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Product Type: Toys
Age: Late Elementary School Years

 

Skyrocket Chocolate Pen Kit
(Skyrocket Toys $29.99 Score:)

First we need to confess; we are chocoholics. In spite of that, we usually avoid activity kits that are loaded with sugar. That said, we thought a few holiday sweets would be acceptable and besides--this is such an exceptional concept. Skyrocket's Chocolate pen kit lets you write in liquid confectioners chocolate. Kids can draw one-of-a-kind delicious shapes, letters, or use the molds to make designs. The chocolate melts simply by putting the pen kits in warm water; that's another feature we like a lot. No need to put things in the microwave oven with all the worry of someone getting burned from the hot liquid. The chocolate hardens at room temperature( if you don't eat it first). You might even call this a STEM project, seeing how solids turn to liquids and then back to solids again. Yes, it is educational and neat, too. The chocolate is self-contained and the melted candy never actually touches the pen; so clean up is pretty simple, too. The kit includes a half pound of premium confectioners chocolate in multiple colors, 50 candy molds, multiple pen tips, and gift bags specially made to share your custom candy creations. You could call this a sweet way to learn your letters or make yummy chocolate gifts for friends and family.  Candy Craft refills and themed molds are sold separately. Most of our reviewers had difficulty making the pen work but still gave the kit decent marks because they loved the chocolate and the molds.  Chocolate aside (which is hard for us to do) we think the mechanism needs some tweaking to be an award winner. We look forward to testing the next edition!

 

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

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2015 Award
Goldie Blox Craftstruction Box
(Goldie Blox $39.99 Score:)

With this 275-piece construction set, kids can use the goodies in this box for all kinds of building possibilities; kids can build a Spring Car that really zooms, a flower with a stem that expands, a Leap Bot that actually leaps, a flyer that flings through the air and several other devices. They have a sense of humor as well as a basis in science, helping kids discover how many basic machines actually work. We like the poster that shows various models to build as well as proper names for many of the building parts. GoldieBlox pieces are compatible with all other GoldieBlox toys, as well as special craft items like pipe cleaners, string, and pretty papers. Add other items from around the house to extend the play and recycle materials.  A great STEM toy that will enhance understanding and play. Our testers loved them (including the boys that found the set compelling) - the only complaint was that they are sometimes hard to take apart and require some adult assistance.

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
Thames and Kosmos Dimension Game
(Thames and Kosmos 49 $39.99 Score:)

Dimension is a handsome looking and fast paced game with players racing the timer and other players to arrange their balls to match the image on the task card. Everyone plays at the same time. Players get a point for every ball they use correctly and win a bonus if they manage to use all five. But watch out! You lose two points for any task card you do wrong. 1-4 players. Testers gave this a high five. 10 & up.

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

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Roominate Amusement Park
(Roominate $60 Score:)

We have loved Roominate since the company started with their trailblazing building sets designed to promote STEM toys for girls. Unfortunately our reviewers were disappointed with the latest 282 piece kit that comes with everything to build your own amusement park including a ferris wheel, a pirate ship that swings, a tea cup ride, concession stands, and more. Our reviewers were frustrated that the ferris wheel was not very stable and while the kit comes with a motor, it's not designed to power the ferris wheel.

The kit includes columns, wheels, axles, lights, wall panels, connectors, battery packs, screwdriver, stickers, a doll, a pet, and motor. It requires 6 AAA batteries, not included. The focus of Roominate sets is not just building but learning how to build circuits that will power the rides. The set can be made to work by remote control with what they call rPower (you control via your smartphone or tablet). rPower is sold separately.  8 & up.

 

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2015.

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2015 Award
Zoomer Kitty, Midnight
(Zoomer $99 Score:)

Much like there are cat people and people who dislike cats (a lot), there seems to be the same divide for electronic kittys. We had a real difference of opinion here between families that found the purring annoying to families that loved the feistiness of Zoomer. For one, it was love at first sight for our first tester as Midnight, the magical kitty, showed off her tricks. Midnight comes with a magic wand that will catch her attention when you wave it in front of her and she turns her head from side to side. Her eyes also change color while you play, her way of letting you know how shes feeling. (The red-eyes-I'm-not-happy look can be a bit scary to younger players.) Midnight has sensors in her head, cheeks and ears and will purr with pleasure, just like a real cat. Unlike the furry kind, she can sing, dance and do tricks on demand (she is less independent and purr-snickety than any real cat. She is also an allergy free pet. 5-10. 

 

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
Zoomer Chomplingz Tiger Tail
(Spin Master $39.99 Score:)

Tiger Tail is a less costly and a smaller dino than Zoomer Jester. That said, he is always ready for a bite. Try Hot Hands; put your hand in Tiger's mouth and pull it out before he can pull his teeth down on you.
Watch Tiger Tail try to catch his Dino Bone! He's motion activated or push his tail down and see him take off. This is a fun choice for 5-10's.

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
Zoomer Jester Dino
(Spin Master $99 Score:)

This fierce looking dino moves fast on two wheels that scoot around and forward and back. All the while Jester makes scary motions and sounds with his head and tail. Its not that easy to control this fierce looking creature, but our tester thought it was fun trying. For a less pricy dino, check out the Chomplingz Tiger Tail Interactive (39.99) 5-10

 

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
Minecraft Stop-Motion Movie Creator
(Mattel $32.99 Score:)

If you have a Minecraft fan in your house, you'll want to check out this new stop-motion movie creator. You'll need a smartphone to take the pictures with (it fits on the provided stand) and then your child's imagination takes over. Choose one of the six backgrounds and then yell "action" as you move the three Minecraft figures around your set. The APP then lets you create your own movie and share it with other people. Our testers had a new appreciation for what goes into animated movies. Marked 6 & up, but much older kids will enjoy this a lot more and be able to do it more independently. 

 

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

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Crayola Crayon Carver
(Crayola $29.99 Score:)

Crayola has designed a motorized machine that allows you to personalize your crayons with your name, words, symbols. To design, you first pick your letter and symbol tiles, load them up into the front yellow positions. Once you're happy with your wording, place your crayon into the well and then you trace over the "letters and symbols" with a moving arm. While you're tracing the other end of the arm is carving into the crayon. There is a numeral expansion pack sold separately. For safety purposes the carving end is enclosed in plastic.  While most of our kids enjoyed the project, the majority of our parents did not find this novelty product compelling. They did not feel the finished product was sufficiently clear and while they love the Crayola brand felt this was skippable. 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
LeapFrog LeapPad Platinum
(LeapFrog $129.99 Score:)

The new LeapPad Platinum by LeapFrog is almost identical to their earlier LeapPad XDI Ultra model except for an arguably sleeker design and new packaging including Imagicard samples. Imagicard Digital game and Interactive cards are an exciting new feature that can be purchased separately and used with other LeapPad tablets. The cards include access to photo-fun activities and learning games that stimulate activity both in and outside of the digital platform. Like previous LeapPads, the LeapPad Platinum maintains Wi-Fi protected content that keeps kid safe, while giving them access to more downloadable apps and content that are 100% pre-screened and approved by learning experts. The 7-inch tablet is designed to withstand heavy usage with a shatter-proof screen and has 8GB of memory. Color options include green and purple.

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

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