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Product Type: Toys
Award: Blue Chip

 

 
2004 Award
Moose in the House
(Gamewright $9.99 Score:)

There's a Moose in the House remains one of our all time favorite card games.  It's unlike most other games you'll play with your kids nad has a sense of humor and great artwork. Calls for visual discrimination skills!  So we have elevated this unique game to BLUE CHIP status!

Here's our original review:

One of the most innovative card games we have played in years. The cards have pictures of empty rooms, doors, and moose in the same rooms. The object is to place as many moose in your opponents’ house of cards as possible. The player with the fewest moose at the end of the game, wins. Easy to learn and a lot of fun to play! 2-5 players.

The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements. We did not independently test this toy in a lab.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2004. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2002 Awards
CedarWorks Gazebo Slant 1 Playset
(CedarWorks $3100 Score:) The Gazebo is a big time investment in backyard fun. Made out of northern cedar, the company guarantees that its sets are splinter free. What we really like about the Gazebo system is that you can add guard rails all the way around the raised platform for added safety. As your kids grow, you can remove the rails for added climbing opportunities. Kids love having a clubhouse of their very own and that's what the Gazebo does (without having to build a tree house!) Starter sets begin at $1400 from this top of the line playset company, but you can always spend more. You can customize your "dream set" on CedarWorks website, on the phone or with an authorized dealer. With all climbing systems, adult supervision is a must. The government recommends a minimum of 6 inches of ground covering (wood chips, recycled mulch, pea stones, fine sand) with a minimum perimeter of 6 feet. For more safety guidelines, please visit www.cpsc.gov.

Age: Preschool,Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2002.

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2010 Awards
Lauri Puzzles
(Lauri $7.99 Score:)

Lauriís puzzles come with rubber pieces and a pattern printed in the container/tray for beginners to follow. For building confidence, these are the perfect place to start.  They do make puzzle boards with whole pieces, such as tools and vehicles. These are ideal for beginners.

The five piece puzzles are a perfect place to start with 2 year olds. The puzzles are marked 18 months and up- but we'd say for most kids, this is rushing it.  There is also a Dog and puppy 5 piece puzzle that's a bit harder.

As with all puzzles-- it's really important to start with sets that your child can do with a minimum amount of frustration. The idea is to build their sense of confidence- save more complicated puzzles for later on.

Our 4-5 year old testers loved the 22-piece Race Car and 3-4's liked the 13-piece T-Rex, a 16-piece Farm Scene,  a wonderful Birthday Cake, and Airplane. This company will provide missing pieces so that your investment is not lost. The textured pieces on their simple one piece puzzles are also good for tracing.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2010. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2009 Awards
LeapFrog Fridge Phonics Magnetic Set
(LeapFrog $24.99 Score:)

For the 21st-century child, magnetic letters that talk! Put the "magnetic phonics reader" onto the fridge and it will play one capital letter at a time. The toy will say and sing each letters name and sing the sound they say. Letters are raised to give kids the feel for their shapes. Use these for letter name and sound recognition.  Look for the Fridge Words Magnetic Word Builder version for simple three letter word games. This is labeled 2 & up, but is more appropriate for preschoolers and early school kids. We're heard that the toy will scratch stainless steel fridge doors...so find another home for this if that is what you have. The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements. We did not independently test this toy in a lab.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2009. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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Award
Floor Standing Puppet Theater
(Alex $59.99 Score:) Puppet stages are great fun for the whole family. At first you may be the main performer but soon enough your child will want you to be the audience. Try out familiar stories and then make up your own. Kids often express themselves more openly when they use puppets-- so be a careful listener. You may be surprised by what you hear. This stage from Alex is smaller than their larger playhouses that also have puppet stages. Comes with a clock (for show time) and a chalk board for adding important info about the show.

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

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2011 Awards
Guidecraft Unit Blocks
(Guidecraft $40 & up Score:)

If there's one toy every child should have, blocks are it! Nothing is more basic to play than a set of wooden unit blocks. A set with 34 pieces is a place to start, although a 76-piece set ($90) would be even more versatile. Pictured here is a school size set that has 28 shapes($200+)Unit blocks come with built-in possibilities for discovery as they are scaled to each other; putting two squares together, kids discover the two equal one rectangular block; two of the triangles makes a square, etc. Blocks develop kids' spatial understanding, their eye hand skills, their problem solving abilities, imagination, and language. They are the raw materials for dramatic play that put kids in charge. They are great for using with wooden trains for making bridges and roadways for toy cars, barns for small animals. Be sure to add some scaled down vehicles, and animals and even some doll house or action figures to the mix. Give them a place where the blocks can stay up for a while so that they can make settings for their dramatic play.  Blocks can be used solo and in cooperative play. Beginners often will start off by building horizontially...but soon enough preschoolers will start building upwards. These are basic gear for kids with lasting play value because they are completely open-ended and can be used in multiple ways. They may be a farm one day and a bridge the next. One of a favorite lines of props for blocks are the Jungle and Farm Animal sets from Learning Resources($25.99).

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

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2007 Award
Scrabble Premier Edition
(Restoration Hardware $149 Score:) If Scrabble is a family favorite, you may want to bring home this deluxe set that comes in a handsome mahogany-finished case with storage below the board and a lazy-Susan platform for easy viewing. The board is approximately 17" x 16" wide and comes with a timer, rulebook, scoreboard and pencil. We'd also recommend the Scrabble Electronic Dictionary ($55) for those heated word challenges!

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2007.

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2000 Awards
Tomy Roll Around Tower
(International Playthings $24.99 Score:) When people ask us for our favorite two year old birthday present, this ball run is high on the list. It's just right for toddlers who love the repetitive action of making something happen. The plastic colorful balls are oversized and fun to drop into the tower. The balls make a pleasing sound as they move down the tower. Unlike many new ball runs, kids can track the balls from beginnning to end- a plus in this category. Also fun and a little more advanced, Ball Party Bounce (here you can position the ball to bounce off one level and into another chute).

Age: Toddlers. Award Year: 2000.

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2009 Awards
Wikki Stix Activities
(International Playthings $30 Score:)

This carrying case is loaded with waxed strings known as wikki stix that come in many colors and can be bent into letters, numerals and animal shapes. This set includes activity cards that can be used as templates or the materials can be used in an open ended way. This kind of activity involves the fine motor skills kids will need for writing, so this is a fun way to develop those finger muscles without drilling with pencil and paper tasks. 4 & up.
       The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements. We did not independently test this toy in a lab.
 

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2009. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2003 Awards
Scrabble Game Folio Edition
(Parker Brothers $19.99 Score:) If Scrabble is your game, here's a convenient take-along version that zips up. Best of all, the pieces lock in so that you can stop in the middle of a game and come back to it later. Players need more dexterity to play with these small tiles. They won't fall all over the place on a plane, but this takes finer motor skills. For younger players the traditonal game may be a better choice. 10 & up. (800) 752-9755.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2003.

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