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Spring 2014 Tillywig Award Winners

Toys & Games

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Aqua Dragon Deluxe Deep Sea Habitat

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Aqua Dragon Deluxe Deep Sea Habitat
Price $24.99
By Imports Dragon
Age
3+
Brain Child

Aqua Dragons enables kids to create, care for, and observe an exotic world filled with living creatures in the comfort and privacy of their own home. The Deep Sea Habitat is a mini-aquarium kids fill with bottled water and then populate with creatures by emptying the contents of the eggs pouch into the water. The Aqua Dragons (formally known as artemia salina, a species of aquatic crustaceans that does not appear to have changed in 100 million years) immediately begin to hatch, and begin to be visible to the naked eye within a few days. They can grow to be up to 2 cm long (about 3/4 inch) and, in appearance, resemble little hairy-headed dragons with three eyes and long tails. They swim and play, and should only be fed once every few days. The accompanying booklet includes diagrams of the life cycle and anatomy of the Aqua Dragon as well as fascinating details about this amazing species. The manufacturer, whose focus is on educational products related to nature, expresses a philosophy of love and respect for all living things, something all kids should be exposed to from a young age. Kit includes habitat (with LED lights in base), eggs, food, magnifier, aerator, and booklet.

AZTACK

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AZTACK
Price $24.99
By Blue Orange Games
Age
7+
Brain Child

The amount of brain power generated during the course of a single game of AZTACK might just be enough to light up a small city. For a quick-moving game that's easy to learn, there's plenty to think about. Players build a temple by stacking inscribed rectangular stones on one another. 12 stones placed face-up on the table form the foundation on which all players build. Each rectangular stone has two glyphs inscribed on it, and each glyph has a color. Players take turns placing one of their stones on top of the temple-in-progress. To place a stone, you and your opponents must follow certain rules, and that's where cleverness and keen observational skills come in. The added stone must bridge the two underneath AND match them by color or glyph. Since each player can see the others' stones throughout the game, players can, with forethought, determine what one another's options are as well as their own. How and where you place a stone can thwart an opponent, or, if you're not careful, benefit him. And of course, you want to be setting yourself up for future moves. When no more stones can be played, the player with the fewest stones left wins the game. For 2 to 4 players.

Bag Tags

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Bag Tags
Price $9.99
By Galison/Mudpuppy
Age
3+
Sterling Fun

Bag Tags are a fresh, fun way to add playfulness and style to any bag, lunchbox, backpack, suitcase - pretty much anything with a strap or handle. Each Bag Tag also contains an address slot with a personal information card so that items that previously would have spent an extended stay in Lost and Found can be promptly returned to owner. Each stitched felt Bag Tag is bold, colorful, durable, kid-themed, and has an adjustable buckle for attaching it where and how you want it. There are currently six different designs in the series - Madeline, Cupcake, Airplane, Owl, Taxi, and Robot - each of which is beautifully designed with its own unique, eye-catching artwork. Simply ingenious.

BATTLE SHEEP

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BATTLE SHEEP
Price $24.99
By Blue Orange Games
Age
7+
Top Toy

This is our favorite game of the year so far. It's quite easy to learn and play, which is almost surprising given the often deep thought processes players handily employ when choosing their moves. The fun factor is very high, and the fact that it's about sheep taking over the world (all right, not the entire world, but Farmer Pat's pastures for sure) is a bonus no one can deny. Each player starts with a single tall stack of really nifty sheep chips. Players move by taking part of their own stack off the top and relocating it to another space. Every move thereafter likewise consists of subdividing and relocating a portion of one of your stacks. As to where you can move, that would be straight ahead in a line until something (another stack or the edge of the playing field) blocks you. Which means, by the way, that if you're hemmed in on all sides, no moves for you. Players alternate turns, the goal being to occupy the largest portion of the playing field once all players can no longer move. First-rate, ingenious fun. 2 to 4 players, 15 minutes per game.

Bowling Game Funny Bunch

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Bowling Game Funny Bunch
Price $47.2
By Egmont Toys
Age
0+
Top Toy

Bowling Game Funny Bunch has several outstanding qualities - simplicity, variety, visually and tactilely stimulating, and promotes dexterity - that make it thoroughly enjoyable and beneficial for young children. Each of the five bowling pins would make a fine children's toy all by itself. Super-soft, each with a different animal head on top (hedgehog, donkey, rabbit, mouse and bear), these lightweight plush bowling pins are weighted to stand. A gentle nudge will cause them to fall, and a youngster can become quite engrossed simply holding and squeezing or tipping and re-standing any one of them. While the base of each pin is identically shaped, each has a different combination of colors, textures, and patterns that appeal to hands and eyes. And each contains a small rattle, adding sound to the hand-eye mix. On top of all that, the adorableness factor is quite high. Lining these lovable guys up in a row and rolling the equally soft, colorful 'bowling ball' is a game that brings squeals of delight from the mouths of babes.

BraveRats

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BraveRats
Price $9.99
By Blue Orange Games
Age
8+
Sterling Fun

This is a fast, fun 2-player game in which players go head to head (or should we say rat to rat) through round after round of battle, with nothing less than the entire kingdom at stake. The first player to win 4 rounds is the conqueror! Each player starts with eight cards. Each card contains a number (0 through 7) and bears a specific rat character (Musician, Wizard, Assassin . . .) that possesses a special power in battle. In each round, players simultaneously flip a card face up. The highest card wins EXCEPT when the card's special power overrules the numbers. Some examples: the Assassin's power is that the lowest card wins that round. The Wizard nullifies your opponent's card's power. Playing your General card increases the strength of the card you play in the next round by +2. And your Prince, normally invincible, has a particularly dangerous weakness - if your opponent plays his Princess against your Prince, you lose the entire game. The detailed rat illustrations on the cards are quite humorous, the action fast and furious, and the games are short (about 5 minutes) and oh so sweet.

Build Your Box Chalk

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Build Your Box Chalk
Price $0.99
By Crayola
Age
4+
Best Creative Fun

Outdoor art is a phenomenal way for kids to express their creativity while enjoying the outdoors. It makes sense that Crayola, with so many years of helping kids explore the world of color and self-expression under its belt, would come up with such an exciting, dynamic concept for sidewalk chalk. Each Build Your Box Chalk package contains a unique combination of colors, four large chalk sticks that, together, convey a specific mood or feel and thus inspire a different creative energy. Each of these combinations has a name reflective of its feel - Thunder & Lightning, Pool Party, Arctic Fire, Desert Dawn, Martian Moon, and many others - vibrant colors that pop like crazy on the sidewalk, driveway, or playground. These washable chalk sticks (just spray or wipe the ground with water to erase) resemble large crayons with squared edges, making them easy to hold and to use and keep them from rolling away. And with 18 different color combinations to collect and explore, kids can mix and match to their heart's content!

