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Product Type: Toys
Award: Platinum
Review Year: 2012

 

 
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
Jumbo Bananagrams
(Bananagrams $39 Score:)

Instead of the usual small letter tiles, this Jumbo set comes with 144 tiles that are over 3-inches squares and made of a pliable material. Ideal for playing out of doors, on the floor of the family room, or in the classroom. Players do not take turns as you do in Scrabble. Game play is faster and everyone plays at their own level. With younger kids, try playing on teams or cooperatively. Each play takes 11-21 tiles, depending on the number of players. Someone says SPLIT and all players turns over their tiles and arrange and rearrange them until someone, who has used all his tiles yells PEEL! And takes one more tile from the spare Bunch. Everyone else must also take one tile. A player who cannot use a tile can throw it back but has to take three in exchange.  Play continues until there are no tiles left in the spare Bunch and one player has gotten rid of all his or her tiles. This is great multigenerational game for family gatherings. Be forwarned this Jumbo Set is physically heavy!

For a smaller and less expensive game, check out the original Banangrams($14.99) or the company's Zip It!, both good games for home or easy to pack travel toys.

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

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2012 Award
K'NEX Build A Bunch
(KNEX $19.99 Score:)

Our testers really enjoyed exploring and building with this 30 piece plastic construction set.  Comes with building ideas for 30 models--but we're big on allowing this to be an open-ended experience with no right or wrong results. The process of problem solving how pieces go together is what's valuable here as well as the creative aspect of making your own creations!  "I like the wheels" and the "funny eyes" - were some of the running dialogue of our testers in action.

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

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2012 Award
TinkerToy Transit Building Set
(KNEX $43.99 Score:)

Many may remember TinkerToy sets that came with wooden pieces with a happy sense of nostalgia.  We think in this case, that this new set with "bendy" plastic pieces are even better than the original. K'NEX has licensed the trademark from Hasbro (in case you were wondering).  Our testers also liked the ability to make vehicles with this set that comes with lots of wheels as part of this 150 piece set. Fun to explore together. There are 15 suggested builds, but encourage your child to create their own builds.  The box the set comes in is sturdy enough to be used again and again for storage, also a plus!  The only comment of our testers "we wish there were more bendy pieces!"

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2012.

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2012 Award
Nat Geo Wild Puzzles
(Uncle Milton $5.99 & up Score:)

Our testers gave high marks to this new collection of puzzles from Nat Geo Wild. We tested three different types of puzzles in the line: Panorama Puzzles that feature Penguins, Lions or Ring-Tailed Lemurs. This particular puzzle comes with three separate puzzles that you then connect to create a satisfying 34" x 15" puzzle.  The fact that you're working on separate puzzles makes this more accessible to younger children.  We also recommend the African Lion - contains 100 pieces  that creates a 12" x 9" puzzle.  We found the lion particularly challenging-- there are many dark pieces that take some time to figure out.  In otherwords, these are perfect for doing together-- but will likely be too frustrating to most younger school-aged kids. Even more gifty, are the two tin sets that come with three puzzles, each with 150 pieces. We tested the Big Cats Deluxe Puzzle collection, but there is also a Majestic Mamals set as well that features a Gorilla, Dolphin, and Elephant.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years, Tweens. Award Year: 2012.

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2012 Award
Flying Super Grover 2.0
(Hasbro $32.99 Score:)

Hands down our favorite novelty doll of 2012. Grover playfully engages your child in his ability to fly like a super hero.  He comes with a bright red cape (hey, he's a super hero) and a big "G" on his chest.  The best part -- his arms move as you "fly" him up and down.  All the while Grover provides the narrative of him going up, up, up or down, down, down.  Truth be told, he doesn't always know which way he's going. Cute sound effects that propel him as he soars.  He has a sense of humor-- something we really appreciate.

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

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2012 Award
Janod Grand Xylo Confetti
(Janod $19.99 Score:)

We were delighted to find that this beautiful line of French toys is now available in the US market. The music line is particularly welcomed.  Most of the musical toys on the market in the past several years have had terrible tone. As Randy would say - way too "pitchy". This oversized wooden xylo is cheerfully designed in white with bold dots of color. Take a listen to the video so you can hear the lovely sound quality. 

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2012.

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2012 Award
Fibber Game
(Spinmaster $19.99 Score:)

A silly time is had by all when you play the game of Fibber. Players wear a pair of glasses with a knobby nose. Players who get caught fibbing about the cards they put down have to add another length to their nose. If a player calls another player a fibber and she is wrong, she has to pick up all the cards discarded and add a length to her nose. The object is to be the first to get rid of all your cards. It might be a stretch to call this an educational game. But maybe there is some learning going on. What do players learn? For future poker players or business dealmaker types, this may have some long term value.   Obviously, we would not be promoting a game that teaches lying as such. Bluffing, maybe. 

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

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2012 Award
Blabla Coral Mermaid
(blabla kids $42 Score:)

Soft and huggable, Coral, an 18"long mermaid is created with cotton yarn. Her multicolored braids are as bright as the coral reef and her tail has scalloped embroidery. An unusual huggable, she has no nose, but they did not forget her bellybutton.   Like other dolls in the line it is also available in a 12-inch size.

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

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2012 Awards
Blabla Giant Pumpkin
(blabla kids $196 Score:)

Three feet tall and ready to listen, dance, and play pretend, Pumpkin is dressed in an adorable striped dress. She has rosy cheeks, and reddish hair. Oversized dolls like this one become more than decorations in a child's room. They often become the play companion of tea parties, storytime, and bedtime, too. Blabla makes a number of giant size dolls. This is the most humanoid of the group and a smaller version of the doll is also available.

Age: Toddlers, Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2012.

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