Search Results for -
Product Type: Toys
Age: Early Elementary School Years
Categories: Construction Toys
Subcategories: Open Ended: Blocks: Plastic Blocks


2013 Award
(Fat Brain Toys $29.99 - 49.95 Score:)

A fun new construction toy that will stick onto any smooth surface thanks to the suction cup designs on the various shapes. They’re made of silicone and come in bright colors. We had a fun time building with them on the counter top, throwing them on to the ground to see which would stick to the wood floor and then throwing them at the wall (that was harder than we thought it would be). Comes in sets of 24 or 50. Marked 3 & up, but more like 5 & up.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on

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2013 Award
Tinkertoy Super Building Set
(KNEX $44.99 Score:)

We love this new, satisfying set of Tinkertoys with 150 pieces.  These plastic Tinkertoys are better than the old school versions because the set includes bendable pieces in addition to the more traditional spools and straight rods that allow for more interesting builds. There are suggested 15 builds, but the big appeal of Tinkertoys from our point of view is that they can be used as an open-ended building set. Our testing parents loved the sturdy box with lid that can be used for storage. The set also includes panels and faces for added fun. Tinkertoys are also available in pink - which we recommend if it's the only way the girls in your life will build.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on

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2013 Award
MindWare Q-BA-MAZE 2.0
(MindWare $39.99 & up Score:)

We hade some totally amazing marble maze toys this season. This one made a huge hit with older builders. The plastic translucent pieces can be connected both vertically and horizontally and joined with bendable tubes to create complex pathways for the steel marbles to run through. The rushing marbles make a nice sound as they move through the maze. These are not magnetic marbles, but you will need to keep them out of the reach of kids who are still mouthing their toys. Start with the big box set ($39.99) or you can go straight to the Mega Stunt set ($79.99)  that includes along with a good supply of colorful cubes, a pivot trampoline, marble vortex, coaster tubes, stilts and 30 marbles. This is the kind of toy that builds dexterity, patience, and problem solving. It's a playful introduction to physics as well as pushing those creative buttons. They say 6 & up. We think most 6 year olds will need help. This is probably a better bet for mixed ages, parent and child or for older kids who will enjoy it independently. New for 2014, is a Starter Stunt Set ($49.95).


Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on

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2013 Award
Plus Plus 300 Piece Basic Assortment
(Geared for Imagination $$19.99 Score:)

One of the most addictive new building sets we've ever tested. Pleasingly open-ended, this Danish-based company  has just come to the states. There are two different sizes of the shape, the mini (20 mm) and the midi (50 mm).  Each size come in different color schemes (basic, neon, pastel).  The pieces are made of soft plastic (that doesn't hurt your fingers) and can be used to build whatever your child wants them to be- which is why we love them. A fun way to build fine-motor skills. There are also themed sets that we have not yet reviewed.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on

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2012 Award
LiteBrix Lumi-Port
(Cra-z-Art $54.99 Score:)

Build a control tower and a jet plane that light up and flash when you make the right circuitry connections. This is one of a new series of construction sets that comes with a battery pack and lots of challenges to dexterity and problem solving. Marked six and up but we’d say it's more like an 8 and up, up, up kit. Younger builders are going to need parental help to learn how to install the plug in ports and figure out the less than clear directions, that the company says they hope to improve in the future. That said, the end results are showy and fun for dramatic play. This is the smaller kit and there are several still smaller ones (which might be a good way to try it out) as well as one big wow of a kit called Extreme City Lights ($99 ). Once built these will be fun to use for dramatic play with Lego and Playmobil settings. Kids can also use the components to create their own structures with the multiple building pieces. 8 & up.

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

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2012 Award
Quercetti Georello Basic
(International Playthings $19.99 Score:)

The newest in a Quercetti gear construction set with 80 pieces. Use the patterns shown to create a gear board "machine" with connecting gears or a standing animal form. Once kids get the hang of it, they will be exploring ways to fit the gears together in their own designs. There are lots of little pieces here, so this is one of those terrific toys for building dexterity for school age kids. It should not be anywhere around younger sibs or those who still mouth their toys.They say 4-8, we'd say this will be a stretch for 4's and some 5's.

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

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Duplo Creative Sorter
(Lego Systems, Inc. $20 Score:)

Although all the bricks are big enough for toddlers to handle with safety, this 23-piece bucket is jazzed up with three different shape sorter lids that are way too hard for most toddlers, yet the package is marked 1/2-5. First of all there are as many as 6 openings in each lid. They are supposedly color coded-which would have helped some-but there are green shapes that fit in the red lid and blue shapes that fit in the yellow. All very confusing if you want to talk about matching and establish color concepts with beginners. Besides, the pieces have to be turned just so in order for the peg fittings to match the cut-out opening. This kind of precision matching calls for visual acuity as well as fine motor skills that are way too challenging for most little ones. By putting such a broad age range on the product, the label seerve no purpose. If you get this as a gift and you have a toddler, put the lids away for now and use the pail and blocks for a fill-and-dump toy and for open-ended building set to stack and snap. That alone will be more than enough for anyone under two. Before you start pressing kids to fit their bricks in the right opening, keep in mind that little children are learning about themselves as learners and toys that are beyond their developmental level can undo their confidence. It is far more important to build their sense of competence than to rush them with toys that are frustrating. Sorry, the age label on this keeps it from being a winner.

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

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2011 Award
Laser Pegs 3D Lite Board
(Laser Pegs $99.95 Score:)

Our testers enjoyed playing with this construction toy both in an open-ended manner and by following the instructions for building the 21 suggested models.  The set comes with a light board and 115 laser pegs (a satisifying amount).  The board comes with a AC adapter but can also be run on 3 AA batteries. To make the laser pegs light up, you need to make complete the electrical circuit by making the proper connection (the pieces have male/female receptors)-- so there's some science involved here.  The real fun comes when you turn off the lights and see your build aglow!  Our eight and ten year old testers found the instructions easy to follow.  Pricey--but well worth it!  We also recommend the company's new Bug kits. 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: 2011. Click here to purchase the product on

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Lego System Classic Building Sets
(Lego Systems, Inc. $3.99 Score:) Lego, the granddaddy of plastic building blocks, is a must-have for this age group. Unlike the themed models in the line these open-ended sets with a mix of bricks, wheels, doors, and mini-figures allow kids to build and design their own creations. Also a great value, Lego Classic Play Desk ($19) comes with 225 pieces. 5–7.

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

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