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Product Type: Toys

 

  
2006 Awards
Gertie Balls
(Small World Toys $8 Score:)

Preschoolers need soft, lightweight, easy-to-catch balls that will not bend back a finger or hurt when they hit. Gertie Balls are gummy and soft enough for kids who may be scared of big heavy balls coming toward them. Also fun, Supersized Gertie Balls ($13), really oversized and great fun for this age group and next.  There's also a super cool Magic Gertie Ball that changes color with hot and cold water. 3 & up. 

SNAP INFO: These colorful balls are soft and slightly sticky to the touch, making them easier to catch and hold onto. They come in a variety of sizes and with different textures. Testers especially liked the knobby one which gave kids an extra way to grip and hold. These are not for toddlers because the air tube can come out and could pose a choking hazard. ACTIVITY: Getting control takes practice. Hang a big hoopla hoop from a tree branch and try to get the ball through the hoop.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2006. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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1999 Awards
Gears! Gears! Gears!
(Learning Resources $35 Score:)

This is a more open-ended set than the motorized models like Oogly Googly. Kids can build horizontally or vertically. There are sets with small gears only- a good place to start. There are also sets with large gears with optical patterns on them and other doo-dads. All in all it's a great building system that allows kids to experiment with making machines. Great for solo play as well as co-operative building.

SNAP INFO: Fitting gears together not only develops dexterity; it's a challenging way to promote problem-solving skills as kids make moving "machines." Motors can be added, but start with hand power. ACTIVITY: Play a game of "Keep It Going!" Players take turns adding one gear at a time but every gear added must connect and keep the motion going.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 1999. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2001 Awards
Number Express
(Lauri $13.95 Score:) Here's a playful way to learn number sequencing from 1 to 5. This colorful puzzle with five trains invites counting, color concepts and pretend play. SNAP INFO: Learning number sequence from 1-5 and the shapes of numerals is fun with a five-piece train that links together like a puzzle. For counting, big easy-to-grasp pegs fit onto each car and colorful pegs can be stacked. Also, Tall Stacker Peg & Pegboard Set ($13.95). Not for kids who still mouth their toys. ACTIVITY: Explore the materials in a playful way. Challenge child to discover how tall a stack of pegs they can make before they fall. Are there more red pegs or yellow? Make patterns with a few pegs like yellow, green, yellow-what comes next?

Age: Preschool,Early School Years. Award Year: 2001.

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2000 Awards
Letter Detective
(Ravensburger $18 Score:) Kids who are learning their letters often benefit from getting the feel of the shape of letters as well as their look. This game comes with a box that kids put their hands in to feel and try to name the letters. Don't put all the letters in at the start. Use a few letters. If your child is working on sounds play a game by asking them to say the letter and a word that begins with that letter's sound. SNAP INFO: This game centers on a special box that kids can put their hands into and feel letters that they try to identify by touch. Start with just a few letters rather than the whole alphabet. There are several games suggested that our testers enjoyed. Adaptation: You can also use this well-made box for other feel-and-say games with shapes, textures, numerals and other objects. This is a good game that provides multi-sensory experiences. It is obviously a good one for kids with visual impairments.

Age: Preschool,Early School Years. Award Year: 2000.

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2001 Awards
Lauri's Lacing & Tracing Dinosaurs
(Lauri $6.95 Score:) Dinosaur lovers will enjoy these bright dinos that they can lace with colorful yarn. These are a fun way to develop fine motor skills. New for 2007, Farm Lacing and Tracing Set (Lauri $6.99 ) with pig, horse, sheep, cow, hen, barn, and farmer on a tractor, plus colorful laces for “sewing.” SNAP INFO: These dinosaur boards with prepunched holes to lace are an entertaining way to motivate kids to use and refine their fine motor skills. These dinos are slightly more challenging than some of the shapes in other chipboard sets offered by Lauri. ACTIVITY: Kids can trace the dinos and use them for cutting, pasting or coloring.

Age: Preschool,Early School Years. Award Year: 2001.

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2000 Awards
Zoo Puzzibilities
(Small World Toys $8 Score:) Kids will have fun fitting together these splinter-free, giant, pegged whole-piece puzzles. Lift the giraffe, elephant and zebra and there's a matching animal below. Still recommended: Fruit, Farm, & Pets. SNAP INFO: Lift the giraffe and what's underneath? Another giraffe. For young puzzlers this is a matching game and the picture below helps kid discover how to rotate the whole piece into the space. These three place puzzles with large easy to grip handles are a good place to start.

Age: Toddlers,Preschool. Award Year: 2000.

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2000 Awards
Geometric Puzzle Board
(Guidecraft $15 Score:) Five big geometric shapes with stout, easy-to-grasp handles fit into the color matching puzzle board. This classic-styled puzzle is perfect for knowing and naming familiar shapes and colors. ACTIVITY: Put three or four chips under the puzzle pieces. Mark a die or make a spinner with each of the shapes. Players roll and take a chip from under the shape they roll. Winner is the first to collect 10 chips. SNAP INFO: Five big geometric shapes with stout, easy-to-grasp handles fit into the color matching puzzle board. This classic-styled puzzle is perfect for knowing and naming familiar shapes and colors. ACTIVITY: Put three or four chips under the puzzle pieces. Mark a die or make a spinner with each of the shapes. Players roll and take a chip from under the shape they roll. Winner is the first to collect 10 chips.

Age: Toddlers,Preschool. Award Year: 2000.

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1995 Awards
Babys First Blocks
(Fisher-Price $12.99 Score:)

Technically this is a shape-sorter, but the 10 blocks will be used to fill, spill and throw long before the baby can fit them into the three-place shape-sorter lid of the container. Put the lid away for now. A no gimmick classic that is neither complicated nor expensive. We much preferred this toy when it only had three shapes (circle, square and triangle)--the addition of the other shapes and more openings makes this less elegant and user friendly...but still a good basic toy.

Age: Infants, Toddlers. Award Year: 1995. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2007 Awards
Groovy Girls and Groovy Boys
(Manhattan Toy $10 Score:)

This continues to be a BLUE CHIP collection of soft 13" multi-ethnic dolls with stitched features, yarn hair, and groovy clothes. Happily, there is a boy doll in this line.  Still the superlative gift, consider Supersize Yvette or Gwen ($50 each 5), a 40" child-sized fabric doll that’s like a pretend play pal. We found the new Groovy Girls’ PetRageous ($16.99) disappointing. If you didn’t see the hangtags you wouldn’t know they were from the same folks—they lack the wonderful design quality and spirit of the dolls. 3 & up.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2007. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2000 Awards
School Bus
(Playhut $29.99 Score:) Here's a new twist on play tents. Choose School Bus, Ice Cream Truck, Space Shuttle, or Fire Engine (app. 28" L x 55"W x 36"H). Kids love enclosed spaces where they feel big and imagination takes off. A bit more literal than a tent made of a blanket, but either makes a great rainy day prop for pretending. We wish the ice cream truck were a little less pink and lavender. 3 and up.

Age: Preschool. Award Year: 2000.

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