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Product Type: Toys
Award: Platinum
Age: Late Elementary School Years
Review Year: 2012

 


2012 Award
Loop De Doo
(Loopdedoo $34.99 Score:)

Make your own friendship bracelets with this crafty kit that includes a special spinning tool and plenty of supplies that can be stored in the built-in drawer. It comes with 18 different colored skeins of embroidery threads. You wrap the threads around the device and turn the knob while you guide the threads through. You can make bracelets, belts, zipper pulls necklaces and anklets in a variety of thicknesses and colors. No two need be alike.  This is a kid-powered toy--no batteries needed. This takes some learning time, but the results were most satisfying to our 9-year old tester and her friends. Loopdedoo.com

New for 2013: Three add-on kits to use with our Platinum Award Winner of 2012: Loop De Doo Spinning Tool: See reviews of Loop De Doo Headband Kit, Loop De Doo Bracelet Kit, and Loop De Doo Necklace Kit. All three made a huge hit with our original tester.

Age: Later School Years, Tweens, Teens. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2012 Award
Quadefy
(Maranda Enterprises $29.99 Score:)

A beautifully crafted brain teaser for older school aged kids, tweens, teens and adults. Each player needs to use all of their pieces to create the cube but you canít go beyond the grid of the board. If you no longer can use your pieces, you lose the round. A great game for working on spatial relations. The game is done in two tones of wood - and is the type of wooden toy you won't mind having out on your coffee table. The game is marked 4 & up which feels way too low for us   - but if you're playing with an older four they may enjoy turning the pieces. We'd say more like 7 & up to feel satisfying and not frustrating. Rounds move quickly - also a plus.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years, Tweens, Teens, Adult. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2012 Award
American Girl Super Scrapbook Kit
(American Girl $29.99 Score:)

When you think of a scrapbook for school-aged girls, this oversized beauty looks as it should! There is a photo pocket on the front cover so she can change her picture from time to time. It's a good sized book (12 1/2  X 13 1/2 ) with 20 acetate covered pages to protect the photos, souvenirs, and work girls will do in designing their pages. It comes loaded with stencils, cut out shapes, journaling stickers, bubble stickers, gems and foam frames.  Each of the pages has color and patterns, providing colorful backgrounds for the personal items girls will add around their photos, programs, clippings, tickets stubs and other treasures. 8 & up.

Age: Later School Years, Tweens. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2012 Award
LEGO Friends Olivia's House
(Lego Systems, Inc. $69.99 Score:)

Olivia's House with a bright raspberry pink roof is the big set in a new line called Friends, designed to attract girls to construction play. We had to check with LEGO to find out who is who in the back story.
There are three play figures named Peter, with a beard, Anna who is mowing the lawn and wearing a longish skirt; and Olivia in a miniskirt. Who are these people? Are they room mates? No, they are not Friends in the style of a TV sit-com. Indeed, it turns out Peter is the Dad and Anna is the Mom.
That said, we note Dad is sitting in an easy chair while mom is in the kitchen cooking. Olivia is pictured upstairs, maybe that is a computer in her lap. Our first reaction to this gender specific product was negative.
         After a lot of reflection, it's still not our preference, but we have to share that our testers generally loved the kits. The most important piece of feedback we received, is that girls that were not building (many had left LEGO behind after DUPLO) were now building, enjoying the experience and asking for more sets. So if pink is the only way to get girls building then--bring it on. Girls have traditionally been left behind in fields that involve spatial relationships and math; concepts that are built in to toys for boys who typically play with building sets. We still think that girls could build with the same primary colored bricks that boys use, but if this will encourage them, we would rather have them building than not. At least LEGO has tried to expand on ideas of what will interest school-aged girls by offering a vet set, an inventor's kit and a cafe. It's not about the mall and shopping which was the emphasis of  "girl's building kits" in the '90s.

