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2000 Awards
Hanging Bird Feeder & Bird Houses Kits
(TWC of America $16 Score:) These beautifully crafted pine kits with rounded edges and predrilled holes make them hands down the best birdhouse kits for kids on the market. Kids will be more invested in bird watching if they have a hand in constructing the kits to attract the birds. Younger kids can help with the decoration or hammering, but even older kids will need adult assistance. Also great: Feeder with plexi-glass windows ($20); Bird house ($16). 8 & up.

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

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2001 Awards
Gearbotics
(Learning Resources $58.95 Score:) This series of motorized plastic gears are interesting to construct. We still highly recommend the Robot, Oogly Googly, Sonic Insect, and Space Station (more than this year's Monster). The original nonmotorized Gears! Gears! Gears! sets remain our favorites because they are more open-ended and develop problem-solving skills as kids make their own moving machines. ($20/$40 ). New for 2003 , Under the Sea Set ($29.95 ) with 67 pieces including fish, turtles, whales, and an octopus. 6 & up.

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

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Awards
Radio Control Power Pitch'n'Hit Baseball Pitching
(Sports Fun $29.99 Score:) Players gave this pitching machine high scores. Pushing the button on the bat easily activates plastic balls to bat at. Ponytail Softball Pitching Machine also available. Take 4 D & 2 AA batteries. 8 & up.

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

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1998 Awards
Fun Gripper Balls
(Saturnian $9.95 Score:) Designed for beginners, these balls are covered with nylon and no slip grips. There's a lightweight bat and baseball, football, soccer, or volleyball. These are a good choice since they are lightweight and non-threatening to inexperienced players. 4 & up. SNAP INFO: Getting the hang on catching and throwing can be tough. These nylon fabric covered balls can be a help with their nonslip grips. There's a lightweight bat and baseball, football, soccer, or volleyball. These are a good choice since they are lightweight and non-threatening to inexperienced players. 4 & up.

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

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1997 Awards
Kids' Tom Tom
(Woodstock Percussion $40 Score:) If you're lucky, they'll let you play this colorful drum while they dance—or switch roles and boogie! Comes with mallets, but testers say that tones are better when played by hand. Also terrific: a Kids' Konga Drum, Two-Headed Bongo, and Ocean Drum.

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

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2000 Awards
Guitar
(Woodstock Percussion $50 Score:) A beauty for beginners who are not big enough for a full-sized guitar. Also top rated, a child-sized Trap set ($150) with snare, tom-tom, bass, and cymbal.

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

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1999 Award
Glockenspiel Making Kit
(Woodstock Percussion $15 Score:) Kids "construct" the playing pieces of this instrument by placing them on the frame in size and number order. Kids discover which keys are higher and lower. Says 4 & up, but 5–8s will get more play and learning from this kit. Also top-rated: Rainstick Kit ($20) and Mbira Kit ($20). Woodstock also has a sweet sounding Glockenspiel with golden chimes. It's hard to read the letters on the chimes in order to read music- otherwise it's got perfect pitch!

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 1999.

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1995 Awards
Chimalong
(Woodstock Percussion $39.99 Score:)

Unlike most musical toys for kids, the tone of this metal-chime xylophone is lovely. Can be played by number/color or musical notation. Can be enjoyed by a preschooler, but becomes a true musical instrument for older children--also reinforces reading from left to right. Mini version is less expensive, but is not as sweet sounding. That said, this is a pleasant travel take-along toy. Says 3 & up; we'd say 4–8.

The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements. We did not independently test this toy in a lab.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 1995. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2001 Awards
Mighty Mega Bouncing Zoom Balls
(Action Products $12 Score:) An update of a '98 PLATINUM AWARD winner, this kit has enough material for three 2" super-sized neon balls. A little science here with mixing crystals and water to change them into a solid, bounce-able material in just three minutes. 6 & up.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2001.

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2001 Awards
Snuggle Pets
(tutti bambini $14.99 Score:) Choose a die-cut cat, dolphin, pup, dino, or bunny with pre-punched holes, blunt tapestry needle, polyfil stuffing, and colored yarn. Materials are washable and hypoallergenic. 5 & up. SNAP INFO: These pre-cut and pre-punched sewing kits come with a blunt tapestry needle, colored yarn and polyfill. Kids can make a cat, dolphin, pup, dino, or bunny that they can play with later. This kind of activity helps kids develop fine motor skills that are the underpinnings for penmanship. Materials are washable and hypoallergenic

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2001.

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