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Product Type: Toys
Age: Preschoolers
Categories: Vehicles

 

 
2011 Awards
Playskool Sesame Street School Bus
(Hasbro $14.99 Score:)

Seems the school bus has shrunk a little, but it's still one of those perennial favorites. This season it has been updated for the Sesame Street gang. But it only comes with two characters, Count Von Count is the driver and Elmo is there with his backpack. If you want more passengers, that will be extra, please. It can hold three figures and since loading and unloading passengers is so much a part of the fun, we suggest you bring them home with the bus. Passengers can get on through the door or the open roof top. To open the door, press the purple button on the hood. No batteries needed for this roll and play vehicle. They say 18 months & up, we think it will be enjoyed more by 2's and up. The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements. We did not independently test this toy in a lab.

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

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2011 Award
Hot Wheels Wall Tracks Starter Set
(Mattel $49.99 Score:)

If you grew up playing with Hot Wheels, then you probably dreamed about putting your tracks on the wall. Having spent a good part of my childhood with running tracks down the staircase...I was really excited to see this set at toy fair.  Having just tested this set, I am happy to report that the news is good. Hot Wheels has joined forces with 3M to come up with brackets that can be put up on your wall without damaging your paint (they warn not to do this on wallpaper...makes sense).  It comes with clear instructions that tell you where to place the brackets at each level. All of this will require adult supervision--and you may have to adjust some of your tracks--but it works.  It rarely works perfectly--something that didn't bother us or our testers since we think that's part of the fun.

The Starter Set comes with one car and has a big loop-de-loop that's fun and works well with the lighter car it comes with. We found that the heavier car packed with one of our favorite add-on sets did not handle the loop very well, but did very well on the track packed in the add-on set.

Of the add-on sets, we'd highly recommend the Daredevil curve that has a wonderful mechanism of turning the car as it makes a 180 degree turn on the track. Very cool. The Downhill Flip Drop also has fun action and worked well with the starter set. Our testers also liked the bridge and cityscape featured with this set.

We'd pass on the Drift Rally Spinoff that had a bumpy green road section that stopped our cars almost every time. It just didn't work as well as the other sets.

One disappointment. We have so many Cars 2 fans (not made by Hot Wheels, but made by Mattel that now makes both Hot Wheels and Matchbox). Sadly these cars were all too wide for the Hot Wheels tracks.

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

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2011 Award
Chuggington Wooden Railway Chug Wash
(Learning Curve International $39.99 Score:)

A train wash...a first in train land!  Push the lever to disperse the imaginary water and then send them through the buffers and dryers. Having written about many accessories over the years, this one certainly wins for being unique. Other interesting accessories in this line: Chuggington Wooden Railway Crossing Fuel Depot ($39.99) Pull either of the two levers and you can watch the "fuel" go down as you refuel your train. There is also a water tank that works the same way. The dial that shows how much fuel you have left makes a clicking sound--but no other lights or sounds here; and Chuggington Wooden Railway Crossing Platform with Vee ($39.99) The crossingplatform features the character Vee and has some lights and sounds when youpush the roof or push through the gates. You can mix this add-on with other sets--often a way to renew interest!

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

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2011 Award
Chuggington Wooden Railway Trainee Roundhouse Set
(Learning Curve International $119.99 Score:)

The middle sized set in this new series of trains from the folks that brought you Thomas the Tank. The set comes with 32 pieces of wooden track with plastic/wooden accessories. The set comes with two trains (Koko & Brewster) and a roundhouse that can hold three engines. One of the nice features of this series is that the accessories come apart so that they can be used in more than one way. For example in this set, the clock tower can stack on top of the roundhouse or be removed and used as a small tunnel elsewhere. Our testers have generally loved these sets but have noted that the tracks do not stay connected as well as the Thomas sets (which is odd since they're made by the same company!).

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

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2011 Award
Chuggington Wooden Railway Double-Decker Roundhouse with Elevated Turntable
(Learning Curve International $99.99 Score:)

Here's the "big" accessory for this new line of trains based on the show Chuggington. The roundhouse  can either be used stacked to provide an unusual two-story structure. It comes with a elevated turntable
in order to get the trains up and down from the second story (pretty cool). Or you can take the two halves of the roundhouse and use them to create a circle around your track. What we really love is that you can ascending pieces to add trains to the second story. There's something very cool about building height in train settings. Our tester did note that it seems more "plastic" than Thomas--but the amazing functionality of this prop outweighed all of those esthetic concerns. 


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

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2011 Award
Chuggington Wooden Railway Over and Under Starter Set
(Learning Curve International $49.99 Score:)

Move over Thomas! There's a new train in town. Fans of the Chuggington series will enjoy this starter set. Comes with 22 pieces -including two trains (Wilson & Koko). One of our testers loved that the set came with two trains - just right for her two children ("no fighting").  What we liked about this set is that you
can make an elevated figure 8 with a clock tower in the center or take the tower apart and now you have two tunnels. Can be used with other wooden sets in this line and other wooden sets you may already have. All of our testing families noted that the tracks do not stay together as well as the Thomas tracks--something we also found - which is all the more curious given that these sets are made by the same company that makes Thomas!  Take a look at the accessories in these series.

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

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2010 Award
Krazy Kars Light Up Marble Racers
(Skullduggery $7.99 Score:)

Kids can customize their own see-though racers with the stick-on decals. Give them a shake and the "marble" in the center of the vehicle lights up. These will make good party favors or stocking stuffers or a less than costly way to exit the toy store with a small purchase. 3 & up.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2010. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2010 Award
Rubbabu Fireman Rubba Engine
(Rubbabu $24.99 Score:)

The wheels really roll on this beginners fire engine. It's made of a rubbery material that is flocked with soft red texture and has a black ladder that bounces along on top. This is a toddler toy with not a lot of details. 1 & up. The company makes a variety of small vehicles in bright colors. We especially like the Mascot Cars ($14.95) with a handle built into the body of the car. It's perfect for crawlers and kids who are still close to the ground.
The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements. We did not independently test this toy in a lab.


Age: Toddlers, Preschool. Award Year: 2010.

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2010 Award
Hot Wheels Impavido ZipBin Race Case
(Neat-Oh $20 Score:)

A red backpack that opens to a small track and storage container for hot wheels. It comes with just one vehicle.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2010. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2010 Award
Hot Wheels ZipBin Wheelie Backpack
(Neat-Oh $20 Score:)

Just right for taking along to a play date or Gram's. This backpack opens to a play setting for drag racing your best cars. Shaped like a wheel it transforms to a working side-by-side race track for dramatic play fun. There's a garage area, a winner's circle and built-in parking. On line it says that it comes with two sturdy die cast sports cars, but in fact the toy we tested came with just one vehicle. There are three holders on each side of the drag racing track. Or you can fit as many as 100 loose vehicles in this as a storage bag. Also fun, the HotWheels ZipBin Skull ($20) Shaped like a ramp for race cars to zoom down, this opens into a track and also stores vehicles. It comes with just one car.   3 & up.

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: 2010. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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