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