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Product Type: Toys
Award: Platinum
Age: Late Elementary School Years
Review Year: 2013

 


2013 Award
Lego City Cargo Heliplane
(Lego Systems, Inc. $50 Score:)

This 393-piece set is loaded with wonderful working parts: it has a working cargo lift for moving logs, a cargo bay door at the back that opens for loading and the wheels that turn for easy ground navigation. Best of all, the way the adjustable propellers turn is awesome! Kit includes three mini-figures, a pilot and two lumberjacks, a quad bike and other accessories. Our tester also found the building directions clear and appreciated the way the packages of parts helped to keep him organized. Building this kind of model helps develop a sense working in an orderly step-by-step way, following directions, using fine motor skills, as well as patience for projects that are not instantaneous. Though some models are strictly for display, this is one that lends itself to imaginative dramatic play. 5-12

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Award
Magformers Inspire Sets
(Magformers $24.99-49.99 Score:)

Getting some girls into construction play seems to work by coloring the building materials to their taste. Although we prefer gender free materials, we still think it more important for girls to be building, since this is one of the ways that kids develop their understanding of spatial relationships and basic math concepts. For generations, boys excelled in these areas, in part, because of the experience they had from building models and construction sets. Giving girls construction sets is one way to give girls the mindset and can-do math skills needed for wider career choices. New from Magformers, two gender specific sets of magnetic shapes colored in shades of pink, purple, aqua and blue. Choose a 14 or 30 piece set. Each comes with triangles and squares that can be used to copy models or for open-ended creations and discoveries. All magnets are safely inside the plastic forms. Hands-on experiments help kids discover not only some math concepts, they have to deal directly with the magnetic poles inside the plastic forms, turning them so that they attract. Also see: Magformers Light Show. This combines stealth learning: math, science, visual and manual dexterity, creative problem solving, construction play, imagination, and good fun.  Marked for 3 & up, we think these make more sense for slightly older players.

 

Age: Preschool, Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Award
Magformers Light Show
(Magformers $119.99 Score:)

Light up power adds a new dimension to this 55-piece set of magnetic shapes. With large and small triangles, squares, clear pyramids, and a chargeable light, kids can turn their constructions into showy towers that change colors. All magnets are safely inside the plastic forms. This kit comes with an idea booklet for building models and all sorts of light shows. Like all Magformers, it can be used in open-ended construction, as well. Hands-on experiments help kids discover not only some math concepts, they have to deal directly with the magnetic poles inside the plastic forms, turning them so that they attract. This combines stealth learning: math, science, visual and manual dexterity, creative problem solving, construction play, imagination, and good fun. 6 & up.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2013.

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2013 Award
Magformers RC Cruisers Custom Set
(Magformers $129.99 Score:)

Fans of Magformers will love using the magnetic shapes to build amazing R/C vehicles. Follow the plans or create your own wheeled vehicles with the colorful squares, triangles and arched shapes in this terrific 52-piece set. All magnets are safely inside the plastic forms. Along with a remote controller there are two drivers (make and female) three large wheeled bases, and two smaller wheels for building all sorts of futuristic looking vehicles. Our tester loved the large triangles and various arched pieces. Hands-on experiments help kids discover not only some math concepts, they have to deal directly with the magnetic poles inside the plastic forms, turning them so that they attract. This combines stealth learning: math, science, visual and manual dexterity, creative problem solving, construction play, imagination, and good fun. 6 & up

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2013.

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2013 Award
Spy Gear Panosphere 360 Spy Cam
(Spin Master $59.99 Score:)

While we're not big on spy toys per se or suggesting that your child train to become a spy, the technology of capturing 360 degree videos with audio is thrilling. Until recently, such equipment was extremely expensive and complicated. Once you've captured the video, you can choose different angles to view. On the full site, spygear.net, kids can then edit their original videos. One of the most innovative toys we've seen this year!

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years, Tweens, Teens, Adult. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Award
eeBoo Design Tiles
(eeBoo $19.99 Score:)

A brain-teaser the whole family will enjoy. Neither a game, nor a puzzle in the traditional sense, this is closest to a set of parquetry blocks with patterns, but a lot more challenging. The 64 double-sided chipboard pieces are used to copy or create a variety of geometric patterns. 16 small patterns to follow are printed inside the box or players can create their own variations. The patterns are trickier than they appear. For example, one pattern looked like it could be created with crescents and corner pieces; but some parts turned out to require two triangles that were printed with patterns that create the corners and crescents. The thick chipboard pieces will hold up to lots of handling. Put it on the coffee table and do a few cooperatively. It's marked for 5 & up.  We think slightly older kids and the adults in their lives will enjoy it more.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Award
Loop De Doo Necklace Kit
(Loopdedoo $16.99 Score:)

Designed to be used with the Loop De Doo Spinning Loom, (not included) this kit includes 9 hammered silvery links in various sizes and styles plus 18 easy open/close links and 12 skeins of thread. Necklaces (or even belts) are made in sections and then connected with the links. This is just one of three new kits that extend the use of the original loom. They say 8 & up. We'd say 8-9 will need adult help in getting it started and perhaps with the links. That said, this is a winner.

 

Age: Later School Years, Tweens, Teens. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Award
Loop De Doo Headband Kit
(Loopdedoo $16.99 Score:)

Designed to be used with the Loop De Doo Spinning Loom, (not included) this kit makes 6 stretchable headbands with elasticized thread. The kit includes 24 precut threads, 6 headband elastics, and complete instructions. Our original Loop-De-Doo tester loved this add-on. This is just one of three new kits that extend the use of the original loom. They say 8 & up. We'd say 8-9 will probably need adult help in getting it started. That said, this is a winner.

 

Age: Later School Years, Tweens, Teens. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Awards
LeapFrog Leap Pad Ultra
(LeapFrog $149.99 Score:)

How do you make a good thing better? We loved the original Leap Pad and now the Ultra takes it to a new level. It has a Hi-Res 7-inch light-touch screen, a built in 9- hour rechargeable battery, and is loaded with 11 Apps. It has a front and back camera and has 8 GB of Memory that can hold 40,000 photos or more than 100 Game apps. The Leap Pad Ultra has kid-safe Wi-Fi that will not take kids to the web locations they should not reach, but it gives them access to the Leap Frog library of more than 800 games, ebooks, videos and music that is child friendly and age appropriate. You can download learning games that are suited to you child's skill level. You'll find games to reinforce math, reading, art, science and social studies. This Leap Pad Ultra does it all and should it be accidentally dropped - not to worry. It can do that too and keep on playing. 4-9

Age: Preschool, Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Award
MindWare Paint Your Own Porcelain Bowls
(MindWare $24.99 Score:)

A charming craft kit that comes with three white bowls and 12 paints that are used to decorate them. The directions introduce different techniques for stippling, sponge painting or designing with masking tape. After paining they need to dry for 24 hours and then the paint is set by baking it in a regular over - not a microwave. This is a craft kit that requires adult supervision. 8 & up.

 

Age: Later School Years, Tweens. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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