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Product Type: Toys
Age: Early Elementary School Years
Categories: Games


2014 Award
Gamewright Dodge Dice
(Gamewright $12 Score:)

Unlike many dice games, the goal in Dodge Dice is to avoid points. The game comes with 10 dice. One is the "penalty" points die that tells you how many points you'll get if the round doesn't go your way. There is also an action die that makes things happen like all your points are doubled or tripled (not good!) or you can pass all the points to another player (mean but good!).  There are also skip chips that allow you to avoid the penalty points. Marked for 8 & up and designed for 2-6 players. Rounds will be fast. Our testers thought this was a fun twist on traditional dice games.


Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2014.

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2014 Award
Gamewright Sushi Go!
(Gamewright $12 Score:)

We're not going to lie. We got hungry for sushi while playing this fun card game. For a generation of kids that are familiar with sushi, this will be a hit. The goal is to get the highest scoring collection of sushi. For example if you add wasabi to your nigiri - you'll get triple points. Each player gets a certain number of cards to begin (depending on how many are playing). From that hand you keep one card, place it face down. Now here's the fun part-- you pass your hand to the next player.  This keeps going until all cards are played.

There is some strategy involved in what cards you collect. For example if you have the most number of puddings, you get six points -- but if you don't the have most - you have to subtract six points from your total score.

The instructions take some time (and a grown up) to figure out but then it starts moving quickly.  Marked for 8 & up and rounds take about 15 minutes to play for 2 to 5 players.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years, Tweens. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on

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2014 Award
Janod Who Am I? Game
(Janod $19.99 Score:)

Who Am I is a two player attribute game that is something like the classic game of Battleship for younger players. Each player picks one animal face that the other player cannot see. Players take turns asking questions about their opponent’s animal. Does your animal have glasses? If the answer is no the questioner crosses out all the animals with glasses. A marker is provided with a sponge eraser that removes the markings at the end of each round. By a process of elimination players deduce what animal their opponent has selected. This is a game that requires players to look at details and listen to clues. The game board reverses to reveal a whole other set of creatures. We have had other similar games, this one is slightly more complex and beautifully executed.  They say 4-7, we think fours can play this with a partner but not solo. That said this is an excellent choice for beginning readers who need to learn about looking closely at details. Instead of looking for the fine difference between bed and bad, here the game is played with pictorial details that are less abstract for beginners.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on

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2014 Award
Peaceable Kingdom Sunny Day Pond
(Peaceable Kingdom $15.99 Score:)

A ducky cooperative game that develops color matching, puzzle building, and fine motor skills. The big playing board has the images of three different four-piece puzzles. Players use the spinner on their turn that tells them what color puzzle piece they can take and match on the playing board. If you spin a rain-drop you must put one under the cloud. The object is for everyone to cooperatively finish the puzzles before there are no rain-drops left. So you are all playing against the game and the rain. Good fun, as well as helping beginners use their fine motor skill by learning how to rotate jigsaw puzzle pieces and fit them together. 3 & up.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on

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2014 Awards
Life On Earth Simple Bingo
(eeBoo $14.95 Score:)

A new take on the classic Bingo game with beautiful illustrations from Melissa Sweet. Comes with six game cards, 36 game pieces and a cotton drawstring bag. The pieces feature a wide-range of things you find in nature: cardinals, butterflies, a pine tree, cactus, get the idea.  Also new and noteworthy, Parlor Bingo.  It comes with old-fashioned numbered cards and a master sheet.  The "markers" come in a cotton drawstring bag.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2014.

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2013 Award
Swish Junior
(ThinkFun $12.99 Score:)

One of the most elegant card games we tested this year. Swish Junior comes with 45 transulcent cards that have shapes (a diamond, star, circle) placed on different locations on the cards. A "swish" is made when you can stack up two cards so that the images line up.  Sometimes this requires that you turn the card and to line up a solid circle with an open-circle- calling for great visual discrimination skills.  They say 5 & up, we'd say this a great parent-child game at the younger range. Players can then graduate to the more advanced original game of Swish.

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

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2013 Award
(MindWare $29.99 Score:)

Our game day testers loved this game that requires a careful eye for detail. Each player starts with a certain number of tiles that each have a different color on each corner. As players pull more tiles from the bag the goal is to make circles where all four quarters are of the same color. The player with the most matches at the end of the round is the winner. You can play individually or if you have younger kids we'd recommend playing in teams.  The pace of this game is lovely since you're working on your own board (or team's board) rather than competiting on one board against other players.

