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

 

 
2009 Awards
Shake 'N Go Extreme Speedway
(Fisher-Price $65 Score:)

We've told you about these Shake 'N Go cars before. To charge them up you have to shake them and off they go.  You get two cars in this new Extreme Speedway set that is packaged with a marvelous set of tracks with a goodly supply of pieces that can be set up in six or more formations. Unlike last season's track, which could only work as a circle, this is far more open-ended. Kids can construct a loop with figure eight track, an oval within an oval, a circle within a circle or many other choices.  Follow the patterns shown or create your own. There are so many ways to use the Easy Track Changeup. The set includes a ramp and barrels for doing tricks. A memorable gift! 

  The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements. We did not independently test this toy in a lab.

SNAP IDEAS: Making the track fit together is pretty open ended now and the pieces are big and easy to put in vrious formations.  But the best parts of this toy are the cars themselves. In fact, you can buy the cars separately. There is no remote controller to make them go. You need to shake the cars and count to ten and va-va-va- voom off they go! There's plenty of built in practice since you ned to count and shake them everytime. What a fun payoff for counting!

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2009. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2009 Award
Thomas and Friends Wooden Talking Great Discovery Set
(Learning Curve International $179.99 Score:)

Happily Thomas and Friends are back! After all of the lead issues, it's nice to see that the company has regrouped and come out with something that will attract train fans! Push one of the special trains through the station and Sir Topham Hatt will great the trains. While we were originally concerned that this additional of technology would overtake the experience, it really enhances the play possibilities. We also LOVE that there is a volume setting since the out of the box setting is really loud. If you already have a lot of trains, you can also just bring home the Stop and Greet Station ($69.99) or the new Cranky the Crane ($69.99) and the new talking trains ($14.99 each). It's all really pricey but very innovative and special.

The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements. We did not independently test this toy in a lab.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2009. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2009 Awards
Hot Wheels Color Shifters Blaster
(Mattel $22.99 Score:)

Hands down one of our favorite toys of the year.  If you have a child in the Hot Wheels zone, this is a must have toy.  Because the play experience involves water (and more the better!) we'd say this is a better choice for outdoors...or parents that don't mind water all over the counter.  The cars react to cold and hot water - and will turn a different color when put into either temperature. Seriously cool.  Best yet, it comes with a squirt bottle so you can change the cars by squirting them.  If you don't want to buy the whole set - we'd suggest buying one of the cars - you can use your own squirt bottle and have the same experience.   The car that turns from blue to yellow is much more dramatic than some of the other color changes (yellow/orange).  The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements. We did not independently test this toy in  a lab.

We waited with great anticipation for the bigger and more tricked out Custom Color Shop ($37.99)...it includes a launcher that sends the car either through a waterfall at the top of the toy or down a ramp.  Here's the deal, we found the launcher somewhat hard to do (to get it to hit the waterfall point consistently was challenging to say this least)...and the water at the top and bottom will need more adult intervention than the Color Shifter Blaster.  It looked like it would be really great, but our testers preferred the less expensive version -- that they could handle more independently. Nice when the less expensive toy comes out on top.

SNAP IDEAS: Quite apart from the "magic" of changing the colors of the little cars, this is a great toy for working on developing hand stregnth. Squirting the water calls for sqeezing the spray bottle and if you want to add to the fun, how about counting to see how many squirts it takes to abra-ca-dabra the change of color. Buy the whole set up or look for the color changer cars that are sold separately. Any clean sqqirt bottle will do the trick!

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2009. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2001 Awards
Rokenbok Monorail Building System
(Rokenbok Toy Co. $$149 Score:)

The Monorail is the big news this year in Rokenbok. This open-ended construction/remote control vehicle setting just got even better. "It's awesome!" our seven and 10 year-old testers said. You can add several R/C vehicles to the mix. This innovative system is expensive, but offers greater interest and challenge than other train or car sets we've seen. Will work with original sets. 6 & up with adult assistance. Takes 3 AA batteries.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2001. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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Awards
Construction Truck with Hard Hat
(Little Tikes $20 Score:) If you're looking for a showy gift at a reasonable price, you won't do better than this set. These vehicles are articulated for easy action and made to withstand sand and water. Choose a working dump truck or loader.

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

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Award
Country Crossing Play Set
(Brio $100 Score:) Set includes a raised girder, farm animals, train, and engineer. The Track & Stack City Set ($130/38 pieces) with elevator, stacking supports, signs, and figures was not ready for testing, but looks more complex to assemble.

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

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Award
Thomas the Tank Engine Drawbridge
(RC2 Learning Curve $30 Score:) Cleverly designed, this totally assembled bridge/tunnel has a lever that lifts the low bridge so tall trains can pass. The Firehouse ($30) has a fire truck that pops out when you ring the bell. Also new are Thomas or Percy Express Packs ($30 each). These sets include a battery-powered train.

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

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Awards
Thomas the Tank Engine Wacky Track
(RC2 Learning Curve $18 Score:) What an innovative way to get a curved track! Just bend the segmented pieces of track for a curve in the road! Or add two Bumpy Tracks ($18) plus a warning sign that adds a little drama to the action. Also new, an Arched Viaduct ($24.99) with two curved arches, which connect to two pieces of ascending track.

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

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Award
Mountain Action Figure 8 Set
(Brio $39.95 Score:) This is your basic 25-piece figure eight set with extra mountain twist thrown in for over-and-under action. Comes with a battery-powered engine, two cars, and one play figure. A good beginning for 3 and up. For a more advanced and pricier set consider Country Crossing Play set($100/35 pieces) with raised girder, animals, train and engineer. Track and Stack City Set($130/38 pieces) is still more complex. It includes an elevator, stacking supports, signs and figures. Looks more complex to assemble, but our 4 and 5 year olds testers had no problem with getting this assembled independently. They combined it with other sets they own. Parents were pleased with this innovative design and its sturdiness. New Curious George and Builder Bob sets were not available for tasting at press time.

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

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Awards
Intelli-Train Deluxe Set
(Lego Systems, Inc. $99.99 Score:) The four drivers all have unique "driving ability" and when placed in the train, something new will happen. This is an update of one of our old favorites. This update has bigger train cars than the earlier version. Placing sensor bars on the track also changes the direction and/ or sound effects. There's a fuel hose with sound effects and a working crane plus vehicles that run on the "road". Comes with 92 pieces, but we suggest that you not wait too long to buy add-ons, since it's the kind of toy that comes and goes from the line. Great fun, but doesn't replace a wooden set. 4 & up.

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

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