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2006 Award
Barbie
(Mattel $15.99 Score:) We like the idea of Barbie being active- not just a pretty face with glitzy clothes. Last year, it was soccer; this year there's Cool Skating Barbie who really does skate and Swimming Champion Barbie, a true Olympian. These dolls have small details that require fine motor dexterity and will be enjoyed more by school aged kids who can handle them. We liked the look of Barbie's VW, but it was not ready for testing.New for 2006, our testers all wanted the new American Idol Barbie with Karaoke Machine () but found the clothes particularly difficult to put on and take off. They also wished that the doll sang more than a part of a song. Also among this year’s crop: Fairytopia Barbie (with light-up wings ); and Fashion Fever (with really neat clothes that come on little mannequins ). (800) 524-8697.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2006.

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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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2011 Award
Playmobil Grand Mansion
(Playmobil $139.99 Score:)

We got an email from our nine year old tester about this multi-level mansion.  She put the mansion together with her mom - and she really wanted me to know that she loved all the details included (Playmobil's signature) and would highly recommend it to other kids.  Her mom wanted to let us know that putting this together took longer than she anticipated (also true of Playmobil).  Most of our testers over the years comment that the instructions could be a bit clearer- but they always come back to the level of detail. While this is marked for kids 4 & up, you should know that the construction of the dollhouse is really a parent/child project.  Putting it together is part of the fun. Kids need fine motor dexterity to put the little pieces together and to truly enjoy this toy. This is not a dollhouse for preschoolers. 

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2011. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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Awards
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 Award
Science, Disscovery and Laughter
(The Science Club $19.95 Score:) Parents or teachers can use this video and guide book as a resource that turns you into the next best thing since Mr. Wizard! Simple hands-on science experiments that are guaranteed to delight your 5- to 10-year-old are demoed on the video. No special gear needed-just time and a willingness to explore sounds, gases, rocks, seeds, and matter.

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

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1997 Award
The Amazing Panda Adventure
(Warner Bros. $19.98 Score:) Shot in the Himalayan mountains, this film has its Perils-of-Pauline moments that keep testers at the edge of their seats. A moving blend of adventure, ecology, friendship, and family ties all bound together in a memorable film. Closed-captioned. 8 & up.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 1997.

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1995 Award
Free Willy
(Warner Bros. $24 Score:) Eleven-year-old Jesse finds new meaning in his life when he meets Willy, an orca whale who is being held in captivity. His concern and friendship grows and so does he. Video stores.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 1995.

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2001 Award
Amazing Insect Warriors
(Schkessinger Media $29.95 Score:) Once you get past the corny opening and the puppet sidekick, there are amazing close-ups plus fascinating information about bugs. Hosted by Dr. Art Evans of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, and actress Christina Ricci. For kids who are still too young for National Geographic. New for 2001, All About Fish ($29.95) uses amazing footage to illustrate what makes a fish a fish.

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

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1998 Award
Telling the Truth
(Sesame Street/Sony $12.98 Score:) Telly makes the mistake of telling a lie to impress his friends and then has to live with the consequences. Dennis Quaid makes a guest appearance and helps Telly face up to the truth. An age-appropriate retelling "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" parallels Telly's predicament. From the Kids' Guide to Life series. Also, Learning to Share, with Katie Couric. Closed-captioned 4-8

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

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1998 Awards
Arthur's Eyes
(Random House/Sony $12.95 Score:) Arthur can't see the chalk board or make a basket. His eyeglasses solve those problems, but it's Arthur who must come to terms with being called four eyes. Also on the same video, "Francine's Bad Hair Day," deals with class picture day and Francine's longing to look like her "glamorous" friend, Muffy, while still wanting to be herself. Like other earlier videos in this series, these stay true to the well loved Arthur books. 5 & up. Also solid: Arthur Writes a Story and Arthur's Pet Business.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 1998.

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