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Product Type: Toys
Age: Early Elementary School Years

 


2015 Award
Mattel Hot Wheels Ultimate Garage
(Mattel $99.99 Score:)

Our 8 and 5-year old testers enjoyed that there were so many stations and ways to play in this massive miniature setting (Whoa! Is that an oxymoron?) It can store up to 36 cars and has eight areas with lights, sounds, and a car-grabbing helicopter. The two elevators stop at four levels of the parking garage and there are side-by-side ramps for racing games as well as a spiral ramp. But watch out! There is a shark at the bottom of that ride. Can you get past those jaws? If you live in tight quarters this may be a bit over the top in terms of storage space. On the other hand all those cars in the hot wheels collection can find a home here. Another good feature is that it’s big enough for two kids to enjoy together having races and doing repairs. A great setting for pretend play. Our parent testers were split on whether this was easy to put together - depends on how handy you are with this type of build. In either case, you'll need to leave yourself some time - it does not come out of the box ready to go. They also liked that the garage was large enough for two kids to enjoy it together.

 

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2015. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2015 Award
Mattel Barbie Eye Doctor Doll & Playset
(Mattel $19.99 Score:)

A play setting complete with eye chart, examining chair and patient comes with Eye Doctor Barbie (who also wears glasses!)  For kids getting their first pair of eye glasses, it's comforting to see Barbie also wearing hers. We like the idea of Barbie roleplaying as an Ophthalmologist, even if they didn't call her that. We could almost call this a step toward S.T.E.M. learning.  A good setting to role play with before kids visit their own eye doctor for a check up. Also available in African American version. 4 & up.

 

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2015. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2015 Award
Creativity for Kids Holiday Snow Globes
(Creativity for Kids $22 Score:)

Our tester was thrilled to be able to make his own snowglobes with this kit that comes with the makings for three good sized globes (something our parents totally appreciated). The kit includes three figurines (Santa, a snowman and a mini reindeer.) You get four packs of special non-drying clay and tools to make setting or other figures for a winter scene. Once the scene is in place glitter packets are added and the globe is snapped on the base. This step may require some adult help. Next you use the small funnel to fill the globe with water and snap the plug in place. We have to say, unlike other globes we tried, this set works and kids can use these as gifts for others or the start of a collection of their own.  If you are looking for a non-holiday theme, consider the new Under the Sea Water Globe set that works the same way but comes with three underwater figurines; a mermaid, octopus and sea horse. Marked for 6 & up.

 

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2015. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2015 Award
Flipping Flags
(R&R Games $6.95 Score:)

A fun card game that is a lot more challenging than the typical concentration game. All the 60 flag cards are placed face down. Players take turns flipping cards and as two matches are found players must shout out and call the name of the country the matching flags represent. But wait, it's not that simple. There are three flags on each card, so there is a lot to look at and you know how similar some flags can be. Matching games are always fun and this one adds a new twist that challenges kids to note fine differences. Also, a great way to get kids to think about all the countries in the world and recognize their flags. A good stocking stuffer. 7 & up.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2015.

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2015 Awards
Light Stax 36 piece Light-up Building Blocks
(Light Stax $39.99 Score:)

All the plastic bricks are the same square size, though in many colors. They come with a base to build upward and outward on. Build patterns, designs or figures. Once you have them in place throw the switch on the base and enjoy a lightshow. Builders can give them a steady light with a 15 minute automatic off or for more fun turn on the flashing mode or try the fade out. Makes an original short-term bedside lamp or timer for lights out. Marked for all ages over 3 but probably a better choice for 5-8.

 

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2015. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2015 Award
R&R Cup-A-Cup Game
(R&R Games $19.99 Score:)

You have to look, think and grab fast in this challenging game. Put the cups out on the table. Players roll the dice and they don't match the geometric or color on the top of the cups; just to opposite! They have to find the missing color or shape that would complete the set. Say you roll a blue square and yellow triangle. The missing color is red and the missing shape is round—be the first to grab it! A brain teaser for 3-8 players ages 6 & up.

 

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2015.

