Toys with Staying Playing Power
A Dozen Open-ended Toys
Tags: open-ended toys, construction, art materials, pretend play
Posted: 2011-11-12 14:42:14 By: Joanne Oppenheim

 

 

 

 
2011 Awards
CitiBlocs Little Builders Rattle Blocks
(Citiblocs $35 Score: )

22 wooden blocks with rattle sounds inside, colorful rooftops, and staircases are designed for beginning builders. These are chunkier than the classic Citiblocs. These smoothly finished blocks play to sensory feedback for little hands and ears. Stack them up high or line them up sideways. There is no right or wrong way to enjoy these. After they have played with the blocks for awhile, kids may like using the colored graphics to match up buildings of one color or set them up in patterns. Younger toddlers will like building them up and knocking them down with a big kaboom! 2 and up. The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements. We did not independently test this toy in a lab.

SNAP Activities: These blocks are chunkier and somewhat easier to grasp. They are also a bit more literal with premade roof tops and colored strips. They should be enjoyed independently, but you can aslo use them to reinfoce color words and sorting skills. Build an all red striped building or talk about the colors of the roof tops. Help build two buildings that are the same height. Talk about building by adding one more and one less. These concepts are basic to math, but they are best learned in concrete ways that build understanding.

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

 

 

 


2011 Award
Lego Duplo Play With Letters
(Lego Systems, Inc. $29.99 Score: )

A big 62-piece sets of chunky Duplo blocks, some with upper case alphabet letters. The set is otherwise an open-ended construction set with a wheel base for making a working vehicle. It comes with windows that can be attached as well as one play figure, a cat, and flowers. There is no right or wrong way to build. These classic blocks are good for reinforcing colors as well as spatial relationships. They are good tools for also developing dexterity and problem solving skills. In addition, each letter sound is reinforced with a small image of an object that goes with the letter. These can be used with older preschoolers for knowing and naming letter names and beginning sounds, and for language development. The set is labeled for 2-5. Wed say the letter part is for more like older 3s and up,up,up.

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

 

 

 


2011 Award
BigJigs Rose Cottage
(BigJigs $179.95 Score: )

A dream house done up in pink and cream. A cleverly designed dollhouse that opens onto four rooms. There is a hinged roof for easy access. It has sliding patio door, and functional doors and windows. It comes with six little dolls and it's fully furnished with 26 pieces to that mean it's ready for play on the very first day! A memorable gift for 3 & up.

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

 

 

 

 
2011 Awards
Faber Castell Young Artist Finger Painting Set
(Creativity for Kids $25 Score: )

A jumbo see-through paint can with four big tubes of finger paints, two interesting textured rollers, two sponge stampers (a star and a circle), 25 sheets of finger paint paper, a mixing dish, a disposable apron and for those who need more--instructions and ideas. Just be sure to cover your work surface and stand back. This is a kit that will give hours of satisfying discoveries.  3 & up.

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

 

 

 

 
2011 Awards
PBS Kids Exploration Blocks: Building
(PBS Kids $29 Score: )

A 36-piece set makes a good choice for beginning builders or as an add-on to other block sets. Although these are not unit block size, they add interest as decorative elements. Some of the blocks are painted with small shaped that resemble windows. There are arches, cylinders, squares, rectangles, triangles and other odd shapes that kids will find useful for creative building. The set includes a cloth storage bag. All of the pieces are big enough to be safe for toddlers. 1 1/2 & up. There is also a smaller 23 piece set with interesting shapes that is also interesting. PBS Kids Tower Blocks (29.99)

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

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

 

 

 


2011 Award
Corolle Classic Bebe Amour
(Corolle $110 Score: )

This totally beautiful baby doll is sure to bring on the ooooooo's and ahhhhh's! Bebe Amour is one of the Bebe Cheri doll collection. She is all dressed up in a plum colored corduroy jumper with a print blouse with a ruffled collar, striped leggings, bootees and a darling pink knit hat. The closest thing to a real baby, she is an adorable armful of a doll for pretend play. For those with a baby in the house, save those baby clothes! Bebe Amour is big enough to be able to wear real clothes designed for a 3-month-old infant. Baby Amour's name suits her perfectly. She is a totally lovable 20-inch doll with a soft body, sleeping eyes. She has a bald-head and is hand washable. We think older doll lovers will enjoy this best, although it's marked 3 & up.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2011.

