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Award: SNAP
Age: Toddlers
Review Year: 2013

 

 
2013 Awards
Kids Preferred Playtime Plush Toy, The Very Hungry Caterpillar
(Kids Preferred $22 Score:)

There are all kinds of textures and patterns to explore on this huggable fabric caterpillar. Based on the famous Very Hungry Caterpillar, it looks straight out of the pages of the book with its big eyes and multi-colored body. The segments of the soft doll have multi-colored dots on the underside and on top there are other painterly Eric Carle patterns as well as plump parts covered in corduroy, felt, plush, and more cotton. There is a happy looking sun with rays of ribbons as well as iridescent feelers, velour knottie legs, and one segment that plays (hard to activate) electronic music--a small loss since we can do without that kind of high pitched music. Two plastic rings are attached onto the long body with crinkle sounds at both ends. Kids who know the story will enjoy lugging this good sized huggable around with them.

Age: Infants, Toddlers. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Awards
Alex Round the Farm
(Alex $43.99 Score:)

An update of a 2008 Platinum Award winner, this soft fabric ball has new faces, textures and sounds. There are four different animal faces, each with its own set of ears that protrude from the ball and have a sound effect appropriate for the related animal. (The frog ribbits, the cat meows, the cow moos, and the dog woofs.) There is also a small finger hole that baby testers thought was great fun. However, the toy was $24.99 in 2008. Hard to know why it is now almost twice the price. 6 months & up.

SNAP: A fun toy to motivate crawling and for developing language.
Talk about the eyes, mouth and ears of each animal. Play a singing game to the tune of "If you're happy and you know it...clap your hands...etc." Only this time play it by singing about tap the cow's nose, mouth, ears. Play it with each face of the toy and with your child's own mouth, eyes and ears.

Age: Infants, Toddlers. Award Year: 2013.

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2013 Awards
Chicco Sit 'n Ride Train
(Chicco $54.99 Score:)

Low to the ground for young toddlers to push or ride on. There's a lift up seat that holds treasures and the steering device on the front end really does steer! That is not a given on most ride-ons these days. A sound device also fits in the steering mechanism. You can turn the sound totally off or turn it down. It has multiple sounds - a train tooting, a bell, dog, goat, and some less than thrilling music. Still, toddlers will like pushing the buttons and making things happen and may even begin to see the connection between the images on the buttons and the sounds they activate. They will also love the handles on either side of the train that activate a squeaker on one side and a twirling black and yellow barbershop-post on the other. They say 12 months & up. We'd say this is a good choice for tots who are fairly steady on their feet and that will vary from one child to the next. Some will be ready at 12 months -  others not till 16-18 months.

 

Age: Toddlers. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Awards
Chicco 3-in-1 Music Band Table
(Chicco $49 Score:)

A versatile activity table with three different musical instruments: drum, maracas and DJ. Kids can play rhythms and keep time with the music, or spin their own music. For music lovers, it may be a stretch to call this a musical toy, but it is about giving tots the powerful sense of making things happen. Sitting-up babies can play their own tunes on the floor while standing-up toddlers can play side by side. Either way, this is a fun way for kids to make things happen. The sounds are not too intrusive. Happily, there are no A-B-C's or numerals to give a false impression of being more educational. But, not to worry. Babies learn a lot about cause and effect from playing with open-ended toys that invite them to turn knobs, spin barrels, and push big buttons. They are also developing eye hand skills and manual dexterity.

SNAP: You may want to tape on a fat foam hair roller to the tiny green knob of the green DJ disk. That will add texture and be easier to grasp for children who need a larger knob. For children who are not standing, the separate pieces can be enjoyed in the lap or the three pieces can fit in the white stand and be played on the floor without the legs.

Age: Infants, Toddlers. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Awards
Plan Toys Fruit and Veggie Domino
(Plan Toys $29 Score:)

28 playing pieces with 7 different fruits and veggies to match up in a traditional domino game. The pressed planwood is smooth and splinter free, though it feels different from old wooden dominos. Use this for reinforcing language and color concepts as well as matching skills and turn taking. They say 2 & up, we think 3's will be better able to do the matching.  Twos may like sorting and stacking them or knocking them down if you line them up and make them go kaboom!

SNAP: Use these for color matching sorting and knowing and naming, before playing a traditional matching game of dominoes. Fun for counting, too. Make stacks of two kinds of fruit. Are there more grapes or more apples.