Caillou Lights and Sound Fire Truck

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Caillou Lights and Sound Fire Truck
Price $19.99
By Imports Dragon
Age
3+
Best Creative Fun

Caillou Lights and Sound Fire Truck provides several kinds of play for young children. As a construction toy, the truck stimulates young minds and hands by breaking down into several simple components that reassemble again and again using nothing but proper positioning and gentle pressure. When assembled, the six-wheel truck is an action toy that sparks the child's imagination. Rolling swiftly across the floor, it includes an extendable ladder assembly with a cherry picker at the end in which the Caillou fireman figure can ride to the rescue! Press a button to add the excitement of flashing lights and sound. Miniature fire hydrant and red traffic cones add detail to any number of scenarios. Fans of the popular Caillou TV series and newcomers alike will find that this toy inspires action, creativity, and fun.

Caillou Talking Doll

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Caillou Talking Doll
Price $34.99
By Imports Dragon
Age
3+
Sterling Fun

Pre-schoolers love Caillou, and why wouldn't they? He's one of them. As popular as the TV show is, kids get very excited to have their very own talking doll version of the inquisitive four-year-old Caillou. Adorably and sharply dressed for pre-school, he comes bearing a bright green backpack (you can even store things in it) and removable red cap. The best part happens when you give him a squeeze. He talks, telling you quite a few things about himself - what he likes, what he thinks, tidbits about his family - he'll even teach you a bit of French! Keep squeezing and the thoughts and words keep coming. Caillou is a fine friend for any youngster. Approximately 15 inches tall.

Chalk Grab 'N Go Games

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Chalk Grab 'N Go Games
Price $4.99
By Crayola
Age
4+
Best Family Fun

Outdoor play has always been an arena for creative, active fun. With Chalk Grab 'N Go Games, there's no waiting for inspiration to strike, just creativity and action in one fell swoop, courtesy of Crayola. Each Grab 'n Go Game - favorites like Bean Bag Toss, Foot Hockey, Obstacle Course, and Chip Shot Golf - provides four large sticks of colored washable sidewalk chalk. Each includes a unique set of game accessories and instructions for playing that particular game. For example, Obstacle Course provides conical blue markers for players to weave in and out of as they follow obstacle courses of their own divising. Bean Bag Toss provides brightly-colored, durable little beanbags for tossing, as well as a scoring system and guidelines for setup. And there's so much creativity, variety, and drawing each time you play, the setup's half the fun! With Spring here, Summer just around the corner, and kids and families eager for all the outdoor time they can get, Chalk Grab 'N Go Games is a must-have for the summer fun menu. Each game sold separately.

Crazy Pants

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Crazy Pants
Price $20
By Chatterbox Toys
Age
3-7 yrs.
Sterling Fun

Games that are perfectly suited for younger kids (in this case 3 to 7 years old) are hard to find. That Crazy Pants consists of four such games is a boon to parents and teachers. Each of the four games is easy to learn, quick-moving, requires no reading, and teaches different skills (taking turns, following directions, social development, language expansion, auditory awareness). Meanwhile, everyone's having a blast. All of the games use Crazy Pants cards, each of which has a single article of clothing on it. In Crazy Pants Bingo, the caller pulls one card at a time from the deck while everyone tries to spot the article of clothing (Crazy Pants are wild!) on their own game board and cover it with a playing piece. In the Memory game, players take turns flipping up two cards at a time, taking them if they match, returning them face down if they don't. The Sequencing game has players arrange their cards according to the order in which they put on their own clothes during their dressing routine. Last, but not least, Crazy Pants Card Game is a fast, fun variation on Old Maid.

Doodle Quest

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Doodle Quest
Price $24.99
By Blue Orange Games
Age
6+
Best Family Fun

Doodle Quest is unlike any drawing game we've ever seen. It's not about your ability to draw an object or to get someone to guess your drawing. It's an obstacle course for the mind. Players work from an existing drawing, adding elements to it where they've been instructed to while avoiding obstacles. For example, one doodle quest requires players to add 12 little triangles (teeth) anywhere inside a shark's empty mouth without going outside the white area. Here's the mind-blower: you're not writing directly on the existing drawing. You can look at the drawing while you work, but each player is drawing on a separate transparent sheet, with nothing but their eye to guide them. When finished, each player overlays their sheet on top of the drawing to see how well they've done, earning points for fulfilling requirements and losing them for hitting obstacles. There are 18 double-side Quest Cards with kooky, clever sea-themed scenes that include beginner and advanced levels, making it easy for the entire family to enjoy. Also included are dry-erase pens, drawing boards, erasers, stencils, and scoring sheet. And, as always with Blue Orange Games, everything is top-notch. 1 to 4 players.

Electronic Hangman

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Electronic Hangman
Price $24.99
By Lexibook
Age
8+
Top Toy

This well-designed electronic version of Hangman takes playing the classic game to a new level of fun. With its ongoing interaction between players, physical and electronic components, and built-in sound effects, Electronic Hangman is like having an exciting TV game show in your home. Players take turns being the game master, who sets up a word of 8 letters or less using tiles that perch atop the Hangman unit facing away from the guessing player. With each correct guess, the master turns around the corresponding tiles and presses the Correct Letter button, causing the device to emit a cheering sound. With each wrong guess, the master presses the Wrong Letter button, causing a loud buzz and a segment of the scaffold figure to light up. There are 11 segments in all, so play continues until either the full word has been revealed or 11 wrong guesses have caused the figure to fully light up, which results in a musical sound effect that makes it clear the round has been lost. Players use built-in counters to keep score, and the self-contained unit includes a space for storing letter tiles when not in use. For 2 players or teams.

Flip & Draw

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Flip & Draw
Price $8.99
By Galison/Mudpuppy
Age
4+
Best Creative Fun

Playing with Flip & Draw unleashes creativity, but it also seriously tickles the funny bone. Each Flip & Draw book contains 10 mix & match characters to color in, plus 5 blank sheets on which to draw your own. Coloring in the pages is a blast, but the fun really kicks up a notch once the flipping begins. Mix & match means each page consists of 3 panels, so rather than turning the entire page, you can just turn the part of the drawing you would like to see change. Each given Flip & Draw contains similar types of drawings, so that any combination of upper, lower, and middle panels work well together. For example, Superhero Flip & Draw contains a variety of far-out Superheroes, and flipping just the upper, lower, or middle parts of a page creates some clever, kooky combinations. By creating odd, unexpected, and often humorous pairings, new ideas become triggered, even new ways of looking at things. More importantly, it's a whole lot of fun. More than a dozen different Flip & Draws (Superheroes, Princesses, Monsters, Robots, Forest Animals, . . .) are currently available.

