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All 2013 Tillywig Award Winners

Toys & Games

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20 Express

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20 Express
Price $19.99
By Blue Orange Games
Age
8+
Top Toy

There are very few games to which we say 'Brilliant!' 20 Express is one of them. And by brilliant, we don't mean complicated. The game-play is easy to understand and simple to follow. It's the smoothness with which 20 Express works, the quick pace at which it moves, the perfection of how it's executed and scored, and the extreme gratification (translation: FUN) one gets from playing it that make the game ingenious. Each player receives a pencil and game sheet. The game sheet has 20 empty train cars (blank spaces) lined up behind a locomotive. Numbered tiles ranging in value from 1 to 30 are drawn, one at a time, from the tile bag. As each number tile is drawn, players simultaneously fill in any empty space on their sheet with that number, attempting to create as long an ascending series of numbers as possible. Players typically end up with several separate series on their sheet, each of which is worth points (Hint: the longer series earn the really big points). The game ends, and scoring begins, once the 20th tile has been drawn and each player's train is full. The decision-making that goes into where to write each number, combined with the luck of the draw, makes for a delicious balance of skill and luck that keeps players coming back for fun, again and again. Oh, and any number of players can play. Beat that!

3D Flowers Kit

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3D Flowers Kit
Price $13
By Faber-Castell/Creativity for Kids
Age
6+
Sterling Fun

Spring is always in the air with 3D Flowers Kit at your disposal. 3D Wonder Paint dries in colors unbelievably bright and vibrant, perfect for making 3-dimensional floral works of art. It's very easy. Just outline your choice of pattern on one of the pattern sheets provided. Allow the outline to dry, then fill it in with 3D Wonder Paint, mixing, blending, inventing new colors as you go. Add a variety of colored rhinestone accents. Cut out the finished patterns, slide a few layers onto a chenille stem (for ultra-realism, use the paper stamen included) and you've got something special that will brighten any room. Make an entire miniature vase full of flowers. Or create gorgeous, translucent window art - bees, birds, butterflies, flowers - and let the sun streak through them. Includes a 4-inch acrylic suction cup vase, 3 tubes of Wonder Paint, 1 tube of glitter Wonder Paint, 2 tubes of outline paint, self-adhesive rhinestones, chenille stems, pattern and project sheets.

Alphabet, Numbers, Colors & Shapes Wipe-Off Bingo

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Alphabet, Numbers, Colors & Shapes Wipe-Off Bingo
Price $7.99
By TREND enterprises, Inc.
Age
4+
Best Family Fun

Talk about packing a lot of fun and learning into one very portable box! The Bingo games and play variations included here cover a good deal of educational ground while providing top-notch entertainment. There are three distinct sets of wipe-off Bingo cards in the box, each with its own focus. The first uses the 26 letters of the alphabet (each square displays an upper and lower case letter). The second set of cards covers numbers 0 through 20. The third set combines colors and shapes, allowing for games in which players match either colors, shapes, or both as they're called. Regardless of which card set you're using, there are 6 different ways to play, just by varying the goal (fill the top row, bottom row, four corners, etc.). In addition to standard Bingo, the instructions on each Caller's Mat include special Challenge Games that help players familiarize themselves with characteristics of specific letters, numbers, or shapes. For 3 to 8 players.

Anomia

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Anomia
Price $15.95
By Anomia Press
Age
10+
Best Family Fun

Anomia is a fantastic party and family game - quick moving, easy to learn, and it plays well across a broad range of ages. Most important of all, it's great fun, with players moving frenetically, laughing out loud, and shouting out answers. Players take turns rapidly flipping cards from the tops of draw piles, placing them face up on their own play pile. Whenever two different players' card symbols match one another or match the symbols shown on a Wild Card on the table, a Face-off immediately begins between them. Face-offs are where the points are scored, and they happen frequently. Each card contains both text and a symbol, and the goal in a Face-off is to be the first player to give a correct example of the person, place, or thing on the other player's card. For example, if your opponent's card says 'Muppet' and yours says 'Seafood,' you might correctly shout 'Elmo,' or 'Miss Piggy,' or any other Muppet name, but you would want to do so before the other player blurts 'Salmon,' or 'Sushi,' or any other seafood. Being first means you get to take the loser's top card and place it in your Winning Pile. But stay on your toes! The removal of the loser's top card can trigger another immediate Face-off by revealing a new top card that matches another player's. The player with the most cards in their Winning Pile once all the draw cards are gone, wins. 3 to 6 players. (Toy Fair Booth #5959)

Arrazzles

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Arrazzles
Price $24.99
By Funnybone Toys
Age
4+
Best Creative Fun

Arrazzles is both a game and a creative medium that allows the creator to build a surprising array of shapes and structures quickly and easily. That ease, rooted in the simplicity and variety of how the pieces interconnect, unleashes the imagination. Every Arrazzles outcome has a certain beauty, freeing the mind from the kind of negative self-criticism that can hinder creative thought and expression. The building blocks of Arrazzles, while flat, are not cards in the conventional sense. They're thick and durable, with different metallic colors on either side, which, when part of a configuration, reflect off one another tantalizingly. Each card has a series of slots along its multiple edges (five distinct patterns in all) that allows them to slide snugly together when placed at right angles to one another. A hole in the center of each card, sized perfectly for standard plastic straws, allows further exploration using straws, string, pipe cleaner, and other elements. The instructions include a memory game, a guess-the-creation game, and a game in which players take turns adding cards to a structure and are eliminated if they cause it to shift and fall into a new position.

Baby Talk

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Baby Talk
Price $25
By Aurora World, Inc.
Age
6 mo. +
Top Toy

Each Baby Talk set from Aurora World consists of a playfully designed, soft, colorful carrier with a handle, the contents of which are four plush toys ranging in size from 6 to 8 inches. For example, the My Forest Friends set takes the form of a little woodland cabin, the roof of which opens up to reveal four plush animals inside - a chipmunk, fox, moose, and bear, all of which are removable and can be played with one at a time or as a group. Each of these plush pieces makes a sound when shaken or squeezed. The chipmunk chitters, the fox squeeks, the moose rattles, and the bear roars - all part of a design intended to foster learning and development in young children through associated sights, shapes and sounds. When playtime is over, pop these little cuties right back into their carrier home, a tidy, attractive, fun addition wherever your day may take you. (Toy Fair Booth #767)

Bakari - Fitness Memory Game

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Bakari - Fitness Memory Game
Price $24.95
By Flip2BFit L3C
Age
6+
Best Family Fun

A playful, competitive game that works your memory while working out your body, Bakari exposes players to a broad range of exercises and activities. 52 Flip2BFit cards are placed face down on the Memory Mat. The majority of cards detail an exercise, some traditional (jumping jacks, sit-ups, running in place), some a bit less so (crab crawls, cobra pose, spiderman crawls). Players take turns flipping 2 cards at a time. If a match is made, everyone must perform the activity on the card, after which the match-making player collects the cards and earns points. If no match is made, only the player who flipped the cards does the exercise before returning them face down and passing play to the next player. Either way, there's physical fun in store for everyone. Points earned vary depending on which category they're from (Strength, Cardio, Stretching, and Yoga). Special cards pop up from time to time. Healthy Choice cards add 20 points to your score, Bad Food Choice cards subtract 20 points. A detailed combination of illustrations and text depict the exercises to be performed, so not only do Bakari players have fun while getting a mind and body workout, they also learn some healthy new moves along the way.

Billy Beats Dancing Piano

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Billy Beats Dancing Piano
Price $39.99
By MEGA Bloks
Age
1+
Brain Child

Billy Beats, with his smiling face, fun dance moves, and octave-range Mega Bloks piano keyboard, is like having a music-instructing playmate for your child. He's a feast for the eyes and ears, and a great way to get youngsters thinking and playing musically while having the time of their lives. Several modes provide ample opportunity for fun and learning. In Dance Along mode, choose from 8 classic kids' songs and watch Billy dance as each song plays. Learn to Play mode sounds only the first few notes before prompting your child to take over, lighting up the next key to be played when the prior one has been executed. Discover Music mode is for free play at the keyboard, which can be set to Classic Piano, Funky DJ, or Animal Sounds. Various-sized building blocks come stored in Billy's head, some of which, with stickers applied, help your child learn to read music through a color-coded system that maps to the keyboard. The blocks are designed to build on top of the keyboard or on Billy's head, making this an all-around building, listening, music-playing smorgasbord of hands-on fun.

Black Light Message Board

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Black Light Message Board
Price $25
By Faber-Castell/Creativity For Kids
Age
5+
Top Toy

Black Light Message Board makes your messages and artwork come to life. Just flip the switch, dim the lights, and watch an amazing degree of vividness suddenly infuse your creations. Draw or write, then use a dry cloth or paper towel to wipe clean and start over again. The double-sided message board looks like a clear window in a hip, colored frame that's red on one side, green on the other. Both sides of the message board can be written or drawn on, so you and a friend can have fun together creating separate works simultaneously or fashioning something that merges into one special creation. There are two markers, one orange, one green, each with its own special compartment in the message board to keep them safe and handy when not in use. The set includes dozens of cool, glow-in-the-dark stickers to use in decorating the frame, as well as lots of fun, traceable artwork to help inspire you. Leave it to Creativity for Kids to come up with the coolest canvas for art and messages we've ever seen. Requires 3 AA batteries.

Bracelet Bead Weaver Loom Set

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Bracelet Bead Weaver Loom Set
Price $25
By Faber-Castell/Creativity For Kids
Age
8+
Best Creative Fun

One of the many excellent facets of this set is that the process of using the loom to weave fun, beautiful, beaded bracelets entails a degree of thought, focus, and care. There's a needle involved, and repeatedly threading and properly positioning the beads requires and develops a certain amount of coordination and skill. And that's a good thing. After all, putting hands and mind to use in service of an exciting, pride-inducing end result is one of life's greater pleasures. And the bracelets produced from the techniques, tools, and materials provided here are very attractive, so much so that they inspire further delving into the designs included in the instructions, as well as the creation of your own artistic expressions. In addition to some fairly detailed beadwork, the patterns shown include a beaded alphabet, enabling you to incorporate colorful letters and words into your bracelets. The kit includes a work station tray, self-threading needle, thread, scissors, and glue. The instructions include both beginner and advanced designs, with additional downloadable pattern sheets available.

