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Product Type: Toys
Age: Early Elementary School Years
Categories: Construction Toys

 


2015 Award
Lincoln Logs Oak Creek Lodge
(KNEX $39.99 Score:)

This season's mid size Lincoln Log set has 137 pieces and a relatively simple build. A lodge built of traditional wooden logs with plastic door, windows and roof. Not quite your classic log cabin, by any means. Marked for 3 and up, this is simply not for 3's or most 4's. Getting the logs in place takes more visual and manual dexterity than any three year old can bring to it. You may have loved this toy, but if you are doing the building for them, you are simply diminishing of the real worth of this timeless building set. Save the Lincoln Logs for 5's, 6's and even 7's. That is when they can really figure out how these logs work and have the pleasure of making a house stand. For 3's bring on the wooden blocks or duplo blocks.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2015. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2015 Award
K'nex Mighty Makers: Up, Up and Away Building Set
(K'nex $19.99 Score:)

Designed to appeal to girls, this is one of many models that K'nex has packaged with a female character and pastel building pieces. Though we think girls should not need gender specific building toys, we take seriously the fact that learning from building is a basic and too long overlooked. This up, up and away set comes with clear instructions for building a small but satisfying airplane. Build it four different ways with directions for optional vehicles. 7 & up.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2015. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2015 Awards
Learning Resources Gears Build & Bloom Building Set
(Learning Resources $39.99 Score:)

Gears, Gears, Gears have always been a favorite of our testers. This new set, is clearly designed to appeal to girls with flowers and butterflies and bugs added to the basic gears. Done in bright pinks, greens, blues and oranges, the green base serves as the garden where the gears, bugs and butterflies can spin. A 116-piece set of gears comes with colorful stickers. An early STEM science toy that invites kids to build basic machines by meshing the gears into continuous action. Problem solving and dexterity are built into the fun. 4 & up

 

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2015. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2015 Award
Hape Dynamo Dominoes
(Hape $39.99 Score:)

There is no one right way to build with the 100 colorful dominioes. Stand them on end and place the bridges, bells, rails and other tricks in their path. Give on a tap and watch the whole parade go tumbling down. An open-ended toy that probably will need parent-child building for starters. Predicting outcomes calls for some strategies that will come with experience. Develops problem solving skills as well as dexterity; most of all a fun kind of building designed to fall down! Marked 3 and up, but using it for this kind of building will be more like a late 4-5 year old trick.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2015. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2015 Award
K'nex Mighty Makers Inventor's Clubhouse
(KNEX $49.99 Score:)

Designed to appeal to girls, this is the top of the line building set complete with motor and over 528 K'nex pieces and parts. Along with the motor it comes with pulleys and gears, wheels, star snaps, graphic panels and color coded intructions for many kinds of mechanical builds. Although we think many girls enjoy gender free building sets, we know from research that they are less often chosen or gifted to girls. We are happy to see the options in play expanding as more building toys are being marketed to girls and such toys will hopefully help enable them to develop spatial skills and enthusiasm for engineering and problem solving. This is a set that that develops S.T.E.M. skills and gives girls the tools for building from the instructions and then going on to build their own creations. Keep in mind that K'nex requires strong hands and is not always easy for beginners. Marked for 7 and up, we think 7's will need lots of help to get started. We also suggest it will be enjoyed more by slightly older girls.

 

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2015. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2015 Award
K'nex Mighty Makers Fun on a Ferris Wheel
(KNEX $22.99 Score:)

Designed to appeal to girls, this classic ferris wheel building set is done in pastels rather than the traditional primary colors. That said, it is less than an all-out pink and lavender girlie look and involves important skill sets that girls have often missed in traditional toyland where building was for boys only. Riding a ferris wheel is not just for boys and neither is building one! This set comes with clear instructions, a female action figure and 324 pieces to challenge young builders. Marked for 7 & up, we know that most 7's will need help and this may be a better choice for slightly older girls. We are happy to see the options in play expanding as more building toys are being made to develop S.T.E.M. skills and to enable girls by developing spatial skills and enthusiasm for engineering and problem solving. 7 & up

 

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2015. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2015 Award
LEGO CREATOR Rainforest Animals
(Lego Systems, Inc. $14.99 Score:)

We're big fans of the LEGO Creator series - each non-licensed set comes with instructions for three different builds. A good place to start with beginning builders. New for 2015, the Rainforest Animals (with instructions for building a parrot, fish or chameleon). Comes with 215 pieces.  If vehicles are more your speed, there's the new Vehicle Transporter (264 pieces) where you can build a transporter truck and two smaller vehicles. And for future architects, there's the new Beach Hut (286 pieces) - a fun build with two action figures and lots of props (including a surf board!).

 

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2015. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2015 Award
LEGO CITY Swamp Police Station
(Lego Systems, Inc. $89.99 Score:)

Each year LEGO has a police setting and this year the focus is on Swamp Police.  This 707 piece set has a structure to build (the police setting) as well as a police boat, an air boat, a police Jeep-like vehicle and a motorcycle. There is of course a jail cell (to break out of), an alligator, two bad guys (with stolen loot) and four police officers.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2015. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2015 Award
LEGO CITY Water Plane Chase
(Lego Systems, Inc. $34.00 Score:)

Our testers liked that this set came with both a police Water Plane and a jeep (with the requisite bad guy) to chase. There's also stolen money and an alligator to add to the drama. With 263 pieces, this is a good beginning - intermediate set.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2015. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2015 Award
LEGO CITY Snowplow Truck
(Lego Systems, Inc. $19.99 Score:)

A great beginning set for new LEGO builders - with only 196 pieces, this is a satisfying build. Comes with a municpal worker, shovel and snow (a first we believe). The plow portion of the truck can be removed just like the real thing. We're hoping next winter we see the real thing a little less often! Also fun in this category this year, Pickup Tow Truck (with 209 pieces), you get the truck, a car to tow, a stranded driver and a tow truck operator.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2015. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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