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2001 Award
Leap Phonics Pond
(LeapFrog $34.99 Score:) Kids who are playing with letter names and sounds will like the instant feedback of this electronic toy. Push the letter and it says its name, put it in another mode and it says the letter's sound. But many of the spelling games here are better for fives & sixes. SNAP INFO: For knowing and naming letter names and sounds this electronic toy offers ways to practice. It is less preschoolish than other Leap Frog products since it moves on to spelling lessons. Unlike many other products in this maker's line, the letters do not come out( or get lost) and they are written in lower case as well as upper case.

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

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1995 Awards
Mega Bloks
(Ritvik (Mega Bloks) $10 Score:) These oversized plastic pegged blocks are easy for preschoolers to take apart, fit together, and assemble into B-I-G constructions with a minimum of pieces. Select a set with wheels and angled pieces for more flexibility.

Age: Toddlers,Preschool. Award Year: 1995.

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2001 Awards
Magna Shapes
(Edushape $20 Score:) An innovative building set of 54 primary-colored, rubbery plastic shapes with magnetic strips on the edges. Testers liked making small imaginative castles, bridges, and fanciful designs with this open-ended new construction set. 3 & up. SNAP INFO: Small enough to use on a tabletop or wheel chair table, this colorful innovative building set has 54 primary colored rubbery plastic shapes with magnetic strips on their edges. Testers were able to make free form as well as small imaginative castles and bridges. This open-ended set is for kids who still mouth their toys. ACTIVITY: It's fun for kids to discover how they can fit triangle together to make a square and squares to make rectangles. Use these words informally as you build with your child.

Age: Preschool. Award Year: 2001.

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1998 Award
Color See-Thru Blocks
(Guidecraft $39.95 Score:) Scaled to unit blocks, this 21-piece set of blocks with window panels of colored Plexiglas comes in squares, rectangles, and triangles. These make decorative accents for constructions with wooden blocks. Kids also like looking through them to see the world tinted in rose, blue and yellow.

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

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1998 Awards
Mini Traffic Signs
(989 Sports $12 Score:) Six wooden traffic signs are ideal for highway control! 4 & up.

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

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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
Thomas the Tank Engine Arched Viaduct
(RC2 Learning Curve $24.99 Score:) Two curved arches which connect to two pieces of ascending track provide a simple way to give trains a lift.

Age: Preschool. Award Year: 2001.

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1996 Awards
Pretend & Play Calculator Cash Register
(Learning Resources $49.95 Score:) A solar-powered register comes loaded with working calculator and digital display, plus play money and a credit card. A marvelous tool for pretend and math skills. Says 3 & up but this is a solid choice for school-aged kids who are learning to use a calculator. Expensive but better made than any other. Also recommended, Talking Scanner ($16.95) has barcode stickers for digital read-outs. Takes practice to make it work. SNAP INFO: Learning to count and make change is a lot more fun with a toy register. This one is solar-powered with working calculator and digital display. It comes loaded with play money and a credit card. Fun for pretend and math skills. Adding real coins is even better! This is a solid choice for school-aged kids learning to use a calculator. Also interesting: a Talking Scanner ($16.95) with barcode stickers to add to products for digital read-outs with or without sound. But be forewarned: it takes practice to get the scanner's sound to work.

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

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2001 Awards
Frigits Deluxe
(Think of It! $29.99 Score:) You'll want this on the fridge door! It's great fun to discover the many ways to arrange the magnetic shoots, wheels, and spinners so that the marbles drop into the catch box. 7 & up. SNAP INFO: Kids who might not be able to get down on the floor to make a marble run can do this in a wheelchair at the refrigerator door! It's great fun to discover the many ways to arrange the magnetic chutes, wheels, and spinners so that the marbles drop into the catch box. Marbles do fall off easily while the run is being constructed, so have a large supply of extra marbles on hand..

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

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2001 Award
Stacking Track Supports
(Brio $15 Score:) Use these supports to build tunnels, bridges, and two-story layouts for advanced builders. Somewhat simpler elevations can be built with Super Supports ($16) that have grooves to keep tracks from slipping.

Age: Preschool. Award Year: 2001.

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