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Product Type: Toys
Age: Preschoolers
Categories: Pretend Play

 

 
2012 Awards
Farm Activity Mat
(North American Bear Co. $75 Score:)

A scrumptious set of 12 fabric farm animals. Each fits into a pocket inside this zip up mat with a bright red barn and grassy green meadow all around. We could have done without the numerals on the animals. They each fit into a pocket that shows a small graphic of the related number of animals. For example, the cow with a numeral three on its side fits into the pocket with the image of three cows. Similarly, a pig with a  nine on it goes into a pocket with the image of nine pigs. The images are very small and hard to count for the age group this toy is going to reach. That said, this is a fun "knowing and naming" toy and the soft animals will be fun to use for pretend lay on the farm side. As for matching number words and numerals, or sequencing numbers, those are kindergarten and beyond skills that are beyond toddlers. The toy seems much younger than school years, but it is beautifully made and will also be a fun toddler toy for talking, pretending and for un-filling and refilling with help.

SNAP: Lots of knowing and nameing games can be played with this set of animals.

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

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2012 Awards
Blossom Cottage
(Big Jigs $119 Score:)

A relatively small painted wooden doll house with lift up roof that makes getting into the house easy. It has a carry handle feature, but would be a tad heavy for young children to handle on their own. That said, this is a good scale for a small space or as a good toy for Grandma's little visitors. It comes furnished with a family of four and 18 pieces of furniture. You fold the front down to reveal a painted garden, as well. Marked 3 & up. 

SNAP This small uncomplicated house will fit on a table top or wheelchair table.

Age: Preschool. Award Year: 2012.

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2012 Award
Learning Resources New Sprouts Fix It!
(Learning Resources $24.95 Score:)

For pretend carpentry play, this set of plastic tools is scaled just right for toddlers. There's a tool box for carrying a small hammer( with soft hammer head), a screwdriver, wrench, saw and drill with sound appeal. All the pieces are designed for little hands and have soft rubberized parts. 2 & up.

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

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2011 Award
BigJigs Rose Cottage
(BigJigs $179.95 Score:)

A dream house done up in pink and cream. A cleverly designed dollhouse that opens onto four rooms. There is a hinged roof for easy access. It has sliding patio door, and functional doors and windows. It comes with six little dolls and it's fully furnished with 26 pieces to that mean it's ready for play on the very first day! A memorable gift for 3 & up.

Age: Preschool. Award Year: 2011. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2011 Award
Educo All Season Dollhouse
(HaPe $129.99-189.99 Score:)

Three floors high, this modern six-room wooden dollhouse has 50's style licks of bright colors and is big enough for several children to enjoy together, with easy access from three sides rather than the usual one. It has clever adjustable stairs and even the roof that can be moved and rearranged. The house comes with four rooms of furniture for the family room, kitchen, bathroom and master bedroom. Or you can buy it without furnishings ($129.99) and add rooms and accessories gradually.  The company also makes a Caucasian or African American family that can be added for ($19.99.)

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2011. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2011 Award
Educo Discovery Spaceship and Lift Off Rocket
(HaPe $120 Score:)

An imaginative spaceship playhouse. Of course, with the space programs going in a different direction, imaginative play may be all earthlings can do these days. This four story setting has an elevator in the center and lots of play figures, a medical area, treadmill, computer stations, vehicles, and solar panels. It's more sci-fi than science since they included aliens with the astronauts. We think space minded parents will have to give kids some back stories to play with this mini setting that would have been their dream toy in the heyday of NASA. It's almost like looking at Back to the Future. 

Age: Preschool. Award Year: 2011. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2011 Award
Prehistoric Anamalz
(Anamalz $12.95 Score:) Choose from this collection of six dinosaurs; triceratops, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Stegosaurus,Torosaurus, Brontosaurus, and Parasaurolophus. They are handcrafted wooden toys with fabric covered flexible necks, and wooden feet that can be posed for action or give them balance for standing in place. These are finished in natural wood grain with licks of color. Ideal as props for blocks or play with them on the Playmat ($39.95) that is covered with green, blue and brown velour to represent grass, water, and dirt field. The water has fabric rocks that animals can cross and small wooden fish that are under see-through fabric. At the end of the day the playmat turns inside out and becomes a storage holder for all the animals. Also available in this collection, Orange, Apple and Wild Trees ($16.95 each) 6 inches tall. Also see: Farm and Wild AnamalZ ( $8.95 each.) Made in Australia, these are charming collectibles that will have a busy life as kids build block settings of farms, zoos, and prehistoric sites. The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements. We did not independently test this toy in a lab.

Age: Preschool. Award Year: 2011. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2011 Award
Educo Modern Family
(HaPe $19.99 Score:)

A seven-piece set of dollhouse sized play figures. Dressed in soft fabric clothes and yarn hair, these little figures are bendable and can actually stand on their own feet (not the baby, of course.) There are mom and dad, gram and gramps, brother and sister and baby. Perfect props for dramatic play in doll houses or block props. Sets are available in both African American and Caucasian finish. 

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2011. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2011 Awards
Pita Pocket Lunch
(Hape $14.99 Score:)

For pretend time lunches, how about something healthy? So many pretend toy are about hot dogs, cupcakes and ice cream. Here is a new look. A felt pita bread in two halves with a pocket ready to fill with felt lettuce and Swiss cheese and wooden pepper, onions, pickle, and tomato slices. These are great as props for dramatic play. They are also good for knowing and naming as well as simple sorting. Pita Lunch Color Game for Two: Each player gets a half a pita. The object is to get one piece of each kind of food in your pita pocket. Make a color die with a small block and put green marker on two faces of the cube, put red marker on two others, yellow on one face and purple on another. Now players take turns rolling the die. They can take a piece of food that matches the color thrown. The first to get one of each color wins. Follow up with some real pita sandwiches for a snack or lunch--that will probably cost less than the toy.

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

Age: Preschool. Award Year: 2011. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2011 Award
Kidoozie Little Roadster Steering Wheel
(International Playthings $28 Score:)

We had a toddler visitor who would not let go of this interactive steering wheel. He went all the way home to France with it and his mom reports it is still his favorite! We know steering wheel toys have always been a hit with toddlers. But this one is going to get more mileage than most. It's a big blue wheel with a broad green base that keeps it stabile on the table or floor. But that is just the practical part. This electronic steering wheel has icons on the buttons that kids may begin to "read" when they want to toot the horn, call for and emergency truck, or "listen" to the radio. As they steer side to side the blinker arrows light up.

It has a shift button; shift into Drive to activate the screen as they steer. Put it in Reverse and hear the back up signal sound. There is a turn on button that starts the engine and brake sounds when the car is put in Neutral. All those special effects are sure to be used hit and miss at first, but more purposefully as they get to find their way around on imaginary trips. Marked 12 months and up. We think slightly older kids will find many ways to use this for their pretend play.

Age: Toddlers, Preschool. Award Year: 2011. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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