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Product Type: Toys
Age: Late Elementary School Years

 


2015 Award
Mindware Leaps and Ledges
(MindWare $30 Score:)

They call this a towering game of strategy and luck and that is a good description of a challenging but entertaining fast-paced game. Players try to be first to the top of the tall tower without getting sabotaged by opponents who can send them down or even knock them off. Our testers and their parents gave this a 5+ rating, which says a lot, since they are regular game testers. It does require a fair amount of sportsmanship when your playing pieces get knocked down, so it may be better to play as teams or play this with the older members of the family. 8 & up.

Age: Later School Years, Tweens. 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 gilrs should be able to 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 help enable girls to develop spatial skills and enthusiasm for engineering and problem solving. This is a set that 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 Awards
eeBoo 24 Color Pencil Sets & Sketch Books
(eeBoo $6 & 13 Score:)

Our testers continue to love eeBoo's 24 color pencil sets ($13) with matching sketchpads($6). This season you'll find a pad and pencil set in paper boxes instead of tins, decorated with airplanes by Ross MacDonald, colorful birds and flowers by Saxton Freymann and colorful cats by Monika Forsberg. As always the quality of spiral notebooks and colored pencils is excellent and there is no better way to encourage kids to develop their writing skills than with the fun activity of drawing. Send a box to your summer camper that may pay off in colorful letters. Blank paper and drawing their own ideas are better choices than coloring books that require staying inside the lines. For now, let them create the lines and spin their own stories about what they are drawing. 6-9

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2015.

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2015 Award
Alex Drawing Tool Box
(Alex $39.99 Score:)

A tool kit for older school-aged kids packed with colored pencils, pastels, charcoal pencils, sketchpad, sharpener, blending stumps, a white and a kneaded eraser, and bendable mannequin figure for learning to draw the human figure. Everything fits into the easy to take along case with a shelf inside for easy storage. 8 & up.

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

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2015 Award
Janod Floor Puzzle ABC Monsters
(Janod $25 Score:)

Funny Alphabet letters with googly eyes and smiling faces stand out on a black background. Giant puzzle pieces make this right for younger kids who will be amused as they put these playful letters together to form the alphabet. A good choice for kids who are working on the names and sounds of letters. This comes in a handsome carrying case that will hold the puzzles pieces for safe keeping between times. Remember, kids like to do their puzzles over and over again until they master them. This one has no frame for finding the outside pieces, so the letter names are going to be important clues. There is also a chart that can be used for reference clues. It's still a good idea to show beginners how to use the straight sided pieces for making a frame of their own. 4-7

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
eeBoo 208 Piece Garden Creatures
(eeBoo $13.99 Score:)

One of six puzzles based on 19th Century chromolithographs. This one has 36 insects in various states of flying, creeping, and metamorphing. Also our favorites in the series, Wildlife of North America, and Wildlife of Africa. These are not simple with 200+ pieces and will challenge older and experienced puzzle builders. That said, these will be fun to do as a cooperative project and the creatures are labeled on the box, for identifying the assembled creatures.  8 and up.

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

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2015 Award
Educational Insights Crowded Waters Game
(Educational Insights $19.99 Score:)

A challenging strategy game that calls for visual thinking and planning. Players take turns arranging their color-coded sharks from tail to snout without getting surrounded by other sharks. Players can only place a shark that is pointing to a blank space and not where another shark is pointing. The object is to trap others and keep finding space to swim free. Our older testers loved it. for 2-4 players.  8 & up.

Age: Later 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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