Fort Magic - Fort Building & Construction Toy Kit for Kids

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Fort Magic - Fort Building & Construction Toy Kit for Kids
Price $199
By Fort Magic, LLC
Age
5+
Brain Child

When kids play with Fort Magic, there's a sense of empowerment in the air, as if someone just handed them the keys to the kingdom. That's because suddenly so many things are possible, and on such a grand scale. Working with nothing but their hands, in a matter of minutes they can build structures large enough for an adult to stand upright in. These can be simple, or elaborate, from modest tent-like structures to labyrinths and castles. The straight and curved building pieces range in length from 1.5 inches to 24 inches each and hold firmly together using any combination of 5 different kinds of connectors provided. All it takes is a push and a twist to make a firm connection. Fabric clips (130 included) make it easy to flesh out the walls and exterior of the forts, adding color, seclusion, and a whole new level of creativity and finesse. Fort Magic unleashes the imagination to invent, explore, build large-scale prototypes, models, and of course, forts. And with 382 pieces at your child's fingertips, the sky's the limit. Includes a velcro-sealed mesh bag for convenient storage of the entire set when not in use.

Franklin Plush

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Franklin Plush
Price $14.99
By Imports Dragon
Age
18 mo.+
Top Toy

Kids find this plush version of Franklin the turtle (from the popular Franklin and Friends show) to be irresistibly charming. He looks just like he does on television, brightly colored, with a polka dot red bandana tied around his neck and trademark red cap hovering over his familiar, friendly face. Except that this Franklin is squeezably soft, a portable, comforting presence that goes wherever your child goes. There's lots to explore. Little hands can't seem to get enough of him, pinching and squeezing the beanbag in his turtle shell, bending and moving his bright green legs and arms (which forever appear to be reaching out for a hug), flipping up and down the brim of his cap. Fans of the show know Franklin is as big-hearted as they come. Now this happy, smiling turtle can be a cuddly, stimulating companion for children all day long.

Franklin Water Rider Vehicle

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Franklin Water Rider Vehicle
Price $14.99
By Imports Dragon
Age
3+
Sterling Fun

Everybody's favorite turtle, Franklin, is all revved up and ready to roll. His trusty automobile, riding high on four big wheels, is activated by a simple pull-back motion. When released, the toy car and Franklin go zipping across the floor. Even better, this rugged ride is designed especially for fun in the tub, so suds are no deterrent to bath-time adventures with Franklin. He'll float across the surface of the water unless little hands decide it's time for a journey to the bottom of the tub. Small, lightweight, and equally fun whether powered by push, pull, or riding the waves, this vehicle is built to go wherever the fun may take you.

HanzMoto

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HanzMoto
Price $39.95
By Hanz Toys
Age
8+
Best Creative Fun

Two seemingly opposing principles - simplicity and complexity - are at work in HanzMoto, a building set that enables you to build a wild variety of highly original vehicles and other designs. The simplicity refers to the sameness of the parts - 8 identical wheel assemblies and 140 identically sized and shaped (though they vary in color) blocks. The complexity stems from the versatility with which these uniquely shaped blocks fit together. This makes trial and error a particularly fruitful approach to creating something new and exciting, with intuition and happenstance leading you down unexpected paths. There's no getting bogged down in preconceived notions. Your mind is free to explore. A methodical approach also works exceedingly well. The two approaches - the planner vs. the intuitive - are not mutually exclusive, and therein lies much of the brilliance of HanzMoto and Genius Blocks. They enhance your ability to morph from fluid to concrete thinking and back again, triggering inspirations large and small all along the way.

K'NEX 52 Model Building Set

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K'NEX 52 Model Building Set
Price $24.99
By K'NEX
Age
7+
Brain Child

There is something uniquely satisfying about building with K'NEX. It's not just the ease and secureness with which the pieces glide and snap together. Nor is it their versatility, although the huge range of things you can create with them is immensely gratifying. It's got more to do with their distinctive look and feel, the way whatever you're building with them seems to almost magically take shape under your hands. This particular kit gives you a great deal to enjoy and explore - over 600 colorful K'NEX rods and connectors, with instructions and ideas for 52 unique models ranging from small and fairly simple to larger, more elaborate structures. You'll build animals, insects, planes, trains, automobiles, boats, sea creatures, and all manner of contraptions and machinery. There are enough models to do a different one a week for a year. But why stop there? With the almost limitless possibilities K'NEX puts at your fingertips, you'll find yourself modifying and enhancing existing models and authoring quite a few of your own as well. Comes packaged in a convenient plastic storage tub.

Laser Pegs MLB001 6-in-1 Kit

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Laser Pegs MLB001 6-in-1 Kit
Price $29.99
By Laser Pegs Ventures, LLC
Age
5+
Sterling Fun

Laser Pegs construction toys have the unique quality of enabling you to create models that light up from within. This particular set contains 59 transparent construction parts, a triangular power base, and 13 Laser Pegs. It is the Laser Pegs that send various colors of light streaming through your creations, toggling on and off with the push of a button. Instructions provide a step by step on how to construct six different models. Five of these have as their central component a baseball player figure in various action poses - Home Run, Called Shot, High Cheese, Baseball Catcher, and Bench Press. This is where the sheet of 30 MLB team decal stickers (included) comes in handy, letting you decorate the player's cap with your favorite team logo. The sixth model is of a blimp, the sort you might see floating by as it illuminates the night sky. Because of the ease with which the pieces slide together, it's a snap to experiment and explore other creative possibilities as well. Requires 3 AA batteries.

Laser Pegs National Geographic Oceans 6-in-1 Kit

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Laser Pegs National Geographic Oceans 6-in-1 Kit
Price $29.99
By Laser Pegs Ventures, LLC
Age
5+
Brain Child

Build 6 different lighted construction models from this single set and immerse yourself in a world of undersea adventure. Create Lanternfish, Tiger Shark, Hammerhead, Clownfish, Manta Ray, and Deep Sea Explorer using 62 Construction Parts and 10 Laser Pegs that assemble with varying degrees of intricacy. Each and every model becomes luminously beautiful when you press the button in the Power Base, sending rays of colored light pulsing through them. Instructions take you through the building of each model step by step. The only thing you need are your own two hands - no tools, no mess. The pieces hold together sturdily but connect and disassemble easily, making exploration and creativity simple to execute. You can even combine and connect the parts with other construction kits. Endless fascinating fun for curious minds.

