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Product Type: Toys
Award: Platinum
Age: Late Elementary School Years
Review Year: 2013

 


2013 Award
Spin Master Zoomer Your Real Best Friend
(Spin Master $99.99 Score:)

An easy to train puppy, just touch Zoomer's head and he listens to your commands. He can hear from 1-3 feet away. You know he's ready for action and fully charged (takes an hour) when you see his eyes light up. He follows 14 voice commands. Zoomer can bark and "see" or sense people and objects in front of him and reacts to your movements. Our tester got him to follow his hand without saying anything. However, words count with this pooch. He's a tri-lingual pooch who understands English, French and Spanish. When giving commands his eyes light up with question marks; if he doesn't understand the eyes glaze over with X's. You do need to be patient with Zoomer since he is still a pup and likes to play, so you may have to repeat commands and speak very clearly. There's a lot of pretending here along with remembering how to make Zoomer do all his tricks. No trips to the vets or house breaking required. No batteries, either, he can be charged up via any USB port. 5 & up.

 

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

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2013 Award
MindWare Paint Your Own Porcelain Vases
(MindWare $29.95 Score:)

A charming craft kit that comes with three white vases in three different shapes and 12 paints that are used to decorate them. These will make unique gifts for older kids to make for Gram, the teacher, or for Mom's desk. Clear directions introduce different techniques for stippling, sponge painting or designing with masking tape. After painting they need to dry for 24 hours and then the paint is set by baking it in a regular oven—not a microwave. This is a craft kit that requires adult supervision. 8 & up. 

 

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

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2013 Award
Alex Forever Bracelets
(Alex $38.99 Score:)

Make 30 bracelets with the goodies in this handsome package. There are six colored twines and embroidery floss, rope and elastic cords, one tassle, feathers, clasps, beads, metal charms and bangles to wrap. Our tester loved the suction cup hook that she used on the table to hold the work in progress. She thought that was a great innovation! A craft kit that calls for dexterity, reading and following directions, staying with a task that requires patience and colorful choices. The payoff is in finished products kids love to wear and share. Although only one person can use the suction cup hook at a time, there are enough supplies here for a play date or even an overnight party. A wow of a gift for 8's & up.

Age: Later School Years, Tweens, Teens. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2013 Award
MindWare Q-BA-MAZE 2.0
(MindWare $39.99 & up Score:)

We hade some totally amazing marble maze toys this season. This one made a huge hit with older builders. The plastic translucent pieces can be connected both vertically and horizontally and joined with bendable tubes to create complex pathways for the steel marbles to run through. The rushing marbles make a nice sound as they move through the maze. These are not magnetic marbles, but you will need to keep them out of the reach of kids who are still mouthing their toys. Start with the big box set ($39.99) or you can go straight to the Mega Stunt set ($79.99)  that includes along with a good supply of colorful cubes, a pivot trampoline, marble vortex, coaster tubes, stilts and 30 marbles. This is the kind of toy that builds dexterity, patience, and problem solving. It's a playful introduction to physics as well as pushing those creative buttons. They say 6 & up. We think most 6 year olds will need help. This is probably a better bet for mixed ages, parent and child or for older kids who will enjoy it independently. New for 2014, is a Starter Stunt Set ($49.95).

 

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

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2013 Award
Crayola Melt 'n Mold Crayon Factory
(Crayola $49.99 Score:)

We've had crayon molds before, but this new and improved model with see through lid made a huge hit with our testers. It comes with molds that will make ring shaped crayons as well as the usual shape. The kit comes with 24 crayons ready to melt and/or you can use old broken crayons as well. Designed for safety, the lid locks down while the crayons melt. Once they turn to liquid you push the button to spill the wax into the mold. Again, all of this is done while the see through lid is locked down. The lid will not lift until a timer releases it and the wax has cooled. Extra molds for making cars, spiders, spinners, and wiggly shaped crayons are available separately. A great way to recycle old crayons and, as always, kids love using the unique end products they make. This is marked for 8 & up and since it has to be plugged in, it is a toy that should be used with adult supervision.

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

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2013 Award
HexBug Spider XL
(Innovation First $39.99 Score:)

A 7-Way Radio Controlled Spider does some fancy strutting with the remote control. You can spin its body and make it walk or turn 360 degrees on its six translucent legs. Spider XL comes in red or blue and takes 3 AA batteries and 1 9V. 8 & up.

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

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2013 Award
Calico Critters Adventure Tree House
(International Playthings $70 Score:)

Get your critters ready for real adventure in this three level tree house with a two-story slide, a cabin on top, and ladders for getting up and down. There is a swing big enough for two to share as well as a bucket on a pulley for getting supplies up and down with ease. There is plenty of room inside for cozy living. You can combine this setting with the Lakeside Lodge vacation house. Like all settings in this line, the animals and furniture pictured on the packaging are not included in the set, but sold separately.

Our tester loved the little log cabin playhouse that is on the top of the tree house and the slide. She also likes the pulley for transporting small treasures to the different levels of the tree house.  The only negative comment was that the swing comes off the branch easily. This experienced 6 year old Calico Critters fan, incorporated her Tree House into her other settings to create a village.  Her mom noted that she would recommend Calico Critters to other parents because the line has lasting play appeal. 

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

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2013 Awards
Faber-Castell Connector Paint Box
(Creativity for Kids $14 Score:)

A cleverly designed paint box with 12 bright opaque watercolors (gouaches)and a tube of Chinese white paint. A larger set of 24 colors is also available. The paint tablets can be lifted out of the pan and arranged as one wishes. The lid of the pan becomes a palette for mixing colors and is easy to rinse off. Brushes store in the bux, though they do not come with this set. A step above the usual watercolor sets for children.

SNAP You don't need to introduce all the colors at once with this clever pan of paints. Gradually add other colors once your child gets the idea of how to use a few colors without getting them saturated. using the brush offers more freedom than a pencil and the colors are pleasing. This is a pleasing way to develop eye hand control and to explore the magic of mixing colors.

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

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2013 Award
Faber-Castell Block Printing
(Creativity for Kids $20 Score:)

Everything you need to explore the world of block printing. The 40+-piece set includes a step-by-step guide and the materials for making or tracing an image on your printing plate, washable paints in four colors, printing paper, drawing tool, foam block printing sheets, stencils, scissors, rollers, and a work tray. Adult help will be needed until they get the idea of how to make this art form happen. Then, stand back and watch the fun begin.

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

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2013 Award
iTrax
(Learning Resources $19.99 Score:)

A visually challenging game with 25 double-sided cards and 36 multi-colored rods, and 8 cubes. Choose a colorful card and then players must discover the path that connects two cubes. Once the path is spotted, players race to be the first to build the pattern they see. It's tricky, since the rods are not all the same size and you have to reproduce the path to the side of the card, not on it. So this calls for visual discrimination and speed. Our multi-generational testers had fun with this game and the younger kids were often better at seeing the pathways and reproducing them. There are three levels of play for 2-4 players. 6-adult.

 

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years, Tweens, Teens, Adult. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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