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Award: SNAP
Age: Preschoolers
Review Year: 2013

 

 
2013 Awards
Janod Barnyard Dominoes
(Janod $24.99 Score:)

Cows, ducks, hens, tractors and farmer's hat and boots are easy to match on these wooden dominos. Turn them over and play a traditional match the dots domino game. Finished in smooth natural wood these are basic gear that will be used for naming and knowing as well as for matching, stacking, or collapsing games. 28 pieces. 

SNAP: Introduce the playing pieces by finding all the cows as a first game, finding all the sheep as another game...etc. Playing a traditional game of dominoes can wait. Knowing and naming and matching builds the readiness for the old-fashioined game. These are nice for stacking and lining up, too.

Age: Toddlers, Preschool. Award Year: 2013.

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2013 Awards
Learning Resources Science Plant and Grow Set
(Learning Resources $26 Score:)

For budding scientists, here is a 12-piece kit with see through rooting trays, pots, observation jar with vented lid, watering can, trowel, plant markers and best of all--10 on-the-mark activity cards that invite kids to grow a variety of plants. Use found materials, like the top of a pineapple, radishes, carrots, popping corn kernels, and a clove of garlic. For other experiments, bring home seeds for beans and chives. The round observation jar with a lid can become a small terrarium with plants found in the yard or park. The activity cards provide realistic gardening experiments that preschoolers can do with help from an adult or older sib. True, you could use many of the containers you own without the set, but this gives the process structure in a playful way. Hopefully you will do that, too. To enlarge the experiences, take photos as each experiment progresses to make a small personal log or simple personalized book of their growing experiments.  Our tester "loved planting the seeds and labeling the various pots. He lso loved wtering his plants. Finally, there is a clear rooting tray and an observation jar included with the set, so he loved observing his plants take root and grow within the soil. He had never seen how roots grow and develop before so it was a new experience for him."  They did report some things they thought were drawbacks: the set does not come with soil or seeds--so right from the start you need to buy things before you can start. The set also only comes with one observation jar even though there are five experiments that call for the observation jar. Our tester felt that the best part of the set were the in ten activity cards. They also gave Learning Resources high marks for having on line extension activities. 3 & up.

SNAP: This hands-on kit is an excellent set of activities that all children can enjoy on various levels. Involving children in the process is a very satisfying ongoing activity.

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

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2013 Awards
Green Toys Ferry Boat
(Green Toys $24.99 Score:)

Two cars are ready to cross the water on a chunky blue and white ferryboat with a pull out ramp. Made in the USA of 1000% recycled plastic, this is a fun choice for tub or beach. Yes, it does--it floats! 3 & up.

   SNAP: This is a sturdy, well made prop for pretend play on the floor or in the tub. A good toy for building concepts on up-down/ on-off/ in-out. Speaking of in-out, add a tab of waterproof tape to the ramp to make it easier to pull out.

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

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2013 Awards
Step Two Easy Turn Coupe
(Step 2 $59.99 Score:)

Our testers spent several happy afternoons driving around in this new kiddie car that runs on foot power. It has a front castor wheel for added maneuver-ability. With a working horn and ignition key there are miles of pretend fun with the Easy Turn Coupe. As an added bonus, it can be used with younger riders that an adult can push along, however, there is no safety belt. There's a removable floorboard to protect little feet when they are being pushed. Also nice, this has a front trunk storage area and cup holders for both child and adult. 1 & up.

 

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

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2013 Awards
Mega Bloks Fairy Tale Castle
(Mega Bloks $99 Score:)

A wow-ee of a gift with hours of open-ended play possibilities. A 44-pieces building set with oversized pink and white plastic bocks, a working gate, and fabric trim that can become play settings big enough to inhabit. The big blocks are easy to clean and will be used in ever-more complex ways as children's pretend play changes. Be forewarned, it takes up a fair amount of space so may not be ideal in a small apartment; the door does fall off easily and the stickers do not stick. That said, our testing family feels the positives outweighed the negatives and this is a toy with miles of good play. Also available in a less gender specific red, white and blue version. They are marked 1-5. We think 2's and up will be more on target.

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

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2013 Awards
Mega Bloks Knight's Castle
(Mega Bloks $99 Score:)

A wow-ee of a gift with hours of open-ended play possibilities. A 44-pieces building set with oversized red, white and blue plastic bocks, a working gate, and fabric trim that can become play settings big enough to inhabit. The big blocks are easy to clean and will be used in ever-more complex ways as children's pretend play changes. Be forewarned, it takes up a fair amount of space so may not be ideal in a small apartment; the door does fall off easily and the stickers do not stick. That said, one of our testing families felt the positives outweighed the negatives and this is a toy with miles of good play. One of our other testing families with a tall 5 year old found putting the structure together was fun (and enjoyed the stickers), but ultimately found the structure too small for him to play in. Also available in a pink and white Princess version. They are marked 1-5. We think 2's-3's and up will be more on target.

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

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2013 Awards
Play-Doh Plus
(Hasbro $8.99 Score:)

Play-doh has been updated to make it softer and smoother than ever. It has an almost silky feel and will stay that way if stored in air-tight containers. This set has eight different vibrant colors that can also be used with special tools that are sold separately. The package indicates that it is non-toxic, but does contain wheat. 2 & up.

SNAP : A classic model material that is even more pliable now. Excellent for developing hand and fingers. Also good for shaping snakes to form letters, giving children a sensory feel of forming letters.

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

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2013 Awards
Look What I Can Do!
(by Nancy Viau/ illus. Anna Vojtech, Abrams $16.95 Score:)

Have you ever thought about what it must be like to learn to catch a fish for a bear cub or catch a fly if you were a little frog? In this rather unscientific book, each of the young creatures has a task it aspires to and accomplishes. Like the child at the end of the book who wants to hop, skip and hit a ball, learning is not always easy. A reassuring picture book that may help young doubters who are often impatient to grow up.

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

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2013 Awards
Springtime Collection, Max's Chocolate Chicken
(Scholastic $24.95 Score:)

After they finish coloring or hunting Easter eggs, we found a perfect seasonal collection featuring Max's Chocolate Chicken along with twelve stories on three DVD's. Among the other tales, Chicken Little, The Red Hen, and How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food. The collection also includes author/illustrator interviews and narrations by Lily Tomlin, Randy Travis, Michael McKean and others. The Max DVD also includes some Christmas stories, so this can be your go-to for seasonal celebrations. It also has a read-along option for beginning readers and these stories are mostly simple enough for young readers to decode or at least follow along. Most of the stories are for the younger family members. 2-7.

Age: Toddlers, Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2013.

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2013 Awards
Manhattan Toy Finger Paint Fun
(Manhattan Toy $20 Score:)

Designed for little hands, this fingerpaint kit comes in a cute tin carrying case loaded with four colors of washable finger paint, three plastic scrapers with different edges and three stampers. Ideal for exploring textures, colors, and open-ended hands-on painting. You will need to provide the paper, apron or smock and drop cloth to protect the work surfaces. 3 & up.

SNAP: Chubby handles on the painting tools are easier to grasp and ready for exploring.  Some children are reluctant to put their hands directly into the paint, while others will see no reason to use the tools. Either way, with tools or hands-on painting offers opportunities for them to see how paints blend to form new colors as well as giving concrete meaning to words like wavy, straight, jagged, wiggly, etc. It also encourages whole hand, arm and finger motions that provide a sense of control and sensory feedback. Messy? Sure. But play and learning go hand in hand with some messiness. Cover up their clothes and the work surface and be prepared for serious clean-up. Keep it playful.

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

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