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Product Type: Toys
Age: Late Elementary School Years

 

LeapFrog Explorer Globe
(LeapFrog $99 Score:) This new talking globe comes with a sensor pen and lots of information (although the pace is frenetic). The good news is that it costs a lot less than the original Odyssey Talking Globe- it's also much smaller. At first, our testers liked their novelty appeal. But before long the quizzes can become a negative factor. Unfortunately, the more questions they add, the less well they work. Why ask questions that can't be answered by looking at the globe? Testers liked pushing the buttons but quickly felt frustrated. 8 & up. (800) 701-5327.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: .

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Hershey's Chocolate Magic Maker
(Spinmaster $14.99 Score:) As confirmed chocoholics we hoped this would be a winner. It melts chocolate chips without burning hands, but it's hard to extrude chocolate into the molds without making blobs, and is next to impossible to open for cleaning.8& up.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: .

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2003 Award
Tie Dye Kit
(Creativity for Kids $19.95 Score:) Recently reintroduced, this refreshed kit is still a clever twist on a popular craft. Here's what we wrote back in 2003. Under the heading, "What will they think of next?" here's the latest in tie-dye convenience. The dye is in the string that you use with your own tee-shirts or pillowcases. A good outdoor craft project. Our tester reported, "Don't use the same water twice, it comes out muddy."

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2003.

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2003 Award
Magic Color Sno-Cone Maker
(Action Products $23.99 Score:) Our testers compared a lot of sno cone makers and this came out far ahead of others. They preferred this to the Snoopy version, reporting that the directions were clearer and it was easier to work than most.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2003.

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2003 Award
Girls from Many Lands: Neela Doll & Book
(Pleasant Company $50 Score:) One of a new collection of Girls from Many Lands, Neela is dressed in the orange sari and gold jewelry that she wears to her sister's wedding in 1939 when the world was about to plunge into World War II and India's Freedom Fighters were looking for their independence from the British Empire. Neela, the doll and her story (Victory Song written by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni) are for older school aged girls. She is not a play doll, but one for display as part of a collection. Her adventure portrays a girl with gumption who questions traditions and yearns to play a role in her country's history. We look forward to reviewing other books and dolls in this new series. There will be dolls and books set in Alaska in 1890, China in 1857, France in 1711 and England in 1592. 9-12.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2003.

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2003 Awards
Good Morning Alarm Clock
(Creativity for Kids $14 Score:) A handsome translucent alarm clock that is ready to be decorated with special paints and stick-on gems. This is a really gender-free craft item that boys are sure to design quite differently than girls. But that's one of its charms. It's open-ended but once completed it's a functional clock that can be used in a child's room or given as a gift. This runs on a single AA battery and will wake them with a gentle beep. Arrived too late for the 2003 book but is bound to be a good choice for school aged kids.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2003.

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2003 Award
Old Century Baseball
(Old Century Classics $129 Score:) Our testers, kids and parents, loved this retro baseball game that has no sounds or lights but plenty of action! This is like the old baseball games your grandfather and maybe your father played when they were kids. It works a bit like a pinball machine. Metal marbles are socked into field and roll down to the "flipper" bat that players use ti score singles, doubles or homers into the grandstand! This would make a nifty choice for a family room, playroom or in grandparent's den where kids may actually be surprised to discover how much fun folks had in the olden days before sound chips. Granted, grandpa's version was probably made of cardboard or cheezy wood, this is the BMW version-with a pricetag to match. Be forewarned, our testers did manage to lose the metal "balls" before the afternoon was out. Too bad this came too late for our annual book. It might have been one of the Platinum winners.8 & up.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2003.

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2004 Awards
Teaching Cash Register
(Learning Resources $44.95 Score:) A clever way to combine math skills with pretend play! When kids play store with this smart new register they learn to use a calculator, make change, use coupons and charge cards, and even check the customer's credit! It has a pretend scale plus a three-level coin game that asks kids to deposit specific amounts. The screen tallies and kids press enter to self-correct. Be sure the "CB" (Coin Bank) cover is snapped in place! Still recommended, the quiz-free Play Calculator Cash Register ($39.95). PLATINUM AWARD '00. SNAP: Use real coins for a knowing naming game.the calculator says the names of the coins in one mode and asks for certain coins in another mode. A good tool for building practical money-math skills. ACTIVITY: PLay a swapping game...trade two nickels for one dime...what other coins will you trade for another dime? Check out answers in the coin bank that talks on this toy. Play money or real work equally well.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2004.

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2004 Award
American Girl Kailey
(American Girl $84 Score:) The company alternates each year between historic dolls and current dolls. This year, Kailey is a very California girl with long blond hair and boogie board! Her story focuses on saving the tide pools from a local developer. Still top rated, Kaya, the first Native American doll from the Nez Perce people in the collection. PLATINUM AWARD '03. 7 & up.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2004.

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Erector Vehicles
(Brio $32 Score:) One tester told us that the starter set was hard but "awesome" while another said it was "way too frustrating." That's how it is with Erector sets—you either love 'em or you don't. That said, your best bet is to try a smaller "starter" set. Design Set 1 builds three different motorcycles and tested better than last year’s small models. New for this year, Design Radio Controlled 4x4 Truck ($100/618 pieces) is the first remote-controlled Erector vehicle. Builds three models with a 9.6V motor. For advanced builders, Renault Formula 1 Car ($200/809 pieces). Both looked promising, but were not ready for testing. 10 & up. (888) 274-6869.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: .

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