Brainstring Advanced

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Brainstring Advanced
Price $16.99
By Recent Toys International
Age
7+
Brain Child

This 3D brain-twisting puzzle takes the excitement, challenge, and skill required to solve it even further than the original Brainstring. With more sides, rubber tips, and colored strings to untangle, there's no end to the fun to be had. Brainstring Advanced is a clear, hollow, geometric shape with 14 sides and elastic colored strings stretching across its interior. The puzzle starts off with the strings scrambled, knotted, and tangled, and your job is to untangle them. But how to do that when the strings are on the inside and you're on the outside? The strings are attached at both ends to colored plastic tips on the outside of the shape that can be moved by sliding them along slot-like paths. Moving the tips moves the strings, and the goal is to wind up with a single color on every side, with none of the strings inside touching one another. With concentration and perseverance, it's entirely doable. Brainstring Advanced keeps your fingers active, eyes steady, and your brain crackling with energy.

BROBO Huggable Night-Light Plush

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BROBO Huggable Night-Light Plush
Price $29.99
By Keji, Inc.
Age
18 mo.+
Sterling Fun

BROBO provides a very comforting approach to solving the age-old problem of a child's fear of the dark. Parents and children alike can come to dread bedtime, the anxiety, the stalling, the multitude of unwanted and failed compromises (door open, door ajar, lights on all night). When it comes to calming that anxiety, BROBO pulls double duty by providing an immensely cute and huggable plush character with a built-in nightlight. There are currently 5 unique BROBO characters (Brobo, Dog, Mumu, Pep, and Trex), each of which, with large eyes and quirky, colorful design, quickly becomes the object of your child's affection. The BROBO light, which resides in the plush's tummy, is activated by a swipe of its hand (or paw) and has three modes, Bright, Bedtime, and Off. The light automatically turns off after five minutes, conserving power and helping your child become accustomed to the dark. The BROBO characters are further brought to life through short storybooks and online cartoons. Having a friend like BROBO can provide all the security kids need in order to get through this common, angst-filled stage of growing up.

Bunny Peek A Boo

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Bunny Peek A Boo
Price $24.99
By Smart Toys and Games, Inc.
Age
2-5 yrs.
Top Toy

This is an exceptional children's product in every way. Its high quality construction is evident at a glance. More importantly, the game play is perfectly suited to younger children's abilities while doing an unparalleled job of engaging, challenging, and developing their minds. It's also tremendous fun. The premise is simple. Choose a challenge card and build what's shown on the card using one or more blocks and the wooden rabbit. You've succeeded when the front view of your construction matches the image on the challenge card. The 3 wooden building blocks vary in color, size, and shape. Turning a block 90 degrees in any direction changes its front view and alters how the bunny can fit in, on, or against it. There are 60 different challenges in 4 different levels of difficulty. Some look very similar but may have completely different solutions depending on how far the bunny's ears stick out. Everything about Bunny Peek A Boo's appearance is inviting and playful. Add to that the game's ingenious ability to get young minds thinking in 3D concepts like above/below, inside/outside, invisible/hidden and you've got something truly special - a game kids can't get enough of that also has a meaningful impact on their development. Top-notch fun!

BUNZI

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BUNZI
Price $49
By The CHILLAFISH Company nv
Age
1-3 yrs.
Top Toy

BUNZI takes the balance bike concept to a new level, one that makes the transition from 4- or 3-wheeled bikes to two wheels gradual, and therefore as smooth and easy for your child as possible. BUNZI's unique design allows it to be ridden either as a tricycle or as a 2-wheeled balance bike. This means your child can start off with BUNZI as early as age one, then have the comfort and pleasure of a familiar bike he has come to know and love when transitioning to two wheels. Even in 3-wheel mode, your child will develop balance skills, since the rear wheels are purposely close enough together to automatically trigger a physical balance response. And switching back and forth between 3-wheel and 2-wheel mode is exceptionally easy, requiring no tools at all. When ready, your child can try it out in 2-wheel mode for a few hours or days at a time, then have you easily switch it back to 3-wheels at a moment's notice, a factor that allows BUNZI to be perfectly tailored to your child's development and confidence level. BUNZI is attractive and playful in appearance, lightweight, and available in blue, lime, pink, or red. Maximum rider weight is 25kg (55 lbs).

Bypass

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Bypass
Price $32
By SimplyFun
Age
8+
Top Toy

Bypass is a stunning game. The premise is simple - build a road from one side of the board to the other using tiles that display various road patterns (curves, crossroads, etc.) Each turn consists simply of placing a tile on the board. But because of the very clever ways in which the tiles are designed and interconnect, and because every tile on the board is available to be part of any player's route, the offensive and defensive possibilities are staggeringly rich. All tiles offer multiple routes, some with dead ends that can be used to thwart an opponent's advance. A special move called a BYPASS (placing a new tile on top of a previously placed tile in order to alter the route) is particularly effective at upending an opponent. Each player is also allotted 3 little traffic cones, any of which can be placed atop a tile (under certain conditions) in order to protect a route. Players are always working from a hand of four tiles in their possession, placing one of the four on the board before drawing a new tile from one of five draw piles. Both the tiles in players' hands and the top tiles of draw piles are face up and visible to all players, enabling you to take this important information into account when making moves. This is a brilliantly fun game, easy to get into and play, that will put your brain in high gear and a smile on your face. 2 to 4 players

Centsible Kids

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Centsible Kids
Price $24.99
By Let's Choose
Age
9 - 14 yrs.
Brain Child

Centsible Kids helps children learn and think about money in a very real-world way. Players keep a running balance in a check register while making debit and credit entries based on presumed paychecks and cards drawn from a special deck. Each card displays an item or activity that either costs money (ice cream, giving to charity) or earns money (raking leaves, lemonade stand). Each card is dry erase, with its price section blank, to be filled in during play. This affords players the opportunity to decide the value of things they may wish to purchase or services they might provide. While there's a scorecard as well as ratings players can earn, this is not a game about competition. It's about children gaining an understanding of something they'll deal with their entire lives, and there's no age too young to begin thinking about these things. Kids are bombarded by marketing from before they leave the cradle, teaching them to want, want, want, without any sense of the finiteness of money or the consequences attached to their decisions about it. Centsible Kids remedies that.

Chain Letters

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Chain Letters
Price $21.99
By Patch Products
Age
8+
Best Family Fun

Every once in a while you come across a game that, before you've even played it, you know with absolute certainty is going to phenomenal fun. Chain Letters is one of those games. It's played using 100 lightweight plastic pieces, each of which has a hook at both ends and bears a prominently displayed letter. The goal is to form words by creating chains, hooking one letter after another, on your turn, from a pile on the table. If you drop a letter, your turn is over. If you hook a letter upside down, your turn is over. But if you make it through to forming an entire word, you earn points for each letter used. The player with the highest score once the pile runs out is the winner. Chain Letters is a quick-moving game that takes seconds to learn and has a wonderful balance of skill and luck. At times, you'll find yourself holding your breath as you attempt to complete a word (or as you telekinetically try to nudge an opponent into dropping theirs). But mostly, you'll just be laughing and having the time of your life. For 2 or more players.

Classic Moonjar Moneybox

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Classic Moonjar Moneybox
Price $20
By Moonjar, LLC
Age
5-12 yrs.
Brain Child

Moonjar is an easy-to-use, masterfully designed tool that helps children achieve goals and establish beneficial patterns of using and thinking about money that will last a lifetime. Its appearance is bright, playful, and fun, yet mature and attractive enough in tone that it looks at home in any room, be it adult or child's. Moonjar Classic Moneybox consists of three retro-tin moneyboxes - one for spending, one for saving, and one for sharing - bound together into a single unit by the yellow elastic Moonjar Band. The three moneyboxes are just as attractive when separated (the elastic band is easily removed), and each has its own lid with a slot in the top for adding money. The Moonjar guide does a fabulous job of taking parents and children through an exploration of money (picturing your dreams, building a budget, setting percentages for how to divvy up your money, tracking your deposits n the Moonjar Passbook) while encouraging parents to share their own savings-based challenges, sacrifices, and pleasures.

Clifford Science Series

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Clifford Science Series
Price $19.99
By The Young Scientists Club
Age
3+
Brain Child

Science should be fun for kids and arouse their interest in an ongoing exploration, and The Clifford Science Series does a fabulous job of achieving both those ends. It consists of three distinct kits, each with a unique focus - Rainbow Science, Kitchen Science, and Bubble Science. Throughout, the beloved Clifford the Big Red Dog provides an encouraging and familiar presence while his owner, Emily Elizabeth, narrates the story line of each experiment. The experiments are fun, exciting, and often incorporate common household ingredients. They are easy to follow and doable even for young children, making the kits a great introduction to science as well as a way to build on existing scientific skills and confidence levels. The experiments' playful, catchy titles (making slime, jumping pepper, catching a rainbow) pique kids' interest, and the results, which are clearly explained in the manuals, are equally intriguing. The kits themselves are extraordinary, each providing a highly efficient laboratory specific to the experiments at hand. Rainbow Science, for example, includes plastic test tubes, pipette, funnel, measuring cup, mirror, chromatography paper, circular cardboard, crayons, rainbow glasses, and pencil. Each of the three kits also comes with its own lab tray, designed specifically to facilitate that lab's experiments in an efficient, orderly manner.

