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Product Type: Toys
Age: Preschoolers

 


2013 Award
Disney Sofia the First Royal Prep Academy Game
(Wonder Forge $19.99 Score:)

Imagine a game that combines aspects of Battleship (but you're looking for charms), Memory (you're supposed to remember where characters are located) and a wild card (pure guessing to win a charm). The actual set up of the game is quite clever. There is the Royal Prep Academy Building with lots of windows that are covered with moving shutters. One player puts on a plastic charm bracelet and has to try to collect charms by guessing where the other player has placed them behind the shutters. Much more fun to be Sofia the First and wear the bracelet than being the "hidder." The idea is that you take turns. We have a feeling that a lot of parents will end up playing hidder more often, although our 4 year old tester equally enjoyed being the hidder! Marked 3 & up, but will be enjoyed more by 4-6 crowd.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Award
Big Hugs Elmo
(Hasbro $59.99 Score:)

Elmo is back this year and ready to give your child a big hug. This oversized version asks for hugs, tighter hugs and then says "too tight." Preschoolers will love the hugs. He encourages kids to pretend. Some of the choices seem off..."let's pretend to be rabbits...let's pretend to be astronauts"...not two things that jump to mind as the most interesting. Do toddlers/preschoolers even know what an astronaut is anymore? The body is a blend of soft red fur and a hard core (where the batteries are stored). The arms do bend so that they can be placed around a neck for a proper hug.  You will feel the mechanism in the arms - the equivalent of doll bones?  Elmo says over 50 phrases, sings songs and best of all, he goes to sleep after a pretty cute bedtime routine. Not clear whether Elmo will be as popular this year given the scandal, but as a straight forward novelty doll, he is pretty cute.

Age: Toddlers, Preschool. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Award
Sesame Street Elmo Junction 2 in 1 Car and Train Set
(Hasbro $44.99 Score:)

We're not usually big fans of plastic train track sets, but this one is really fun and right on target for fans of Sesame Street. The set comes with both Elmo in a train and Grover in a little car. Elmo, the train conductor, speaks (powered by batteries). The train itself is not battery-powered so kids have to move him around the track -  a good thing in our book. It makes the toy more engaging and less about watching something happen. The other really positive aspect of this toy is that you can fold up part of the track to make an elevated roadway for Grover. There's also a ramp for Grover to reach the ground level. At the center of the track is a Sesame Street train station with a clock on top. Lots of pretend possibilities here. A winner for the older toddler/preschool crowd. 2 & up.

Age: Preschool. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Award
Disney Sofia the First Magical Tea Time Game
(Wonder Forge $19.99 Score:)

Love this innovative game based on Disney's Sofia the First having a tea party. The idea is to collect treats for your plate. The clever twist is how you determine which color treat you need. Each tea cup has a spinning piece in the middle that moves either by blowing on it or by using the "magical" tea pot that "puffs air" when squeezed.  (Some of the our testers needed help making this happen but still liked the game play.) In all of our years toy testing, this is one of the most unique game designs that incorporates the theme of the game perfectly. When all of the delicious treats are taken, the round is over and the player with the most treats wins the game. The game also rewards good manners with awarding treats for not having your elbows on the table, being the first to get up and curtsey (we are taking about a Princess in training after all) and saying please or thank you. A game that involves age-appropriate game play and a fun dose of role playing. Fun!

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2013.

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2013 Award
Dino Construction T-Rex Skid Loader Vehicle
(Educational Insights $39.99 Score:)

Construction trucks and dinosaurs--what a winning combination! The T-Rex Skid Loader has an action neck, movable jaws, and a smashing tail. This is one of a collection of dino trucks, made without metal parts, so it will work in the sandbox, at the beach, in snow drifts, or indoors with blocks. It leaves dino footprints in the sand and needs no batteries. Also fun, Boom, Brachiosaurus Backhoe, Spike, the Ankylosaurus Steam Roller, and the Wrecker.

Age: Preschool. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Award
University Games The Very Hungry Caterpillar Counting Floor Puzzle
(University Games $13 Score:)

There are all kinds of fruits and veggies to count on this colorful floor puzzle with 26 giant pieces. Put the numerals in order to make a 10 foot long finished puzzle. Good for counting skills as well as knowing and naming familiar foods. All the healthy things that Very Hungry Caterpillar loves to nibble on. 3 & up

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Award
University Games World of Eric Carle Alphabet Floor Puzzle
(University Games $13 Score:)

Our testers loved this new oversized puzzle featuring the wonderful art of Eric Carle. Although some of the animals may be less than familiar - for example a narwhale for N, a xolol for X, and a quetzal for Q, they will stretch kids' language of knowing and naming. Done with 26 sturdy giant pieces in the painterly style of Eric Carle, this produces a floor puzzle that is ten feet long and fun to do more than once.  They say 3 & up. We think slightly older kids will like this even more.

A note from our test family said..."My boys (ages 6, 5 and 2 ) love puzzles, so they were very
excited to do this. It made for good teamwork for the older two. One would call out the next letter and the other would find it and then they would put it together. The littlest would just come behind and steal a piece occasionally. (It is definitely a 3+ toy) They loved how long it was and were very proud of their work when they finished. They both like to do puzzles over and over and especially floor puzzles. I think with this being an alphabet puzzle and their ages, they need the practice. This puzzle will help inintroducing alphabetizing for sure!"

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2013.

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2013 Award
University Games Very Hungry Caterpillar Twirl and Toss Game
(University Games $30 Score:)

Players have the fun of tossing small fabric fruits at the Very Hungry Caterpillar as it turns round and round. The object is to be the first to get all three of the pieces of fruit of one color to stick to the caterpillar. An active game that will keep kids pitching and picking up the mini plush apples, plums, pears and oranges. A decorative looking game that will reinforce color concepts, simple counting, and involves active play.

 

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Award
Mattel Barbie Fashion Vending Machine
(Mattel $23.99 Score:)

We are not huge Barbie furnishing fans, but this clever contraption could be fun for pretend play as well as a good storage device for all those little shoes, handbags, and necklaces Barbie dolls tend to generate. The working vending machine can hold all these items on the shelves that turn or put them on the right side, turn the crank and make the toys pop out.  Comes with some accessories with room for others. They say 3 & up. We say more like 5 & up.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Award
Creativity for Kids Fun Felt Masks
(Creativity for Kids $16.99 Score:)

Six colorful foam-backed masks are adjustable with elastic bands and ready for decorating. The kit includes a nice supply of felt stickers, self-adhesive rhinestones, and curly yarn. Little hands may need help with the peel and stick pieces, but get a real kick out of being able to design their own masks.  3 & up

Age: Preschool. Award Year: 2013.

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