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Product Type: Toys

 

 
2014 Awards
Fisher Price Laugh & Learn Smart Stages Home
(Fisher-Price $90 Score:)

Finding an activity center for babies and toddlers just got easier with this play center that invites tots to crawl in and out through the red door that swings both ways. There is a peek-a-boo window that lifts, a doorbell that rings, an on and off switch that turns a light on and off, although it has a slow response time and seems to be activated by music as well; so, cause and effect are not quite as clear as they might have been. That said, this activity center also has a clock with hands to turn, and a shape sorter. There is a mailbox and letters to take in and out and the box backs onto the shape sorter, making this another favorite put-and-take or fill-and-dump opportunity. The maker says there are three levels of play so the toy grows with your child. Level one is exploration, level two gives prompts, telling baby what to do (most will be ignored) and level 3 is all about pretend. Marked 6-36 months; we suspect the sweet spot for this toy is really 8-18 months.

Age: Infants, Toddlers. Award Year: 2014.

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2014 Award
Barbie Iron On Fashion Doll
(Mattel $19.99 Score:)

Does anyone iron any more? Yes, Barbie gets all her clothes styles with iron on decals. Talk about pretend, no fear of scorching anything with Barbie's special iron that needs no heat. This Barbie comes with wardrobe of clothes and 30 decals that get put on by rubbing the mini iron over them. There is a special dress form that is used to transfer and decorate the rather plain looking tops, skirts, and denim vest that come in the package. We did a test run with the little iron and decals, and our tester said to be forewarned—you really need to rub the decals all over and for a long time to get them to adhere to the clothing. Younger girls may need adult help to learn how to get all the decal off. That said, it is a neat play set with a fashion Barbie doll and a lotsof knit clothes to design and dress her in. 5 & up.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2014 Awards
Green Toys Submarine
(Green Toys $14.99 Score:)

Kids are going to love this fish-shaped submarine that not only floats, it can fill up with water (thorough the mouth and portholes to be submerged. Lift it, let it spill and spout and it floats again! Perfect for tub-time and pool. There are no small parts so this is fun for toddlers and preschool play. Made of 100% recycled plastic this is also dishwasher cleanable. It comes with a book that is mostly forgettable for the very young, but that said, this is a wonderful water toy! They say 6 months, we'd say 1 and up, up, up.

Age: Infants, Toddlers, Preschool. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2014 Awards
Green Toys Seacopter
(Green Toys $19.99 Score:)

With two spinning rotors-one on top and one on the tail, this bright orange and blue Seacopter has pontoons for floating on the water. A teddy bear pilot is in the forward position. Good fun for dramatic play in the tub, pool, or on dry land. Made from 100% post-consumer recycled plastic products that are tested for safety. There is also a regular helicopter (16.99) in the line sans water pontoons for dry land only. This Seacopter is more unusual and versatile. 

Age: Toddlers, Preschool. Award Year: 2014.

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2014 Award
Marco's Polos
(Educational Insights $9 Score:)

A fun color matching card game in the shape of polo shirts with stripes. There are three base cards on the table and players vie to get rid of the divided stack of cards by putting down shirt cards with at least one matching color to the previous card on the stack. Instead of wild cards, there are "lock" cards that a player can put on any of the three stacks to limit their opponents play. These locks can be reversed if you have an unlock card. Since there are six base card colors and you only use three at a time, it is best to use three that are distinctively different, not the purple and blue or red and orange; these pairs are somewhat close in hue and may be confusing for young players.  The winner is the one who puts down all their cards first. 2-4 players. 5 & up

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2014 Award
Hape Magnetic Bullet Train
(Hape $9.99 Score:)

Have tracks? Add a sleek high-speed wooden train for the most up-to-date look. Adding new trains and props brings new life and interest to old train sets. This little train set is a neat stocking stuffer, won't-break-the-bank birthday present, or perfect for a one night of Hanukkah gift. Made of wood and painted white with blue and red trim, the four piece set is compatible with almost all wooden train tracks, so it is a good mix and match addition. Also from the same company, a four-piece set with red engine, and three other cars: an orange passenger car, a green freight car and a blue tanker.

Age: Preschool. Award Year: 2014.

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2014 Award
LEGO Creator 3-in-1 Roaring Power
(Lego Systems, Inc. $29.99 Score:)

Newest in the clever 3-in-1 builds the 374-piece set gives kids instructions for a roaring race-car, a T-Rex, and a sea plane. A mid-size kit that shows kids they can use the same pieces for new constructions.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2014 Award
LEGO STAR WARS Droid Gunship
(Lego Systems, Inc. $49.99 Score:)

The grey and blue Droid Gunship is an intermediate build with 439 pieces. If your Star Wars fan is building his fleet from the cartoon show (as opposed to the movies), this is a fine addition. Comes with a spring-loaded shooter, Chewbacca, Super Battle Droid, Battle Droid and 41st Elite Corps Trooper. We find that the included minifigs are a big part of the collectability appeal of the line for fans of the line. 8-14.

Age: Later School Years, Tweens, Teens, Adult. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2014 Award
LEGO STAR WARS V-Wing Starfighter
(Lego Systems, Inc. $24.99 Score:)

STAR WARS fans will love building this small red and grey spaceship. With 201 pieces this is a good place to start if you have a beginning LEGO/STAR WARS fan. Set comes with a V-Wing Pilot and an Astromech Droid. Also new this year and in the same level of building experiences: the yellow and grey Jedi Interceptor ($24.99 with 223 pieces and comes with Anakin Skywalker and R2-D2) and the blue/grey Vulture Droid ($24.99 with 205 pieces and comes with Buzz Droid, Pilot Battle Droid and Neimoidian Warrior). All marked 7-12. All come with new spring-loaded shooters which need some supervision.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years, Tweens. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2014 Award
Mudpuppy Shadow Puppets, Monster Mania
(Mudpuppy Press $16.99 Score:)

Eight laser cut monster faced shadow puppets on sticks come in this set that invites kids to explore the science of making shadows and the ancient art form of storytelling with those shadows. These come with no premade story. Cast the shadow on a light or white wall with a flashlight and let the action begin. Try using them to dance to spooky monsterous sounding music or tell a story of three monsters, a la Three Bears or create a totally original story. There is also a set of premade Madeline shadow puppets for younger players. They are marked 3 & up, but this is really a toy that is more appropriate for school aged players.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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