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Product Type: Toys
Age: Late Elementary School Years

 

Shell Shocker Radio Control
(Mattel $69.99 Score:) By remote control you can have the shell shocker roll up into a ball or open it up into what the company calls a "cyberbeast". The vehicle is also designed to stand up to play action in the dirt. As the toy opens up a cyber extention flaps down hard and helps propel the shell shocker. While it is relatively easy to get the shell shocker to turn, our testers found it difficult to have it move forward. Our testers also felt this was the most unfriendly remote they had ever tried. You certainly "wouldn't want to get to close to it!" reported one tester. It does have an alien/predator feel to it that might appeal to older boys. You also should buy the Tyco Pro Fexpak Battery and Charger for an additional $29.99.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2006.

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Vidster Digital Video Camera
(Mattel $69.99 Score:) Our testers were looking forward to putting the Vidster and Hasbro's VCamNow to the test. The idea of a video camera for kids under $100 is very appealing. Rather than hand off your own expensive video camera and hoping for the best, these small kid friendly options seemed like a great breakthrough. Both cameras got initial high marks for design. "Kids this age want gadgets that look like the real thing" noted one parent. However, both products did not test well with our tech savvy kids and their parents. The Vidster view finder was blurry and the output was too dark even when the testers added lots of light. The VideoCamNow had a clear view finder image, but the output was very blurry. "I would have taken both products back" noted one parent.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2006.

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2007 Award
LONPOS 303 Pyramid and Rectangle Game
(Mic O Mic Americas, Inc. $24.99 Score:) Wow! This is a quiet toy with a huge appeal. Comes in a rectangular case with different colored balls that are connected in different shapes. You're then challenged to fit the pieces into patterns that match the puzzles in the manual. The beginning level is satisifyingly challenging. As the puzzles become more complicated, you'll find yourself addicted to this toy. The company says that there are a total of 363,566 combinations! The box is just 3 x 5.5 so it's very portable --but you'll need a zip lock bag for the pieces if you can't get them all in according to the puzzles! It's the type of toy where our testers said "just one more minute, I almost have it!" Note: we gave the earlier LONPOS 101 an Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Award in 2006.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2007.

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2007 Award
Playmobil's Soccer Match
(Playmobil $39.99 Score:) Both Playmobil and Lego introduced new soccer sets for 2007 that scored high with our testers. Playmobil’s Soccer Match ($39.99 ) comes with six players with kicking action and an oversized 38" x 26" soccer mat that you build the frame around. Comes with a suggested scoring game, which our testers tried; then they made up their own games. The Lego Grand Soccer Stadium (Lego Systems $49.99/386 pieces) is an updated version that is much improved, with greater stability in the core playing field. The goalies have the greatest mobility and two players are also on slides to cover more of the field. Other players can kick (our testers thought two of them should also be on slides for great coverage). Much smaller and different in feel from Playmobil’s—our testers thought both were fun. Younger builders will need help putting both together. 7 & up. Lego (800) 233-8756/Playmobil (800) 752-9662.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2007.

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2007 Award
My Picnic Basket
(Alex $20 Score:)

We liked the sturdiness of this 18-piece set that comes with blue enamelware including plates, cups, spoons, forks, and tablecloth. Great for real picnics or pretend tea parties.   All stored in a lovely wicker basket that closes- just like the real thing.  5 & up.


Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2007. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Award
Mindstorms EV3
(Lego Systems, Inc. $349.99 Score:)

LEGO is rolling out a completely revamped version of the robotics kit for a new generation of kids. Knowing how essential smart phones have become, the new design enables them to operate their robots via their phones. The set comes with 17 suggested builds with three different levels of programming. Comes with a hefty price tag - but if you think of this as an after-school program in robotics, it seems more approachable.  We are waiting for our testers feedback. This toy made our Platinum Award list in 2007.

