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Product Type: Toys
Award: Platinum
Age: Late Elementary School Years
Review Year: 2013

 


2013 Award
LEGO Friends Heartlake High
(Lego Systems, Inc. $49.99 Score:)

Our testers loved the attention to detail on this two-level yellow and blue high school. We wish our high school had window boxes! The lab in tricked out with everything for science experiments including a microscope and there's even a telescope.  The school also includes a music and arts room, lockers and for your outdoor dining pleasure, there's a picnic table for lunch. Comes with Stephanie, Matthew and Ms. Stevens. With 487 pieces this is satisfying build for intermediate builders.  LEGO Friends remains a consistent hit with our girl testers who both enjoy the building experience and then use the settings for pretend play.

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

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2013 Award
Yoga Spinner Game
(Upside Down Games $19.99 Score:)

A fun way to gain flexibility, strength, and improve posture while introducing kids to Yoga poses. Game can be played solo or with others. Players take turns hitting the spinner and choose a card of the same color shown on the spinner. Now, try to hold the pose for 10 seconds without laughing or falling down! The object is to be first to collect one card of each color. Perfect for sleepover, playdates, or family fun. Our test family Mom wrote that her whole family enjoyed this one...."We were laughing and having fun and the boys said the stretching felt good after soccer. I appreciate that the game doesn't assume you know yoga poses and the illustrations are quite clear (although it does help to be familiar with the poses to help the kids do them). The graphics are clean and very cute and you know I always like a game that is self contained (the cards are stored in the spinner itself) - always good for keeping up with all of the cards and for using in different rooms or places. I like that it is very active and teaches everyone something new as well. We give it a thumbs up! I can also see a big use for this in more of a classroom or group setting (such as a break from fine motor skills - at our school the kids take 'brain breaks' and do something more physical.)"

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

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2013 Award
Educational Insights Even Steven's Odd Game
(Educational Insights $19.99 Score:)

A rapid fire dice game that reinforces addition, subtraction skills. The game comes with 40 2-level challenge cards, four dice holders, and 24 dice in red, yellow, green, blue and white. Everyone plays at one time, rolling his dice again and again to be the first to complete the challenge and fill his dice holder playing board. First one to win 10 challenges is the winner. For 2-4 players ages 7 & up.

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

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2013 Award
LEGO STAR WARS Corporate Alliance Tank Droid
(Lego Systems, Inc. $24.00 Score:)

With only 271 pieces this is not a huge build but a very satisfying set because of the interesting and unusual treads that the droid tank moves on.  Our 6 year old tester really loved that aspect of this build.  The entire Star Wars series from LEGO has really challenged their designers to come up with new and what we find to be very exciting new builds.  Here's our builder's model:

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

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2013 Awards
Crayola Super Tips Washable Markers
(Crayola $12.99 Score:)

A super duper super tips marker set! 25 markers come in a see-through carrying case plus 40 pieces of paper for experimenting on. Their versatile tips draw thin and thick lines depending on how you hold them. 4 & up.

SNAP: Colorful materials that encourage kids to use their fine motor skills. These are not very wide, so you may want to add pencil grippers to give kids a firmer place to hold on. They may like the "magic" of the thin and broad lines they get from changing the position of the marker. These and some of the magic markers that change colors can go a log way in making practicing more like fun.

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

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2013 Award
LEGO STAR WARS Battle of Hoth
(Lego Systems, Inc. $49.99 Score:)

Our testers enjoyed this set a great deal.  The more detail in these sets the better the reviews they receive from our Star Wars fans.  According to our 9 year old tester: "The biggest and 'coolest' part of this Lego set was the snowspeeder (aircraft). He really liked that the hatch covers opened up to reveal detailed control panels underneath. Other 'cool' realistic details: the wings have articulated and poseable flaps; there is a working tow hook cable that can be let out or wound up; and the clear canopy opensup so that minifigure Luke can be placed inside the cockpit.

Our  six year old tester also enjoyed the build and loved that there was a Luke Skywalker minifigure. Both our six year old and 9 year old separately noted that Luke's outfit was more detailed with a snowspeeder suit and helmet.

We were delighted to hear that once the 9 year old finished building, the set became key to a reenactments of the Batttle of Hoth (with variations) for the next two weeks.

The set also got a thumbs up for the "new and improved brick separator (with axel-pusher)! Such an invaluable little tool greatly aids in the release of stuck Lego pieces."

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

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2013 Award
Terzetto
(Gamewright $21.99 Score:)

A two-player game in which you try to outwit and outplace your opponent by maneuvering your marbles onto your playing board. Players take turns placing sets of three marbles onto their boards according to the pattern in the shaker. This game seems easy at first, but you need to look sharp. The object is to fill your board before your opponent. 8 & up

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

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2013 Award
Mattel Hot Wheels Car Maker
(Mattel $49.99 Score:)

Every Hot Wheels fan has probably dreamed of designing original cars and now they can! Works like some of the crayon makers we have reviewed in the past, this is an innovative toy that comes with 2 molds, 3 chassis, and 10 colored wax sticks for making 10 hot wheels. Kids can combine colors of the wax and add decals for unique results. The melting process happens when the wax is loaded and the door locks shut until it cools. In the interim there are sound effects that can be a bit annoying, but you must keep listening so that you know when to lower the handle that injects the wax into the mold. The finished product has a hard glossy finish and fits well on the wheeled base chassis. There are a variety of refill and accessory kits with wax rods, chassis, and molds ($12 each kit) for this winning toy making machine. Marked for 8 & up this is plugged into the wall and needs adult supervision. We think even 8 and 9 year olds will need adult help with the first vehicles they make. 8 & up.

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

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2013 Award
Playmobil City Action Cargo & Passenger Aircraft & Tower
(Playmobil $109 Score:)

Wait till they see this enormous jetliner and control tower! Once assembled this becomes a setting for dramatic play. The cargo jetliner has a lift-up nose allowing kids to see the controls and the pilot and copilot. It has a removable roof to put mini-figures in the five seats. No detail left to chance, the cabin has an on-board toilet! You may want to add extra characters since it comes with just five mini-figures. Our builder had some trouble fitting the windows into place and getting one of the doors to stay put and he was way over the 4-10 age on the box. This is not a set younger kids of 4-7 can build on their own. It is a parent child project that takes time and patience. But by all means, involve your beginner in the process of finding the pieces and even snapping some of them in place. Young chidren like to feel they are helping with the building, so announce things for them to give you as you work on the big pieces. It is a fine way to show them how working step by step and following directions works to create a finished end product to enjoy. Older Playmobil builders with have no trouble getting this setting ready for playing and displaying. 134 pieces 4-10

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

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2013 Award
LEGO City Cargo Terminal
(Lego Systems, Inc. $99 Score:)

The first step to becoming a computer programmer begins with learning about sequence. For  builders this is a great place to start as a stepping stone to more advanced robotic sets offered by LEGO (see Mindstorms EV3).  Our testers found this giant size jet and control tower "totally awesome!" The handsome cargo plane has wheels that pivot allowing it to turn with ease on the ground. It has a big cargo door where the conveyer belt hooks up and the back end hinges open for alternate access. Testers loved the working conveyer belt they could turn to put cargo in or out of the plane. They also liked the working fork lift that is loaded with gold bars! Like all Lego sets, this is designed with an eye for details and clever accessories: there is a fuel truck, a complete cast of five mini-characters; a pilot, controllor and three workers. The control tower features a rotating radar dish, antenna and space for a mini-figure. 658 pieces. For the younger child this will be a parent-child project in the building stage. Once it is put together however, the set becomes a mini-setting for pretend play. 6-12

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

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