Age: Toddlers, Preschool. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Awards
Infantino Stack, Sort & Ball Drop Elephant
(Infantino $25 Score:)

Sitting up babies will love the fill and spill action of this clever elephant with a shape sorter as well as a ball drop. Put the pieces in the big opening at the top or match the shapes on the side and ab-ra-ka-dab-ra they set off music or elephant trumpet as they come rolling out. Or, show baby how to stack the rings o the elephants trunk or press the big button and set the wheel spinning. Best news is the volume control lets you turn the sound down. This well designed activity center is not random as so many electronic toys tend to be. Baby can actually begin to understand that his actions cause reactions - with repetitive lessons of cause and effect babies gain an empowering sense of making things happen.

SNAP  Unlke so many electronic toys, the connection between actions and reactions is clear. Children can actually connect their actions that cause reactions - so repetitive lessons of cause and effect empower the child's sense of making things happen. The actions also involve dexterity and refining fine motor skills.

Age: Infants, Toddlers. Award Year: 2013.

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2013 Awards
Manhattan Toy Turn & Discover Rattle
(Manhattan Toy $10 Score:)

A new look and interesting shape for baby to explore with almost all their senses. Unusual vibrant colors and patterns to look at, bumpy edges to chomp on for teething and touching, three different clicking sounds to hear when the bug knobs are turned, and a rattle sound when the toy is shaken. Turn all the keys in one direction and then spin it to make it look like a flying saucer. Marked for 3 months and up, but this seems more like a toy for sitting up babies who are getting into two handed play.

SNAP: A good choice for developing hand muscles to twist and turn the three oversized"keys" give kids three different rewarding sounds. This will be of interest to children well beyond the age marked on the box.

Age: Infants, Toddlers. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Awards
Lamaze Franky the Hanky Whale
(Tomy $25 Score:)

A soft textured fabric whale comes with bright colored hankies that can disappear into the whale's ribbon trimmed spout and peek-a-boo--they reappear when pulled out of its wide mouth. It has a bold black and white pattern on its underside and crinkle sounds in its fins. A cute way to play around with object permanence and develop fine motor skills in little hands. 9 months & up

SNAP: Use this toy for reinforcing color concepts as you pull the hankies out. Look for other things in the room that are the color of the hankie you put in the spout. Once children have the hang of this add other peek-a-boo surprises to this clever toy that has no finger catches or hard edges. This plays on an old favorite game of filling and dumping. Putting things into a container and taking them develops manual skills as well as proving repetition and a sense of empowerment. Changing the objects to be filled and dumped--or in this case pushed and pulled, adds variety to a useful play mode.

Age: Infants, Toddlers. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Awards
Fisher-Price Rockin Tunes Giraffe
(Fisher-Price $39.99 Score:)

Rockin' Tunes Giraffe responds to your toddler's movements with music, lights, and phrases. The more kids rock the more the lights in Giraffe's mane blink and the music and phrases build. Happily, you can also turn off the sounds and lights or choose a lower volume. We like the low seat, the bat-at roller in  Giraffe's mane. Best of all, the stabile rockers make this ride-on a fun choice for steady on their feet toddlers to mount with some independence. Unlike heirloom style wooden and plush ride-ons, this plastic rocker is quite affordable and will go the distance. A big gift for a little toddler. Need a big 1st or 2nd birthday gift that won't break the bank? This is it! 12-36 months.

SNAP: Aside from the stability of this rocker, it's invitation to physical gross motor play, and its affordability, we like the cause and effect lessons built into the action. The idea of making music go faster the faster you rock gives tots instant feedback that links their actions to making something happen.

Age: Toddlers. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Awards
Crayola My First Touch-Lights Pad
(Crayola $21.99 Score:)

One of Crayola's mess-free toys. The screen changes colors and sings 6 songs as toddlers use their fingers or the stylus to make things happen. This does not replace the squishy joy of finger paints, but it does allow less clean-up time. The free form drawings are not permanent. Use the stylus sideways to clear the screen and start again. This takes 3 AA's and happyily--the sound can be turned off. Designed for tots of 24 months & up.

 SNAP:Finger paint it is not..that said, this does provide another way to get children to build finger and hand muscles without the demands of gripping a pencil, marker, or crayon.

Age: Toddlers, Preschool. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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