We sent it to a family with 4 builders (14, 12, 10 and 9 years old). The 9 year old let his brothers fill us in. They did a great job reviewing this product. Here's what they reported:  

Mindstorms is a really fun robotics set. It is really awesome because you can program it to do anything you want. The programing itself is very easy. You just click and drag, and it is very intuitive. There are more advanced setting if you want to be more detailed. The directions to build were easy to follow even though they were online. The robot that we built could track its remote and then when it got close enough, would shoot it with a ball. It could usually hit it within two or three shots. The set is made of Lego technics, which are a slightly more complicated Lego. But it makes building moving parts very easy. It comes with a touch sensor, a color sensor, and an ultra sonic sensor, so it can see where it is going. The sensors are really fun to work with, and you can make things you can't usually make. Over all it is a great robotics kit. One of the best I've ever worked with.
-14 year old

Mindstorms is easy to use and is appropriate for ages 10 and up. It comes with directions to make certain robots, but you can also make things you want. The directions are easy to follow, and the parts seem really durable.
-12 year old


...each robot has a specific mission. For the humanoid, you could set it up to find and shoot the remote control. And that was really cool. Also you could switch it to a mode where you can control it with the remote control. Each side of the remote would control a side of the robot. Or you could switch it to channel two and when you press forward, he would shoot low, and you press backwards it would shoot high. The remote control has 4 buttons and 4 channels. Which makes it pretty easy to use.
-10 year old

Here's what their mom wanted other parents to know:

The technic legos are more difficult to work with than regular lego blocks. The kids really had to pay attention to which piece they were supposed to take (a 6cm rod vs an 8cm rod to connect things made a big difference). I found the directions on the website a little trickier to follow than the ones in a physical book. But the kids didn't have as much trouble as I did. Also, some of the directions were harder to actually do like when you had to flip some pieces around that you had built to connect it to the wires. They were able to get them, but the 9 year old had to ask for help occasionally from the older boys.
They built the trickiest humanoid robot first...but were excited about all the different choices. I think they will make most of them over time. After they took the pictures, they were going to take it apart and try something else. Overall, very well done. But definitely for the older set of kids.

A picture from our testers:

""

Age: Later School Years, Tweens, Teens. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2007 Award
Airport
(Lego Systems, Inc. $79.99 Score:) You can’t go wrong with any of the new airport/plane sets from Lego—they’re all Lego at its best in terms of design. Really depends on what size plane you want and how much you like helicopters. The Airport set is wonderful, comes with a passenger plane, control tower, and baggage truck. Our testers loved the see-through ramp to the plane and the revolving door. 5–12. The City Airport ($89.99/863 pieces 5) comes with two helicopters, a smaller plane, control tower, and vehicles. Marked 9 & up. Passenger Plane PLATINUM AWARD ($39.99/401 pieces 5) is fun to put together down to the beverage cart, swivel chairs, and cockpit controls. The age label 5–12 is misleading on both this set and the Airport. You’d need to be an experience Lego builder to do this on your own—although we agree that 5s would love to play with this plane after putting it together with a parent. For a chunkier plane, look at Airport Action on page TK. The City Hospital ($49.99/377 pieces 4) also has a lot of play value after it’s built, with building, helicopter, and ambulance. For race fans, you’ll want to bring home the Lego Competition Racers set ($64.99/573 pieces) that features a Ferrari, pit stop, and all the props for race day. 8 & up. (800) 223-8756.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2007.

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2007 Award
Prehistoric Planet Dinosaur Fossils T-Rex
(Toysmith $ Score:) Much like their original sets, but now the pieces have a laminated design instead of plain wood. We tested the 40"-long T-Rex (watch out!). This is way too hard for 5s & up (as marked), but a good parent/child project. 9 & up. Still one of our favorites (but again needs parental help), B.C. Bones Empire State Building ($19.99 & up 4) one of a series of stunning wooden structures that includes the Eiffel Tower and Golden Gate Bridge. The company has updated their instructions, which we found to be an improvement but still not enough for the starting age on the box. (800) 356-0474.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2007.

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2007 Award
Doodle Tales
(Cranium $16.95 Score:) Players are shown a picture with a missing image and asked to draw what they think fits best on their secret doodle pad. The judge then redistributes everyone’s drawings and spins the “caption wheel.” All players have to finish captions such as: “While we were on vacation” or “late last night . . .” The judge chooses her favorite creation (very subjective but everyone gets to be the judge!). 8 & up. (877) 272-6486.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2007.

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2007 Award
Luck of the Draw
(3M $19.99 Score:) Our testers enjoyed playing Luck of the Draw, the newest “drawing” game on the market. As with most of the games in this genre, you have to draw an image as dictated by the cards, but here in a fun twist everyone votes on the different categories when judging all the drawings: “neatest,” “strangest,” “most detailed.” 10 & up. Younger players will prefer Who? What? Where? Jr. (see separate review). (800) 638-7568.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2007.

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