       If you want all the friends, you will have to bring them home in their own separate kits. There is Emma who runs a fashion design studio--she's not just aspiring to be a model; Olivia has an invention workshop with robots; Stephanie has a Pet Patrol; and Andrea is in show biz. These 79-81piece sets ($9.99) would make good birthday gifts for party-goers. If you want something smaller, each comes in a mini 42-piece set with a smaller setting. The good news is that the settings mostly involve less stereotypical activities. Yes, there is a beauty shop that we would skip.  Our tester liked all the details in a setting called Heartlake Vet with Mia and Sophie working together ($39.99) It's a 343-piece set complete with office and stables and animal figures. We were confused as to Sophie's hat that looked more like an old time nurse's hat than a vet. Mia is also found at the Heartlake Dog Show ($19.99 ) 183 pieces with two pooches, grooming tools and TV cameras among other accessories.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2012 Award
LEGO City Fire Plane
(Lego Systems, Inc. $59.99 Score:)

We always asked our testers "What if anything didn't your child or you like about this?" The answer here from both parent and child was a resounding "Nothing!" Our eight-year old tester loved building the 12 inch long and 17 inch wide fire plane, but best of all, he loved the dramatic play features--the bay doors that open and water bricks he could release to put out the fire in the trees! This 522 piece set comes with three mini-figures, rotating propellers, two trees with flames, fire-fighting tools, and an off road fire-truck with trailer and hose. Our testers mom was most enthusiastic about the value of this set for building as well as dramatic play. Her son also customizes his models after he builds them, though she noted that her frinds glue their kids' sets together to make them hold better for pretend play. The problem with gluing is that you can't reuse the bricks or customize once that is done.   Note: No actual water is used with this. Marked for 6-12. Probably best for 8 & up.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2012 Award
LEGO Creator Prehistoric Hunters 3-in-1
(Lego Systems, Inc. $23.99 Score:)

A three in one kit that means you can make three different models with the 191 pieces in this kit. The red, black and white pieces can create a two-legged T-Tex like figure; a four-legged creature; or a flying beast with a wide wingspan. This is a pretty complex model marked for 7-12. Also available several 3-in-1 minisets($6) with 69-70 pieces. There's a Mini fire rescuer and a Mini sports car. These would be good stocking stuffers or grab bag gifts for parties. For kids 6-12.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2012 Award
The Original Egg Game
(egggame.com $$10 Score:)

In the middle of receiving what seemed like an endless supply of plastic toys (many, we should note are on our award list), arrived a package that seemed like a throw back to a different era. The Original Egg Game consists of a circular board (you can buy a small, medium or large board) that is made of particle board material and a stone egg.  For this holiday season, we received a Five board set in a big canvas storage bag. A great set for a group setting is $100. Or you can start with a single and grow from there.  Now, we have to tell you that if you have trouble spinning a top (like some of us at the toyportfolio, you may have trouble getting started).  You have to be able to spin the egg--and if you watch the video from the company they do provide a number of suggestions that proved to be most helpful!).  Specifically we found the two handed start method most useful.  In any case, once you get the egg going, how long can you keep it going--alone or with a partner holding the board.  This really becomes a group activity that invites group problem solving, trial and error...and along the way, there's a great deal of laughter.  You can purchase a  small board with one egg for $10 or the medium board (shown in the picture) is $20 and comes with two eggs.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years, Tweens, Teens, Adult. Award Year: 2012.

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2012 Award
LeapFrog Tag Interactive World Map
(LeapFrog $19.99 Score:)

An update to the original Platinum Award winning World Map of 2011. Now LeapFrog has redone the sturdy cardboard map into a two-sided interactive puzzle. It has a Political Map on one side with each of the country's names and borders. Kids can play a quiz game that help them learn the names of the countries and oceans. The reverse side shows a Physical Map of the world that shows the seven continents, oceans, major mountain ranges, deserts, rivers and major landmarks. Putting the puzzle together gives kids some hands-on experience with learning to map the world. As with the USA Map, this is an add-on to the TAG Reading System (the TAG pen is not included in this package). With the TAG, your child can explore the map on several levels. We love the ability to explore and hear the name of place touched on the map. If you ever wished your atlas could talk to you (or was that just us?)...this is really what happens with this mode. There is also a lot of built-in trivia...another passion with school-aged kids who love to amass facts! Our favorite is the travel time mode so that you can find out how long it would take you to travel from New York to Sydney!

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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