LEGO Friends Stephanie's Beach House

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LEGO Friends Stephanie's Beach House
Price $39.99
By LEGO Systems, Inc
Age
6-12 yrs.
Best Creative Fun

Stephanie's Beach House puts on full display LEGO's renowned penchant for detail. That attention to the little things creates a level of nuance that makes this a world any girl (or boy) would be thrilled to inhabit. Assembling it is a very big part of the fun. The illustrated instructions are easy to follow, and the patience and care taken in putting it all together are rewarded by feelings of excitement and pride every step of the way. When it's finished, Stephanie's Beach House provides a fertile playground for the imagination. The miniature Stephanie and Kate figures, decked out in bright summer gear, fit perfectly into the attractive surroundings, and it's a joy watching kids conjure up endless adventures populated with unique personalities and back-stories. There are 369 pieces, including all sorts of accoutrements - a windsurfer, radio, TV, telescope, decorative flowerpots, a sofa/bed, even a bathroom with a toilet. From the enviably beautiful multi-room decor to the well-stocked kitchen and open decks, Stephanie's Beach House provides a wellspring for the imagination.

LEGO The LEGO Movie Creative Ambush

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LEGO The LEGO Movie Creative Ambush
Price $39.99
By LEGO Systems, Inc.
Age
8-14 yrs.
Sterling Fun

Kids might think they've stepped directly into a movie when they experience the wild mash-up of mini-figures, places, and out-of-this-world things in this building set. Help Sudds Backwash rebuild his Wild West saloon into a crazily impressive flying machine with twin cannons mounted on the wings and a built-in piano. The flying kebab stand, with Kebab Bob at the helm, is equally impressive, with control levers, jet wheels, boosters, kebab flick missiles, and - our favorite - meat on a rotating spit. And, of course, there's the ever-ominous Micro Manager on the rampage, claws dramatically extended on the end of robotic arms. The Micro Manger's limbs have such extreme pose-ability, you'll find yourself forever positioning him in newly fierce and comical ways. Two other mini-figures, Rootbeer Belle and Executive Ellen, add to the fun. There are 473 pieces in total, and the creative focus expended putting them together morphs into dynamic action and interactive fun once assembly is complete.

Magnetic Sketch Book

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Magnetic Sketch Book
Price $19.5
By Egmont Toys
Age
3+
Best Creative Fun

This magnetic sketch book has an inspiring magic all its own. The pen looks like a regular pen, but there's no ink or lead inside it. And yet it draws quite beautifully. That's because the sketchpad has metal particles inside, and the pen, magnets. Wherever you glide the pen along the pad's surface, those particles become visible, creating artwork with textures and an appearance similar to charcoal drawings. One end of the pen is for drawing finer lines, the other for broader strokes. When you want to start over, tap the bottom of the pad a few times and the image disappears. The sketch book itself has a colorful, appealing design, with playful artwork front and back. The inside back cover is the actual sketchpad. Each of the pages has its own beautiful, playful artwork with a large circular cutout in the middle. That cutout shows through to the sketchpad and allows you to fill in the center of the existing artworks, blending your drawing with that of the page's. Or you can turn directly to the sketchpad and work from scratch. Either way, your creativity gets a delicious workout.

Max & Ruby Plush

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Max & Ruby Plush
Price $19.99
By Imports Dragon
Age
18 mo.+
Top Toy

Even those already charmed by the popular Nick Jr. program may be surprised at just how adorable these 13-inch tall plush versions of Max & Ruby turn out to be. Their big, bright eyes, cheerful expressions, and huggably-plump bunny bodies captivate toddlers for hours on end. With feet that are gently weighted, Max and Ruby stand at attention all by themselves, with arms out to the sides as if eager for play. Max comes wearing a striped shirt and blue overalls, Ruby a pink shirt and pink overalls dress. And every inch of them is so soft, kids just can't help nuzzling and petting them as they play. Young children take comfort in the presence of this bunny duo (each sold separately) and find in them a source of stimulation for exploring both the physical world and the realm of make-believe.

Micro Lean-O

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Micro Lean-O
Price $49.99
By Micro
Age
1.5 - 2 yrs
Sterling Fun

The world is filled with a wide range of vehicles for grownups and big kids, but this sweet scooter is just right for toddlers. It puts a smile on their faces while helping them build a host of motor skills. Lightweight and durable, it's made of strong, supple plastic and can even be safely cleaned in the dishwasher. The oval O-bar is sized perfectly for little hands to hold onto while standing, and the three wheels provide enough support for even those just beginning to get their feet under them. Leaning to the left or right causes the front wheels to turn in that direction, making steering intuitive while aiding in building balance and coordination. The Lean-o is little brother to the Mini Micro 3in1 (see separate review below), and both are high quality children's fare that yield countless hours of fun and developmental benefits.

Microbes Attack!

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Microbes Attack!
Price $14.99
By Daddy-O Productions
Age
6+
Brain Child

Are Microbes Attack puzzles fun? Let us count the ways . . . first, there's the cleverness of the concept. Puzzles are solved by placing colored microbes in a petri dish (not a real one, of course, but still way cool), and the colored microbe pieces and dish are so ingeniously designed and shaped that merely arranging them when you've been told exactly where they go is pretty big fun. In fact, it's hard not to feel proud of yourself, even when solving puzzles from levels 1, 2, or 3 (out of 8 levels of difficulty), where you're filling in a fairly small area of empty space. That's how it works. The puzzle book shows you where to put some of the pieces and your job is to fill in the empty space with the remaining pieces so that there are no gaps. Doing so is made trickier by the oddness of the shapes and the fact that 6 of the 12 microbes are quite different in terms of where they'll fit depending on which side is face up. But that's actually a big part of the gratification - the twisting and turning and visualizing and fitting. These microbes are fun to touch, and when they slide snugly into place, well, it's a darn good feeling. There are well over 100 puzzles to solve, and for those of you whose brains have gotten really big from playing with the microbes, just keep working your way up through the levels - those challenge problems are nothing to sneeze at!

Mini Micro 3in1

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Mini Micro 3in1
Price $114.99
By Micro
Age
1-5 yrs.
Top Toy

This finely crafted 3-wheel scooter is lightweight, durable, and attractive, well-suited for both boys and girls and easy to store in surprisingly small spaces when not in use. In addition to being the first indoor scooter for toddlers, the Mini Micro 3in1 is designed to grow with your child, a versatile approach that allows you and your children to get the most out of this delightful ride. For the youngest users (roughly age 1-1/2) there is an O-bar that's easy for little hands to hold onto and a seat attachment for added stability and security. At around age 2, it's time for the seat to come off (accomplished in mere seconds), creating a stand-on scooter, while 3 to 5 year olds will find the taller T-bar more suitable. (Again, swapping the T-bar for the O-bar is done in seconds). The kickboard, seat, and brake fender are made of strong but soft and supple plastic, making it particularly home- and kid-friendly. It glides whisper-smooth across all kinds of surfaces. Kids steer by shifting body weight to either side, moving hither and yon while building balance, coordination, and confidence along the way. For children up to 44 lbs.

