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Product Type: Toys

 


2000 Awards
Expandagon Hoberman Kit
(Hoberman Designs $40 Score:) You've probably seen Hoberman's spheres in science museums, but now kids can create flexible geometric shapes with simple connections. Sets have expandable squares that are key to making big structures. The manual could be a little more user friendly, but once you get started this is an addictive toy. PLATINUM AWARD '00. An Expandagon Actuator, a turntable display stand that motorizes creations looked promising but was not ready for testing. ($30). 8 & up.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2000.

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1999 Awards
Muffy VanderBear and Hoppy VanderHare
(North American Bear Co. $20 Score:)

Muffy fans will adore the new trunk with built in bunk beds ($90) for playing and storing two dolls and accessories. Pricey but very special! PLATINUM AWARD '99. We think this Muffy Bear dressed in a rabbit costume is a winner ($60) although pretty pricey. Check out some of the simpler versions of Muffy. Testers also liked the Hoppy Starter Set, a good place to begin at a great price. Also, Muffy Stuff ($20), a soft carry case for traveling bears. 6 & up.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 1999. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2006 Award
Barbie
(Mattel $15.99 Score:) We like the idea of Barbie being active- not just a pretty face with glitzy clothes. Last year, it was soccer; this year there's Cool Skating Barbie who really does skate and Swimming Champion Barbie, a true Olympian. These dolls have small details that require fine motor dexterity and will be enjoyed more by school aged kids who can handle them. We liked the look of Barbie's VW, but it was not ready for testing.New for 2006, our testers all wanted the new American Idol Barbie with Karaoke Machine () but found the clothes particularly difficult to put on and take off. They also wished that the doll sang more than a part of a song. Also among this year’s crop: Fairytopia Barbie (with light-up wings ); and Fashion Fever (with really neat clothes that come on little mannequins ). (800) 524-8697.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2006.

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1997 Awards
American Girl & American Girl of Today
(American Girl $84 Score:) This company has made its name with exquisite dolls from different periods in American history. New for 2001 is Kit Kittredge, a nine-year old growing up in the Depression Era. There are books for each doll—a wonderful way to introduce history to kids. The American Girl of Today collection allows you to choose one of 20 contemporary-looking dolls with Caucasian, African American, Hispanic, and Asian American skin tones and features. 7 & up. SNAP INFO: A wheel chair is available for the American Girl doll. It's sturdy and a welcome addition to an excellent line. You can order the doll of your choice with skin, eye and hair color to match your child.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 1997.

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2011 Award
Playmobil Grand Mansion
(Playmobil $139.99 Score:)

We got an email from our nine year old tester about this multi-level mansion.  She put the mansion together with her mom - and she really wanted me to know that she loved all the details included (Playmobil's signature) and would highly recommend it to other kids.  Her mom wanted to let us know that putting this together took longer than she anticipated (also true of Playmobil).  Most of our testers over the years comment that the instructions could be a bit clearer- but they always come back to the level of detail. While this is marked for kids 4 & up, you should know that the construction of the dollhouse is really a parent/child project.  Putting it together is part of the fun. Kids need fine motor dexterity to put the little pieces together and to truly enjoy this toy. This is not a dollhouse for preschoolers. 

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2011. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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Awards
Emergency Rescue Squad Puppets
(Learning Resources $19.95 Score:) Multicultural worker puppets include a doctor, paramedic, police officer, and firefighter. They have vinyl heads and cloth bodies and are ready for dramatic play. The same company makes multicultural families. 4 & up.

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

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2001 Award
Nature House
(TWC of America $11 Score:) This sturdy hut-shaped wooden house with screened sides makes a perfect temporary habitat for captured bugs. Also top rated, Soil Dweller Nature House Kit ($20). Kids can make their own earthworm or ant farm with this kit (approx. 8" x 11") with wooden frame and Plexiglas windows. Captive creatures can be returned to the wild with ease. 8 & up.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2001.

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2001 Award
Jumbalaya Jeans Kit
(Fashion Angels Enterprises $18 Score:) There is enough great stuff here to decorate the hems and legs of two pair of jeans with a great assortment of beads, fabric trims, and appliqués. Our parent tester noted that once you add appliqués, jeans can't be machine washed. 8 & up.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2001.

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Awards
Push/Pull Wagon
(Radio Flyer $60 Score:) Bigger than the classic red wagon, this plastic update has higher sides, a well, and a stout handle for pushing or pulling kids or cargo. This and the BLUE CHIP classic version are ideal for carting plants, tools, imaginary playmates—you name it.

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

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2000 Awards
Little Landscaper Mulching Mower
(Little Tikes $20 Score:) A good pretend prop for taking care of the lawn. Little Tikes also makes good kid's sized garden tools for raking leaves and digging in the garden.

Age: Preschool. Award Year: 2000.

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