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Product Type: Toys
Award: Platinum
Age: Early Elementary School Years
Review Year: 2012

 


2012 Award
Pathwords Jr.
(ThinkFun $19.99 Score:)

Remember your word maze games? Playing Pathwords is a bit like finding those words. It's a single player game with a book of words that fits under a playing board grid. The player must find the words in the "Find" list and then cover them with the colored see-though playing pieces. The words can be spelled backwards and forward and require overcoming some spatial challenges. There are 40 puzzles in the spiral book that progress from easy to far more difficult. 6 & up.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2012 Award
Jumbo Zip-It
(Bananagrams $44.95 Score:)

Like the original Zip it Game, this is a 2-player game with wooden cubes that are used to form crossword grids. These cubes are several times larger than the original cubes and may be easier for beginning spellers to read quickly. Each player takes twelve cubes and can use any side of the cube to make a crossword grid with her own cubes. The first person to use all her cubes wins the round and advances the zipper on the cloth container one point. The first player to move their zipper ten times wins the game. As with other games from Bananagram, the game play is faster since you are not taking turns but making your own crossword as best you can. Be forewarned, these jumbo playing pieces are physically heavy. A good choice for mixed age groups. The game comes with ideas of how to play a rhyming version as well as ways of scoring long words and palindromes. Your kids will probably come up with their own playful ways of using these cubes, such as a stacking the cubes to make words that can be read from the top down or bottoms up.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years, Tweens. Award Year: 2012.

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2012 Award
Playmobil Princess Fantasy Magic Castle
(Playmobil $169.99 Score:)

Totally gender specific, this pink castle is huge and comes with ready to move in furnishings plus two royal figures. There is a big outside staircase and roundish rooms in the tall turrets. They have built in a secret chamber for keeping the royal jewels in the great tower. For the real life owner of the castle, there is a tiara, bracelet and ring to wear while playing with the Magic Castle. Putting this together will be a parent child project. Use a table or a board that can hold the building in a safe place out of family traffic. With all the small pieces, you want to put this somewhere that small sibs cannot reach. Once built this is a setting with miniatures that will hold the interest of young pretenders. 4 & up

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2012 Award
Playmobil Future Planet E-Rangers Headquarters
(Playmobil $129 Score:)

This large setting houses the E-Rangers who are trying to defend their energy source while their enemy, the power greedy Dark Rangers are trying to waste them. This futuristic eco-war story is played out in a variety of settings with this one being the flashiest and biggest. It has a working a solar-powered fan, and light up red crystals that connect to make a circuit to produce colorful lights inside the dome. There is also a light beam cannon for defending headquarters and five characters; one is a robot, of course. A convertible racer changes into a propeller or a jet-car and there are multiple accessories for playing out all sorts of imaginary adventures. For more elaborate play there is also a Dark Ranger Headquarters ($79.99) and several other theme related kits. Our tester liked many of the features but found that the building is not especially sturdy and is easily knocked apart. So our usual suggestion with Playmobil is to build on a tray or table where it is out of the line of traffic and younger siblings. Ages 7 and up.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2012 Award
eeBoo Community, A Cooperative Game
(eeBoo $20 Score:)

An unusual game that involves building roadways to reach the key places such as the hospital, school, stores, park and other basic parts of a community. The game is played on a green flocked board and involves players with thinking about the necessary elements of a community and where they are placed. Players need visual discrimination to find the sections of the roadway that will connect from home to the other parts of town. Instead of competing to get rid of your cards, players work together to build the roads to and from home.  This is a quiet game that involves a bit of social studies as well as dexterity and thinking together.  5 & up.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2012.

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2012 Awards
eeBoo I Never Forget an Animal Face Matching Game
(eeBoo $16 Score:)

Twenty-four pairs of animal faces for matching up in a classic concentration game. What sets game this apart is the art. The animals have a charming storybook look that will make them fun to talk about. They are wearing interesting hats and expressions. Use them for stretching language or even story telling in addition to making matches. Although this looks like a regular lotto game, the animals chosen go just a few steps beyond the usual farmyard critters--so this is an opportunity to expand their knowing and naming skills as well as encouraging kids to look at details. 5 & up.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2012.

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2012 Award
Creativity for Kids Stunt Squadron
(Creativity for Kids $18 Score:)

Finding craft projects for boys can be challenging. This kit comes with five foam planes that fly well both indoors and out. Before they start flying however, kids can decorate them with the metallic foil stickers and color-in stickers that can be customized with the 8 fine tipped mini-markers included. Each little plane is almost 7 x 7 inches big. Kids are likely to need help getting the stickers off the sheets, especially if they have no fingernails to get them started. That said, this is a fun kit for a play date or encouraging boys to use fine motor skills. 5 & up.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2012 Award
Creativity for Kids Fashion Bracelets
(Creativity for Kids $19.99 Score:) Enough bracelets for two arms full - or for sharing on a fun play date. Ideal for a small sleep-over activity. This new kit includes 5 chunky plastic bangles and 10 thin metal bangles along with a wonderful assortment of adhesive tape, ribbons, craft glue, bows, rainbow cord, embroidery floss, scissors, and ideas brochure. Testers especially like the sparkly rhinestone trim that come in ribbon-like strips for adding bling to the bangles. Marked for 7 & up, however, we think 7's may need help with the final touches to secure their decorations.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2012 Awards
Creativity for Kids Princess Music Box
(Creativity for Kids $25 Score:)

A sturdy pink chipboard music box (with a little ballerina who pops up when you open it) is ready for decorating. The box is deep enough to hold plenty; it is 5.5 inches high and 4 inches wide. The kit includes paper flowers, a sticker sheet full of scroll-like leaves and flowers, self adhesive rhinestones, glitter glue, adhesive squares and an idea book for decorating. The wind-up key for the music is built into the box, so this is a kit that can be completed with a showy end product that kids of a certain age really want. It is not entirely open-ended, but there is room for doing it their own way! Marked 5 & up, but probably done more successfully by sevens and up.

SNAP: There is no right or wrong way of decorating this music box. Yet the finished product is going to look pretty good, so success is built into making something that the child can then use for keeping treasures.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2012 Award
Creativity for Kids Color Changing Light
(Creativity for Kids $23 Score:) For decorating her own room, this little lamp has to be assembled, after the shade is decorated. Our tester loved having a working lamp after she went though all the steps of making it. It comes with tracing paper and patterns that can be used for decorating the plastic lamp shade. After drawing the design, kids color the images in with translucent paints and glue on gemstones and hang sequins and rings that will dangle. Now they are ready to assemble the lamp. It comes with a string of color changing lights with its own battery pack. You do need to supply 2 AA batteries. Marked 7 and up, we suggest that most 7-9 will need help with the assembly and probably in the first steps of tracing and decorating.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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