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2012 Award
Lego Friends Heartlake Dog Show
( Lego Systems, Inc. $19.99 Score: )

A good place to start with this new collection. It includes Mia, 2 puppies, a podium with runway as well as a grooming area. And what would a dog show be without a trophy stand? Our tester liked all the small details: camera, bows, brushes, plate, bones, flowers, see saw, hurdle and flags. Building is just the first part of the fun. Our tester really liked using the props for pretend play. 183 pieces. Marked 5-12. We also had positive reviews for another smaller starter set, Andrea's Stage ($9.99/87 pieces). 5 & up.

As we always note with LEGO sets, it's always better to start off with smaller sets. These allow your child to get used to the step-by-step instructions and build their sense of confidence as they go along. While it may be tempting to buy the "big box" - hold off.  We have found this also is true with these sets. In other words, we found no real difference between boys and girls in this regard.  Our testers, many building for the first time, enjoyed the experience of these smaller sets-and were eager to move to other builds.

Note: Our first reaction to this gender specific product was negative. After a lot of reflection, it's still not our preference, but we have to share that our testers generally loved the kits. The most important piece of feedback we received, is that girls that were not building (many had left LEGO behind after DUPLO) were now building, enjoying the experience and asking for more sets. So if pink is the only way to get girls building then--bring it on. Girls have traditionally been left behind in fields that involve spatial relationships and math that are built in to toys for boys that typically play with building sets. We still think that girls could and should build with the same primary colored bricks that boys use, but if this will encourage them, we would rather have them building than not. At least LEGO has tried to expand on ideas of what will interest school-aged girls by offering a vet set, an inventor's kit and a cafe. It's not about the mall and shopping which was the emphasis of "girl's building kits" in the '90s.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Review Published: Click here to purchase the product on

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