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Winter 2015 Tillywig Award Winners

Toys & Games

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3D Mark-My-Time Digital Bookmark

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3D Mark-My-Time Digital Bookmark
Price $11.95
By Mark-My-Time
Age
5+
Brain Child

Habits developed early on often last a lifetime, and this playful-looking 3D bookmark, with its built-in easy-to-use timer, is a fabulous way to help any child become a motivated reader. Activated at the touch of a button, it functions as both a digital clock and as a time record-keeper that has two tracking modes. Countdown Mode can be set to an amount of time your child would like to spend reading during a given session and alerts them when that time is up. Count Up/Cumulative Mode provides vivid evidence that even a few minutes of reading here and there really add up by storing those productive moments cumulatively up to 100 hours. Countdown Mode and Count Up Mode can function simultaneously, a very nice feature that makes it easy for children to log every minute they spend reading. And the 3D part? That refers to the cool, 3-dimensional image that appears up and down the length of each bookmark and that tends to make them a prized possession in addition to being a tool for learning.

ABC123 Doggie Sound Toy

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ABC123 Doggie Sound Toy
Price $40
By GUND
Age
10 mo.+
Brain Child

Kids find this plush toy dog to be captivating even before they discover that it comes alive at the touch of a button. Boys and girls light up at the mere sight of his long, floppy ears, perky tail, and ultra-soft fur, and the first thing they want to do is pet, cuddle, and nuzzle him. But the first time they see his mouth move and hear words (or a bark) come out of him, expect to see a look of astonished pleasure on their faces. Pressing a button in either foot activates one of two animation modes in which the pup's mouth moves in sync with his words. Press the left foot and your child is invited to sing along with the alphabet song, followed by a playful rendition in which the doggie's hands clap in time to the music as he sings away. The right foot activates a numbers song, and embroidered letters and numbers on the feet let you know which is which. Both modes include fun spoken phrases in addition to the songs. The surface-washable construction makes for easy cleaning, and the dog includes 3 replaceable AA batteries.

Bellz

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Bellz
Price $19.99
By Wiggles 3D Games
Age
6+
Best Family Fun

In addition to being a great deal of fun, Bellz is one of the more distinctive games we've seen in awhile. It comes cleverly packaged in a highly portable neoprene pouch that unzips to become the circular game arena on which the action takes place. Inside are a magnet wand and 40 bells of various sizes in 4 different colors. The goal is to be the first player to collect 10 same-colored bells using either end of the wand, which contains a strong magnet in one end and a weak magnet in the other. It's fine to collect several bells at once clinging to the wand, but there are restrictions: You can't drop or knock any bells out of the arena, and you mustn't pick up another player's color or more than one color at a time. Often a player will use the strong magnet hoping to score big, only to cry out when several colors at once leap suddenly onto the wand, ending the turn and forfeiting all bells collected on that turn. Needless to say, opponents hoot and holler when this happens. Bellz is a fast-moving game for 2 - 4 players that plays extremely well across a broad range of ages, making it an ideal game for the entire family.

Bobo Buddy

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Bobo Buddy
Price $9.99
By Bobo Buddy
Age
0-4 yrs.
Sterling Fun

Few sights are as tender as that of a baby soothing herself with a pacifier. The contentedness, the calm, the precious sounds of silence are a wonder to behold. One of the few ways to make that picture even more complete is by adding Bobo Buddy to the mix. Bobo Buddy is a small plush animal that attaches simply and securely to a pacifier. Soft and gentle to the touch, Bobo Buddy not only enhances the pacifier's soothing effect, it also makes it easy for babies to locate and maneuver the pacifier into their mouths on their own. This can be a godsend. Learning to soothe oneself is an essential part of early development and can make for a happier household for everyone involved. Bobo Buddy is lightweight, machine washable, about 6 inches tall, and comes in a variety of cute, colorful critters (caterpillar, owl, monkey, lion, bee, and others equally adorable).

Bunch O Balloons

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Bunch O Balloons
Price $9.99
By ZURU Ltd.
Age
6+
Top Toy

This brilliant product revolutionizes warm-weather fun. Anyone who has ever played with water balloons knows there are two phases: filling them, which is often a slow, dreary process made palatable only through anticipation of the awesome fun to follow, and throwing them - a wild, glee-filled fun-for-all that is over in minutes because all the ammo has been used up. Bunch O Balloons ingeniously remedies this, with each package providing 3 bunches of self-sealing balloons (34 balloons per bunch) that fill with water simultaneously in a matter of seconds, yielding 100 or more full balloons in as little as a minute. Each bunch has an attachment that connects easily to a hose. Just turn on the water, and watch them grow. As soon as they're filled, the individual balloons drop off like ripe fruit, sealed and ready for action. At last, fun on an epic scale!

