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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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2000 Awards
Off to School, Baby Duck
(by Amy Hest/illus. by Jill Barton, Candlewick $16.99 Score:) Baby Duck is excited about starting to school, but still a bit nervous. Once again, it's Grandpa who knows just the right thing to say. Newest in a gem of a series that's right on target for preschoolers. 3 & up.

Age: Preschool. Award Year: 2000.

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2001 Awards
Day Care Days
(by Mary Barrett/illus. by Patti Murphy, Greenwillow $12.95 Score:) From the alarm clock's first "brrring!" to the last kiss good-night, this romp in rhyme follows a child through a busy day at daycare. How refreshing that Dad helps dress the kids, takes them to and from daycare and even cooks! 3 & up.

Age: Preschool. Award Year: 2001.

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1999 Awards
Playing From the Heart
(Globalstage/BBC $27 Score:) This is the story of Evelyn Glennie, the world famous percussionist, and her determination to become a professional musician despite the fact that she lost her hearing at eight. A stylish performance by the Polka Children's Theatre in England, not your typical TV dramatization, this is an inspiring story about a young woman with dreams and the family that supported her. Followed with a delightful interview with Ms. Glennie. (98 mins.) Closed-captioned. 8 & up. SNAP INFO: This is the story of Evelyn Glennie, the world famous percussionist, and her determination to become a professional musician despite the fact that she lost her hearing at eight. A stylish performance by the Polka Children's Theatre in England, not your typical TV dramatization, this is an inspiring story about a young woman with dreams and the family that supported her. Followed with a delightful interview with Ms. Glennie. (98 mins.) Closed-captioned. 8 & up.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 1999.

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1998 Awards
Silent Lotus
(Reading Rainbow / GPN $23.95 Score:) A fascinating video about how people who are deaf communicate. Also, the storybook Silent Lotus is about a girl who cannot hear or talk but learns to communicate through dance. Also includes a section on signing. Closed-captioned SNAP INFO: How people who are deaf communicate is the main thrust of this excellent video from the PBS show "Reading Rainbow." The storybook Silent Lotus is about a girl who cannot hear or talk but learns to communicate through dance. Also includes a section on signing. Closed-captioned

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 1998.

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2000 Awards
Behind the Scenes with David Hockney
(First Run Features $12.95 Score:) Hosted by the witty duo Penn & Teller, this video introduces young viewers to ideas about perspective, illusions, and the unique ways artists like David Hockney look at an object as familiar as a chair. Originally broadcast on PBS, this is a better choice for young viewers than the Julie Taymor video which goes behind the scenes with a production of The Tempest. The latter is more suited to older audiences. 8 & up.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2000.

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2000 Award
Sesame Street Let's Eat!
(Sony $12.95 Score:) Billed as Funny Food Songs, Grover the waiter (who works at Planet Storybook) and his pals serve up a lot of good advice about the most important meal of the day with a ditty called "Cereal Girl." That's just for openers. There's a trip to a pasta factory, foods that we like that animals eat, and a visit with a picky eater. As always, Sesame Street manages to deliver information wrapped in good humor instead of the typical food pyramid preachment.

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

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Blue's Big Treasure Hunt and ABC's And 123's
(Paramount $ Score:) These two videos mark a turn in the road for blue-not necessarily a desirable one for programming targeted to old toddlers and preschoolers. The happy thing about Blue was how smart kids felt as they shouted to Steve and tried to show him the clues they saw before he seemed to. Now, the climate has switched to quizzes that undermine kids' sense of smarts with questions they should not be asked, or know the answer to. The letter P is introduced-the sound of paw, and pop, and the next thing we see is a sign for phone-but no one mentions that "ph" sounds like "f," not "p." Further, kids are supposed to follow reading clues and rebus pictures, but without left-to-right readiness cues-initial sounds for the word k-e-y are introduced and the word is spelled from top to bottom instead of left to right. All in all-a treasure map? reading for preliterate kids? Sorry-it's off track, Blue!

Age: Toddlers,Preschool. Award Year: 2000.

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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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