My Awesome Book

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My Awesome Book
Price $39.99
By Lulu Jr.
Age
6+
Best Creative Fun

This is a delightful concept, one that encourages children to tap into their creativity and story-telling abilities by making their own book. The end result, a professionally printed hardcover version of the child's creation, is highly empowering, teaching kids that the path to big results is a matter of taking concrete steps. My Awesome Book! is very accessible, starting with its unusually appealing packaging. Inside, the equally inviting Quick Start Guide is just a few pages long and immediately moves young authors into the 'doing' phase of creativity, where inspiration thrives. Kids can do the entire book by hand - cover art and page-by-page illustrations and text - using the 20 book pages, 2 cover pages, and 10 washable markers included in the kit. Or they can design and create the book online at the manufacturer's website, using drawing tools, templates, backgrounds, and stickers to illustrate and write their story. A postage-paid envelope is included for submitting projects done by hand. Following completed submission, books are typically printed in a couple of weeks and delivered within 3 to 5 business days thereafter.

My First Garden - Mini

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My First Garden - Mini
Price $79
By My First Garden
Age
3+
Brain Child

Many adults who have yet to experience the joys of gardening attribute that fact to a lack of self-confidence in the garden, a belief that a green thumb is something you either have or you don't. But confidence often comes from experience. A product like My First Garden, whose function is to introduce children to the simple magic of growing plants, herbs, and vegetables is, therefore, something of a godsend. The raised garden bed assembles in about two minutes (with no tools needed) and is comprised of four corrugated steel panels held quite solidly together by PVC posts that form the corners of the enclosure. Fill it with soil, get yourself some seeds, and you're good to go. Preparing the earth, planting, harvesting - these are things everyone should be comfortable with. It is not complicated, and familiarity with it opens the door to a world of knowledge and pleasure. Kids learn about nature, gain lots of great motor skill experience, have the benefit of observing a microcosm of the circle of life, and are exposed to healthy eating options in the process.

My First Sandpit

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My First Sandpit
Price $49
By My First Sandpit
Age
3+
Best Creative Fun

Ah, the sandbox, that familiar outdoor play environment revered by generations, and for good reason. And yet, how many people do you know who have one? My First Sandpit, which is quite affordable and assembles in minutes (with no tools needed) makes it very easy to turn your back yard into a unique play haven. Four corrugated steel panels slide easily into the PVC posts that make up the corners of the pit and hold everything securely together. It's extremely sturdy, with rolled safety edges and a 5 year warranty. A weed-proof liner (included) is placed inside the base and filled with sand, and voila! Your children have a highly stimulating, creative play environment par excellence - a veritable beach in the back yard. Decorate the sandpit's panels with colorful alphabet magnets (included). Break out the pail and shovel. Build sandcastles. Let your imagination run wild. And when not in use, cover it with the included waterproof tarp.

My Virtual Fashion Show

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My Virtual Fashion Show
Price $19.99
By Crayola
Age
6+
Best Creative Fun

Imagine creating your own color fashion designs in a sketchbook and then seeing them worn by models at a fashion show. That is what this jaw-dropping combination of physical product and virtual reality app does for you. The 40-page sketchbook lets you create the front and back of 20 designs, with additional printable templates available online to let you go on creating long after the first 20 are finished. Each page shows a model wearing a blank outfit, making it easy to create something striking just by staying between the lines. The front and back can be wildly different in terms of colors and patterns. It still comes together beautifully. As soon as you snap photos of your designs, a model appears onscreen, walking and turning, showing off both sides of your creation. The app allows you to choose from several models, hairstyles, even locations for your shows. Hip runway music plays as you watch several models displaying any number of your designs in the same show. Includes sketchbook, colored pencils, and portfolio case for carrying your artwork and tools, just like a professional! The app is downloadable free.

Niya

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Niya
Price $12.99
By Blue Orange Games
Age
8+
Brain Child

For such a graceful game, vigilance and cold-hearted stealth go a long way towards winning. You and your opponent each represents one of two clans competing for power at court in Classical Japan. The playing field consists of 16 garden tiles in a 4 X 4 grid. Each player has 8 clan tokens and takes turns replacing one garden tile with one of their tokens. A player is limited to replacing a tile that shares a symbol in common (each garden tile contains two symbols) with the tile that was just removed. Thus, where you place your token determines your opponent's options on their next move. Any of the following will win you the game: 1) get 4 of your tokens in a row 2) create a 2 X 2 square of your tokens, or 3) block your opponent from making any legal moves. For example, if you remove a garden tile whose two elements are both the last of their kind on the board, your opponent has nowhere to go and loses. By assessing the playing field carefully, it is possible to steer your opponent towards such a demise without them seeing it coming. But always watch your back. Otherwise, it is you who may find yourself surprised! For 2 players.

OgoSport Aero Zipp Double Pack

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OgoSport Aero Zipp Double Pack
Price $35
By OgoSport, LLC
Age
6+
Sterling Fun

OgoSport is a maker of great outdoor play products that just seem to keep getting better with time. Aero Zipp is a prime example, a hand-held ball launcher that propels specially designed balls great distances at often dazzling speeds. The launcher is a lightweight hinged instrument with a comfortable handle at one end, a claw that holds the ball at the other, and a hinge in the middle. That hinge is key, because the launcher starts out folded back, ball in place, then swings open in a fluid motion as you swing your arm forward. The launcher hits full extension somewhere mid-swing, at which point the Zipp Ball exits the launcher with a velocity sometimes faster than the eye can track. The backspin of the the Zipp Ball causes air above it to move faster, resulting in something called the Magnus effect (creating lift), while dimples in the ball reduce drag. The net effect is a ball that covers great distances. Play Zipp Catch, Aero Golf, Throw the Distance, or make up your own games. Comes with 2 Aero Zipp launchers, 2 holsters, 4 Zipp Balls, and 2 Sonic Zipp Balls. Great fun for the entire family.

PlayTape

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PlayTape
Price $1.99
By InRoad Toys
Age
3+
Best Creative Fun

PlayTape lets kids build roads in the blink of an eye on any flat surface - floors, walls, concrete, even carpeting and upholstery. PlayTape comes in colored rolls of various widths and lengths, with a two-lane road printed along the length of one side and adhesive on the other. Regardless of your roll's size, the easy-tear nature of PlayTape means you can whip out one length of road after another from a single roll to suit your creative needs. The wide variety of surfaces on which you can build is a consequence of how easily PlayTape adheres and how quickly it can be removed or repositioned without leaving any mess or residue. PlayTape is highly portable and easy to store just about anywhere. When you're finished with a piece, it's not only disposable, it's recyclable. PlayTape also works exceedingly well as a way to enhance other imaginative toys - vehicles, construction blocks, dolls, action figures - by expanding the play possibilities and the look, size, and shape of the play environment. Different size rolls range in price from $1.99 to 12.99.