Cardboard Tube Craft Kits

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Cardboard Tube Craft Kits
Price $19.99
By Galison/Mudpuppy
Age
6+
Best Creative Fun

Galison/Mudpuppy's knack for creating exciting, distinctive children's products now includes this craft kit that uses cardboard tubes (the sort found in paper towel and tissue rolls) as a prime crafting component. The kit includes several such tubes and kids are encouraged to collect their own, extending the fun and putting to good use what would otherwise go to waste. The real stars of the kit are the more than 80 bits and pieces included - gorgeously patterned papers, kooky pre-cut stickers and shapes, googly eyes, and other clever components that make transforming the tubes into wildly playful outcomes a smooth, highly creative process. The kits come in three different themes: Feathery Friends, Princess Castle, and Monsters, with enough materials in each to craft a large variety of one-of-a-kind creations. When the crafting is done, the finished products are toys in and of themselves - otherworldly creatures and castles that spring to life in a child's mind, inspiring countless hours of imaginative play.

Dessert & Display Set

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Dessert & Display Set
Price $24
By Sophia's
Age
5+
Best Creative Fun

One of the many things that stand out about this 42-piece play food set for doll play is the rich attention to detail evident in every item. The presentation is filled with tantalizing colors and fine touches - lovely plates, utensils, a serving tray, the three-tiered display rack, beautiful cloth and paper napkins. Everything is so attractive. The desserts include cupcakes, donuts, and bon-bons galore, and the chocolate mousse torte is to die for! (Well, it would be if it were edible.) Not only do these morsels look good enough to eat, they look like something one might find in a little French cafe where baking is an art form. It's a world kids want to step into, and that's exactly what they do, with their dolls and their imaginations. There's enough here for four complete doll-sized table settings with plenty of treats left over for the display rack. The entire set comes packaged in a very pretty decorative keepsake box that makes for perfect storage once playtime is over.

Estella Hand-Knit Baby Rattles

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Estella Hand-Knit Baby Rattles
Price $16
By Estella
Age
0+
Top Toy

Each of the hand-knit, 100 % cotton, BPA-free baby rattles in this line has a soft, textured feel that invites little fingers to hold, squeeze and shake them. The gentle rattling that sounds out in response is perfectly suited to young ears and both stimulates and rewards baby's burgeoning curiosity. One frequent result of this is calm, attentive solo play. But not only do these charming rattles captivate infants - their appeal extends to adults and older kids as well, inspiring many moments of fun interplay between baby, Mom, Dad, or siblings. Each of the colorful designs available within the line - pink bunny, purple purse, pretzel, football, NYC taxi, and many others - has its own distinct look and feel that adds a touch of playful elegance to any family setting.

Fitivities

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Fitivities
Price $39.95
By Sandy Spin Slade, Inc.
Age
6+
Best Family Fun

Fitivities is a great party and family game that keeps the entire group in motion from start to finish. It's exciting, invigorating, and it gets bodies moving in such a variety of ways that playing it with any regularity stands a good chance of making you fit as a fiddle. Even so, most people play Fitivities because it's fast, competitive fun. Each team is given a die, a shoe-shaped playing piece, and a spinner. There is no turn-taking. Teams work independently of one another, racing to move their playing piece all the way around the game mat and complete a final activity in order to win. Rolls of the die determine the number of spaces moved and the current activity a team must do. The spinner dictates the number of repetitions and juices up the fun by throwing some curve balls into the play. Each team's home area, where they perform their activities, is a good distance from the mat, and players zipping back and forth to roll their team's die and move their piece adds to the action and fun. There are 20 different activities - quick jumps, knee raises, lunges, shadow boxing - and others, many familiar, some not, but all quite exhilarating.

Hot Wheels High Jump Frenzy

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Hot Wheels High Jump Frenzy
Price $49.99
By Toy State International, Ltd.
Age
8+
Top Toy

Wild, high-speed moves of the sort executed by movie stunt car drivers are no problem at all for this R/C custom off-road buggy. The ease and level of control kids can execute from the very first time the controller is in their hands is quite remarkable. 360 degree spins, either from a standstill or while hurtling along at full speed, are particularly dazzling. And if you haven't already guessed from the name, its signature move is an impressive jump and mid-air flip that can be executed while moving either forward or in reverse. The buggy's sudden starts, stops, spins, and precision turns inspire all sorts of impressive do-it-yourself obstacle courses. Fortunately, its rugged exterior was built to take that kind of action. Requires 3 AAA batteries.

Hot Wheels Hyper Racer

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Hot Wheels Hyper Racer
Price $14.99
By Toy State International, Ltd.
Age
3+
Sterling Fun

This sleek, 10-inch long muscle car looks powerful even when it's standing still, but if you want to know what it's got under the hood, just press the flame-shaped Hyper Mode button. The first thing you'll hear is the very authentic sound of an engine revving. Then the wheels start to spin and the car takes off to the sound of tires burning rubber. As it accelerates and kicks into Hyper Speed, the entire vehicle lights up and changes color, starting in the engine and quickly spreading throughout the car. The vehicle continues in a straight path for a good 9 or 10 seconds before making a braking sound as the lights dim and the motorized engine shuts off. The car can also easily be moved manually across the floor, and there are two additional flame buttons that trigger a variety of other exciting sound, music, and light effects.