Clubs

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Clubs
Price $13.99
By North Star Games
Age
8+
Best Family Fun

Clubs joins the ranks of easy-to-learn, fast-moving card games that have long been a staple of household fun. It also plays extremely well across a broad range of ages and can include quite a few players, making it a great game for the entire family to enjoy. The goal is to get rid of your cards as quickly as possible and to score points by winning clubs cards. Play moves along rapidly, with players placing cards face up on the table aiming to win tricks in the vein of classic card games like Hearts and Spades. The special Clubs deck has some nice twists such as Bonus Cards (in several point values), with the highest of these collected by the first players to go out, and a unique, playful design that includes point values on all the clubs cards as well. Scoring takes place at the end of each round, and the player with the most points once someone breaks 50 wins the game. The instructions (very easy to follow) spice things up with excellent play variations, including Crazy Clubs, a version that leads to even more boisterous fun. For 2 to 6 players.

Clumsy Thief

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Clumsy Thief
Price $13.99
By Melon Rind
Age
9+
Best Family Fun

This game is all about action and stealing. After receiving seven cards apiece from the dealer, players make money stacks by placing, face-up on the table, pairs of cards whose sum is $100.00. Other players steal stacks using cards from their hand, either a Money card whose value, when paired with the stack's top card, creates a sum of $100.00, or a Thief card. Just place the card on top of the stack you're stealing and slide it in front of you. But beware. The same stack can and will be stolen repeatedly. There's no turn-taking, leading to unpredictability and bursts of action that turn things upside down. One moment a player is up, and the next, (in a blinding swirl of stack-stealing) he's down. When stealing dies down, players add another card from the deck to their hands, kicking off a new flurry of stacks and stealing. There are other strategic ins and outs, including players adding money to their own stacks and the use of special Jail cards that can only be played on a Thief card, and prevent that stack from being stolen again. Play ends when someone runs out of cards in hand or the deck itself runs out. Players then earn the sum value of all the money in their stacks, and the highest score wins. 2 to 6 players.

Color Cord Bracelets

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Color Cord Bracelets
Price $16
By Creativity for Kids
Age
7+
Top Toy

This is a wonderful craft kit for many reasons, chief among them being that the end result is very attractive, fashionable, and looks like something you would buy pre-made at a store. The kit features bright neon and rainbow colored cords, each of which represents a specific mood, and colorful bracelet buckles that allow them to snap easily on and off wrists. The process, which primarily involves making a series of identical knots in alternating directions, builds coordination, creative confidence, and is tremendous fun. The instructions are very easy to follow, and the actions involved contain the kind of rhythmic repetition that allows kids to get into a calming groove and progress from start to finished product with surprising quickness. The packaging is cleverly designed to double as the workstation, anchoring the bracelet during construction. The kit comes with mood stickers, glue, scissors, and enough cords and buckles to make 8 different colored bracelets kids will absolutely love wearing and showing off to friends and family. (Toy Fair Booth #1673)

Cooshee Classic

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Cooshee Classic
Price $44.95
By BabySmart
Age
2-1/2+
Brain Child

The moment you lay eyes and hands on this soft, foam booster seat from BabySmart, you'll gain a sense of why it's popular with kids and parents alike. The balance struck between comfort and durability, aesthetics and safety, is evident at a glance. The booster's purpose, of course, is to smoothly transition toddlers from the high chair to the family table, and Cooshee Classic does that job very nicely. The molded foam seat is remarkably soft but firm, and is smooth and pleasing to the touch. The ribbed pattern on the seat prevents your child from sliding, keeping them stable and comfortable. Cooshee Classic is waterproof and bacteria resistant, perfect for indoor and outdoor use, and is very easy to clean because there are no crevices for food, crumbs, or liquids to get caught in. Just wipe it down with a baby wipe and you're good to go again. It's non-allergenic and contains no latex, lead, or phthalates.

Cooshee Hybak

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Cooshee Hybak
Price $49.95
By BabySmart
Age
2-1/2+
Brain Child

Cooshee Hybak has many of the same great features as Cooshee Classic (see above). It's waterproof, bacteria resistant for superior indoor/outdoor use, non-allergenic, and contains no latex, lead, or phthalates. The smooth, soft-but-firm foam design makes it exceptionally comfortable and incredibly easy to clean. The Hybak comes in several colors, and its simple, attractive appearance fits nicely in any setting. The Hybak's higher back is designed specifically to give more support to the younger child, allowing longer, squirm-free sitting. The seat has a special dot pod pattern built into it that helps prevent sliding or skidding. The base is extremely stable, and the front edge of the seat naturally positions legs for proper posture. The Hybak also makes an excellent stand-alone seat on the floor for kids as young as age one. Comfort, safety, style, and ergonomics, all in one ingeniously conceived booster seat!

Creature Bots

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Creature Bots
Price $16
By Creativity for Kids
Age
6+
Best Creative Fun

The first thing that will put you in awe of Creature Bots is the ease with which they can be assembled using nothing but your hands. Simple push-fit components fold and snap together to create sturdy chipboard models of three futuristic beings - GrabBot, ChompBot, and FlapBot. Stickers of eyes, gears, wings, lightning bolts, and other cool things allow you to customize them, adding details and personal touches. The second thing that will surprise you about them, once assembled, is their functionality. The foundation of each Creature Bot's body is vehicle-like, with foam wheels. Push them along any surface and watch the Creature Bot do its thing. GrabBot, with large, scooping, appendages at the fore, will grab everything in his path. FlapBot will wave its long, perfectly engineered wings at a speed you determine with your rate of movement. And stay out of ChompBot's way - his upper jaw, lined with a row of long sturdy teeth, raises up and comes crushingly down as he moves forward. These creatively conceived and engineered action models will inspire countless hours of imaginative play, and might just inspire a generation of young engineers as well. (Toy Fair Booth #1673)

Crossways

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Crossways
Price $24.95
By USAopoly
Age
8+
Brain Child

Crossways is a great strategy game, easy enough to learn so that young players can jump right in and play, but rich enough with offensive and defensive possibilities that more intricate-minded players have plenty to sink their teeth into. The object is simply to be the first player to complete a path of markers from one side of the board to the opposite side. In addition to the board and markers, there's a deck of standard playing cards, of which each player holds 5 at all times, replenishing as needed. Moves are made on each turn by discarding a combination of cards from your hand that allows you to either add or remove markers to or from the board. For example, a pair allows you to place two markers anywhere, while a run allows you to remove markers from anywhere. A single card allows you to place a marker, but only on a square that matches the card. And while surveying the board will give you some idea of the best thing to do on your turn, there's no such thing as a surefire move when opponents potentially hold the power to block your way or remove your markers. That uncertainty, and the sweet balance of skill and luck, is what makes Crossways so fun and exciting. For 2 to 4 players or teams.

CuddleUppets

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CuddleUppets
Price $19.99
By Jay at Play, International
Age
3 +
Best Creative Fun

CuddleUppets are colorful kid-sized blankets (28 inches by 39 inches) with hands and feet at the corners and a tail and a wonderfully expressive puppet-head at opposite ends. A child's imagination is naturally robust, but needs to be encouraged and kept alive through ongoing creative play. That's where CuddleUppets come in. CuddleUppets combines, brilliantly, two staples of childhood - the soft blanket, a portable source of comfort and confidence-giving reassurance, and the Imaginary Friend, a perpetual resource for companionship and self-expression. Kids will slide a hand effortlessly into the soft, flexible CuddleUppets' puppet head, unleashing a surprising degree of expressiveness. Self-expression and exploration are two major elements of healthy emotional development, integrally tied to achieving full intellectual potential. Just as important, kids have an immense amount of fun playing with CuddleUppets, both during alone time and interactively with others. CuddleUppets currently come in 8 different varieties - Pink Poodle, Purple Monkey, Yellow Puppy, Green Crocodile, Blue Elephant, Brown Bear, Pink Ladybug, and Magic Unicorn. (Toy Fair Booth #1881)

Curiosity Kits Pulsar Powerballs

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Curiosity Kits Pulsar Powerballs
Price $14.99
By The Orb Factory
Age
6+
Top Toy

Part of what makes this kit such fun is its ease of use. One would hardly expect to be able make a multicolored high-bouncing Powerball at home (with its own internal pulsating light, no less), let alone do so as easy as 1-2-3! That this kit makes it so quick and easy in no way diminishes the pleasure you'll feel with the finished result. Just enclose one of the super-bright LED lights into one of the reusable molds, fill it with layers of different colored crystals, submerge it in water for 90 seconds, pop open the mold, and presto! You've got yourself a Pulsar Powerball. Bounce it against any surface and the internal light begins flashing rapidly, sending out a bright, multicolored signal. Each impact triggers flashing that continues for a good 30 to 60 seconds, long enough to turn even your highest bounces into a continuous signal that fun is in the air! Makes up to 5 super-high bounce Powerballs. (Toy Fair Booth #5919)

Dice Dude Combo

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Dice Dude Combo
Price $24.95
By Super Duper Publications
Age
3+
Best Family Fun

Dice Dude Combo gives you two different Dice Dudes with which to play all your favorite dice games. Each has different characteristics, but first, let's look at what they have in common. Each consists of a happy, goofy-looking head about the size of a coffee cup, with a dice-holding dome on top so that your dice are contained and won't fly all over the place or get lost while playing. Above the huge smile and jutting nose are a pair of wide green eyes that move hysterically from side to side as you play, adding to the fun. One of the ways they differ is that one has a pop-top - just push down and release to make the dice jump - while the other is strictly for shaking by hand. The 'shake by hand' Dice Dude comes with four dice (two with 1- 6 dots, one with numbers 1-3, one that's color-coded with numbers 1- 6). His dome is easily removable (twist-on, twist-off), which means you can insert any combination of the four dice into his top. The pop-top Dice Dude comes loaded with two standard dice (one white, one black), and his top is permanently affixed. The Dice Dudes are so fun and inviting, kids and parents have a hard time keeping their hands off them, making every day a good day to play.

