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Product Type: Toys
Award: SNAP
Review Year: 2012


2012 Awards
Plan Chalet House with Furniture
(Plan Toys $167.49 Score:)

An unusual modern-style dollhouse. This big three story chalet comes in two parts. Kids can rearrange them into different configurations. The open wall and roof design makes it accessible by several children at a time. We are not crazy about the color scheme and we wish it came with play figures as well as the furniture. Note: the colors online are different from the toy we tested. The roof is orange not yellow as pictured. Figures are extra. Made of recycled rubber wood, it has the look of pressed or composition board and it is stained, rather than painted. 3 & up.

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

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2012 Awards
LOL Elmo
(Playskool $39.99 Score:)

Happy-go-lucky Elmo is bubbling over with laughs again. Press his foot and his laughing begins, squeeze the remote control fishbowl and he laughs and wiggles even more. Tickle his tummy and Elmo not only laughs, he tells little jokes, too. Guaranteed to bring on a case of the giggles, this season's Elmo is smaller than he used to be and not too cuddly. You can feel the mechanism through his plush body. That said, this is a novelty toy that will be a sure fire favorite of kids and grown-ups alike. 18 months and up.

SNAP: Activating Elmo just might interest kids who need to work on strengthening hands and fingers. Elmo certainly will motivate them and there are three different ways to discover and remember how he moves. Squeeze his foot, tickle his tummy and press the remote. That's a lot of ways to make things happen. Is it a long term toy? Probably not. This is one of those novelty items that has some redeeming features.

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

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2012 Awards
Haba Zoolino Effect Building Blocks
(Haba $74.99 Score:)

24 colorful wooden blocks, some with animal faces can be stacked in various open-ended ways. The pieces have interesting shapes and some have holes that fit on posts to hold the critters kids create. These are attractive pieces, nicely finished and pretty abstract. We do wish they came with a storage bag since it is nearly impossible to fit the pieces back into the box for storage. You will need to find a container for these to keep them together once you open the box. It is marked 1 and up, but a better choice for 18 months-3.

SNAP: These open-ended blocks can be used for simple stacking or to create creatures and whatever the child imagines. They also lend themselves to building color and pattern concepts as well as language. As you put them away together, ask you child to give you all the pink blocks, all the blue blocks, etc. These are teachable but playful moments. For kids who are not ready to follow such directions, build language by describing the block your child wants to put in the basket first, next, and so on. You supply the words for beginners. You take your lead from where they are and build from there.

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

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2012 Awards
Sassy My Own Monster
(Sassy $7.99 Score:)

We don't usually suggest monsters for babies, but this is one sweet square-ish blue plush toy that is silky to the touch and not in the least monster-ish. He sports a mirror on his belly, stitched features, a striped tail and some very small discreet horns. The dangly striped arms have chewy textured hands and the hot pink. The body has a crisp crinkle sound to attract baby's attention. There is nothing scary about this very friendly so-called monster. It resembles some of the Ugly dolls more than any monster we have seen. Newborn & up.

Age: Infants. Award Year: 2012.

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2012 Awards
Sassy My First Rattles
(Sassy $5.99 Score:)

Choose a predominantly hot pink or blue set of ring or dumbbell rattles. These are classic rattles that have been updated many times, but the basic shapes are exactly on the mark for baby. There are patterns for visual stimulation, textures to interest little hands, and quiet rattle sounds that are not too loud. In other words, this is just right.

SNAP: Use these colorful rattles for tracking games and early interactions. At first you will do all the actions to get a reaction. These are easy to grab and fit well in little hands when your child is ready to reach out and take hold of things.