Johnny Test Collectibles 4-Pack

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Johnny Test Collectibles 4-Pack
Price $11.99
By Imports Dragon
Age
5+
Top Toy

The Johnny Test collectible figures toy line springs from the popular TV series of the same name. The first edition offers eighty different figures ranging in rarity from common to gold, each inspired by the character's numerous alter egos. The niftily packaged 4-pack includes 2 figures you can see through the packaging and 2 mystery figures hidden from view in their own separate box within the package. Each 4-pack also includes a Johnny Test accessory item, for example a really detailed, colorful motor scooter on wheels that any one of the figures can stand on and be sent off with a push, shooting across the floor or table. The collectible figures are each about 2 inches tall, smartly designed, and range in appearance from quirky and impish to quite comical and even a little spooky. In fact, each figure is so different from the others and so intriguing in its own right, kids will definitely be inspired to collect them, trade them, and engage in hours upon hours of imaginative play.

Key To The Front Door

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Key To The Front Door
Price $24.95
By Avara Educational Quests, LLC
Age
8+
Brain Child

Several parents present during the testing of this game mentioned how ill-prepared they had been to manage their money as young adults. Key To The Front Door deals with precisely that - making good choices about money. Each player starts with $500.00. While moving around the board on rolls of the dice, bills must be paid, necessities purchased, and financial decisions made at practically every turn. Rent is due each time around, and savings must be put aside, with additional expenses triggered by various spaces and cards. Pay Day spaces occur fairly frequently and provide income, but even so, the money goes quickly. Besting your opponents means either purchasing more basic household items than they have or simply outlasting them (anyone who can't pay their bills is out of the game). Budgeting, watching your dollars, focusing on needs instead of wants, and buying items on sale leads to success. With lots of playful twists and turns sprinkled throughout, Key To The Front Door manages to be both fast-moving fun and a remarkably good preparation for real life.

LEGO FUSION Town Master

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LEGO FUSION Town Master
Price $34.99
By LEGO System A/S
Age
7-12 yrs.
Best Creative Fun

LEGO FUSION Town Master creates an almost magical blend of physical and onscreen fun by being both a traditional building toy and a virtual game. The free app that comes with this 256 piece building set lets you scan your models into the game, as long as they include both a door and the LEGO FUSION scan plate. The game starts off with just the mayor of Fusion Town living alone, population one. Each time you scan a model into the app and choose a location for it, construction mini figures appear onscreen and build it for you. Inhabitants soon follow, and in this way you increase both the size and population of your town. Create restaurants, shops, fire stations, roads, and more. Adding fully formed onscreen structures requires only that you build and scan a one-dimensional facade, letting you quickly expand your town into an elaborate and exciting place to live. Earn studs with which to build as you play and watch your citizens' happiness ratings increase rapidly due to your efforts.

Light Stax 36 Piece Classic Pack

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Light Stax 36 Piece Classic Pack
Price $40
By Light Stax
Age
3+
Best Creative Fun

Light Stax are construction blocks that glow with light as you stack them, adding a whole new creative dimension to building fun. The light emanating from each block matches the block's color. As a result, decisions made with respect to both color and structure can have an equally dramatic impact on your creations' appearance. In order for the interconnected blocks to light up, at least one must be connected to the Smart Base, a slightly larger block that draws power either from 3 AAA batteries or via the included USB power cable. Light Stax has 4 different light modes: Flashing, Fading, Always On, and 15 Min Auto-Off, each chosen by pressing a button in the base. The fading effect, in which all blocks slowly dim until lights out, then gradually light again until full brightness, is particularly exciting, making it seem as if the construction has come alive. Light Stax can be combined and used with similarly sized traditional non-lit building blocks, opening the door to endless creativity and new ways of thinking while building.

NightBuddies Bed Bugzzz finger-puppet nightlight play

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NightBuddies Bed Bugzzz finger-puppet nightlight play
Price $11.95
By Napa Valley Toys USA
Age
2+
Sterling Fun

This plush toy finger puppet might just turn the dark into your child's best friend, or at least a very good buddy. That's because Bed Bugzzz is a new collection from Napa Valley Toys USA/NightBuddies, a company that specializes in products that are both fun to play with and provide reassurance that can make bedtime an easier, more comfortable transition. Give its cute, plump body a gentle squeeze and watch the eyes light up. The twin orbs toggle on and off with every squeeze, providing just enough illumination to offer reassurance without distracting from sleep, while an auto-off feature conserves power. Of course it's not just the light that provides comfort. The finger puppet feature encourages imaginative play, and Bed Bugzzz become companions, fellow travelers in the lands of play and sleep. The one we met was blue with yellow stripes, had a pink nose, silvery wings, a cute little tail, and arms held wide as if for a hug.

