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Product Type: Toys
Award: Platinum
Review Year: 2012

 


2012 Award
Electronic Labyrinth
(Ravensburger $50 Score:)

Long-time fans of the classic game of Labyrinth may be surprised with this updated interactive version. The object is still to free the Wizard Akata from the spell of the evil Witch Grimelda and there is still a movable board and danger lurking at every turn. But in this version the magic book speaks in many voices telling players what they must do and how many gems they may take. Although the first few games require learning a lot of rules, once they got the hang of it, they really thought it was worth the effort. Most of all, our testers liked how, "it changes every time you play the game." They not only return to the game, their mom feels they are learning a lot about strategy as well as spatial relationships as they play. An average game takes 45-60 minutes. This is for older kids and is a real family game that parents can enjoy, too. 

Age: Later School Years, Tweens. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2012 Awards
Farm Activity Mat
(North American Bear Co. $75 Score:)

A scrumptious set of 12 fabric farm animals. Each fits into a pocket inside this zip up mat with a bright red barn and grassy green meadow all around. We could have done without the numerals on the animals. They each fit into a pocket that shows a small graphic of the related number of animals. For example, the cow with a numeral three on its side fits into the pocket with the image of three cows. Similarly, a pig with a  nine on it goes into a pocket with the image of nine pigs. The images are very small and hard to count for the age group this toy is going to reach. That said, this is a fun "knowing and naming" toy and the soft animals will be fun to use for pretend lay on the farm side. As for matching number words and numerals, or sequencing numbers, those are kindergarten and beyond skills that are beyond toddlers. The toy seems much younger than school years, but it is beautifully made and will also be a fun toddler toy for talking, pretending and for un-filling and refilling with help.

SNAP: Lots of knowing and nameing games can be played with this set of animals.

Age: Toddlers, Preschool. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2012 Award
Hape Quattro Game
(Hape $40 Score:)

This game is a lot like Connect 4 with round wooden pieces- instead of plastic chips. The object here is to be the first to put four in a row of the same color either horizontally, vertically or diagonally. The playing pieces are painted in light and dark green and the entire game is made with eco friendly bamboo wood. That said, the pieces are small and fit into a choke tube, so this is a game that is not for kids who still mouth their toys. It is marked three and up, but playing the game will be more appropriate for 5's-6's and up.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2012 Award
American Girl Fun Fabric Bag
(American Girl $25 Score:)

Our 9-year old tester loved adding the precut felt flowers to the green fabric shoulder bag. This involves learning how to sew on a button as well as the flower and making choices about where to place the colorful flowers. It comes with plenty of embroidery floss, needle, flowers, and a project booklet. Best of all the finished bag is totally wearable. 8 & up.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2012 Award
Seeds for the Birds Game
(Peaceable Kingdom $15.99 Score:)

A fun way to learn about grids and simple counting. Players turn over picture cards to tell how many seed they can put on the grid on empty bird houses. If the card shows a bird the player gathers all the seeds in the grid on the matching line and puts them in the bird's nest above. If the player turns up a squirrel image the seeds in the grid go to the squirrel above. The object is to feed more seeds to the birds than the squirrel. In other words, all the players are playing against the squirrel rather than each other. Another easy to learn cooperative game for 2-4 players. Marked 3 and up, we think this is more like a game for older 4-5 year olds.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2012 Award
Sci or Fi Files Game
(Educational Insights $14.99 Score:)

Players take turns reading three science statements that are printed on their cards. Everyone guesses which one of the statements is true or which one is false. Turn the card over to get the answer and the explanation. Players collect score chips for getting the facts right. There are 200 double sided cards with tons of fun facts and explanations. The box, designed like a file cabinet is set up with Physical Science, Earth and Space, Life Science and Unclassified (as in misc.) fact cards. You have to get one chip from each category to win the game. This was more fun than we expected at the start. It is something of a trivia game but the information is interesting and since they give you three choices players can always do an educated guess without feeling stupid or at a complete loss and even learn a little factoid,too. 10 to adult.

Age: Later School Years, Tweens, Teens, Adult. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2012 Award
Ravensburger Augmented Reality Puzzles
(Ravensburger $20 Score:)

Technology meets the Jigsaw Puzzle and Wow! Put these1,000 piece puzzles together and then use an iPhone or iPad to see your puzzle come to life! You get a free app download to activate the amazing video that asks you to find the image on your puzzle of the active animal or object moving on your screen. Of course, doing a 1,000 piece puzzle makes a great cooperative project for the whole family to do. Activity idea: Put the pieces on a table in a room the family uses and display the box cover as an invitation for 'getting it together' when anyone in the family has some free time. Once these big puzzles are done the whole family can enjoy this new dimension by clicking on an iPhone or iPad. A fun novelty for older kids and their parents. There are currently four puzzles: Underwater, Animals in Africa, Paris, and Norway. New for 2013, Times Square comes to life with signs and taxis and 360 degree animation; or for a bit of geography check out the World Map with an interactive quiz game to play together.

Age: Tweens, Teens, Adult. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2012 Award
Loop De Doo
(Loopdedoo $34.99 Score:)

Make your own friendship bracelets with this crafty kit that includes a special spinning tool and plenty of supplies that can be stored in the built-in drawer. It comes with 18 different colored skeins of embroidery threads. You wrap the threads around the device and turn the knob while you guide the threads through. You can make bracelets, belts, zipper pulls necklaces and anklets in a variety of thicknesses and colors. No two need be alike.  This is a kid-powered toy--no batteries needed. This takes some learning time, but the results were most satisfying to our 9-year old tester and her friends. Loopdedoo.com

New for 2013: Three add-on kits to use with our Platinum Award Winner of 2012: Loop De Doo Spinning Tool: See reviews of Loop De Doo Headband Kit, Loop De Doo Bracelet Kit, and Loop De Doo Necklace Kit. All three made a huge hit with our original tester.

Age: Later School Years, Tweens, Teens. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2012 Award
Hape Rainbow Push & Pull Toy
(Hape $24 Score:)

For the toddler on the go, here's a tot size push toy that has a quiet but very pleasing clacking sound. Made of wood, this is one of those classic kinds of toys that is short lived, but matches the beginning walking stage. It is not for kids who are still wobbly on their feet. It is just right for the upright tot who is steady but likes holding on to something. The fit-together handle has licks of orange and big yellow wheels with a rainbow of color pieces that click as they turn. This kind of push toy comes before the pull toy that involves looking over the shoulder as they go. With a push toy the action is in plain sight and not too distracting. Unlike too many wooden toys, this one is smoothly and beautifully finished! Also cute and pleasing, the Hape Lawnmower; same idea with a slightly different sound and a more pastel look. 

Age: Toddlers. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2012 Award
Hape Totter Tower
(Hape $39 Score:)

Play one of many balancing games or use the lovely wooden playing pieces to build amazing structures! The edges of the 24 hollow wooden rings are flocked with a velvety finish that helps them stick together. There are six different size and shapes to these bamboo rings with endless possibilities. Making the stand at crazy angles or stacked upright, these are an invitation for creative thinking as well as game play. An interesting toy for developing eye-hand dexterity as well as spatial awareness. Soooo good! 3 & up.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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