Schoenhut Piano Pals - 25 Key Dog with Bench

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Schoenhut Piano Pals - 25 Key Dog with Bench
Price $130
By Schoenhut Piano Company
Age
3+
Top Toy

One of the most striking things about this 25-key piano is its exceptional level of quality, evident at a glance. This is a very handsome, sturdy, and functional toy piano with a playful, beautiful appearance on a par with many a full-sized instrument. It visually and sonorously enhances most any room in which it happens to reside. In other words, both parents and kids will be proud of it. It's not only built to last, it's designed to grow with your children. Initially the cabinet rests directly on the floor, ideal for toddlers' exploration. Later, the height can be substantially increased by attaching side pieces (included) so that the child can sit at the bench (also included). Unlike many toy pianos, the key width is comparable to that of a full-size piano, enabling an easier transition to full-scale size when the time is right. It also has excellent pitch, making it a fine means for developing the ear. Also included is a songbook containing 10 popular tunes that utilize Schoenhut's Play-By-Color Tri-Play learning system, an easy way to learn to play. Piano Pals comes in red Dog w/ Bench model, lavender Teddy Bear w/ Bench model and pink Horse w/ Bench model.

Shadow Puppets

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Shadow Puppets
Price $16.99
By Galison/Mudpuppy
Age
3+
Best Family Fun

These laser-cut shadow puppets on sticks cast such vivid, lively shadows on the wall, it's almost like having your own animation studio. But in this case there's no high-tech learning curve. Just shine a light and bring them to life. Kids immediately tap into their dramatic and comic talents, doing voice-overs and acting out stories ranging from lofty to over-the-top. Parents find them so amusing they may find themselves wishing they were kids again. But fear not. Each kit contains 8 different shadow puppets from a given theme, enough so that the whole family can get in on the act. For example, the Pirate Adventures includes 4 distinct, rather kooky pirate characters, a parrot, a ship, a pirate flag (the skull and crossbones), and, of course, a sea-faring vessel. In addition to Pirate Adventures, there are currently 5 other titles in the series - Dinosaur Planet, Princess Paradise, Babar, The Little Prince, and Eric Carle The Very Hungry Caterpillar. With Shadow Puppets, you'll always know what time it is - it's show time!

Spot it! Splash

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Spot it! Splash
Price $14.99
By Blue Orange Games
Age
7+
Best Family Fun

Just when you thought Spot it! couldn't get any better, here comes a beach-themed waterproof version you can play anywhere your heart desires. The focus is often intense, the rivalry sometimes fierce, but the mood always turns seriously lighthearted when someone breaks out this exciting rapid-fire fun. Each of the 55 Spot it! cards is decorated with 8 different aquatic and beach themed symbols. There are more than 50 symbols throughout the deck, but only one matching symbol exists between any two cards. There are 5 easy to learn mini-games (play one or play them all) in Spot it!, but they all have the same fundamental goal - be the fastest player to spot the matching symbol between two cards and call it out. Which mini-game you're playing determines whether you collect or rid yourself of cards when you spot the match. For example, in The Poisoned Gift, one of our favorites, the first player to spot a match between a center card and any opponent's card gets to give that unwanted card (the player with the least cards at the end wins) to the opponent. The other mini-games include The Tower, The Well, Hot Potato, and Triple, and each is an ingenious variation of the others. The waterproof cards come with a waterproof travel bag, so there's nowhere this perfect fun for the entire family can't go. For 2 to 8 players.

Spy Alley Dice Game

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Spy Alley Dice Game
Price $12.99
By Spy Alley Partners LLP
Age
8+
Best Family Fun

Spy Alley Dice Game is a fast-moving game of mystery, risks, and educated guesses in which the right balance of knowledge and luck wins out. It's also great fun for the entire family. There are 5 special dice and 6 plastic Spy Identification Cards. The ID cards are divided equally among players and placed face-down on the table. Each ID card (French, American, Russian, Spanish, Italian, German) matches a picture on each of the dice. On your turn, you're allowed to roll up to 3 times (keeping the dice you like while rerolling the rest) in the hopes of accumulating 3 or more of a kind. 3 of a kind enables you to guess any opponent's identity as being that of the spy showing on the three dice. If you're correct, you get the card. Once a player runs out of identity cards, he's out of the game. Getting 5 of a kind allows you to either guess an opponent's identity as the spy of your choice or let other players risk a card by speculating that your identity is what's face up on the 5 dice. If no one takes that chance and it turns out to be your identity, you've won the game. The other way to win is to be the last player to still have an Identity Card. Highly portable contagious fun for 2 to 6 spies.

Sweet Lollies

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Sweet Lollies
Price $17
By Aurora World, Inc.
Age
0+
Sterling Fun

The Sweet Lollies is a line of 13.5-inch cloth rag dolls with style, personality, and a flair for fashion and friendship. The Sweet Lollies dolls fall into three distinct camps. There's the fashion-loving Punk Sweets, who design and make hip clothing at their fashion boutique, Punkita. Next up you have the Victorian Sweets, music-loving girls who formed a performing girl-band known as The Lollie Pops. And last, but not least, you've got the Sweet Lollies, talented bakers who prepare delicious sweet treats for themselves and others. Each of these groups contains several dolls, with distinct hair colors, clothing, and personality traits, a total of 12 unique dolls in all. What they have in common is friendship, talent, style, and a passion for life. Oh, and they are adorable, to boot.

The Happy's

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The Happy's
Price $19.99
By cepia, LLC
Age
4+
Sterling Fun

Exuberant is a good way to describe these interactive motorized puppy and kitty plush pets. They love treats, do tricks, make lots of silly, happy sounds and scoot around as if they're just happy to be alive. (Psssst, they don't know they run on batteries.) Hold a treat in your hand - one is included with each pet - and press a button on it to make your Happy's pet come. When he gets to you, he does a special trick, such as beg, pounce, chase tail, and more, with each different treat prompting a different trick. There are three Happy's puppys available (Bentley, Sport, and Chance), and then there's a sweet kitty named Mittens. Playsets and several accessories are available separately to enhance and evolve your play experience over time. One thing is for sure, these little guys whirl, twirl, sit up, and zip around like the real thing, but they are a heck of a lot easier to care for.