Age: Infants. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on

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2012 Awards
Cruise and Groove Ballapalooza
(Fisher-Price $60 Score:)

Finding toys that are just right for sitting up babies and toddlers can be difficult. The Cruise and Groove Ballapalooza fills the bill.  You'll need space for this large "making something happen" toy that both older babies and toddlers will enjoy exploring.  There are two different ways for the big balls to go from the top of the structure to the base. Of course at first, you'll be making it happen--but soon enough your toddler will enjoy making the balls drop again and again.  The small green "gate" will be another aspect of the toy your child will enjoy pushing back and forth.  There is also an arch for babies to go under.  There is music that happily you can turn off and still enjoy the toy. A definite plus in our book. The tripod design of the base makes the toy steady but of course a cruising baby will still need a watchful hand. Our older toddler twin testers loved how the ball could be placed at the top so that it bounces off a platform onto the ramp: "high marks for innovative design." Comes with 8 oversized balls so if two end up under the sofa, you're not out of business. 

SNAP: This is big enough to satisfy slightly older kids who may not have the dexterity for more complex ball runs and tracks. Though our testers found this pretty steady, you may want to stabilize it with some tape to the floor. This is not just a good social toy that two or more can use, it is a great hands on setting for dexterity, tracking, color concepts and language.

Age: Infants, Toddlers. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on

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2012 Awards
Rattle Rumble Push Toy
(Melissa & Doug $69.99 Score:)

One of the first weighted push toys we've seen in years. The wooden frame is smooth and finished in bright primary colors. Three see-though rollers turn as it is pushed forward. The primary colored balls and blocks inside rumble as they tumble. We can picture a toddler racing this from room to room delighting in the action and sound. This is a great choice for toddlers who like using their new found locomotion to make things happen. They also like holding on as they get used to walking on their own. You may need to tighten the screws on the side of this from time to time or at least heck them to be sure they are staying secure. We usually prefer hardware not to be exposed, but these are nicely encased, but we are simply suggesting you check them as the toy gets used. For beginning walkers.

Age: Toddlers. Award Year: 2012.

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2012 Awards
ELC Music Garden
(International Playthings $29.99 Score:)

Talk about making things happen, this is it! Touch the flowers and set off the music and lights and sounds. There is no right or wrong way to make this work. We really like the musical selections, not because they ar classic melodies, but the quality of the sound is excellent! That alone sets this toy apart from all too many of the so-called musical toys for tots. There are several modes of play to explore: the scale, animal sounds, silly ones and pure music. The tote handle will please toddlers who like carrying their favorite toys as they move from one room to another.  This does have a volume control and teaches kids about cause and effect as well as empowering them to make music.  6 months & up.

SNAP: For all the reasons above, this is a pleasing and interesting toy for learning about cause and effect and giveing children a sense of power, by making things happen. It has a lot of sensory play value.

Age: Infants, Toddlers. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on

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2012 Awards
4M Bubble Science
(4M Kidzlabs $12.99 Score:)

A great way to explore the science of bubbles! Includes a tray, a pyramid framed wand, a cube frames wand, other shaped wands, yarn, straws, wand sticks, a mouthpiece to form a cone shaped blower, a small container of bubble solution and best of all an experiment booklet for making all sort of bubble magic happen. You will need to add more dish washing detergent. Younger kids will need your help with reading the directions and your participation in making some of the experiments work. That said, this is an interesting kit that our tester really loved. Making a bubble within a bubble took some try-try-again efforts, but in the end there was triumph! 5 & up with parent's help. 8 & up independently.

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

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2012 Awards
Mega Bloks First Builders Build'n Learn Table
(Mega Bloks $44 Score:)

From toddlers to preschoolers, this 25-piece set will work flat on the floor or standing on stout legs. The surface has a roll around roadway for the vehicle and figure. Blocks can be stored under the four pieces of the tabletop that lift out. This has chunky pieces that are safe for toddlers and fit little hands. The figure is upsized as well for safe play. Set includes stickers that can be added. Marked 1-5.   Probably optimal use is 1-3.

SNAP: Big chunky pieces make this a useful first building set. As you play with your child, use the playing pieces for building dexterity as well as language and hands-on understanding of size and color concepts.Ideal for use on the floor or on tabletop. To adapt, you can velcro the flat table to a surface that is the right height for your child.

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

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