Disney Dazzling Princess Game

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Disney Dazzling Princess Game
Price $19.99
By Wonder Forge
Age
4 +
Top Toy

The Disney Dazzling Princess Game includes some of the best-known Princesses of all time - Snow White, Mulan, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Pocahontas, and several others. Gems and jewelry abound, and the fun, quick-moving game-play is perfectly suited to young players. At the outset, each player receives a tiara, bracelet, and ring. Players take turns drawing from a card deck and taking actions that, if successful, allow them to add one or more gems to the jewelry they were given. The first player to fill up her tiara, bracelet, and ring wins. There are two types of cards, picture cards and Secret Princess cards. If a player draws a picture card from the deck and correctly guesses which Princess the image relates to (for example, a picture of one of the seven dwarfs relates to Snow White), she adds the number of gems indicated on the back of the card to her jewelry. If the player had, instead, drawn a Secret Princess card, she would stand up, don all her jewelry, and act out the Princess shown on the card in an attempt to get others to correctly guess the Princess. A Big Heart Jewel card reader is used to decode the answers on the backs of the cards, adding considerably to the already plentiful fun. (Toy Fair Booth #2761)

Disruptus

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Disruptus
Price $24.99
By Funnybone Toys
Age
10+
Laugh Out Loud

The creative mind is capable of seeing things in surprisingly new and different ways. This innate human ability is what Disruptus taps into, spurring us to new levels of innovation and creativity, with bouts of silliness and hilarity erupting frequently along the way. Everything about Disruptus has a unique look and feel. Its packaging, cards, die, and especially the instructions (part of which consists of a dialogue between a cat and dog) are perfectly suited to a game whose purpose is turning your thinking sideways. Play is simple: roll the die, flip a card, flip the timer, get busy innovating. Each card contains an image of an object (headphones, flyswatter, skateboard . . .). Players look at images and follow whichever of the four innovation methods (Create 2, Improve, Transform, Disrupt) is face up on the die as they jot down their ideas with pencil and paper. The player with the craziest, most innovative idea for modifying the objects (or, in some cases, achieving their purpose differently) wins the round. The two remaining sides of the die, Judge's Choice, and Player's Choice, add additional spice by allowing a player to pick which innovation method to use. There are several play variations. The most common, with 3 or more players, has a rotating judge determining the round's winner.

Doll Chest of Drawers

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Doll Chest of Drawers
Price $49.99
By Laurent Doll
Age
5+
Sterling Fun

Laurent Doll has created another fine piece of doll furniture with this Shaker style chest of drawers. Its two double drawers and single top drawer provide an abundance of storage space. From the exterior, there appears to be five separate same-size drawers, contributing to an especially handsome facade, as well as gorgeous craftsmanship from every angle. This piece, in conjunction with Laurent Doll's other furniture offerings (including a doll armoire and bunk bed, both previously reviewed here) is part of an unusually high-quality line of doll furniture. Their remarkable style brings an added element of inspiration to children's imaginative play, as well as a touch of pride for the elegance and beauty they bring to any room.

Doll Travel Trunk

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Doll Travel Trunk
Price $79.99
By Laurent Doll
Age
5+
Top Toy

The lifestyle of dolls these days, and their child companion playmates, has taken a serious turn for the better with the gorgeous furniture and accessories put out by Laurent Doll. This Doll Travel Trunk is a shining example. Its beautiful vintage appearance exudes quality and style, the luxury of a bygone era. Its antique-gold colored interior is equally gorgeous, and both inside and outside are highly functional. The built-in garment rods are perfect for hanging clothes, with a gold ribbon to help secure them during transit. A 5-inch-high sliding drawer stores smaller items and accessories, and, of course, there is ample room put aside to carry the doll in addition to its belongings. The exterior sports a sturdy carry-handle on top, as well as handsome copper-colored metal buckles that hold everything securely closed. Whether it's on the road, in use as a favorite play toy, or simply adding beauty to the decor of any room it's in, the Doll Travel Trunk is sure to elicit pleasurable attention from friends, guests, and relatives alike.

Double Draw

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Double Draw
Price $9.99
By Mudpuppy
Age
4+
Best Creative Fun

This is a wonderful art activity that's tremendous fun as well as an ingenious tool for developing drawing and intellectual skills in children. There are several Double Draw books available, each with its own theme (Airplanes, Princesses, Pirates, Funny Faces, and more). Each book is spiral bound on both sides with pairs of pages that meet in the middle like swinging doors. Each pair of pages is arranged so that one side shows one half of a symmetric object or drawing. The artist then fills in the other page, free-hand, by drawing the object's other half. This is a tremendous activity, stimulating your child's development of symmetry, scale, and artistic ability through drawing the mirror image of what they see on one half the page. By drawing outward from the middle and emulating lines, curves, and angles so close at hand, they are able to create detailed work that would be very difficult to achieve if copying an entire image free-hand. The book is set up so that one pair of pages shows the left half of a given object and is immediately followed by another pair of pages showing the right, allowing the artist the experience of drawing both sides. There are several blank pairs of pages for creating your own mirror image drawings as well.

Duct Tape Doggie Fashions

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Duct Tape Doggie Fashions
Price $22
By Faber-Castell/Creativity for Kids
Age
6+
Best Creative Fun

If a product named 'Duct Tape Doggie Fashions' doesn't make you smile, what will? This playfully themed craft kit provides everything you need to clothe, decorate, and bring to life one Doggie (8-1/2 inches X 6 inches tall) and one Puppy (4 inches long X 2-3/4 inches tall). More importantly, it provides a very high level of creative gratification for the budding artist. With its high quality materials and super easy-to-follow instructions, kids get results they're proud of, encouraging and inspiring them to explore and express their creativity. The kit includes 5 rolls of designer duct tape, duct tape stickers, wiggly eyes, velcro, mini fabric marker, scissors, printed papers, patterns, instructions for making outfits and accessories, and two specially designed blank white stuffed animals that are the canvasses for all that creative adornment.

Duple

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Duple
Price $12.95
By Anomia Press
Age
10+
Best Family Fun

Duple is a fast-moving, quick-thinking game. One way to describe it would be 'controlled chaos.' The rapid, sometimes hectic pace - players flipping cards, sputtering words - is a major part of the fun, and never quite spins out of control. The energy remains high from start to finish. Most of the cards in the deck are Letter Cards, each of which displays both a letter and a symbol. Two other types of cards always appear face-up on the table throughout the game - Category Cards, each of which names a category (Verb, Noun, Animal, etc.) and Wild Cards, each of which displays two symbols. Players rapidly take turns flipping cards from the tops of two draw piles until a Face-Off is triggered. This most commonly occurs when two different players show the same symbol on their cards. Those two players immediately race to be first to say a word that is at least 5 letters long, contains the letters shown on both their cards, AND conforms to the Category Card on the table. A Face-Off can also be triggered by two players each displaying one of the two symbols shown on the current Wild Card. The winner of a Face-Off collects the loser's top card, and the player with the highest number of wins at the end is the winner. Face-Offs often occur one after another in quick succession, making this action-packed fun for the entire family. 2 to 6 Players. (Toy Fair Booth #5959)

Dynamico Mechanix        Art. No. 85175

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Dynamico Mechanix Art. No. 85175
Price $89.9
By Poly-M Spielwaren GmbH
Age
5 - 10 yrs.
Brain Child

The creative possibilities of this dynamic building set might well boggle the mind were it not so easy to just dive in and have a blast building things with it. The sheer delight displayed by those playing with it reflects the ease with which the set can be used to build a wild array of vehicles, structures, and dazzling inventions. One hand-cranked end of your creation might cause shoveling or sweeping to occur at the other, with moving gears and cylinders connecting everything. Young minds will be to inspired to acts of invention that leave friends and family awestruck. And all this ingenuity is carried out using nothing but plastic parts and human hands, making it all the more impressive. The 175 colorful pieces come packed in a portable, compact tub whose surface functions as a workshop onto which components are affixed (and easily removed) using gentle pressure. There are even pieces that allow you to assemble a robotic-looking man, an operator for some of your futuristic vehicles and machines. Dynamico Mechanix teaches kids at an early age that the mind knows no limits!

Eco Builds Motorbikes

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Eco Builds Motorbikes
Price $24.99
By ENGINO Play to Invent
Age
5+
Best Creative Fun

The Eco Builds series is so called because it introduces wooden rods made from sustainable beech wood into Engino's existing plastic building system. The result is a construction product whose combination of ingeniously engineered plastic parts and smooth wooden pieces adds an element of tradition and warmth to an already amazingly versatile system. Eco Builds Motorbikes enables the young builder to create three different sporty motorbike models from the same set of pieces. The speed with which those pieces snugly and firmly snap or slide together makes it easy to follow the illustrated instructions. The durable finished models, with sleek lines and spinning wheels, make excellent toys for long-term imaginative play, but can easily be taken apart when desired to move on to making the next model. The adaptability of this set also inspires creative exploration, offering ample opportunity for young inventors to try a hand at their own designs.

Extreme Dot to Dot 3D

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Extreme Dot to Dot 3D
Price $12.95
By MindWare
Age
8+
Brain Child

Part of the reason these intricate dot to dot puzzles inspire such deep levels of focus and concentration is that the results are so astonishing. But it's not just about the end result - the process itself is as fun as it is engaging. Kids and adults alike will find themselves deeply immersed, engrossed in the pleasure of connecting the dots (puzzles range from 250 to over 800 dots apiece). There's something entirely satisfying about not being able to see the forest for the trees until you connect that last dot, put on the special 3D glasses and experience the big reveal of your creation! The depth of the 3D effect is remarkable, as you watch the amazingly detailed images jump off the page and spring to life. The images themselves are of action-filled events, and the puzzles are as challenging as they are rewarding, getting your entire brain in on the fun from start to finish. (Toy Fair Booth #5903)

Fairy Tale High

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Fairy Tale High
Price $17.99
By S-K Victory
Age
3 - 10 yrs.
Top Toy

Imagine the greatest fairy tale characters of all time living in the present-day world as teens attending the same high school, not yet having become the princesses they are destined to be. That's the knockout premise of Fairy Tale High, a new line of dolls that presents these infinitely familiar characters as hip, trendy BFFs navigating the ins and outs of high school. Fairy Tale High's line of 8 stylish dolls gives regular girls plenty to relate to, and therein lies it's brilliance. The Snow White, Rapunzel, Belle, Sleeping Beauty, Little Mermaid, Alice in Wonderland, Tinker Bell, and Cinderella seen here face everyday trials and tribulations experienced by typical teens on a daily basis. Which is not to say there's no magic afoot. Each doll has added life breathed into it through modern back-stories and details told in free ebooks and webisodes at FairyTaleHigh.com. The 11.5-inch dolls come packaged wearing fashionable clothes, hairstyles, and designer shoes, and their fully articulated bodies make for easy posing and storytelling. Attending classes, experiencing life's ups and downs while exploring their own blossoming gifts, just another day in the life at Fairy Tale High.

