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Product Type: Toys
Award: Blue Chip


2000 Awards
Music Blocks
(Small world toys $69.95 Score:)

A new addition to our Blue Chip Award list. Remains one of our favorite toys, ever.  Here's what we wrote in 2000: One of the most innovative toys of the year! We were skeptical about such an expensive musical toy for kids-that was, until we played it! Imagine five colored plastic blocks each side with a geometric shape and representing a different sound. Match the shapes or play them in random order -there's no right or wrong way. Push on the blocks to play musical phrases! What sets this toy apart is the quality of the sound: woodwinds, trumpets, percussion. Comes with "Mozart's Night Music" cartridge. Bring home the "Rhythms of the World" cartridge right away. The new Disney music cartridges are not recommended since they produce a disconcerting disconnected effect so that songs do not make sense. We also found that the new Discovery Block, a big fabric block with peek-a-boo surprises was overly loud, frenetic, and too didactic. Teaching concepts such as "hexagon" to toddlers who are just learning to speak seems out of sync and not especially playful! 2 & up.

snap info: Want a rewarding tool for developing matching skills? Color concepts? Cause and effect? It's all here, plus great sound quality! Players touch blocks to activate a musical phrase or rhythm. Shapes on the blocks determine what instrument you'll hear. It's fun to mix up the shapes on the blocks for a variety of sounds. Kids with visual disabilities can "read" raised symbols on the blocks. Pricey but one of the most innovative toys we've found for kids with or without disabilities. New for 2000, update with extra cartridges ($19.99 each) of Bach, Jazz or Rhythms; a Cyber Cartridge ($49.99) downloads music from the internet.

Age: Toddlers. Award Year: 2000. Click here to purchase the product on

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1995 Awards
Cozy Coupe
(Little Tikes $49.99 Score:)

The ultimate classic ride-in toy comes with a fun "ignition switch". We love that the front wheels really turn so that kids can steer in any direction. Many wheel toys have surprisingly lost that feature. Happily it's also done in gender free colors so that it can be enjoyed by everyone. More recently the company produced a pink vehicle for those that need their vehicle genderized. We [refer the yellow and red vehicle that can be passed along from brothers to sisters and between cousins of both genders.  

Age: Toddlers, Preschool. Award Year: 1995. Click here to purchase the product on

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1995 Awards
Push Cart
(Galt $89.95 Score:)

This updated classic wooden cart is pricier than any of its plastic counterparts but can be passed down to younger siblings! Very stable push along for early walkers and a perfect first wagon for carting treasures.

Age: Toddlers. Award Year: 1995. Click here to purchase the product on

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1996 Awards
Master Builder Block System
(T.C. Timber $25 Score:) These wooden blocks are 40 percent smaller than regular unit blocks but maintain their size relationships. Aside from mini-unit shapes there are interesting architectural sets for school-age builders: Roman, Egyptian, Mayan, Middle Eastern, Russian, and Japanese, and new for , the Coliseum ($50/110 pieces ) and the Leaning Tower of Pisa ($45/27 pieces).

Age: Preschool,Early School Years. Award Year: 1996.

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2001 Awards
Safari Rush Hour
(ThinkFun $20 Score:)

The object of this brainteaser is to get your jeep safely out of the African Savannah by sliding around all the wild animals in your path. Comes with pattern problem moves from beginner to advanced level. Develops visual perception, strategy, and patience! This is a variation of Rush Hour, PLATINUM AWARD '98. 8 & up. Also fun, a Jr. version of Rush Hour. 6 & up.

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

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2001.

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Push/Pull Wagon
(Radio Flyer $60 Score:) Bigger than the classic red wagon, this plastic update has higher sides, a well, and a stout handle for pushing or pulling kids or cargo. This and the BLUE CHIP classic version are ideal for carting plants, tools, imaginary playmates—you name it.

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

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Emergency Rescue Squad Puppets
(Learning Resources $19.95 Score:) Multicultural worker puppets include a doctor, paramedic, police officer, and firefighter. They have vinyl heads and cloth bodies and are ready for dramatic play. The same company makes multicultural families. 4 & up.

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

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1997 Awards
American Girl & American Girl of Today
(American Girl $84 Score:) This company has made its name with exquisite dolls from different periods in American history. New for 2001 is Kit Kittredge, a nine-year old growing up in the Depression Era. There are books for each doll—a wonderful way to introduce history to kids. The American Girl of Today collection allows you to choose one of 20 contemporary-looking dolls with Caucasian, African American, Hispanic, and Asian American skin tones and features. 7 & up. SNAP INFO: A wheel chair is available for the American Girl doll. It's sturdy and a welcome addition to an excellent line. You can order the doll of your choice with skin, eye and hair color to match your child.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 1997.

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Lego System Classic Building Sets
(Lego Systems, Inc. $3.99 Score:) Lego, the granddaddy of plastic building blocks, is a must-have for this age group. Unlike the themed models in the line these open-ended sets with a mix of bricks, wheels, doors, and mini-figures allow kids to build and design their own creations. Also a great value, Lego Classic Play Desk ($19) comes with 225 pieces. 5–7.

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

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1999 Award
Mad Math Dice Game
(Patrix Communications $23.99 Score:)

If math facts are a source of tension in your house here are two games for working on those skills. Mad Math is a board game that has addition facts on one side and multiplication on the other. The goal is to get three pawns in a row on the board. You collect spaces by rolling the dice and finding the corresponding math fact on the playing board. The board is self-correcting which is a plus. It's not like some dreaded "game" that's good for you—it's actually "edutaining." (This game has been modified this year by the addition of the "addition" side of the playboard). 9 & up.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 1999.

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