Treasure Trax

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Treasure Trax
Price $19.95
By USAopoly
Age
3-5 yrs.
Brain Child

Anyone who has ever been on a scavenger hunt knows the thrills it entails. Treasure Trax captures that excitement and gives you everything you need in one neat package to set up a full-blown adventure around the house in a matter of minutes. It all starts with a location card that displays an image and the name of the place to start your hunt (chair, for example). There you will find (and at each subsequent location) either another location card or a search clue. Search clues show a letter or color that hints at where to find a hidden animal card. Those animal cards are sought-after prizes, and the first player or team to find all their animal cards wins. The artwork and game design are perfectly suited to pre-schoolers, providing fast-moving, active fun. Playing Treasure Trax teaches colors, letters, image and word recognition, and thinking skills. Includes 30 Location Cards, 18 Search Clue Cards, 12 Animal Cards, Instructions (with game variations) and a handy purple Collection Pouch that can be used to hold a prize at the end of the search and acts as perfect storage for this highly portable game when not in use. For 1 or more players.

Spring 2014 Tillywig Award Winners

Music & Audio

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American Heroes #4

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American Heroes #4
Price $13.98
By Sprout Recordings
Age
7-11 yrs.
Brain Child

The offerings on this music CD, all of which are original, sing the praises of men and women (and one very remarkable young girl) whose deeds have had a positive impact on our lives and culture. Ten of the eleven songs highlight one hero apiece, with lyrics that capture the spirit of that individual's vision and temperament. The eleventh expresses appreciation for heroes everywhere, for the inspiration they provide and the sacrifices they make. The CD's booklet includes a brief, well-written history of each song's hero, along with dates of birth and death and a personal quote. Some of these are well-known historical figures, like Albert Einstein and Theodore Roosevelt. Others are less well-known, and their inclusion, along with the nearly equal division along gender lines, is laudable. There's a lot to be said for the earnestness of the songs on American Heroes # 4. In addition to the valuable knowledge kids glean while listening to the music, they are exposed to the positive, generous spirit Jonathan Sprout and his band bring to each and every song.

Spring 2014 Tillywig Award Winners

Books & Magazines

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Surfing the Net:: Science

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Surfing the Net:: Science
Price $24.99
By The Critical Thinking Co.
Age
grades 3-6
Brain Child

The internet is an invaluable resource for research and education, but skill in its use requires experience and guidance. This book is filled with science activities carefully designed to help students in Grades 3-6 use critical thinking skills to selectively locate and use information on the web. Activities span several dozen topics, including Animal Cells, Weather Forecasts, Plate Tectonics, Electromagnetism, and our Solar System. Each activity begins with a search of key words followed by questions that direct students to specific URLs to mine for answers. The author is careful to include only sites that contain age-appropriate research-based information, with an emphasis on making learning fun. Students gather information from text, videos, charts, and images to define and describe a topic, then fill in a graphic organizer to help them analyze and absorb the information. They learn to dig deeper, gathering information about specific areas of a topic, and how to form their own questions before seeking further answers. Surfing the Net: Science is organized around science standards found in most states and works exceedingly well as a supplement to teacher instruction or as student-guided instruction.

What Not to do at the Zoo

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What Not to do at the Zoo
Price $16.95
By Go Be Silly
Age
0-10 yrs.
Best Creative Fun

Clever simplicity of the sort that speaks to a young child's imagination is hard to come by, even more so when it tickles a child's funny bone. That's why really good children's books are rare, and why What Not to do at the Zoo is so refreshing. The title alone arouses curiosity, and each 2-page illustration and accompanying line of text delivers humorous guidance on exactly what to avoid doing while at the zoo. 'Do not tell a hyena knock-knock jokes,' says one page, as we see a hyena at a microphone, his companions rolling around in laughter while humans look on. 'Do not share your homework with a warthog,' says another, while a bespectacled warthog pores studiously over a math book, an abacus and blackboard at hand amidst the grass and foliage. There are over a dozen such 'Do nots,' each accompanied by a sprawling illustration filled with humorous detail. That intentional, gentle repetitiveness, coupled with the sheer silliness of the suggestions, is utterly captivating to young ones. They'll want you to read it to them, or will read it to themselves, over and over again.

Spring 2014 Tillywig Award Winners

Websites, Video & DVD

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Ruby's Studio: The Safety Show

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Ruby's Studio: The Safety Show
Price $14.99
By The Mother Company
Age
2-8 yrs.
Brain Child

This DVD does an exceptional job of communicating to children specific ways to stay safe. These serious topics are presented as such, but in a way that is quite entertaining and non-threatening. Both the content and presentation are utterly age-appropriate. Live-action footage of Ruby (the bright, cheerful host) interacting with viewers and several adorable onscreen children is intermingled with original songs and animated segments. The production values here are very high, comparable to those of a scripted television series. The topics include staying aware of your surroundings, understanding physical boundaries, saying no when something makes you uncomfortable, checking in with a safe adult before doing something new, and what to do when approached by an adult stranger. Ruby and the kids play the Safety Game, using the UhOh! meter to help them understand clues our bodies give us (butterflies in the stomach) when something is not okay. Kids come away from even a single viewing empowered by the clarity and accessibility of the message, but typically want to watch it again and again. It's that entertaining.

The GiggleBellies Musical Adventures Sweet Songs & Lullabies DVD

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The GiggleBellies Musical Adventures Sweet Songs & Lullabies DVD
Price $14.98
By 3D Magic Factory
Age
2-5 yrs.
Sterling Fun

Young children sometimes have a hard time winding down, but they can rarely resist an opportunity to watch the GiggleBellies. And this time out the adventure is soothing, relaxing, and carefully designed to put kids on a gentle path towards quiet time or sleep. This mix of original and classic children's tunes is done with typically inimitable GiggleBellies style - fresh-sounding arrangements and captivating animation that features the lovable GiggleBellies characters. The colorful imagery has a magical quality perfectly suited to preschoolers, and the mesmerizing visuals project a cozy peacefulness that has a remarkably calming effect. 10 animated songs take kids into an increasingly relaxed state, with the final selection being a remarkably beautiful instrumental version of Rock A Bye Baby. All three of the GiggleBellies DVDs reviewed here (see below) include special downloads and printables on the discs - coloring pages, Illustrated lyric sheets, and, in this case, 9 MP3s so that you can create your own music CD.

The GiggleBellies Musical Adventures Volume #1 DVD

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The GiggleBellies Musical Adventures Volume #1 DVD
Price $14.98
By 3D Magic Factory
Age
2-5 yrs.
Brain Child

Playing this DVD has the near instantaneous effect of making children joyful. That's because each of the 9 music videos on it are filled with audiovisual details that trigger smiles and laughs, one after another. Among those magical ingredients is the GiggleBellies crew itself, a cast of happy-go-lucky, silly animated characters who sing, dance, bounce, and clap their way across the screen. Young viewers tend to either immediately follow suit - get up on their feet, wiggling and giggling - or watch, transfixed, a look of happy awe on their little faces. There's a mix of children's classics (Old MacDonald, Wheels On the Bus . . .) and several fine originals. Even the familiar songs display great originality, with twists and turns and fresh-sounding arrangements that parents will enjoy hearing as well. The videos are short and energetic, with clever animation that blends seamlessly with the music and lyrics, stimulating children's minds and bodies in the best possible way.