Ozobot Dual Pack

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Ozobot Dual Pack
Price $99.99
By Evollve Inc.
Age
13+
Brain Child

Ozobot is a highly entertaining robot that fits in the palm of your hand and helps kids learn about robotics and code. Place it on a surface and Ozobot is capable of executing a surprising range of maneuvers. Ozobot understands color-coded patterns kids draw on paper and flash codes that can be transmitted via smartphones or tablets. Different patterns tell Ozobot to do different things - speed up, slow down, shake, twist, travel in a straight line, turn left, and so on - enabling Ozobot to traverse mazes, paths, and playgrounds kids create. Using free apps such as OzoGroove, kids can program sequences of up to 500 moves that Ozobot can remember and execute. The Dual Pack includes 2 Ozobots, 4 different colored skins for changing its appearance, 2 connectors for charging via USB, and more. The skill set kids develop by playing with Ozobot can be invaluable. And take it from us, if you've never seen two tiny bots performing elaborate dance moves to your favorite tune in synchronized motion, you're in for a mind-blowing treat.

Road Rippers Piston Thumper

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Road Rippers Piston Thumper
Price $19.99
By Toy State International, Ltd.
Age
3+
Top Toy

This motorized off-road truck does a lot more than just sit high on its wheels and look tough. Three buttons on top of the truck offer a variety of effects, including flashing lights, car alarm, motor and brake sound effects, as well as launching the engine or vehicle into action. The most vivid and exciting effect is when the oversized engine's eight visible pistons leap into motion, a visceral combination of fierce movement and mechanical sound that produces a jolt of adrenaline every time. It's as if the vehicle has actually come alive. This effect can be triggered either while the truck is at rest or as the entire vehicle takes off across the floor, engine roaring and tires squealing. Road Rippers Piston Thumper is available in Ram and Ford Raptor models and requires 3 AA batteries (included).

Sini Doll

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Sini Doll
Price $49.99
By Zeenie Dollz
Age
4-12 yrs.
Brain Child

The Zeenie catchphrase, 'Saving the planet . . . that's our style!' immediately clues you to the fact that you're not looking at just another fashion doll. Which in no way implies that they're not beautiful. They are, with eye-catching outfits, hip hairstyles, and luminous eyes. But the Zeenies are much more than that. They're eco-warriors whose mission it is to save and protect our planet. Each 12-inch doll has its own unique eco-cause and comes with a doll hairbrush, a silicone bracelet for kids to wear, and an eco-warrior membership card. Sini, for example, along with her dog Misty (included), 'protects farmlands and pastures from urban development to allow animals to enjoy nature more freely.' Zeenie Dollz are made from recyclable materials, and a percentage of every sale is donated to organizations working to preserve the environment. The dolls are designed for maximum pose-ability and inspire endless imaginative play. They also enlighten children and inspire them to become part of something bigger than themselves.

Skosh

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Skosh
Price $29.99
By Goldbrick Games, LLC
Age
10+
Laugh Out Loud

Skosh is super-fun, quick-moving entertainment that enables even those without a knack for details to have the time of their lives in trivia-land. There are always exactly two teams, which can be any size. Both teams answer 4 questions in writing at the outset of each round, things like 'What percentage of people are friends with their mom on Facebook,?' Each answer earns an amount of points determined by its closeness to the actual answer, with the range of answers and points shown on the back of each card. There is only one playing piece on the gameboard, and each point moves it one space forward or backward. The two team's winner's circles are at opposite ends of the board, so when one team advances, the other is taken farther from a win. This creates a sweet tightrope that regularly snatches victory from the jaws of defeat. With dry erase cards and markers, a sand timer, and 400 cleverly entertaining Q & A cards, Skosh is immensely entertaining fun that brings life, laughter, and spontaneity to any gathering.

Tea Party Set

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Tea Party Set
Price $24
By Sophia's
Age
5+
Best Creative Fun

All the good things we had to say about the Dessert & Display Set (see review above, under 'd' for dessert) are equally true of this Tea Party Set from the same manufacturer. Sized perfectly for doll play, the attention to detail and attractiveness of the items in this set lends them a sense of magic that acts like a beacon for children's imaginations. Included in this 25-piece set are a teapot, teacups, saucers, utensils, a serving tray, and several delicious-looking gourmet desserts (including a lovely double-tiered birthday cake). There's even a pink and white table runner for really dressing things up! Trying out different roles imaginatively is an important way in which kids explore the world around them. This play set makes it very inviting for children to do so. Entertaining friends and family, throwing impromptu parties at the drop of a hat - it's all made easy with Sophia's Tea Party Set. And when playtime's over, just store everything in the very pretty decorative keepsake box in which the set comes packaged.

