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Product Type: Toys
Award: Platinum
Review Year: 2012

 


2012 Award
LEGO Creator 3-in 1 Transport Chopper
(Lego Systems, Inc. $34.99 Score:)

Kids can build a helicopter, a pontoon seaplane, or a ferry. The set comes with 383 pieces that can be rebuilt again and again. Our tester liked the motion of the propellers and the ramps for uploading vehicles. These are relatively easy builds with plenty of pretend play potential after the construction puzzle part is complete. 8 & 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
LEGO Friends Heartlake Stables
(Lego Systems, Inc. $49.99 Score:)

Newest of the Lego Friends sets designed for horse lovers. There's a stable with horses, tools for grooming them and cleaning the stable. The themed setting comes with two mini-dolls: Katharina and Mia.  There are over 400 pieces and lots of play time potential once the setting is built. Like other sets in this line, we generally prefer gender free products, but we know from testers that many girls really like this gender specific setting.

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

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2012 Award
Playmobil Sports Action Take along Soccer Set
(Playmobil $59.99 Score:)

There's no real building or assembling of this soccer field. The case opens to a big self-contained playing area with four players and two goalies. You will want to add more players. The goalies cannot kick but can block with a left to right motion. Pull back a leg and load the ball and the players kick the ball down the field. There are a lot of add-ons for this theme. Young soccer players will like the dramatic play of controlling a field of players. This is a play setting that is a lot younger than a foosball table that has a lot more action. The box shows boys, but there is a girls soccer team set as an add-on....of course.  5-8

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
Cruise and Groove Ballapalooza
(Fisher-Price $60 Score:)

Finding toys that are just right for sitting up babies and toddlers can be difficult. The Cruise and Groove Ballapalooza fills the bill.  You'll need space for this large "making something happen" toy that both older babies and toddlers will enjoy exploring.  There are two different ways for the big balls to go from the top of the structure to the base. Of course at first, you'll be making it happen--but soon enough your toddler will enjoy making the balls drop again and again.  The small green "gate" will be another aspect of the toy your child will enjoy pushing back and forth.  There is also an arch for babies to go under.  There is music that happily you can turn off and still enjoy the toy. A definite plus in our book. The tripod design of the base makes the toy steady but of course a cruising baby will still need a watchful hand. Our older toddler twin testers loved how the ball could be placed at the top so that it bounces off a platform onto the ramp: "high marks for innovative design." Comes with 8 oversized balls so if two end up under the sofa, you're not out of business. 

SNAP: This is big enough to satisfy slightly older kids who may not have the dexterity for more complex ball runs and tracks. Though our testers found this pretty steady, you may want to stabilize it with some tape to the floor. This is not just a good social toy that two or more can use, it is a great hands on setting for dexterity, tracking, color concepts and language.

Age: Infants, Toddlers. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2012 Awards
Rattle Rumble Push Toy
(Melissa & Doug $69.99 Score:)

One of the first weighted push toys we've seen in years. The wooden frame is smooth and finished in bright primary colors. Three see-though rollers turn as it is pushed forward. The primary colored balls and blocks inside rumble as they tumble. We can picture a toddler racing this from room to room delighting in the action and sound. This is a great choice for toddlers who like using their new found locomotion to make things happen. They also like holding on as they get used to walking on their own. You may need to tighten the screws on the side of this from time to time or at least heck them to be sure they are staying secure. We usually prefer hardware not to be exposed, but these are nicely encased, but we are simply suggesting you check them as the toy gets used. For beginning walkers.

Age: Toddlers. Award Year: 2012.

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2012 Award
Barbie Photo Fashion Doll Camera
(Mattel $49.99 Score:)

Camera meets Barbie again! This time instead of a video camera, she's sporting a point and shoot 5- megapixel camera. The camera's eye is on Barbie's back, but the images are displayed on her torso and can be shown in a slideshow, too. Dressed in dark stretch denim skinny jeans, pink platform shoes and a semi-glitzy top, this Barbie camera doll stores up to 200 photos she has 4 MB of memory and comes with her own USB cable, so photos can be downloaded. Added to all that, she has a fun feature that allows kids to use extra design features from Barbie's website.  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 Awards
ELC Music Garden
(International Playthings $29.99 Score:)

Talk about making things happen, this is it! Touch the flowers and set off the music and lights and sounds. There is no right or wrong way to make this work. We really like the musical selections, not because they ar classic melodies, but the quality of the sound is excellent! That alone sets this toy apart from all too many of the so-called musical toys for tots. There are several modes of play to explore: the scale, animal sounds, silly ones and pure music. The tote handle will please toddlers who like carrying their favorite toys as they move from one room to another.  This does have a volume control and teaches kids about cause and effect as well as empowering them to make music.  6 months & up.

SNAP: For all the reasons above, this is a pleasing and interesting toy for learning about cause and effect and giveing children a sense of power, by making things happen. It has a lot of sensory play value.

Age: Infants, Toddlers. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2012 Award
SilverLit Interactive Bluetooth R/C Porsche 911 Carrera
(Silverlit Toys $79.99 Score:)

We asked our 19-year old summer intern, Matthew Weinstein, to test this vehicle and give us a review. This was the right toy for the right tester! Here is his review: "One of the most thrilling toys to come through in quite a while. The Porsche will have children and parents jumping up and down with excitement. The car itself is a thing of beauty that matches its real counterpart. Through use of a free app the user connects to the Porsche with Bluetooth. Once connected the car's movement can be controlled two ways. The first uses modern tilting-technology to accelerate and turn the car, while the second method utilizes two old fashioned joysticks that appear on the screen of your device. The latter is much easier to control. The joysticks allow a precision of movement that the wildness of tilting a device does not. The Porsche also comes fully equipped with hazard and head-lights. This SilverLit product is as near perfection as a remote controlled R/C can get, but Iíll have to wait for the bat-mobile version with working rocket boosters before I am truly happy."

Age: Later School Years, Tweens, Teens, Adult. Award Year: 2012.

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2012 Awards
Mega Bloks First Builders Build'n Learn Table
(Mega Bloks $44 Score:)

From toddlers to preschoolers, this 25-piece set will work flat on the floor or standing on stout legs. The surface has a roll around roadway for the vehicle and figure. Blocks can be stored under the four pieces of the tabletop that lift out. This has chunky pieces that are safe for toddlers and fit little hands. The figure is upsized as well for safe play. Set includes stickers that can be added. Marked 1-5.   Probably optimal use is 1-3.

SNAP: Big chunky pieces make this a useful first building set. As you play with your child, use the playing pieces for building dexterity as well as language and hands-on understanding of size and color concepts.Ideal for use on the floor or on tabletop. To adapt, you can velcro the flat table to a surface that is the right height for your child.

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

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2012 Award
Blabla Luigi Frog
(blabla kids $48 Score:)

Soft and huggable, Luigi is a green frog with big eyes and a pencil thin curled mustachio. He wears long brown pants with suspenders and a white shirt. Every detail of this adorable frog is knitted. Like other dolls in the line it is also available in a 12-inch size. If you fancy a girl frog, consider Lilipop, in a paler shade of green ith ballet slippers and a pink yarn tutu.

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

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