The GiggleBellies Musical Adventures Volume #2 DVD

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The GiggleBellies Musical Adventures Volume #2 DVD
Price $14.98
By 3D Magic Factory
Age
2-5 yrs.
Brain Child

Volume #2 of The GiggleBellies Musical Adventures picks up where Volume #1 left off. This time there are even more fully animated songs (13 in all) to enjoy. A huge part of the pleasure comes from watching and listening to the wildly creative animated arrangements of songs. Some are originals, some you'll know (classics like Itsy Bitsy Spider), but even those you're familiar with have a fresh spin that will knock your socks off. And of course, the GiggleBellies crew, which consists of dozens of happy, zany characters, is featured heavily throughout. Each of them (like Kissy Moo the cow, Peanut the elephant, a duck named Kwacka . . .) , has its own loveable look and uniquely endearing qualities. What they share in common is friendship, song and dance, and a happy silliness that is utterly contagious. The level of detail with which the visuals tie into the music would be hypnotic if it weren't so enlivening. In other words, kids remain engrossed and captivated while using their bodies to feel the music - dancing, wiggling, and singing along.

Spring 2014 Tillywig Award Winners

Mobile Apps

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CUBEBooks

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CUBEBooks
Price $0
By ChineseCUBES
Age
4+
Brain Child

CUBEBooks is a great way to learn the Chinese language playfully, through games, stories, and several kinds of interactive fun. The Vocabulary Series explores common vocabulary, letting you tap on images and use interactive tools to slice and splice common Chinese words, phrases, and sentences to gain deeper insight into their meanings. Hear authentic mother-tongue pronunciation whenever desired by tapping the speaker symbol. See animation of how to write a particular Chinese character stroke by stroke by tapping the pen symbol (or write them yourself by tracing numbered, directional symbols onscreen). Play several categories of games to reinforce associations and absorb meaning in a relaxed, lighthearted way. Create, maintain, and expand your own library from dozens of storybooks (some free, many as an in-app purchases). These storybooks have considerable visual charm and offer three viewing modes - picture only, read to me, or learn by myself, the last of which, in addition to displaying and reading the Chinese text, contains the same kinds of interactivity described above. Learning levels range from novice to advanced, and various features and options are available ranging in cost from free to $7.99.

Spring 2014 Tillywig Award Winners

Health & Safety

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My First Garden - Mini

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My First Garden - Mini
Price $79
By My First Garden
Age
3+
Brain Child

Many adults who have yet to experience the joys of gardening attribute that fact to a lack of self-confidence in the garden, a belief that a green thumb is something you either have or you don't. But confidence often comes from experience. A product like My First Garden, whose function is to introduce children to the simple magic of growing plants, herbs, and vegetables is, therefore, something of a godsend. The raised garden bed assembles in about two minutes (with no tools needed) and is comprised of four corrugated steel panels held quite solidly together by PVC posts that form the corners of the enclosure. Fill it with soil, get yourself some seeds, and you're good to go. Preparing the earth, planting, harvesting - these are things everyone should be comfortable with. It is not complicated, and familiarity with it opens the door to a world of knowledge and pleasure. Kids learn about nature, gain lots of great motor skill experience, have the benefit of observing a microcosm of the circle of life, and are exposed to healthy eating options in the process.

Spring 2014 Tillywig Award Winners

Software & Electronics

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InnoTab Disney Sofia the First

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InnoTab Disney Sofia the First
Price $24.99
By VTech Electronics
Age
3-6 yrs.
Brain Child

This interactive software for kids is as educational as it is fun. The games included employ problem-solving, logic, sequence, classification, pattern recognition, and more, yet children may notice only the great fun they are having playing them. That entertainment value is an integral part of what makes InnoTab such an effective learning tool. The fun keeps kids coming back for more. In Royal Prep, kids help Sofia find classrooms whose locations have been mixed up on Jumble Day by steering her towards clue-giving classmates and away from marching suits of armor. Each classroom unlocks a different game. Kids use colors, shapes, and logic to choose items to complete table setting patterns. Number sequence and memory help Sofia learn step patterns in Dance Class. Rhyming, creativity, and pattern recognition come into play in Magic Class, Art Class, Riding Class and others - 8 games in all. There's also an interactive Sofia the First e-book through which reading and comprehension blossom, and creative Photo Fun is included for those using InnoTab devices with cameras.

InnoTab Doc McStuffins

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InnoTab Doc McStuffins
Price $24.99
By VTech Electronics
Age
4-7 yrs.
Brain Child

One of InnoTab Doc McStuffins' greatest strengths, in addition to being chock full of educational fun, is that kids are magnetically drawn to playing with it again and again. That ongoing attraction may stem from the wide variety of fun and games or the high level of interactivity. Regardless, young players keep learning and growing every step of the way, utilizing skills such as memorization, letter and word recognition, matching, visual discrimination, manual dexterity, critical thinking, creativity, and more. The chief entry point to the educational games is through the Doc's Playtime menu icon. There are 9 marvelous games, including Hide-and-Seek, Marble Rolling, Matching Pairs, and Stack Those Blocks, to name a few. There are also games in which kids help Doc diagnose and fix toys, and in doing so unlock health tips and pages in Doc's Big Book of Boo-Boos. Kids can then use a variety of tools to draw and color those pages. There is also a Doc McStuffins e-book which kids can read at their own pace or touch words and images to hear definitions, voices, and sounds. The interface is marvelous throughout - easy-to-use, entertaining, and full of surprises.

InnoTab Monsters University

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InnoTab Monsters University
Price $24.99
By VTech Electronics
Age
4-7 yrs.
Brain Child

There's plenty of fun, action, and learning to be had with Mike and Sully on this InnoTab software cartridge. Games and activities that develop logic, observational skills, reading, memory, addition, counting, beginning letters, and much more are at your fingertips when you pop the cartridge into any InnoTab System. There are four over-arching categories on the main menu - Free Play, Adventure, E-Book, and Photo Fun (for systems with a camera). In Free Play, kids follow Mike's calendar and train in 9 different games, each of which is cleverly designed to promote fun and learning. Scary Faces, for example, lets kids view two nearly identical monster photos and tap the screen wherever differences between the two images occur, scoring points as they go. The Adventure category includes Scare Games events that test reflexes and improve motor skills. Or select E-Book, where kids can choose to read the entire Monsters University e-book, select individual pages, or visit the Story Dictionary to explore the meaning of specific words. A learning extravaganza!