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

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2013 Award
Heads Up
(International Playthings $19.99 Score:)

 A game designed by Professor Higgins perhaps? Heads Up challenges players to balance fake books on their heads. Rolling the die tells each player how many books to add to their mortar board. It may also instruct you to remove a book. Comes with 40 "books", four mortar boards and a die. You have to bring your own sense of balance. Marked 5 & up. 


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

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2013 Award
(Blue Orange Games $15.99 Score:)

Our testers loved this fast-paced dice game. You're trying to be the first to see the matches of the icons on the dice and scoop them up. The icons include: cherries, an anchor, a cactus, a ghost, a palm tree, skull & bones, and a butterfly.  If you don't see any, you can shout NADA.  Watch out though if you do and there is actually a match!  There are different variations on the game that appealed to our testers depending on their age. Also great fun, Flash - same concept but with numbers and making combinations.

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

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2013 Award
Sifteo Cubes Intelligent Game System
(Sifteo $129.99 Score:)

Sifteo Cubes is a revolutionary toy that looks to change how kids, and tech-loving adults, play with blocks. Co-founder David Merrill's 2009 TED Talk originally opened our eyes to the possibilities of Sifteo blocks. Each Sifteo Cubes set comes with one home speaker, three cubes, one USB cable, and a carrying pouch. Additional cubes can be bought separately to enhance the learning and gaming experience. New games can be downloaded by plugging the home speaker into a computer and purchasing games from Sifteo's website. Although the cubes are still a new product the games are innovative, educational, and most importantly, fun.

Sifteo Cubes sets come with four games, Cube Buddies, Code Breakers, Word Caravan, and Chroma Splash. Each game presents different learning challenges to young users.

Word Caravan is a word puzzle game that utilizes the tilt and neighbor-awareness of the cubes. The goal of the game is to create a specified number of words from the letters displayed in the cubes; each cube shows two letters whose order can be switched by tilting the cube in each direction. Word Caravan is a fun and thought-provoking game that requires young readers to creatively access the situation and make words on the spot. For more experienced readers the cubes do not always recognize advanced vocabulary, and simply ask for low-level words to complete the level.

Chroma Splash is a challenging puzzles game that incorporates the tilt, touch, and neighbor-awareness capabilities of the cubes. The game asks that players match colored bubbles on neighboring cubes and then pop the matching bubbles to move to the next level. Each level has different color and positioning combinations that require gamers to think through the puzzle before starting.

Code Crackers proved to be a great mathematics puzzle game. The objective of the game asks players to combine the numbers displayed on the cube using different mathematical functions to make the target number at the end of the equation. Beginning levels test basic addition and subtraction skills. As difficulty rises the equation lengths are extended and multiplication and division are added to the game.

Cube Buddies tests the facial recognition abilities of players, and asks gamers to recreate the scrambled faces of various cartoon characters. It uses the familiar neighbor-awareness function to match the various misplaced facial features together.

In addition to the four games sent with every Sifteo Cubes set, we tested two additional games, Sandwich Kingdom and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Ninja Slide, as well as two smaller color and sound programs, Bliss Bomb and B!

Sandwich Kingdom quickly proved to resemble many of the old Sega Genesis and Gameboy RPGs such as Shining Force and Golden Sun. Like the beginning of all these games Sandwich Kingdom has long-winded dialogue and movement motions. Unfortunately the redeeming quality for all of those old games, the turn-based fighting, is not included in Sandwich Kingdom. Despite the lack of fighting the method used to move throughout the maze-like levels is spectacular, and redeems Sandwich Kingdom as a top-notch puzzle-labyrinth game. The use of multiple cube displays to reveal the level layout by laying them next to each other is ingenious. It allows players to investigate multiple routes before moving the character by tapping the display you wish the main character to walk to.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Ninja Slide is my favorite game of the Sifteo Cubes set. It is reminiscent of Rush Hour with the addition of slight cartoon violence. Each stage asks the player to tilt and click Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo, or Rafael to a specified end point. The player slides through the puzzle-like courses, ranging across multiple cube displays, occasionally dispatching enemies with one of the four ninja turtles' unique weapons.

Bliss Bomb and B! are two interesting additions to the Sifteo Cubes set. Bliss Bomb is a strobe color program that allows users to combine the different cube displays to create different colored and patterned shapes on the screen. Unfortunately this can be a bit irritating to look at after an extended period of time. B!'s function as a interactive sound system is a interesting concept. Each screen displays a different pattern that has it's own color and sound. When the cube screen is tapped a sound is emitted and the pattern changes. Overall both of these programs are not the most engaging additions to the otherwise stellar Sifteo Cubes set. They would likely only keep users occupied for a matter of minutes before moving on to the one of the more extensive and lengthy puzzle game programs.

  - review by Matthew Weinstein

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

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