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Product Type: Toys
Age: Toddlers

 


2014 Award
Best Bugs Magnetic Maze
(HaPe $24.99 Score:)

An old fashioned game for solo play. Older toddlers like being able to manipulate tiny beads that are safely under a see-through cover. There is no right or wrong way to play with this square board. Older players may like to try and get all the beads of the same color into the home of that matching bug's maze. Doing so will take patience and some skill. 2 & up.

Age: Toddlers, Preschool. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2014 Awards
Bunnies by the Bay Peanut and Wee Peanut Elephants
(Bunnies By the Bay $25 Score:)

A super sweet 13-inch huggable elephant, called Peanut, with embroidered face, a sideways trunk, and curly tail. It has satin lined ears and is available in pink or blue. Slightly under-stuffed, making it easy for tots to grab. Also available in pink or blue, a Wee Sized Peanuts($15) that is a pudgy but adorable 7-inches.

Age: Infants, Toddlers. Award Year: 2014.

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2014 Award
Blue-Box Speedy’s Magical Shell
(Blue Box $15 Score:)

Part pull toy, part hammer toy, part drum, this bright yellow snail turns the drum shell as it rolls along. Take the rum off of Speedy’s back and take the feelers out of the top of his head and you have a drumstick to beat on the see-thru drum head or open the side of the drum to get the three balls out. Now close the drum and hammer the balls back into the drum. Since the balls and round openings are color coded to match, you can build language and early color concepts as well as matching. For such a small toy this is one versatile plaything that is age appropriate and not a major investment. On the mark for 12 months and up.

Age: Toddlers. Award Year: 2014.

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2014 Awards
Let's Imagine Elmo
(Playskool $35 Score:)

A new interactive Elmo changes from Prince to Cowboy to Pirate, with a change of hats. Kids can count to 20 with him and he'll sing a reward song; they can play a version of Simon Says--only here the game is Prince Elmo Says; they can squeeze Elmo's tummy and he'll play a Sounds of the Sea Game. As always, Elmo is a novelty toy that may be a wow-ee kind of toy out of the box, but will probably hold interest for a limited time. Since he is electronic, this is not a cuddly Elmo. That said, it is likely to be highly desired and heavily promoted on TV. 2-4.

Age: Toddlers, Preschool. Award Year: 2014.

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2014 Award
LEGO DUPLO School Bus
(Lego Systems, Inc. $19.99 Score:)

With just 26-pieces kids can build and rebuild this chunky school bus and play pretend games with it. The set comes with a driver and two students and a lot of ways to build settings. Best of all, kids can load and unload passengers and driver and make up their own stories as they play with the vehicle they build. 2-5

Age: Toddlers, Preschool. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2014 Awards
ELC Bendy Bird
(International Playthings $14.95 Score:)

A strong suction cup holds this zany looking bird to the high chair tray and invites little hands to twirl its wings that have tiny rattle beads inside; push the beak for a squeaky sound, push the tail feathers up and down or use them for teething; and make the birdy’s neck bend with a swipe of the hand. May be a good diversion for a few extra minutes of high chair sitting.

Age: Infants, Toddlers. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2014 Awards
LEGO DUPLO All-in-One-Box-of Fun
(Lego Systems, Inc. $29.99 Score:)

Introduce kids to building with a nice big Duplo box with 65-pieces to stack, sort, and build into all sorts of creations. It includes a wheeled base for making a vehicle, two working windows, variety of shaped blocks and a play figure and doggie. There are no right or wrong ways to build, though there are pictures for ideas. For beginners, this kind of open-ended construction toy is age appropriate. Don't hurry them into copying the pictures. Give them time to develop a sense of how the blocks fit together and what you can do with them and their imagination. Little children sometimes name what they are building after the fact, but more often than not they like exploring the materials and seeing how tall they can make a stack or how wide. The colorful blocks are also good for reinforcing color names.  Marked 1 1/2 -5, these will be used in ever more elaborate ways as time goes on.

Age: Toddlers, Preschool. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2014 Awards
LEGO DUPLO Truck
(LEGO $19.99 Score:)

With a prebuilt wheeled chassis as the base, this 16-piece truck kit will come together quickly with a little help. There are cards that show how to assemble the truck and the small building with a working window. This is a simple beginners build and a good way to introduce older toddlers to construction play. Best of all, this can be played with when it is built and can be rebuilt again and again. They say 2-5, we would say older twos and threes will have more in the way of dexterity and patience to stay with this kind of task.

SNAP: The big chunky pieces and pre-built base makes this a beginning construction set that builds a sense of success. It's also a toy that develops dexterity and "reading" skills with the pictorial step by step cards. Once complete, it becomes a vehicle children can use for play. Do it together the first few times, using color words to reinforce color concepts while they play.

Age: Toddlers, Preschool. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2014 Award
LEGO DUPLO Big Farm
(LEGO $59.99 Score:)

Farms have been traditional play settings for preschoolers, often prebuilt with miniature animals to move around for pretend play. This 121-piece set combines construction play with pretend in a child friendly way. The big chunky pieces are flexible and can be used to assemble farm buildings to house the cows, horse, and cat that come with the set and to incorporate some of the blocks with images of other critters. The farmer and his helper can drive the tractor, use the pitchfork for hay and open and close the working barn doors and windows. To top it all off there is a crank and pulley for lifting hay into the loft. To introduce a big set like this and to get the most mileage, adults often need to sit a while to help with assembling and getting the dramatic play started. This kind of play develops children’s dexterity, patience, language, spatial skills and pretend power—so many important ingredients of learning. Our test family’s two year old doesn’t get the concept of building a farm yet, but he likes putting the pieces together and pulling them apart. He likes the animals and vehicle and playing with the separate pieces. He does get frustrated when he cannot get the pieces together or apart; still, his dad feels they are helping his develop his fine motor skills.

Age: Toddlers, Preschool. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2014 Awards
LEGO DUPLO Creative Animals
(LEGO Systems, Inc. $14.99 Score:)

These chunky colorful blocks are designed for small hands and their first construction play. There are no absolute right or wrong ways to assemble the pieces, though some have faces or eyes that clearly will dictate where they belong. The colors may guide the building, but toddlers will probably use them in an open-ended way to begin with as they learn to put the blocks together--a skill unto itself. Once they have that they may be interested in the cards that show how specific animals can be built...a tall giraffe, pink bunny, black and white pooch, and  green caterpillar, among other imaginative critters. This simple beginners build is a good way to introduce older toddlers to construction play, which develops children's dexterity, patience, language, spatial skills and pretend power—so many important ingredients of learning. A 25-piece set that is marked for 1 ½-5; we'd say this is going to be a better bet for the upper range of 2's and up.

Age: Toddlers, Preschool. Award Year: 2014. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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