Unicorns Pouch Puzzle

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Unicorns Pouch Puzzle
Price $10.99
By Galison/Mudpuppy
Age
2+
Brain Child

This 12-piece Unicorns puzzle for ages 2 and up is a new entry in Galison/Mudpuppy's line of Pouch Puzzles, so-called because they come packaged in a secure, reusable, zippered pouch for easy transport and storage. Many puzzles geared towards this age group appear rather bland or ordinary, but this one looks good enough to hang on your child's bedroom wall. The piece shapes and color border make assembling the puzzle quite doable even for very young kids, and the large, extra thick pieces are perfectly suited for small hands. The diversity of curves, shapes, and colors in the artwork provide a wealth of information for youngsters to absorb while they play. Just as important, the smiles of pleasure that blossom on your child's face each time the colorful depiction of a mom and baby unicorn comes together will warm your heart.

YooHoo & Friends Naree

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YooHoo & Friends Naree
Price $6.8
By Aurora World Inc.
Age
0+
Brain Child

The YooHoo & Friends plush collection just got bigger and better with the addition of Naree (based on a real-life whale often referred to as a sea-unicorn), and an assortment of other sea-life editions such as hammerhead shark, starfish, clownfish, and more. The adorable creatures in the YooHoo collection consist of plush versions of extraordinary and endangered animals from around the world, and each bears a tag containing information about their name, natural habitat, and other characteristics. Naree is a plump, cuddly, colorful, and happy-looking plush creature whose unicorn-like tusk (a characteristic of the real-life Narwhal whale) seems magical and other-worldly. Children bond deeply and affectionately with YooHoos while gaining familiarity with exciting and unusual wildlife. Kids can also delve more deeply into the fun and learning through the popular YooHoo & Friends website and animation series. There are over 100 YooHoo characters, and part of the immense pleasure to be had from them is in acquiring one favorite after another as your collection grows.

Winter 2015 Tillywig Award Winners

Music & Audio

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Love Songs For My Baby

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Love Songs For My Baby
Price $10
By Kaleidoscope Songs, LLC
Age
0-3 yrs.
Best Family Fun

Love Songs For My Baby is both an expression of singer/songwriter Alex Mitnick's love for his family and a record of the moments leading up to and following the birth of his son, Miles. The songs skillfully and tunefully capture the preciousness and joy of those life-changing events. The album opens strongly with Oh My My, a cheerful, energetic single whose catchy rhythms and melodies make a fine vehicle for Mitnick's vocals and guitar-work and whose lyrics convey his sense of wonder at being an expectant father. Another favorite, Love is All it Takes, is a jaunty, calypso-flavored tune in which Mitnick marvels at every aspect of his newborn son's existence, particularly the way it fills his heart to brimming. The carefully crafted arrangements are rich and varied, with a pop sensibility and world music feel that make them both singable and memorable. Parents will be grateful for this music, and for the joy that playing and singing it to their own children brings into their home.

Nightlight Daylight

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Nightlight Daylight
Price $35
By CGD Music
Age
0 - 5 yrs.
Brain Child

We can't say enough good things about this unique double album. A number of well-known, world class musicians are featured, but the dominant force is Muriel Anderson's gorgeous guitar-work. The first of the two included CDs, Nighlight, consists of 14 songs with which to relax or drift off to sleep. All are lovely. Prayer Without Ceasing is particularly pretty, and Dandelion, a solo-guitar piece, has the sort of plaintive beauty that evokes in adults a fond recollection of their own childhood. The instrumental/acoustic feel of the first disc carries over to the second - Daylight - the tone and rhythms of which are more attuned to daytime's pulse. It kicks off with a fresh-sounding version of Here Comes The Sun, one of the set's few non-originals. Despite the higher energy, there is nothing raucous here. Ms. Anderson is as exceptional a songwriter as she is a guitarist, and her classical training shows in the unusual range and finesse she brings to her writing and playing. There are 30 songs on this two-disc set, which comes in as lovely and high-quality a CD packaging as you could hope to find, one that includes interactive, lighted, cover art.

Sassafrass Jones and the Search for a Forever Home

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Sassafrass Jones and the Search for a Forever Home
Price $24.99
By Luxury Kitten
Age
6+
Top Toy

Kids and parents alike will be delighted by this tale of an orphaned Pekingese dog with a delicate eye condition and a lonely milliner mouse who pair up to pursue their dreams. Destined to be a classic, this hard cover children's book bristles with imagination and entertainment. Everything about it, from its outsize pages filled with more than 50 full-color images to its captivating storyline and cast of colorful characters, bespeaks the presence of something special. Each beautifully detailed image consists of vintage Steiff animals and miniatures and is a story unto itself, so much so that even pre-readers will spend hours lingering over the pages. Filled with nuance and humor, this book transports readers to a world so fully realized as to hold them in a state of wonder. Each book comes with an audio book CD narrated by Fred Schneider of The B52s. Written by Cathleen Smith Bresciani and Richard L. Eldredge. Photographs by Tomas Espinoza with sets created by Christopher J. McClellan. Proceeds go to benefit Canine Companions for Independence and The Humane Society of New York, among others both nationally and locally.