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2015 Award
Journey dolls 2015
(Toys R Us $39.99 each Score:)

This year's Journey dolls are off to Italy! Ciao! As always they are beautifully fitted out for their new adventure. Not only do they all have different colored hair, these girls are individuals. Each has a unique face with no look-alikes in the crowd. Mikaella is wearing brocaded silvery trousers with a purple sweater trimmed with silver embroidery. Her long auburn hair in a side braid is ready for styling. She likes cooking and baking. Maybe in Italy she'll master homemade pasta! She and her friends are going on a side trip to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, they’ll tour the Coliseum in Rome and in Venice they'll ride in a Gondola. Bring on the Gelato! Meredith, is a blonde beauty who loves sports. She's dressed for going out on the town in a white skirt, blue knit pullover and hot pink bag and matching shoes. Callie, a dancer, is an Asian American girl with beautiful black hair. She's dressed in a pink eyelet zippered jacket, matching hair band, a black velvet skirt, white tee and pink shoes. Kelsey, a stunning redhead, is an outdoor type but for Italy, she is done up in a denim blue embroidered dress with a poofy black headband and black shoes and handbag. Kyla is an artist dressed in a hot pink wrap skirt with a tee that says Ciao! She is a girl of color with brownish hair and hazel eyes. Dana is an animal lover who wears dark rimmed glasses that match her dark brown hair. She is wearing a fake fur vest over a grey knit sweater and jeans with her high brown boots and animal print tote. Chavonne is perhaps the most striking of the group; a talented singer, a girl of color with glorious Afro style hair and hazel eyes. She's wearing floral pants, a striped tee and a hot pink jacket with big white buttons.

 

Age: Preschool, Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2015.

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2015 Award
Tween Scene Kimani Prettie Girl Doll
(One World Doll Project $29.99 Score:)

One of a new collection of Prettie Girls, only younger looking than earlier models. Meet Kimani, a tween and a creative type, dressed in colorful floral tights, a pink and white cut-off top, yellow rain boots and matching bag. Inspired by her childhood love of Barbie and a career that started with designing dolls of color for Mattel, Stacey McBride-Irby introduced her first Prettie dolls as young women; these Tweens are larger than a Barbie, but clearly designed to look like girls not women. Like girls of color, the Tween Scene Prettie Girls come in varying skin tones and hair. Consider Valencia, Dahlia, and Lena, other Prettie girls in this collection. Marked 3 & up, we think they will make a hit with slightly older girls.

 

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2015.

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2015 Award
Tween Scene Lena Prettie Girl Doll
(One World Doll Project $29.99 Score:)

One of a new collection of Prettie Girls, only younger looking and larger than earlier Prettie Girl models.  Meet Lena, a tween who is billed as smart. In fact, she is carrying a messenger style bag big enough for her schoolbooks. She's dressed in colorful plaid skirt with turquoise tulle under it, and she comes with a spare knit turquoise shirt. Her hair is done up in a ponytail. Stacey McBride-Irby, inspired by her childhood love of Barbie and a career that started with designing dolls of color for Mattel, introduced her first Prettie dolls as young women; these tweens are 16-inches, larger than a Barbie, but clearly designed to look like girls not women. Also consider Valencia, Dahlia, and Kimani, other Prettie girls in this collection. Like girls of color, the Tween Scene Prettie Girls come in varying skin tones and hair. Marked 3 & up, we think they will make a hit with slightly older girls.

 

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2015.

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2015 Award
DigiPenguins
(Spin Master $11.99 Score:)

If you are collecting stocking stuffers for Christmas or small gifts for Hanukkah, these singing, dancing, and flapping novelty birds will be a hit. Bring home one and it will oblige with a solo act. Bring home two and they will interact. These are sold for less than the stated list price, so they would make fun novelty gifts for visiting cousins, or birthday party guests, too. Kids do need to be able to whistle, however, to activate them. Each comes with a whistle ring that the birdies perch on. Available in multiple colors. Marked 5 and up, but keep in mind, many 5's are not yet able to whistle.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2015. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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