Flash

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Flash
Price $14.99
By Blue Orange Games
Age
7+
Best Family Fun

Fun doesn't get any more rapid-fire than Flash, a dice game in which players race to complete 8 different challenges. Each challenge consists of a specific dice combination (six-of-a-kind, 3 pairs, all odds, . . .). Players roll and re-roll, each time putting aside the dice whose results they want to keep and rerolling the rest, until they've achieved the desired result. One side of each die displays a flash symbol (lightning bolt), which is wild and can represent any number. Being good at Flash isn't just about who can roll the fastest. It's about how quickly and accurately you can assess the results of your roll and make a good decision about what to keep before launching the dice through the air again. This requires focus, a quick mind, and fast hands. As players complete a challenge, they grab the highest value scoring chip still available on the table, so that each player's score per challenge is based on the order in which he or she finished relative to the other players. Everyone's score is written on the special score pad before moving on to the next challenge. Once all the challenges have been completed, the player with the highest total wins. Two exciting game variations keep things extra-lively. For 2 to 6 players. Includes 36 Dice (6 colors), 6 Scoring Chips, Scoring Pad, Pencil, and Travel Bag.

Flip2BFit - Fitness in a Box

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Flip2BFit - Fitness in a Box
Price $34.95
By Flip2BFit L3C
Age
6+
Best Family Fun

Anyone who thinks fitness isn't fun hasn't played this game. Through a variety of solo and group activities, Flip2BFit gets everyone moving, laughing, and interacting socially and physically. The game play increases players' fitness while broadening knowledge and awareness of healthy behaviors. Be the first player or team to land your piece in the center of the board to win. But in order to do so you must first travel the board, performing yoga poses, stretches, cardio, and strength exercises. A spinner determines the category, a card the specific exercise to be done. Complete the activity indicated, and forward you go. In addition to the activities there's plenty of variety to spice things up - Fact or Fiction cards that test nutritional knowledge, Group Play cards that get everyone in on the action, Healthy Choice cards that boost you forward, and Bad Choice cards that hold you back. Highly entertaining fun for the entire family. For 2 to 4 players or teams.

Flying Kung Fu Frogs

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Flying Kung Fu Frogs
Price $17.99
By Patch Products
Age
4+
Best Family Fun

If a name like Flying Kung Fu Frogs doesn't pique your interest, nothing will. And in the fun department, this game delivers. The premise is delightfully simple, cleverly kooky, and surprisingly competitive. A motorized training center is set on a flat surface. At the touch of a button, its two tree-like structures begin to spin, along with the 6 different training levels attached to them. You, and every other player, have a certain number of frogs. Your job is to land as many of them as possible on the various training levels by launching them through the air. There's no turn-taking, just lots of action. Making a frog fly is easy. Just press on its rear and release. Aim is the real skill. But with just a little practice, you'll be landing frogs left and right. The game ends as soon as someone has landed all their frogs on either the base or one of the levels, and players earns points according to where each of their frogs landed. The top level (circle of knives) is worth 40 points per frog, the White level, 30. Orange levels are worth 20 points per frog, and Green levels, 10. For 2 - 4 players, requires 3 AA batteries.

Fourmation

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Fourmation
Price $38
By SimplyFun
Age
8+
Top Toy

Fourmation is yet another great mind-bending game from SimplyFun, one that's ripe with strategic possibilities. The variety of offensive and defensive moves available, and the quick brain-work involved in evaluating them, is what makes Fourmation so exciting and so much fun. The game board consists of 36 zones, each bearing a number from 1 to 36. Each zone contains within it 4 spaces on which players can place a colored marker on their given turn. The object is to be the first player to use your markers to connect four zones in a row either horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. But in order to place your colored marker, you have to make the number of the desired zone from the sum of one or more of the four number cards in your hand. And while the math involved is simple, your brain has a lot to consider. Quickly summing various combinations of the four cards in your hand while scouring the board to see how they stack up against the zone numbers you need to target helps you take the appropriate offensive or defensive action. That juggling and comparing of numbers on the board against the sums of cards in your hand, the need to advance your position while preventing opponents from achieving victory - all adds up to a very good time. For 2 to 4 players.

Gemstone Dig Kit

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Gemstone Dig Kit
Price $14.95
By Discover with Dr. Cool
Age
6 - 12 yrs.
Brain Child

The digging brick that comes with this kit contains 3 genuine gemstone specimens and is accompanied by all the tools you'll need to excavate them, one by one. As you carefully dig, scrape, and brush with your tools, the block gradually chips away in bits and pieces, revealing a beautiful quartz crystal, a gorgeous amethyst, and a smooth, mystical-looking tiger's eye. You'll learn all about your well-earned treasures, as well as history and lore about gemstones in general, in the exceedingly entertaining and informative Adventure Guide. Additional gemstone-related fun and challenges fill the pages of the accompanying Activity Booklet, including hidden pictures, word-play, a maze, dot-to-dot, and tests of your newfound gemstone knowledge. And like all Discover with Dr. Cool products, it comes brilliantly packaged and organized, perfect for bringing out the adventurer in you.

GeoPalz Pedometer

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GeoPalz Pedometer
Price $25
By GeoPalz
Age
5+
Top Toy

This pedometer is so small and attractive (slightly over a square inch) that no one will know you're wearing a device for measuring activity unless you tell them. It comes in a variety of kid-friendly designs that give it the appearance more of a fun, cool, accessory than the sophisticated digital pedometer it is. Kids will be highly motivated to stay in motion once they log on to the secure GeoPalz website, where they can enter and track the number of steps they've taken, earn points, and win prizes. The prizes consist of activity-based and educational products (Baseball Equipment, Hacky Sacks, Frisbees, etc.) There's also an online arcade where they can play a variety of extremely entertaining games (the number of steps walked equates to minutes of available playing time). The pedometer can be worn by easily clipping it to a shoe or hip. It uses a Tri-Axis accelerometer to accurately measure steps, and can be calibrated to take into consideration characteristics of the individual wearing it, enhancing that accuracy even further. It stores up to 21 days of daily step totals. There are many more online features for the pedometer, all geared towards making your child motivated and happy to be active!

Guess What!

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Guess What!
Price $24.99
By Edustic
Age
5+
Brain Child

Playing Guess What! develops a variety of aptitudes and skills (critical thinking, mathematics, pattern and shape recognition, among others). One of the things that makes Guess What! such fun is that even when it's not your turn, you're as much a part of the action as if it were. One player is the designated builder whose task it is to build an object indicated on a card just flipped from the top of the card deck. The builder uses colored geometric shapes placed on a laminated playboard. If one of the other players correctly guesses the object before time runs out (did we mention there's a two minute timer?), both he and the builder receive two scoring discs. The guessing players frequently call out guesses, with the builder responding 'Yes' or 'No.' It is very much a group enterprise, with all players actively engaged from start to finish. The main deck of cards contains the names of 6 objects per card, each numbered so that a roll of the die determines which of the 6 to build. For players who prefer to have a visual model to work from, there is also a Junior deck whose cards show an image of the object to be built, constructed of the geometric pieces. The player with the most disks at the end of 5 rounds wins. For 3 to 8 players.

HEXBUG Aquabot with Fishbowl

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HEXBUG Aquabot with Fishbowl
Price $14.99
By Innovation First International
Age
3+
Sterling Fun

HEXBUG arrives in the land of water with this robotic fish (tank included). To bring Aquabot to life all you do is drop it in water, where it immediately begins exploring its environment. Powered by electro-magnetic propulsion, it swims, dives, and changes directions, tail flipping at alternating speeds that affect its overall movement. When swimming along the bottom of its tank, Aquabot even appears to be hunting for food and eating. Hexbug Aquabot comes with 2 extra batteries, and has an automatic battery-saving feature that puts it to sleep after 5 minutes of swimming. To reactivate, just lift and release it again into the water. The lidded tank is plastic, so no fear of broken glass or dirty water. Kids never again need to hear 'Feed the fish!' or 'Clean that fish bowl!' and parents never again need dread seeing the family pet floating belly-up due to lack of care.

HEXBUG Nano V2 Helix 180

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HEXBUG Nano V2 Helix 180
Price $29.99
By Innovation First International
Age
3+
Top Toy

There are many astounding aspects to this new HEXBUG Nano set, but the two that really jumped out at us are the ways in which the Nano (a tiny micro robotic creature) moves, and the ingenious design of its highly customizable habitat. And by habitat we mean multi-level playground, stunt set, and - at the risk of being accused of reaching a little - work of art. Configuring and reconfiguring the habitat, with its tubes, platforms, gates, bumpers, and columns, is half the fun. It's quick and easy to do, and the ease and number of variables lends itself to creative thinking. The rest of the fun, of course, comes from unleashing Nanos into your creation and watching them scurry and climb, careen and tumble, with lifelike abandon. Nanos move through the science of vibration, and their unique design (the one included has little rubber tendrils on its back in addition to 8 leg-like appendages) enables them to do amazing things. The most jaw-dropping effect in this set is the Nano's ability to appear to defy gravity, climbing straight up through the smooth, contoured, or curving plastic tubes that interconnect with one another and the platforms. The Nano has the ability to flip from its back to its feet, to travel on its side or upside down, and putting two or more of them together (additional Nanos are available separately) more than doubles the action and the fun.