 

 

 


2011 Award
North American Bear Nesting Puppets- Goldilocks and the 3 Bears
(North American Bear Co. $40 Score: ) Here's a great gift idea! The Mama Bear and Baby Bear all fit inside the big Papa Bear. The big brown Papa has Goldilocks, a finger puppet with yarn pigtails, tucked in the pocket of his red overalls. Mama is in a pink flowered dress and Baby in blue gingham checks. This wonderful set is ideal for encouraging kids to retell a familiar story in their own words. With so many puppets more than one player can take a role and help in the story telling. Just as they like rehearing a tale, they will enjoy retelling it with these props. You can also encourage them to tell the further adventures of these familiar characters. Being able to sequence the story and put it in their own words is an important pre-reading skill that develops language and recall. A good story needs a beginning, middle and end and this one has a strong storyline with room for all that someone's been eating my porridge, sitting in my chair, sleeping in my bed! Kids love the repetition and the drama is sure to get more powerful as they grow into their roles. Also available, a charming set of the 3 Pigs and the Bad Wolf from the same maker. 4 & up.

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

 

 

 

 

 
2011 Awards
Colorforms 60th Anniversary Edition
(University Games $26 Score: )

What could be better than bringing home one of your childhood favorite toys and sharing it with your children or grandchildren? That's what you can do with this replica of the original Colorforms Set that has 350 geometric pieces in a spiral book and playboards to put them on. Unlike all the licensed images that followed since 1951, this is a more open ended set that allows kids to create their own themes. There is a small insert with images that can be copied, but best of all, this is an invitation to explore and discover how shapes can be transformed into designs and less literal images from one's own imagination. It's also an art form with no messy residue and no right or wrong rules. Getting the pages started may call for some adult help, but playing with the shapes develops fine motor skills, dexterity, and creative thinking.

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

 

 

 


2011 Award
Chuggington Wooden Railway Trainee Roundhouse Set
(Learning Curve International $119.99 Score: )

The middle sized set in this new series of trains from the folks that brought you Thomas the Tank. The set comes with 32 pieces of wooden track with plastic/wooden accessories. The set comes with two trains (Koko & Brewster) and a roundhouse that can hold three engines. One of the nice features of this series is that the accessories come apart so that they can be used in more than one way. For example in this set, the clock tower can stack on top of the roundhouse or be removed and used as a small tunnel elsewhere. Our testers have generally loved these sets but have noted that the tracks do not stay connected as well as the Thomas sets (which is odd since they're made by the same company!).

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

 

 

 


2011 Award
Mudpuppy Constructibles Pop Patterns
(Mudpuppy Press $14 Score: )

Newest in this collection of 3-D cardboard construction sets. There are 25 bold pop art patterned cards with stripes, dots, zig-zags and hot colors. Like Mudpuppy's Bold Pattern Constuctibles, these have a bold look that is more about design, patterns and color than realistic building toys. They come in five geometric shapes that are put together into open-ended structures. There is no wrong or right way to use these sturdy building cards. They develop kids fine motor skills as well as their problem solving abilities as they fit the interlocking pieces together and keep them from falling over. These are not flimsy, as many card sets tend to be. Best of all this is a toy for creative thinking as kids make their own structures. 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: 2011. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2011 Award
eeBoo Metallic Color Pencils and Sketchbook
(eeBoo $7.99 Score: )

Getting kids to pick up a pencil can be no fun, especially when kids find writing letters challenging. The very kids who need to practice the most are often the most reluctant. Enter a set of six metallic colored pencils ($7.99) that are slightly fatter but shaped with three sides, to make the gripping all the easier. Choose a robot graphic box or one with birds. Best of all there's a gold, silver, aqua, green, bronze and pinkish pencil for making unusual drawings and signs. Sure to please even the most reluctant beginning writers. There are also larger sets of metallic pencils with 24 pencils in a metal container($14.95. ) For inspiration, bring home matching spiral covered sketch books ($6) with Golden Bird or Silver Robot. The paper is smooth and heavy enough for color pencils and even watercolors. 5 & 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, Later School Years. Award Year: 2011. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2011 Award
Make Your Own Kaleidoscope
(Creativity for Kids $12.99 Score: )

Here kids are getting an introduction to reflective properties of light and how different materials affect what we see. The set requires kids to follow step by step instructions for putting the kaleidoscope together. Comes with lots of materials to put in the end piece, but you can also encourage your child to experiment with things from around the house (small buttons, Cheerios, etc.).  Kit says 5 & up--and while a 5 year old will love playing with this toy, they will need your assistance to put it together.   We'd say  more like 8 & up for independent play.  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: 2011. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 
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