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Product Type: Toys
Award: Platinum
Age: Toddlers
Review Year: 2012

 

 
2012 Awards
Blabla Giant Pumpkin
(blabla kids $196 Score:)

Three feet tall and ready to listen, dance, and play pretend, Pumpkin is dressed in an adorable striped dress. She has rosy cheeks, and reddish hair. Oversized dolls like this one become more than decorations in a child's room. They often become the play companion of tea parties, storytime, and bedtime, too. Blabla makes a number of giant size dolls. This is the most humanoid of the group and a smaller version of the doll is also available.

Age: Toddlers, Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2012.

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2012 Awards
North American Baby Long Legs Puppy
(North American Bear Co. $28 Score:)

These black and white puppies, an 18-inch or 8-inch squeaker will grab the attention of newborns and continue to please for a long time ahead. Like the other Baby Long Legs from the same maker, these dolls are a lovely combination of knit and plush. The big one is totally on the mark for toddlers who like a big but light enough huggable to drag about. The photo of this soft cuddly doll with long legs and arms and floppy ears does not really convey just how cute it is. The legs are not rigid or wired, but soft and easy for little ones to grasp. The features are stitched and baby safe. There is also a grey elephant version as well as a pink mouse and a pink or blue bunny. Also adorable, Baby Long Legs Squeakers, Puppies, Bunnies, Elephants and Pink Mouse ($12.99 each) 8-inch miniatures of the bigger dolls that are good for tracking games and will be easy for baby to clutch and carry. Baby safe and machine washable.   All ages.

SNAP: We suggest the Baby Long Legs Squeaker from this collection. Use the small high contrast black and white pup for tracking games. It is eye catching and the squeaker inside will attract baby's listening as well as visual attention. Soft,safe and totally cleanable for infants and toddlers.

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

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2012 Awards
Wimmer-Ferguson Learn and Play Ball
(Manhattan Toy $20 Score:)

Amazing play value has been rolled into one fabric ball. For newborns, the high contrast images printed on the fabric ball will be interesting to gaze at. They have used faces, targets, and patterns that will attract the visual attention of infants. The panels of the ball are piped with bright satin with lots of colorful ribbon taggies. Give it a shake to hear the jingling bell. This is one of those wonderful fabric toys that plays to all the senses and invites you to play early socializing games with your sitting up baby. A terrific gift for a baby shower or first visits.  Marked for 6 months but this will be good as visual stimulation long before baby can reach out and touch.

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

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2012 Awards
Roll & Play
(Thinkfun $19.99 Score:)

Designed as a first game, this is likely to be a hit with your older toddler. It comes with a big fabric cube with different color on each face. Toss the cube and then pick a card that matches. Take turns with your toddler doing what the card shows. The cards have words and actions such as wave bye-bye, count your fingers, moo like a cow, etc. Learning to take turns and matching the colors of cards and cube all provide active playing and interacting. This is as much about playing together and having your attention as it is about the actions involved. Roll & Play is a cleverly designed toy for developing color concepts as well as other early language and pre-reading skills. Most of the actions will need modeling, but that will be part of the fun, especially if you ham it up. They say 18 months and up.  We think this is a better bet for twos and up, but a clever idea for 2 or more players.

SNAP: Introduce the cards before you play. Read through them and practice what they say to do. You might want to introduce just one of each color for the first game or two and add another set of six the next time you play. There are 48 cards, so this will be a game you can build on gradually. The cards are well designed so that no real reading is needed once they get the idea of what the card is showing. The color cube can also be used for other games. New for 2014, is Move & Groove, intended as your child's first dance game. It comes with the same cube and cards that you follow along. Our problem with this version is that "Walk Like an Egyptian" or "Sleepwalk" or "Snap Your Fingers" or "Turn to the Right" are concepts way beyond 18 month olds.  While we think older preschoolers will like this game, we find the age too low.

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

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2012 Awards
Fisher Price, Thomas The Train: Steam 'n Speed R/C Thomas
(Fisher-Price $44.99 Score:)

Imagine a train engine that sends up blue steam! Really! Kids control the motion with a child-friendly radio controller that lets them activate the steam and send Thomas rolling backwards or forward. Thomas also chugs and whistles and says a few phrases. The steam is created with cold water - like a cold-water vaporizer; so there is no danger. It needs 4 AA batteries to run.  2 & up.