Winter 2015 Tillywig Award Winners

Books & Magazines

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Science - Not Just for Scientists

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Science - Not Just for Scientists
Price $12.95
By Gryphon House
Age
3-6 yrs.
Brain Child

This exciting, entertaining, and oh-so-effective book makes it easy for parents and educators to nurture the budding scientists that all children harbor within. With science and technology permeating our lives as never before, preparing children for a successful future is essential. The hands-on activities presented in this book encourage and empower children to question and experiment as they move through life. Each chapter is a treat to be savored and digested, and includes several easy-to-follow activities with clearly stated objectives and methods. Organized around themes from science education, the topics include patterns, cause and effect, size and scale, energy, systems, and more, and each is explored in a simple step-by-step fashion. The book is bursting with color photos and written in an engagingly concise manner that makes it easy for any parent or caregiver to shepherd their children into the world of knowledge and inquiry.

Winter 2015 Tillywig Award Winners

Websites, Video & DVD

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School of Dragons

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School of Dragons
Price $0
By JumpStart
Age
8-13 yrs.
Brain Child

Kids step into the wonderful world of dragon-training with this free online game based on DreamWorks Animation's How to Train Your Dragon. It is a highly interactive environment in which players raise and train their own dragons, race against fellow Viking competitors, perform science and experimentation in the Alchemy Lab, raise crops, and manage their own farms. This multiplayer online game gives players the opportunity to interact with other players in addition to characters from the movie such as Hiccup and his dragon Toothless. The game's developers are well-known for creating excellent educational products, so it's no surprise that there's educational content skillfully integrated into the rousing action fun. There is also a free School of Dragons mobile app that lets kids continue the adventure from their tablet or phone.

Winter 2015 Tillywig Award Winners

Mobile Apps

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LEGO FUSION Town Master

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LEGO FUSION Town Master
Price $34.99
By LEGO System A/S
Age
7-12 yrs.
Best Creative Fun

LEGO FUSION Town Master creates an almost magical blend of physical and onscreen fun by being both a traditional building toy and a virtual game. The free app that comes with this 256 piece building set lets you scan your models into the game, as long as they include both a door and the LEGO FUSION scan plate. The game starts off with just the mayor of Fusion Town living alone, population one. Each time you scan a model into the app and choose a location for it, construction mini figures appear onscreen and build it for you. Inhabitants soon follow, and in this way you increase both the size and population of your town. Create restaurants, shops, fire stations, roads, and more. Adding fully formed onscreen structures requires only that you build and scan a one-dimensional facade, letting you quickly expand your town into an elaborate and exciting place to live. Earn studs with which to build as you play and watch your citizens' happiness ratings increase rapidly due to your efforts.

NFL RUSH GameDay Heroes

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NFL RUSH GameDay Heroes
Price $0
By JumpStart
Age
6+
Top Toy

This is fast, fierce fun that lets you play with family and friends in real time on your shared WiFi network or online with up to 8 players. At the outset, each player selects their favorite football team to represent, then the action begins. Part of what makes the fun so amped-up is that with a few finger-swipes players can line up any 5 of the 10 mini-games to execute one after the other. As soon as one game ends, another begins. Each mini-game is different from the others, making for competitive fun that draws on a wide range of skills. There are matching games, spot-the-difference, field-goal kicking, a rapid-fire tap-the-objects game (but be careful what you tap!), and games in which you manipulate animated players using an onscreen joystick, among others. These exciting, fast-moving games promote memory recall, pattern recognition, visual discrimination, hand-eye coordination, and other skills, all while engaging in intense, football-themed fun.

Nursery Rhymes for Kids

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Nursery Rhymes for Kids
Price $0
By Internet Design Zone
Age
0-5 yrs.
Brain Child

The high level of interactivity built into this app is a large part of what makes it such a joy for youngsters to experience. As much fun as the music and animation in each animated nursery rhyme is to watch, it's the multitude of little surprises waiting to be triggered that keeps kids so fully engaged. Touching characters and objects onscreen during the rhymes causes surprising things to occur. Characters spring into action accompanied by sound effects, drapes part to reveal a dinosaur, a pig in a mud-hole starts blasting away on a trumpet. Every scene offers new surprises, and these colorful occurrences keep kids gleefully attentive while watching and singing along to some of the best nursery rhymes of all time. The app currently includes five free animated nursery rhymes - Old MacDonald, Itsy Bitsy Spider, Humpty Dumpty, Hey Diddle Diddle, and Pussycat Pussycat - with 13 others available for in-app purchase and lots more coming in the very near future.

