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Product Type: Toys
Age: Late Elementary School Years

 


2007 Award
Fashion Angels Living Dolls
(Fashion Angels Enterprises $20 Score:) A funky collection of multicultural dolls that have eclectic clothing, e.g., printed canvas sneakers paired with embroidered denim jackets with lacy skirts. There’s Lulu, Debo, Bebe and Izzy – all are poseable dolls and can exchange both clothes and wigs (a new twist in toyland). We wonder if the wigs were inspired by all those home shopping network wig segments (ok, sometimes we do watch way too much television.)

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

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Works of Ahhh Animals
(Balitono $7.99 Score:) Kit comes with a single wooden animal (triceratops, dolphin, horse, penguin), paints and a brush. These are charming kits that will be enjoyed in different ways depending on the age of the artist. Younger painters will paint quickly and then have a great animal to add to their block play. Older painters will take pleasure in taking their time and then having something to display. One tester also thought the penguin was great for a school project.

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

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2007 Award
Three of a Crime
(Gamewright $9.99 Score:)

This is a game of deduction that calls for critical thinking skills and visual memory. “It” picks a card that shows the faces of the three guilty thieves, but keeps their identities a secret. Players select cards with a trio of crooks pictured and “It” indicates if there are 1-2 or 3 thieves on each played card. Players must deduce which of the three are the guilty parties from the clues given by “It.” Fun for 2-6 players; about 15 mins.  8 & up.

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

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

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2009 Award
Wedgits Building Blocks Imagination Set
(ImagAbility $20 Score:)

There's something extremely elegant about Wedgits. The plastic shapes stack and combine together without effort, which makes playing with them so appealing. They have an open-ended quality to them that invites exploration. This isn't the type of building set that you make once - it's easy to take the pieces apart and try something new. A new 15 piece set is $20 and a good starting place. You can add to this set with more pieces, a base for building on, and patterns for older kids to follow. They have gender specific pink set, but we prefer the primary colors. Unlike many building sets, this does not have any themed pieces. The geometric shapes invite experiments with symmetry, balance and exploration with nesting, stacking, linking and wedging together the shapes to create designs. We gave the 60 piece Wedgits on Wheels an award back in 2006. But it was very pricey and really more appropriate for older builders. New this year are the Mini Wedgits, smaller sets for building a Mini Wedgit Frog, Dog or, Owl. The mini-sets can also be mixed in with the larger expandman sets. In such a high tech world, this may seem too old fashioned for some--there are no motors or lights, but it is still a very interesting toy.

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: 2009. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2009 Award
BeeBoo Big Bubble Mix Kit and Dip Stix
(Extreme Bubbles, Inc. $10 & up Score:)

Hands down one of our new favorite products of the year! The unique bubble wand consists of two long wooden handles connected by soft rope. Dip the wand into the bucket with the handles closed. Take the wand out of the solution and open the handles slowly and amazingly, extremely large bubbles that will impress even the most "I'm so over bubbles"  teenager. Great fun for the backyard with mixed ages.  New for 2010, Dip Stix.  The big handles on the wands are now painted (they look less homemade)--and you can mix your own bubble solution in the built in container.  For the Tang generation, the mix your own mixture will seem like fun. Some of our parents (with younger kids) prefer the "it's good to go from the start" approach.  You can still buy the original bubble mixture.  While we found that younger children were delighted with running after these super big bubbles (and their parents had fun making them), this is truly one of the few outdoor toys that will capture the attention of teens and adults.   If you're having a family reunion--this is fun to have around!

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years, Tweens, Teens. Award Year: 2009. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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Bocce Ball Set
(Restoration Hardware $119 Score:)

What we love about bocce is that it really can be enjoyed by a multi-generation team of players. The pace is just right for a lazy summer afternoon. Perhaps because we are not a very coordinated family, bocce has always had a special place in our summer rituals (you really don't need to have too much athletic ability to play!)  This set comes with a brown canvas bag for storage.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: .

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2008 Award
Toss Your Cookies
(Gamewright $11.99 Score:)

Players must gather five of the same cookie card and the only glass of milk pictured on the circular cards. Players get the right combination (or not) by following the actions on the dice and passing cards left or right. This is a good game for matching skills, directionality, and turn taking. Aside from all that, each round is quick and fun. 3–8 players; 15 mins. 8 & up.

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

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2008. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2008 Award
Air Hogs Havoc Heli
(Spinmaster $39.99 Score:)

The Air Hogs Havoc Heli is our favorite novelty toy of the season. Amazingly lightweight and small, these less-than-6 1⁄2" helicopters hover, flit, and speed about a room operated by a hand held transmitter that "pilots" can operate with ease indoors. Infrared remote control maneuvers the copters up and down, and right or left (and look really really cool with the lights off). They fly for about 5-7 minutes before needing a recharge (takes 15 minutes). OK, they are not for a room with serious art treasures, but they are fun! Buy them singly or, better yet, as a pair for racing and piloting games. Comes with spare tail propellers (smart). 8 & up.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2008. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2008 Award
Arena
(Playmobil $89.99 Score:) Playmobil meets the Gladiator, with this ancient arena that includes audience seating, trap doors to the lion cages, a wide gate, and a large battle area. Comes with eight figures, two lions, a double harness chariot, and more. One of the most unusual pretend settings we've seen in a long time! They say 5 & up, but will be of more interest to older kids.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2008.

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2008 Award
Lego Creator Ferris Wheel
(Lego Systems, Inc. $69.99 Score:) We have to own up to our own love of ferris wheels. So we were delighted when both Lego and KNEX released new versions this year. While we are giving PLATINUM AWARDS to both the Lego Creator Ferris Wheel ($69.99/1063 pieces) and KNEX Double Ferris Wheel ($29.99/977 pieces), please note that the age label of 8 & up on both toys is ridiculous if you’re talking about independent building. On the other hand, these are both great parent-child projects that will be memorable. The Lego Ferris Wheel will sit nicely on a desk after it’s built. The motor will make the wheel turn in either direction. There are some steps where two sets of hands are a must. The K’nex Double Ferris wheel is huge (three feet tall) and you can have the wheels turning in different directions, very neat. Our testers thought that the initial directions for building the tower were the toughest in terms of spatial relations, but once you "got past that, it was a lot of repetitive building and not that complicated." Both the Lego and KNEX come with two other models to build with the same pieces.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2008.

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