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Product Type: Toys
Age: Preschoolers
Categories: Pretend Play

 

 
2012 Awards
Hape Gourmet Kitchen
(HaPe $129.99 Score:)

A classic piece of equipment for pretend play. This has no sounds except the ones your child will make. Beautifully finished in white, with licks of yellow and natural wood, this is not the usual gender specific pink and will be enjoyed by boys as well as girls. Crafted with round edges and smooth surfaces, this wooden kitchen has red dials that turn on the stove with two pretend burners, an oven, and frig underneath. We like the sink with turning faucets and a small take-out plastic tub that can actually hold water for sudsy play. There is a rack at the top for storing plates and utensils, however the plates, etc. do not come with the kitchen. You can buy Hape wooden accessories or stock up on sturdy plastic ones for soap and water fun. Unlike so many oversized kitchens, this will not take up most of a room. It is scaled down but ideal for 3 and up.

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

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2012 Award
Hape Park and Go Garage
(HaPe $69.99 Score:)

A handsome wooden garage with ramps and working elevator with a heliport on top. A classic setting for dramatic play as cars zoom up and down the roadway ramps. Your child makes the sounds rather than premade ones. It comes with a helicopter and two small wooden cars that move on the slick surface. It also has a gas station for fueling up the vehicles. Well finished with black, and red graphics. This will get hours of playtime and can be incorporated into block building play. This takes some assembling time, but it goes together without anything more than a screwdriver and some patience. Our experienced tester/builder says putting the tower in place is the only challenging part, but the directions are perfect and easy to follow.  We note not all reviews online have been positive in term of the strength of the ramps. This is not a toy for toddlers who may lean on it and even sit on the top ramp. 3 & up.

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

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2012 Award
Calico Critters Motorcycle and Sidecar
(International Playthings $39.99 Score:)

An adorable add-on to the wonderful Calico Critters playsets, that are ideal for dramatic play. Unlike gender specific dollhouses, the Calico Critters are more gender neutral. Marvin and Maggie, the Mulberry Raccoons get around town in their red and white motorcycle and sidecar, romantically named the True Love. If your child has a Calico Critter setting, bringing home a small set of critters or an accessory like this will refresh their interest in the play setting; but this is also a cute stand alone toy. 3 and up

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

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2012 Award
Imaginetics Flying High
(International Playthings $11 Score:)

Perfect for your next flight or a pretend trip. This magnetic play setting board opens like a big picture book. It features an air field with hanger, control tower and all kinds of airplanes. With 18 magnetic pieces, this is the kind of setting that is fun to use for telling their own stories.

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

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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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