Hook'em

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Hook'em
Price $28
By SimplyFun
Age
6+
Top Toy

This game is a joy to play. The ease and playfulness with which it leads players to take calculated risks adds up to a very good time. The goal is to catch as many fish as possible from a pond board in the middle of the table. Each turn consists of one or more dice rolls by the same player. The player places the number of fish shown on the die after a roll into a blue boat. Any dice showing 'water' or 'net' must be put aside before the next roll. The player must then decide whether to end their turn and keep the fish or continue rolling and risk losing them back to the pond if no fish are rolled. There's plenty of strategic decision-making in Hook'em, as well as counting, simple multiplication, and risk & reward, but the real payoff in this gem of a game is the fabulous time you'll have playing it. For 2 to 6 or more players.

Hoopersize Fit Kit

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Hoopersize Fit Kit
Price $39.95
By Kidtribe Products, Inc.
Age
5 - 12 yrs.
Top Toy

Hoopersize Fit Kit is something of a marvel, turning an icon of childhood play into a potent and wildly entertaining all-in-one fitness program for boys and girls. The Pro Hoop included in each kit is bigger and stronger than a traditional one, with a cooler, more modern look and feel. You won't believe the hoop tricks your body is capable of, or the workout you'll get doing them, until you've watched and learned from the two DVDs included. The talented and effervescent Miss Kellee and the Hooperstars take us through warm-ups, hoop technique, and plenty of hip, dazzling moves. There's the Alley Oop, the Munchkin, the Criss Cross, and many more. You'll practice them in sequence and in combination while accompanied by the music videos or the 7-song CD included. Miss Kellee lights up the screen, portraying characters in humorous segments that play more like high-quality children's television than something you'd hope to find on a product DVD. Kids will watch, learn, sweat, and love every minute of it!

I Can Read Puzzles Challenge Cards

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I Can Read Puzzles Challenge Cards
Price $2.99
By TREND enterprises, Inc.
Age
3+
Brain Child

Players develop reading skills by building words or sentences in this fun, fast-moving game. Each of the 54 Puzzle Cards contains both letters and illustrations and is part of a 3-card word-and-picture puzzle. Players take turns placing cards in the center of the table, either building a word or starting a new one (up to 4 words can be in play at a time). Playful illustrations provide visual cues as to which cards belong together, and each time a word is completed, that player reads the word aloud and collects those cards. One side of the cards has individual letters and is used for playing Build-a-Word games. The other side displays complete words for Build-a-Sentence games, using rhymes to supplement the illustrations in guiding word order. There are excellent play variations in the instructions, and the wordplay is perfectly suited to younger players. A delightful combination of fun and learning for 2 to 5 players.

I-Mat

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I-Mat
Price $79.99
By Creative Baby, Inc.
Age
18 mo.+
Brain Child

I-mat is a visually entertaining foam playmat that uses amazing technology to provide fun and learning to your young child. Sprawled across its surface is a colorful, smile-inducing illustration of the great outdoors loaded with flora, fauna, and insects. Dozens of animals and their offspring are labeled by name (cow, sheep, pig . . .). The Voice Pen, a remarkable handheld device, speaks the name of a particular creature aloud when touched to its image on the mat, and makes real animal sounds. There are 3 easy-to-set language options, English, Spanish, and Chinese. Activate either of two games by touching pen to mat, the first of which is finding an animal based on its name. 'Where is the Bald Eagle?' the Voice Pen might ask, then provide praise when you touch the correct image or encouragement if you don't. The second game asks you to locate images by hearing the sound the animal makes. It's marvelously entertaining, and the I-Mat is a potent tool for developing vocabulary and comprehension skills, not to mention introducing second and third languages. A cable connects to your computer for additional downloads and expansions.

Imaginista Decoupage Jewelry

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Imaginista Decoupage Jewelry
Price $19.99
By The Orb Factory
Age
8+
Top Toy

This kit provides all the materials, inspiration, and guidance kids need to create their own dazzling decoupage jewelry, be it hip, funky, or just plain beautiful. 32 sheets of pretty, diversely patterned paper provide a vast array of possibilities when combined with the pendants, bracelets, and headband that act as blank canvases for that creativity. Kids cut or tear the paper into pieces before applying it to the accessories using the decoupage glue, creating unique designs for different looks. Feathers, earring hooks, glitter, jump rings, and 13 yards of ribbon (in several colors) expand the possibilities even further, enabling a high level of detail and variety. The finished results, far from being merely wearable, often look as if they were made by seasoned pros, eliciting pride and creative confidence in young jewelry makers. There are enough materials included to create 20 accessories, helping ensure that the level of usage and enjoyment, during both the creating and the wearing stages, will be very high.

Inventors Lab

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Inventors Lab
Price $65
By Hanz
Age
8+
Brain Child

Inventors Lab is more than just a cutting edge construction kit. It's a tool that promotes innovation, problem solving, and collaboration. Its pieces are designed to fit together without the use of screws, clips, glue, or any ancillary tools. All you need are your hands and your mind. The design is such that the pieces fit and hold together very tightly, allowing the solid construction of inventions ranging from simple to elaborate. Rather than having the vast variety of components found in some kits, here there are only three - wheels, beams, and brains. Brains are black rectangular pieces into which beams can be inserted at a variety of angles and positions, and which have grooves at regular intervals along the outside. These allow them to interconnect with beams in a surprisingly high number of ways, and enables wheels to be directly and securely attached to them as well. The ingenious simplicity of these three building-blocks provides tremendous structural flexibility, inspiring the inventor within us to problem solve and to create something new. Hand in hand with the physical product, Hanz is building an online community in which inventors can compete and where challenges will be posted and solved. Inventors Lab includes 20 Brains, 40 Beams, and 8 Wheels.

K'NEX Intro Assortment

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K'NEX Intro Assortment
Price $5.99
By K'NEX
Age
5+
Best Creative Fun

The speed and ease with which the brilliantly conceived pieces in each of these kits come together to form a fairly elaborate vehicle is nothing short of astonishing. A glance or two at the easy-to-follow diagrams and you're on your way. Even more surprising is the fact that the ingenious design of the components enables all of this to happen without any screws, glue, or tools. The resulting toy vehicles, once assembled, are impressive-looking, surprisingly sturdy, and well-suited to hours upon hours of imaginative play. The K'NEX Intro Assortment offers three creative building kits (5.99 apiece), each of which assembles into a different vehicle - truck, helicopter, or plane. Each vehicle has a distinctly futuristic air - nothing average or typical about it - and, as an added bonus, the components of all three different sets can be combined to build an exciting space shuttle. They also can easily be taken apart and reassembled, making them the perfect inspiration for the creation of things never before seen by man, woman or child! (Toy Fair Booth #5226)

K'NEX Thunderbolt Strike Roller Coaster Building Set

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K'NEX Thunderbolt Strike Roller Coaster Building Set
Price $119.99
By K'NEX
Age
9+
Top Toy

It's hard not to feel self-congratulatory after assembling this set, in part because the results are just so darned awesome. Finished, this motorized roller coaster sits over 3 feet high and more than 5 feet long. And while the classic K'NEX components interconnect with characteristic ease and versatility, the patience and gumption involved in diving in and seeing it through to the end (there are, after all, more than 800 pieces) are impressive. There are so many rewards though - both the finished result and the enjoyment of taking your time putting it together among them - that rather than being daunting, the experience is 10 times the fun it would be if someone just gave you the finished product. In addition to the aforementioned parts, the set includes a motor, vertical chain lift, 2 cars, and 2 fully articulated K'NEXmen figures. Enjoy the ride!

K'NEXmen Mystery Figures

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K'NEXmen Mystery Figures
Price $2.99
By K'NEX
Age
5+
Best Creative Fun

Each K'NEXmen Mystery Figure pack contains two small, themed figures (pirates, astronauts, pilots, race car drivers, zombies, and many others). There are 16 unique figures in all, with varying degrees of rarity. They come packaged in 10 different pairings, so that you never know which figures you're getting until you tear open the package. These colorful, detailed action figures are marvels of engineering. Not only do they sit, stand, flex, and bend with ease, they also break down into their component parts, allowing you to mix, match, and rebuild them in new and surprising ways. What's more, they're compatible with all leading building sets. Kids will find themselves inspired to new heights of creativity and imaginative play. When things this good come in packages this small for prices this low (2.99 per 2-pack), there's only one thing left to say. Let the fun begin! (Toy Fair Booth #5226)

Katachi

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Katachi
Price $36
By SimplyFun
Age
8+
Brain Child

The beauty of Katachi is that it gets you thinking in new and different ways. In a sense, you even begin to see differently. You know you're in for something special as soon as you open the box. The tiles that form the foundation of the game have a unique allure. Brightly colored and imprinted with various geometric shapes, they have a distinctive look and feel that just makes you want to play. Line them up randomly in six rows of six, and you've got your playing field. The goal is to be the first player to move a specified number of tiles onto your corner tile without letting any pile get more than two tiles higher than an adjacent tile. Two special dice displaying color, shape, and size map to the characteristics of the tiles. Rolling the dice determines both which tile you can choose to move on your turn and which tiles you can move it across. After just a few moves, strategies begin to reveal themselves. Not thinking ahead can create obstacles for you later on. The ability to spot various paths while thinking strategically goes a long way towards winning. Play moves along quickly and easily, but as with any great game, skill levels in Katachi can run very deep. For 2 to 4 players.

KaZAM - with new design!

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KaZAM - with new design!
Price $99.95
By KaZAM, LLC
Age
3+
Top Toy

Suggest to a young child who has yet to ride a two-wheel pedal bike that they try training wheels, and they'll tell you scornfully 'Training wheels are for little kids.' The KaZAM balance bike is an outstanding way for children to use two wheels right from the start, creating in them the confidence and balance needed to progress seamlessly to two-wheel pedal riding. One thing we've learned from testing a variety of different manufacturers' balance bikes is that style and comfort vary wildly from make to make. This is where the KaZAM bike really stands out. A KaZAM bike is the equal, in both style and quality, of many top big-kid and grown-up bikes. The raised molded seat and chrome handlebars are adjustable. The wheels are air-inflated, with steel spokes. The uniquely designed frame has a built-in footrest to allow the rider to practice balance while gliding. The bike itself is beautiful, with a metal frame available in several bright, stylish colors, and weighs in at 9.9 lbs. Assembly is a no-brainer, requiring just a few minutes time from even the least handy of parents. For use by children ages 3 and up weighing up to 60 lbs.