Penguins of Madagascar: Dibble Dash

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Penguins of Madagascar: Dibble Dash
Price $0
By JumpStart
Age
6-10 yrs.
Brain Child

Filled with rousing non-stop action and fun, this free app is a treasure. Based on the film 'Penguins of Madagascar', the app's games let players help penguin pals Skipper, Kowalski, Rico, and Private race through an ever-changing landscape of obstacles that includes octopus henchman armed with mutant-creating goo. Along the way, the penguins collect as many Cheesy Dibbles as possible for their trouble. With a few simple swipe and tap commands, players make penguins leap, swerve, slide, and stack themselves as a means of avoiding dangerous objects and creepy tentacles. The consequence of mistakes is to watch your onscreen friends gradually mutate into creatures much less cute than penguins. But never fear, even penguins that have mutated can be brought back by solving math problems that are as much a part of the action as anything else in the game. Kids will practice addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division in a way that leaves them feeling exhilarated and deeply rewarded. The app is free and includes in-app purchase options.

Reader Bee and the Story Tree

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Reader Bee and the Story Tree
Price $1.99
By Learning Circle Kids. LLC
Age
3-6 yrs.
Brain Child

There is something about this app that makes learning a delicious experience for kids. It's not just that a good deal of thought and care clearly went into every aspect of its design. What sets Reader Bee and the Story Tree apart is how well those pieces come together to form a highly effective learning tool. Kids find the games hugely enjoyable, a fact that keeps them happily coming back for more. Reading skills are built by introducing letter sounds and shapes in a carefully orchestrated manner. Each game is organized around something called a daisy - six letters/sounds arranged around a central one. Children learn to think in sounds so that they can blend those sounds into words. Pictures are used to help kids make choices that connect the sounds they hear with the names of familiar objects. After a game is completed, entertaining stories are displayed and narrated onscreen in which words from the game appear extensively. The games, which include Open the Daisy, Trace & Chase, Type & Swipe, Hear & Tap, and Daisy Type, are easy to navigate and contain playfully engaging audio/visual effects that enhance both the fun factor and learning content.

Reader Bee's First Story Maker

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Reader Bee's First Story Maker
Price $0.99
By Learning Circle Kids. LLC
Age
3-6 yrs.
Brain Child

Reader Bee's First Story Maker gives children the ability to communicate in writing even if they are just beginning to learn letters and words. It inspires them to explore and enjoy expressing themselves through written stories while building word skills. The app's special Honeycomb Keyboard has pictures on the keys next to the letters (like an apple on the 'a' key) to help kids locate the letter they want by connecting the sound to the letter. These keyboard pictures can be turned on or off. There is also a menu of pictures across the top of the screen, and tapping or dragging any of them causes the picture to appear in your onscreen text. Here's the really cool part: double-tapping a picture you've placed in your text transforms it into the written word. For even more excitement, type the word for any of the images from that list (there are 100 of them) and, after appearing onscreen, the word changes into the picture. You'll see kids learning knew words and typing elaborate stories in no time. The Honeycomb Keyboard can be accessed from anywhere on your iPad and, in addition to letters and pictures, provides numbers and math symbols.

Winter 2015 Tillywig Award Winners

Parent & Child

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Fitivities

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Fitivities
Price $39.99
By Sandy Spin Slade, Inc.
Age
6+
Best Family Fun

Fitivities is a great party and family game that keeps the entire group in motion from start to finish. It's exciting, invigorating, and it gets bodies moving in such a variety of ways that playing it with any regularity stands a good chance of making you fit as a fiddle. Even so, most people play Fitivities because it's fast, competitive fun. Each team is given a die, a shoe-shaped playing piece, and a spinner. There is no turn-taking. Teams work independently of one another, racing to move their playing piece all the way around the game mat and complete a final activity in order to win. Rolls of the die determine the number of spaces moved and the current activity a team must do. The spinner dictates the number of repetitions and juices up the fun by throwing some curve balls into the play. Each team's home area, where they perform their activities, is a good distance from the mat, and players zipping back and forth to roll their team's die and move their piece adds to the action and fun. There are 20 different activities - quick jumps, knee raises, lunges, shadow boxing - and others, many familiar, some not, but all quite exhilarating.

FunBites Food Cutter

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FunBites Food Cutter
Price $12.99
By FunBites LLC
Age
18 mo.+
Best Family Fun

This kids' kitchen cutting tool works like a charm and charms kids while it works. Watch even the pickiest eaters get a smile on their face when they see the bite-sized pieces pop out. There are no sharp blades, just an ingeniously simple, playfully attractive curved plastic cutter that operates by applying pressure and a gentle rocking motion, doing the job quickly and easily. The popper top then slides in from above and pops the freshly cut pieces onto the plate. It works great on sandwiches, fruit, pancakes, desserts, and a host of other foods. FunBites food cutters come in a variety of colors and in three different cutting styles - one for cutting square shapes, one for cutting triangular shapes, and one that cuts geometric shapes that, together, form a heart. Mom-invented, made in the USA, dishwater safe, and BPA free.

