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Product Type: Toys

 


2014 Award
Crayola Paint Maker
(Crayola $24.99 Score:)

Our 10-year old reviewer, who is interested in art was excited about this new take on paint that she could make herself. You get 75 color strips in three colors(red, blue, and yellow) with a color mixing guide for making custom colors. The kit also includes 15 small paint pots and labels along with base white paint and brush. Our tester's mom writes that Paint Maker "is a neat way to be part of the artistic process from the ground up." Our tester "enjoyed picking out the color combinations and was able to do the entire thing very readily on her own...getting much more satisfaction out of creating artwork from her custom creations than she would from a set of store bought paints. Each creation earned some "oohs" and "aahhs."On the negative side, though the toy is operated with a hand crank (look, Ma, no batteries!) it is a little bit loud and there were some complaints of a tired hand. That said, it was fun for a good while! From the parent's paint of view, the big bonus is that it is not too messy since the paint colors are achieved by combining little paper thin strips of yellow, blue and red pigment in various combinations within each paint pot. So, this is not an instantaneous dive in and paint material. It's more about mixing and making the materials before the painting even can begin. A refill pack is available. 8 & up

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2014 Awards
Plan Toys Mini Vehicle Helicopter
(Plan Toys $15.99 Score:)

Easy to grasp, this little yellow and orange helicopter has a pilot and soft propeller that spin as it is pushed along. Designed for crawling babies and toddlers for active play and beginning pretending. Little lessons in cause and effect are built into the action of the toy. Made of smooth rubber wood and colored with vegetable dyes. 12 months & up

Age: Toddlers. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2014 Awards
Plan Toys Bird Walker
(Plan Toys $100 Score:)

On-the go toddlers will like the noisy parrots that bob up and down as they push this walker wagon around. Loaded with 16 colored blocks they can play another favorite game of fill and dump as they take their deliveries from place to place. This is a pretty heavy walker with an adjustable handle that satisfies beginning walkers who like to hold on to something as they start to walk about on their own two feet. Made of sustainable rubber wood and colored with vegetable dyes, this is one of those toys that will be passed along to younger sibs, cousins and close friends. They say 10 months & up, we say for babies who are up on their feet and pretty steady.

Age: Toddlers. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2014 Awards
Hape Dream House
(HaPe $199.99 Score:)

Our tester loves the see-through elevator that runs up and down the outside of this three-story house with chalk siding so kids can customize the exterior walls. It not only comes mostly furnished, it has decorative wallpapered interior walls that are magnetized to hold easy-to-fill picture frames for original artwork or photos. The 32-piece doll house kitchen counter, refrigerator, sofa, loveseat, 3 rugs, coffee table, floor lamp, toilet, bathtub, bed with comforter, pillows, 2 side table, armoir, media cabinet, magnetized wall sconces, wall clock, 2 art frames, bath vanity, toilet paper roll, mirror, shower,LCD/TV, and wall shelf. Note: Dolls are available in families or individually and sold separately. 3 & up

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

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2014 Award
Zingo! Word Builder
(Thinkfun $19.99 Score:)

Our testers loved the fast-paced action of sliding the zinger machine to reveal two letters. Players take letter that they can use to complete a word on their playing boards. Possible words do vary so this game is rarely ever the same. In fact, it helps beginners see all the variations they can make as well as demonstrating the need to look at all the letters to see the difference between words that look almost alike. First player to fill his board is the winner. A fun way to reinforce reading skills for beginners who are learning to build phonetically regular three letter words. 5 & up

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

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2014 Award
Disney Planes Matching Game
(Wonder Forge $10..99 Score:)

For kids who are fans of Planes will like playing the classic matching game of concentration. Put the cards face down and take turns turning over two to find a pair of matching planes. True, it may be an old game, but an important one for building memory skills. These cards with distinctive bright backgrounds make the task somewhat easier. 3 & up

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

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2014 Award
Hape Happy Harp
(HaPe $36.99 Score:)

A charming and not too noisy instrument that kids can play instantly with the sheet music that goes under the strings. The sturdy wooden harp with nylon strings comes with two picks for strumming and several song sheets with familiar folksongs such as Row, Row, Row Your Boat, Happy Birthday, Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and more; songs that kids will soon be able to play and sing along to. Although there are songsheet, in time, children will be picking out songs they know and play by ear. You will need to tune this lovely auto harp before you present it. It comes with a tuner, so just keep track of that since it will need adjusting from time to time.

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

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2014 Award
Vtech Lil' Speller Phonics Station
(Vtech $25 Score:)

Learning letter names and the sounds they say is an interactive game with the letters in the carry case that fit into the board and speak. That is just one level of play. Kids can spell hundreds of three letter words and hear them said or they can hear a word and find the letters to spell that word. This is a game for the beginning reader. We like that they have used lower case letters since that is what beginning readers need to learn to recognize and read. Often kids only know upper case letters and have to relearn the names of letters in the lower case form. The toy is marked for 3-6 and we would say that most 3s are not ready for most of the skills on this toy. That said, it can be a fun toy for preschoolers who are getting interested in letters and words—not being pushed into reading. This is very much like the first Leap Frog toy introduced several decades ago. It was a good idea then and still a good idea for a new crop of pre-literate children who are ready and eager to become literate.

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

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2014 Award
Klutz Felted Friends
(Klutz $19.99 Score:)

You start this craft kit with soft fuzzy wool and by following the instructions in the excellent book, transform that wool into adorable felt critters. The kit includes the special tools and materials you need to create really cute little animals. Use the six different colors and the special needle tool on the foam cushion to poke and form a cute little mouse, squirrel, bunny, fox, and cat into one-of-a-kind creations. Following instructions, staying with the task, and patience are all required along with a good deal of care with how and where the tool is used, since it is sharp and not for younger kids to handle. 10 & up.

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

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2014 Awards
Hasbro Lite Brite LED Flat Screen
(Hasbro $20 Score:)

This is not your old Lite Brite, it really is improved in multiple ways, with the play value still totally there. First improvement: the templates are no longer easy-to-rip but are sturdy and reusable--a real plus. The flat screen box is sleek and the storage box for the pegs can be attached or not. There are so many pegs kids may have trouble closing the storage box. Take the new big shapes out and the case will close. There are now more shapes than ever, adding new visual interest, as well. This is one of those toys that may seem mindless, but it does give fine motor muscles a tuning up—the same finger muscles they need to use for writing and such, only this is more fun. They also have to follow the pattern, calling for visual discrimination and sequencing, more reading and writing skills. Does this translate into school skills? No guarantees, but it might indeed help. The new board has 4 different modes to light up the creations and a 5th one to turn off the lights. 3 AA batteries required and not included. Keep this toy out of the reach of younger sibs who still mouth their toys. Marked for 4 and up, but school aged kids 5-8 will have more success, less frustration, and greater benefit. Available in blue or hot pink. 4 & up.

SNAP: A good choice for building fine motor skills without drillling with pencil and paper tasks. Also useful for developing visual discrimination and sequencing.

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

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