Keekee the Rocking Monkey

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Keekee the Rocking Monkey
Price $24.99
By Blue Orange Games
Age
3-6 yrs.
Brain Child

Kids take turns adding balls to Keekee, a wide-eyed monkey with outstretched arms rockingly balanced on a giant banana. Keekee wants to juggle, and the children's task is to help him by adding juggling balls, one at a time, to Keekee's arms, hands, head, and along the giant banana. As the game progresses and the easier spots fill up, it becomes more and more difficult to add another ball without any of them falling. The mere sight of Keekee elicits huge smiles on children's faces, and in the few seconds it takes them to glean the object of the game and Keekee's role in it, those smiles widen even further. Players not only develop dexterity (an unintentional nudge or imprecise placement can send balls tumbling), they also, through cause and effect observed during game play, gain a keen sense of the mechanics of balance. They soon have the ability to eyeball Keekee and the accumulated balls and predict the consequences of placing the next ball here, or there. Preschoolers find the game exciting and stimulating, and its colorful, charmingly designed all-wood components add significantly to the fun. A rocking good time. For 1 to 6 players.

King of 20

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King of 20
Price $15
By King of 20 LLC
Age
8+
Brain Child

King of 20 does for numbers and simple math what Scrabble did for letters and words - turns them into highly entertaining fun. But you don't need to be a lover of math or numbers in order to greatly enjoy this game. After populating their tile racks with 5 tiles apiece (replenished after each turn) players take turns placing up to 3 tiles at a time on a Scrabble-like board, interconnecting them with existing tiles in a crossword-like way. But instead of words, players create valid expressions such as 7 X 3 - 2. The goal is to receive the lowest score by making expressions that are as close as possible to the number 20. Your score on each turn is the difference between the value of your expression and the number 20, so your score for the above expression would be 1 (since 7 X 3 - 2 = 19 and the difference between 20 and 19 is 1). Over time, the board includes expressions with a higher number of operations (such as 7 X 3 + 1 - 2), making finding the best place for your tiles a bit more challenging. But that challenge, and the adeptness with which you'll find yourself quickly performing these calculations, is half the fun. For 2 to 4 players.

Launcher

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Launcher
Price $65
By Hanz
Age
8+
Top Toy

You'll experience two distinct phases of fun with this kit, each highly entertaining in its own way. The building phase, during which you'll put together one of a number of possible marshmallow catapults (Nano, Scorpion, Spider, or your own variation), is especially enjoyable due to the range of possibilities at your fingertips. Those creative options spring from the uniqueness of the Hanz system, which uses three types of brilliantly designed structural components - wheels, beams, and brains. The ingenious simplicity of these three building-blocks provides tremendous structural flexibility and allows them to connect with one another quickly, easily, and very solidly, using nothing but your hands. The sturdiness of your catapult creations comes in quite handy once you reach the action phase of play, rapidly (and repeatedly - you won't want to stop) launching marshmallows across the room. Includes 24 Brains, 30 Beams, 8 Wheels & Tires, and 6 Rubber Bands.

LEGO Blue Suitcase

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LEGO Blue Suitcase
Price $24.99
By LEGO Group
Age
4-8 yrs.
Best Creative Fun

Blue Suitcase picks up where Toddler Build & Play Cubes (see separate review below) left off, by introducing 4- to 8-year-olds to a more detailed level of shapes, sizes, and creative exploration through building. Blue Suitcase comes with 146 pieces neatly packed into a sturdy, highly portable LEGO suitcase, small and light enough to carry with you everywhere. It's easy to build with this set, and the gas station theme makes it particularly fun to emulate the illustrations in the accompanying booklet. The automobile alone has a remarkable level of detail, with individual bumpers, a front and back grill, headlights, taillights, wheels, rims, windshield, steering wheel, and more, all assembled using nothing but your hands. In addition to assorted bricks in various colors, there are two human figures, miniature tools that fit firmly into their hands, a dog, a gas pump, greenery, and all sorts of details ready to fire up the imagination and inspire new heights of creative play - a miniature world at your fingertips!

LEGO Off Road Racer

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LEGO Off Road Racer
Price $19.99
By LEGO Group
Age
7-14 yrs.
Top Toy

It is a remarkable experience to watch a child assemble the Off Road Racer, a fast-moving race car with a pull-back motor capable of doing exciting stunts. The finished vehicle is a marvel of detail, sleek and sporty, and the pride felt and displayed by the child who put it together is a pleasure to behold. Yet the instructions are surprisingly easy to follow, using ingeniously clear-cut illustrations to guide the process, step by step. The experience is also remarkable because of the amount of fun it provides. While assembly is not difficult, it does require (and inspire) focus and concentration. Working at something with that level of intentness is a pleasure unto itself. And each step in the process, as the racer takes on shape and form, yields it own satisfaction. That a product like this, one that requires no glue, screws, nails, or tools to assemble, and whose finished result is an exciting, durable toy, exists at all is extraordinary. It takes a company like LEGO, dedicated to producing building-products for a broad range of ages, to pull together the experts and resources necessary to generate something like this. Bravo.

LEGO Toddler Build & Play Cubes

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LEGO Toddler Build & Play Cubes
Price $12.99
By LEGO Group
Age
1-3 yrs.
Brain Child

That toddlers find these build & play cubes to be riveting entertainment is unsurprising given their bright colors, playful patterns, and simple geometric shapes. Oh, and they're awesomely easy to build things with. These LEGO duplo bricks are sized large enough to make it easy for small hands to make their way when playing and building. The 17-piece set includes a bright green platform onto which all the other pieces can be sturdily positioned in endless variations. The largest of the cubes have grate-like window attachments that click right into place and can be swung open and closed. The little yellow bear can sit inside looking out or be firmly perched on any of a dozen pieces. The beauty of it is that every duplo brick looks fine in combination with any other - there is no right or wrong in the land of build & play, only creative exploration. The quality, as you might expect from LEGO, is extremely high. More importantly, its carefully thought-out design makes it the perfect starter set for young children to begin exploring their creativity, colors, shapes, and fine motor skills.

Lela

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Lela
Price $22
By Lassig GmbH
Age
0+
Sterling Fun

When shopping for an infant's first playthings, two concerns that immediately come to mind are safety and simplicity. Of course, you want something that will also provide stimulation to your baby and promote his natural development. Lela, a serene-looking toy fawn, was designed with all these things in mind. Lela stimulates both the budding imagination and motor skills. She's made of 100 percent natural rubber painted with food coloring. Her limbs, ears, tail, nose, and torso provide a tactile playground, lots of places for little hands to touch and hold and for small mouths to safely chew and teethe. Give her a squeeze and she lets out a squeak, eliciting surprise and delight. And stay tuned for more fun - many additional children's products featuring Lela are on the way.

Life on the Farm Preschool Edition

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Life on the Farm Preschool Edition
Price $24.99
By We R Fun Games
Age
3 - 7 yrs.
Top Toy

It's wonderful when everything about a game, from the design and artwork of its box, board, and components, to the details of game play, are perfectly suited to the intended audience - in this case preschoolers to age 7. What's more, the skills being taught and reinforced by the highly enjoyable game play here - colors, shapes, matching, and turn-taking - are also perfectly suited to the targeted age range. Even very young children can fully grasp the game quickly, and the fun starts from the moment they lay eyes on the bright, happy, farm scene and super high-quality components. There's no reading involved. To move, players just flip a card and match colors between the card and game board. Each player also has his own barn-shaped puzzle board with seven empty puzzle shapes in it. If a player lands on an animal on the game board during a move, she fills the space on her puzzle board that matches the shape of the puzzle piece containing that animal. The first player to complete their puzzle board wins. First-rate fun! For 2 to 4 players. (Toy Fair Booth #2911)

Lincoln Logs Horshoe Hill Station

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Lincoln Logs Horshoe Hill Station
Price $27.99
By K'NEX
Age
3+
Best Creative Fun

Parents will feel like they've hit the trifecta of fun by giving their kids Lincoln Logs Horseshoe Hill Station. Not only will it unleash children's creative building skills and stimulate hours upon hours of imaginative play, but the vast majority of the components here consist of smooth, stained, wooden pieces of varying sizes - classic Lincoln Logs. Easy to follow diagrams show how to construct three different fort structures, and kids are encouraged to design their own as well. This visual and tactile treat gets kids' imaginations firing on all cylinders, while the logical aspects of assembling the structures ensures that both Left Brain and Right Brain are nicely engaged. In addition to the 77 wooden logs, the set also includes a plastic cowboy figure, horse, gable roof, door, door frame and flag. Pure, hands-on fun! (Toy Fair Booth #5226)

Logiq Tower

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Logiq Tower
Price $24.99
By Great Circle Works
Age
8+
Brain Child

There is something extremely gratifying about this brainteaser, in part because you can sense your mental muscles growing stronger as you play. And it feels mighty good to flex that newfound brainpower. Even children and adults with admittedly poor spatial skills expressed experiencing rapid shifts in how they visualized the pieces and approached solving the puzzle after just a small amount of time with it. Logiq Tower consists of a wooden base with a post jutting straight up from it. The goal is to layer combinations of some or all of the 15 different-shaped green, red, and blue pieces around the central rod such that the result is a cylindrical tower without any gaps in it. A tower can be from two to five layers high, and the level of difficulty varies with the tower's height. That there are literally thousands of possible solutions to the taller towers adds to the fun and excitement while stimulating both critical and creative thinking skills. And if that's not enough, this product was made using recycled & recyclable materials, chemical free rubber-wood, and water-based, non-toxic dyes.