Snack & Play Travel Tray

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Snack & Play Travel Tray
Price $19.99
By Star Kids Products
Age
1+
Brain Child

Travel can be stressful, and every parent knows how beneficial it is to have something that helps keep a child engaged and happy while confined in a car, bus, plane, or even a stroller. Snack & Play Travel Tray is a soft, durable tray with adjustable straps and super-easy buckles that allow it to be quickly adapted to those environments. It has two deep, mesh side-pockets that provide ample storage for toys, books, crayons, snacks, and myriad other things that will be a godsend when they're needed. The tray itself acts as a play surface, while its padded rim provides a two-inch-high wall around the tray to keep items from falling to the floor and ruining the fun. It attaches easily to most car seats, and there are no hard surfaces or edges - just durable, easy-to-clean nylon with foam filler. Kids love it, moms love it. No more staying home just to avoid the struggle - when its time to hit the road, just say 'It's Snack & Play Travel time!'

The Minkey

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The Minkey
Price $15
By Olie LLC
Age
0-4 yrs.
Sterling Fun

The Minkey is a unique winter garment that gets young children excited about dressing right for cold weather and eliminates the necessity of searching for that misplaced hat, scarf, or gloves. Of course, kids don't think of the Minkey as 'dressing right.' That's parent-talk. What children do know is that it feels good and is fun to wear. The Minkey combines hat, scarf and gloves into a single, playful, one-piece garment. It slides on over the head and arms, provides a hooded hat, sleeves that end in non-detachable mittens (which allow hands to pop out through little windows when desired), and covers the front of the body to just below the collar bones, thoroughly protecting the neck from wind and cold. The Minkey comes in several different colors and styles, some of which add an extra element of dress-up (like the Dino Minkey and Flower Minkey, which are $19.99 each) to the fun. The Minkey is 100% fleece, easy-to-wash winter-wear that both parents and kids can love.

Winter 2015 Tillywig Award Winners

Software & Electronics

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Alphabet Song Game Software

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Alphabet Song Game Software
Price $6.99
By The Critical Thinking Company
Age
3-6 yrs.
Brain Child

This educational software is very effective in teaching children all the letters of the alphabet. The 22 games (some focus on lower case, some upper) progress through levels of difficulty, and each offers the option to either repeat a game or advance to the next level. These games center primarily on selecting the correct letter (spoken by the narrator) from a collection of letters presented onscreen. The number of letters from which the child must choose varies with each level. Much of the fun is presented in the context of the Alphabet Song, with each letter sung at the correct pitch when it is chosen and full alphabet sing-alongs regularly provided as well. Some of the games require the child to always choose the next letter of the alphabet, while others take a random, rather than sequential, approach. Yet others shuffle the positions of the onscreen letter choices each time a choice is made, requiring the child to evaluate the actual letter shapes rather than rely on position or context. This variety has a huge positive impact on visual discrimination skills. The program also makes it easy for parents or teachers to monitor the student's success level in each of the games.

InnoTab Learning Cartridge- Go! Go! Smart Wheels Busy Day in Alphabet Town

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InnoTab Learning Cartridge- Go! Go! Smart Wheels Busy Day in Alphabet Town
Price $24.99
By VTECH
Age
2-5 yrs.
Brain Child

Kids will learn letters, spelling, sounds, and practice reading, writing, numbers, counting and more, all by enjoying the wealth of interactive fun and games found on this InnoTab Learning Cartridge. With a wide variety of approaches, these highly creative and engaging games are effective at introducing, reinforcing, and building upon letter, word, and reading skills. Kids will learn letter-matching in Mechanic Shop, find the missing letters in Catch the Letter Thief, rescue kittens from trees by matching sounds to their correct letter in Fire Truck Rescue, and even build roads while practicing handwriting skills. There are eight different games and activities in all, plus an e-book that contains a Go! Go! Smart Wheels adventure and includes a story dictionary. The games offer a choice of difficulty, ensuring that kids can explore and learn at the proper level and enjoy watching their skills progress as they rack up the points.

OgoBILD with AnimatIt! Studio Kit

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OgoBILD with AnimatIt! Studio Kit
Price $70
By OgoSport, LLC
Age
6+
Best Creative Fun

The strange, fantastical, inter-connectable pieces in OgoBILD construction toys tend, in and of themselves, to inspire new heights of creativity. This kit not only contains 103 of those incredibly versatile building pieces, it also includes Animate It! Express, software that makes making your own stop-motion animation films as easy as 1-2-3. That is about as perfect a set of ingredients for unleashing creative fun as we can imagine. The included camera has a suction base and bendable neck that make it highly pose-able for shooting all kinds of angles. The software could not be easier to use. Set up your scene by training the camera on whatever creatures or gizmos OgoBILD's strange and wonderful building pieces have inspired you to create today. Snap a picture, then manually move something in your scene. Snap another picture, move something by hand again, and so on. When you're ready, click rewind and play, and an animated video is born. Editing, exporting, and publishing your movies is equally simple. With wildly inventive fun like this at your fingertips, inspiration strikes non-stop!