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Fisher-Price Bright Beats Smart Touch Play Space
(Fisher-Price $60 Score:)

Designed for infants and toddlers, this touch-sensitive light bar responds with music, lights, and songs. Talk about making things happen, the play space also includes a ball run, a spinner, and roller ball that provide lots of lessons in cause and effect. As baby grows from sitting to standing to toddling, the play space also has age appropriate games that invite exploration. We could have done without the alphabet and counting games for toddlers who are barely talking. That said we suspect babies are going to be interested in the making-things-happen aspect of this toy. Award pending further testing. Marked for 6-36 months; we think the truth is between that time; more like 8-24 months.

Age: Infants, Toddlers. Award Year: 2015. Click here to purchase the product on

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2015 Award
Stikbot Studio
(Zing $19.99 Score:)

For any fan of stopmotion movies, the Stikbot Studio set from Zing is one of the best toys around. With two Stikbots and one tripod to hold you phone, you can explore the art of making your own movie. What makes this set so great is the flexibility and stability of the Stikbots. The suction cups at the end of their arms and legs are strong enough to allow creativity when posing the models. The tripod is also well made, allowing users to change the height of the camera. And who doesn't want to make a stop motion video of Stikbots breakdancing their little hearts out? Includes a free app for iphone and Android, the company calls this a social media toy that is easy to share on social media sites. We think kids will be satisfied to make stop motion videos to enjoy or share with family and friends. Marked 4 and up, this is totally unrealistic! That said, this is a terrific way of exploring movie making and animation. Extra stikbots are available for crowd scenes. A great choice for 8 and up, up, up.

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

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2015 Award
(spinmaster $11.99 Score:)

If you are collecting stocking stuffers for Christmas or small gifts for Hanukkah, these singing, dancing, and flapping novelty birds will be a hit. Bring home one and it will oblige with a solo act. Bring home two and they will interact. These are sold for less than the stated list price, so they would make fun novelty gifts for visiting cousins, or birthday party guests, too. Kids do need to be able to whistle, however, to activate them. Each comes with a whistle ring that the birdies perch on. Available in multiple colors. Marked 5 and up, but keep in mind, many 5's are not yet able to whistle.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2015. Click here to purchase the product on

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2015 Award
Bladez Toys Inflatable Remote Controlled Despicable Me 2 Minion Vehicle
(Bladez $59.99 Score:)

Minion fans are going to get a laugh operating this 2-foot tall Despicable Me 2 Minion. The matching yellow handset runs the inflatable Minion forward, back, and full 360-degree spins. Straight out of the box you will need to pump it up and attach the wheel base and install 4 AA batteries and a 9 volt battery, as well. Copy online says it includes a pump, but that is not on or in the box. If you want them to play with this on Christmas, you better have a pump ready! YOu might also want a patch kit ready, just in case. The same company's Star Wars R2D2 inflatable does not speak and only has the whiring sounds of the motor and none of it's endearing sound effects. Happily, Despicable Me 2 actually makes minion sounds as it moves, though the motor sound is also pretty loud. This is a novelty toy that is heavily advertised and runs on being a hot character of the moment. Be forewarned, it does not come with a patch kit. Marked 3 & up, we think this is really a toy for older preschoolers and younger early school years kids.

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

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2015 Awards
American Girl Bitty Baby
(American Girl $60 Score:)

We've told you about the Bitty Baby before. The updated 15-inch Bitty Baby doll line is now available in six different combinations of skin tone, eye color, and hair color. So, you can customize the doll to look like the child who will receive it. Bitty Baby comes dressed in a pink cotton onesie and diaper and can be customized by selecting one of three different sleeper choices, included in the doll purchase. Each doll purchased comes with a free song download, Bitty Baby, I Love You.Needless to say, there are tons of furniture and accessories for this collection. 3 & up

Age: Preschool. Award Year: 2015.

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2015 Award
American Girl Maryellen of the Nifty Fifties
(American Girl $115 Score:)

Newest of the Beforever collection, 18-inch Maryellen appears on the scene in the fabulous mid-century fifties. She'll have all the necessary fashions teens wore back in the day of poodle skirts with bobbie socks and saddle shoes ($36); also available a new TV or a jukebox. She's a strawberry blonde with ponytail and hazel eyes. Her story centers on the age-old struggle to conform vs. being an individual and following one's dreams.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2015.

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2015 Awards
NogginRings Reaching and Grasping Rings
(smartnoggintoys $18.99 Score:)

Use this for early interactions, holding it for baby to swat at, reach for and grasp hold of as you play together. This high contrast toy will grab even a newborns visual attention with it's face in the center, and black and white rings and big red ring. It has a soft rattle that will not startle baby. Turn the face and there's a peek-a-boo game you can play as the face disappears and reappears. Once baby begins to reach out and take hold of things, this is a favorite to bat at, grab and explore. Encourages two handed play and exploration with older infinats. Newborns to 12 months.

Age: Infants. Award Year: 2015. Click here to purchase the product on

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2015 Award
Project Mc2 Doll Adrienne and Volcano Experiment
(MGA Entertainment $24.99 Score:)

One of a new collection of Mc2 dolls that comes with a science experiment of her own— one that really works! Fashionably dressed in a pink ruffled dress with a shrug sweater, a statement necklace and long glorious blonde hair, Adrienne is a beauty who also likes cooking and doing science. She has a matching pair of pink framed glasses that she uses to read the directions directions for her experiment. Her kit comes with parts for assembling a working lava lamp that really bubbles! Her kit does not include the food coloring, veggie oil or effervescent tablet ( as in polident or alka-selter) she needs. That said, the little lamp is very cool! Like the other dolls in this line she’s more than just a pretty face. A playful way into STEM learning. 6 & up 


Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2015.

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2015 Awards
eeBoo Back to School Magnetic Playboard
(eeBoo $15 Score:)

A new version of the 'make me a story' collection that may be very helpful for kids with back to school jitters. It's metal playboard with a school setting provides the background for a classroom full of playful creatures and their wise old owl teacher. The magnetic backing on the playing pieces can be moved about as kids make up their own stories using the characters created by illustrator, Kevin Hawkes. A good prop for dramatic play or talking through typical angst over the opening of school and new situations. This is not for kids who still mouth their toys. The playing pieces are large and reasonably easy to move about. Good for story telling, listening, and pretend play.

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

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2015 Awards
Janod Circus Puzzle
(Janod $19.99 Score:)

A big top wooden circus puzzle board with six pegged pieces for easy gripping. It is just the right scale for puzzle beginners. Lift out the monkey, the blue elephant, a seal with a ball on its nose, a tiger, a girl on the flying trapeze and the ringmaster. There is a lot to talk about here; the colors, the names of the puzzle pieces, the one on the top, the one in the middle, the one with the ball. It's easy to see how you can stretch language as you work on this together. Beginners will need patience and help in turning the pieces to fit and that is part of the challenge for getting little hands and eyes to work together. All in all a nice choice, especially after a trip to the circus. Marked 18 months and up, but more like a 2 year old toy.

Age: Toddlers. Award Year: 2015. Click here to purchase the product on

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