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Product Type: Toys
Age: Late Elementary School Years

 


2006 Award
Rock Castle
(Playmobil $79.99 Score:) Playmobil’s Knights’ Empire Castle uses the company’s new SystemX, which is designed for shorter assembly time and durability. Comes with a working gate and dungeon and looks like the classic friendly Playmobil settings of years past. By comparison, Rock Castle ($79.99 ) has a more sinister feel to it. Suggested add-on, the Red Dragon (because you always need a dragon), is sold separately. Projectile cannons sold separately. Also darker in feel than their previous castles is Lego’s new Vladek’s Dark Fortress ($99 ), which comes with catapults. Most kids love the action of projectiles until one hits them. 8–12. (800) 233-8756.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2006.

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2006 Award
City
(Lego Systems, Inc. $19.99 Score:) The consensus from our builders this year was, “no way a 5 year old could do this.” That said, our older testers enjoyed the city-themed sets that include a Fire and Construction set. Our 8-year-old tester enjoyed building and playing with the Fire Truck ($19.99/214 pieces ) that comes with a movable ladder, two firefighters, and a boat for sea rescues. The same family had more difficulty with the Fire Station ($29.99/260 pieces ). One tester’s parent commented that it’s “like a boy’s ultimate dollhouse,” but the 6-year-old builder had trouble following the directions and the lift in the station “did not work well.” Once assembled it was enjoyed as a pretend setting. Marked 5 & up, but most 5s will need assistance. (800) 223-8756.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2006.

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K'nex Pirate Ship Park
(KNEX $49.99 Score:) Pirate Ship Park is over two feet tall. This motorized kit can build three different amusement park-style rides with screaming sounds and swinging action.Not for beginners! Not available for testing.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2006.

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2006 Award
Star Wars Monopoly
(Milton Bradley $29.99 Score:) In honor of the last installment of the series, Hasbro has brought out several classic games with a SW theme. The Star Wars Saga Edition Monopoly ($29.99 1⁄2) is great fun with features that span the series including Darth Maul, Darth Vader, Yoda. The board takes you through the galaxy. For parents who enjoyed Stratego ($15.99 ) or Risk ($24.99 ), your kids will enjoy these versions with characters from all six movies. We’d skip the Chess Set ($29.99 ); the pieces are too difficult to distinguish for young chess players). (888) 836-7025.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2006.

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2006 Award
Who? What? Where? Jr.
(Pazow $19.95 Score:) Each player takes a who, a what, and a where card, which combine to ask you to draw a certain image—Abraham Lincoln fishing in Paris, for example. Players get points for guessing each other’s drawings. A fun family game for 7 & up. A follow-up to last year’s PLATINUM AWARD-winning game for 12 & up. (415) 885-5006.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2006.

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2006 Award
Maya & Miguel Word Scramble
(Briarpatch $19.95 Score:) Like last year’s I Spy Word Scramble, this has a big game board with sliding tiles. Players take turns drawing a card, choosing a letter or image on the card, and spelling that word by sliding letters before the timer runs out. Inspired by the PBS TV show, this game can be played both in Spanish and English. 7 & up. (800) 232-7427.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2006.

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Map Tangle
(Borderline Games $24.95 Score:) Think Twister, but here the play mat is 6' x 5'5" with a marvelous map of the world! We really love the design of the giant playing mat and the idea of cooperative play by teammates who help each other find the two locations they must stand on while avoiding a “Map Tangle” and falling down! This came too late to test with families and we are not sure if the game play is going to be satisfying. We suspect kids will be making up their own rules. Still top rated, Borderline ($9.95 ). Whether you play with the USA or new World Edition, here’s a painless way to make maps fun! The object is to get rid of all your cards, but you can only put cards down on a card that “borders” the state, body of water, or country in your hand. If you don’t know, flip your card for a map that shows the borderlines. A no-tears-or-fears geography game! 8 & up. (973) 761-6260.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2006.

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2006 Award
Monster Art Center
(Alex $69.99 Score:) Imagine the thrill of opening this double-hinged art center with trays to the right, trays to the left, and trays below! It comes loaded with 30 fine-tip markers, 28 colored pencils, 26 crayons, 24 oil pastels, 12 watercolors, brushes, pencil, glue, and palette. The crayons aren’t as juicy as Crayola, but the materials and kit would be a dream gift to most art-minded kids! They say 4 & up, we’d say this is more like a gift for 6 & up. (800) 666-2539.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2006.

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2006 Award
My Star Box
(Balitono $19.95 Score:) Our tester painted and then gave this star-shaped box as a gift for Mother’s Day. A real hit! A keepsake for any gift giving season.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2006.

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2006 Award
Ceramic Swirl Art
(Alex $24.99 Score:) Classic spin art type toys are one of our all-time favorites so you can imagine how excited we were to find this new “spin” that includes ceramic plates and tiles that attach to the platform. You can set your designs by baking them. Adult supervision a must. Also fun and messy, Tie Dye Party ($19.99 4balls) but we’d skip Plaster Caster ($44.99 2 balls), which looked amazingly cool but we could not get a figure to form that wasn’t cracked. 8 & up. (800) 666-2539.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2006.

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