SNAP: As remote vehicles go, this is less complex than most. Yet, there is a sense of power to be gained as children gradually come to master and recall the buttons to push that make this little engine go. The magic of the blue smoke make this a toy that will wow a wider age range of players...probably even the  grown ups in the room.

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

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2012 Awards
Fisher Price Little People Wheelies Loops 'n Swoops Amusement Park
(Fisher-Price $44.99 Score:)

Toddlers will like the repeat action of this two foot tall runway. It comes with two little vehicles that will twist and turn on the ramp way or zip down the slide into a 360 degree loop. At the end of the ramp it plays a sound effect salute. This is a big, big piece of plastic that will make a really big show for gift giving and will probably give your toddler play value for a while. We tested it with balls from other ball runs and found it works well that way too. If you leave the batteries out, it will still work perfectly well and be less intrusive in a small space if you are annoyed with repeated sound effects.

SNAP: A good choice for developing visual tracking and sense of making things happen with independence. Concrete experiences help to develop color concepts and position words such as top and bottom, down and up, high and low, in and out. 

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

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2012 Awards
Creeper Sleeper Cozy
(North American Bear Co. $10 Score:)

We love the many various forms of these cozy toys. Easy to grasp, soft and comforting. Look for the new Cozy sets that are coming soon with  two super soft cozy dolls in a pack($20). That way, if one goes missing you have a replacement. Choose from the Bunny, Cat, or Dog Cozy. These are the kind of unstuffed easy-to-clutch “lovies” that babies often find a great comfort to hold as they make the transition to sleep.

SNAP: Comfort toys need to be easy to wash and to hold. These soft bodies dolls are easier for children with physical challenges to grasp.

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

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2012 Awards
Farm Activity Mat
(North American Bear Co. $75 Score:)

A scrumptious set of 12 fabric farm animals. Each fits into a pocket inside this zip up mat with a bright red barn and grassy green meadow all around. We could have done without the numerals on the animals. They each fit into a pocket that shows a small graphic of the related number of animals. For example, the cow with a numeral three on its side fits into the pocket with the image of three cows. Similarly, a pig with a  nine on it goes into a pocket with the image of nine pigs. The images are very small and hard to count for the age group this toy is going to reach. That said, this is a fun "knowing and naming" toy and the soft animals will be fun to use for pretend lay on the farm side. As for matching number words and numerals, or sequencing numbers, those are kindergarten and beyond skills that are beyond toddlers. The toy seems much younger than school years, but it is beautifully made and will also be a fun toddler toy for talking, pretending and for un-filling and refilling with help.

SNAP: Lots of knowing and nameing games can be played with this set of animals.

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

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2012 Award
Hape Rainbow Push & Pull Toy
(Hape $24 Score:)

For the toddler on the go, here's a tot size push toy that has a quiet but very pleasing clacking sound. Made of wood, this is one of those classic kinds of toys that is short lived, but matches the beginning walking stage. It is not for kids who are still wobbly on their feet. It is just right for the upright tot who is steady but likes holding on to something. The fit-together handle has licks of orange and big yellow wheels with a rainbow of color pieces that click as they turn. This kind of push toy comes before the pull toy that involves looking over the shoulder as they go. With a push toy the action is in plain sight and not too distracting. Unlike too many wooden toys, this one is smoothly and beautifully finished! Also cute and pleasing, the Hape Lawnmower; same idea with a slightly different sound and a more pastel look. 

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

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2012 Award
PlasmaBike
(PlaSmart $79.99 Score:)

A real beginning point for balance bikes.  Two wide wheels makes this a good choice for twos. We liked that it actually steers (most bikes for toddlers no longer have turning capability) and we also gave high marks for making it a gender-neutral red. Some of our 2s had legs that were too long - so as with any ride-on vehicles, we recommend that you bring your child to the store before you buy.  Marked 18 months & up, but as we noted really depends on your child. We still LOVE this company's Plasmacar.

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

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