Lullaby Light Cube

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Lullaby Light Cube
Price $29.95
By SCS Direct
Age
0 - 2 yrs.
Brain Child

Making sure you and your baby get enough rest are high priorities for parents of young children, because the caliber of that rest time directly impacts your entire day. Lullaby Light Cube provides tremendous help in that regard by creating a consistent, controlled environment that soothes your baby to sleep with calming music and a gently lit sky. Lullaby Light Cube is wonderfully sturdy, attractive, and compact (measures just over 3" x 3" x 3"), the perfect portable companion wherever your busy day takes you. To activate lights and music, just touch the side labeled TOUCH SENSOR. Each additional touch toggles through several different sound and light modes in addition to turning it on and off. Play well-known lullabies, Heartbeat Mode, or light only, and watch the color of the projected stars and moon change with each setting. Another touch-sensor lets you choose from various volume levels, and a nifty little white base lets you angle the unit, giving you the choice of projecting on walls or ceiling. Lullaby Light Cube is available in pink or blue and requires 3 AA batteries.

Magnetic Figures

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Magnetic Figures
Price $16.99
By Mudpuppy
Age
6+
Top Toy

The speed and ease with which kids construct vivid scenes using Magnetic Figures from Mudpuppy is a huge part of the fun. Imaginations run wild with well over a dozen exciting, diverse titles and themes to choose from (Pirates, Mermaids, Time Travel, Fairy Tales, Monsters, Ballerinas, Robots, to name just a few). Regardless of the title, each set comes in a portable hinged tin and includes 4 illustrated background scenes and 3 sheets of magnets. Those colorful magnets and backgrounds consist of illustrated figures, articles of clothing, accessories, and additional bits and pieces kids assemble into remarkably detailed tableaus. Placing a background on top of a tin causes the magnets to adhere wherever they're placed. That freedom of placement creates a host of options for layering the magnets on top of the figures or one another - hats, hair, eyeglasses, slacks, shoes, boots, a treasure chest filled with gold, and countless others. Each and every magnet and background is so artfully illustrated that the results often have the appearance of a finely crafted picture book. When finished playing, pack it right up in the compact, portable tin, and you're good to go.

Make your Own Paracord Wristbands

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Make your Own Paracord Wristbands
Price $16
By Faber-Castell/Creativity for Kids
Age
7+
Top Toy

Boys will make cool, rugged wristbands from paracord (a material originally used to suspend parachutes) with this fun, easy-to-use kit. The process is smooth and repetitive, with simple instructions and a box that acts as your workstation. Just choose a color, slide the ends through both sides of a buckle, and secure one half the buckle to your workstation. From there on out, it's just a matter of making a succession of alternating knots (really the same knot in opposing directions), an absorbing process that allows you to pick up speed as you go along. It's so fast and fun, boys may want to compete with friends to see who's speediest. A dab of glue secures the final strands in place. Finish it off by accenting the plastic buckle (which allows the wristbands to snap easily on and off) with one of several eye-catching, masculine stickers. The kit includes everything you need to make a total of eight wristbands.

Make-A-Mask

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Make-A-Mask
Price $11.99
By Mudpuppy
Age
4+
Best Creative Fun

Make-A-Mask combines artistic self-expression with imaginative play, providing dazzling illustrated designs for kids to tear off, color in, cut out, and wear to their heart's content. The identity-altering artwork sparks inventive games, wild theatrics, and kooky, interactive play. Each of the 8 titles in the Make-A-Mask series follows a different theme (Monsters, Butterflies, Pirates, Princesses, to name a few ) and comes in delightfully compact, easy-to-use book form. Each book contains twenty masks (4 different designs repeated 5 times) to be colored in and cut out. Adhered to the back of each book is a small plastic bag containing pre-cut elastic pieces to slip and knot through the tiny holes at each side of the mask, providing a snug fit for both children and adults. Since the individual pages easily tear out, one Make-A-Mask book can captivate an entire group of kids at the same time, coloring, cutting, wearing, and playing-acting.

MPS 400 Helicopter

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MPS 400 Helicopter
Price $14.99
By Laser Pegs Ventures, LLC
Age
5+
Sterling Fun

This single set, using the same colorful, connectable pieces, lets you build four different helicopter models, each of which lights up using the special Laser Pegs design. The set includes a mobile power source that feeds low voltage current through the special toy construction, illuminating the connected pieces with a beautiful, futuristic glow. In addition to the power source, the set comes with 2 Laser Pegs, 45 Construction Parts that snap easily together, and an instruction manual that details how to assemble one of the four models (Attack Helicopter, Cargo Helicopter, Rescue Helicopter, T-1 Super Cobra). Manuals for assembling the other three helicopter models are downloadable for free from the Laser Pegs website. Regardless of whether you follow the instructions or construct your own variations or abstract designs, the end result will provide a treat for the imagination.

My First Creative Collage Birds

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My First Creative Collage Birds
Price $9.99
By The Orb Factory
Age
3+
Best Creative Fun

It's quite wonderful that the Orb Factory offers this creative collage kit so perfectly suited to children as young as 3 and up. The design allows kids to simply peel off portions of the playful artwork, unveiling sticky areas they can customize. By adding colored cotton balls, glitter, and snow-like fun foam (all included) to the existing artwork, they'll learn to express their creative side, as well as how to match colors and textures. Each of the 3 design backgrounds (birds on a wire, birds with their birdhouses, birds playing in the rain) is joyful, brightly colored, and has a framed border. Plastic hangers are included so that the finished pieces can be proudly displayed, encouraging and inspiring your young ones to explore their creativity. (Toy Fair Booth #5919)

My Image Bracelet Maker

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My Image Bracelet Maker
Price $29.99
By Crorey Creations
Age
6+
Top Toy

Whether using your own photos or some of the 144 cool, playful, preprinted images included in this set, My Image Bracelet Maker makes it easy to create great-looking reversible bracelets that have a very personal feel. As always with products from Crorey Creations, this set is compact, portable, and contains everything you need efficiently tucked away in drawers built right into the workstation. The tiles that make up the bracelets are provided in six different mix-and-match colors, and the step-by-step instructions are easy to follow. The workstation contains a tile holder for laying out the tiles while threading elastic strings through them, as well as a picture window for quickly and easily punch-cutting the photos to a perfect fit. A glue stick makes affixing the images a snap, and a special knot key makes the knots where you tied off the bracelet disappear into the tiles. When using their own photos, kids can use the free online photo-sizing tool at photosizer.myfbm.com or download the free Myphotosizer smartphone app.

My Image Button Maker

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My Image Button Maker
Price $29.99
By Crorey Creations
Age
8+
Sterling Fun

One of the many enjoyable things about My Image Button Maker and other offerings from Crorey Creations is how easy the product designs and step-by-step instructions make it to produce great results. My Image Button Maker lets kids make personalized, professional-quality buttons, quickly and easily, with a choice of pin or magnet for each button-back. Accessorize outfits, decorate lockers, make refrigerator art - let your creations tell a story. The set comes with plenty of playful, colorful artwork ready to use (peace sign, BFF, a host of quirky, funny verbal expressions), but a big part of the fun is in using your own images, sized and shaped perfectly using the free online photo sizing tool at photosizer.myfbm.com. My Image Button Maker is an efficient, playful workstation - attractive, solid, and compact enough that you can carry it with you anywhere. Two built-in drawers come loaded with artwork, button casings, pins, and magnets. The unit's flat top houses a tool that makes it incredibly simple to perfectly punch-cut your image in one stroke, making it ready to insert into a button casing. There are enough supplies included to make 12 cool, personalized buttons. Refill kits, each of which provides enough materials for an additional 18 buttons, are available for 14.99 apiece.

My Lanyard Maker

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My Lanyard Maker
Price $29.99
By Crorey Creations
Age
6+
Best Creative Fun

My Lanyard Maker is like having a lanyard design and production studio at your fingertips. Its compact, efficient layout makes it easy to carry with you anywhere, and its two drawers (with two compartments apiece) contain all the materials you need to create colorful lanyard keychains, backpack charms, bracelets, and more. The top of My Lanyard Maker is your workstation, and provides two different ways to anchor the stationary part of your plastic lace while working. The centerpiece of your workstation is a raised square, the sides of which provide numbered locations at which to position and reposition parts of the laces, winding and intertwining them as your lanyard progresses. There are three different lanyard-making methods provided - Box Knot, Zipper, and Ridgeback - with step by step instructions for each. That variety of approaches (and resulting lanyard appearance) means kids will use it over and over again while sustaining a high level of interest, adding considerably to the fun. All three approaches involve executing a sequence of steps that are then repeated until the lanyard reaches the desired length. Adding colored beads (included) enhances the playfulness and flair of the finished results.

NADA!

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NADA!
Price $14.99
By Blue Orange Games
Age
7+
Best Family Fun

Fast, simple games can pack a special kind of wallop, and as dice games go, this one has it all - speed, fun, excitement, and lots of dice (18 white and 18 orange to be exact). The dice are covered with an abundance of playful symbols (ghost, rocket, palm tree, bunny rabbit . . .), and NADA! is played in rounds. Each round begins by rolling some of the dice. There are two ways to score in a round, either by being first to spot and call out matching symbols that appear on at least one white and one orange die, or, if there are no such matches, by being first to call out Nada! A player who correctly spots and calls a match collects all dice showing that symbol. A player who correctly calls Nada! collects all of the dice just rolled. But be careful! It is surprisingly easy in your haste to make a wrong call, and if you do, it will set you back. The player with the most dice after three rounds is the winner. For you to be that winner, you'll need sharp eyes and quick mental reflexes. To switch things up, there are two additional, equally exciting game variations in the instructions, so the fun just keeps on rolling. For 2 to 4 players.

OgoSport Copter Darts

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OgoSport Copter Darts
Price $35
By OgoSport, LLC
Age
6+
Top Toy

It's hard to do Copter Darts justice with words. You have to see, feel, and toss them in order to fully appreciate them. For starters, they have a distinctively fun, cool look that's equally appealing to youngsters, teens, and adults. And when you hear 'darts,' you tend to think 'pointy.' Nope, no points here, just round-nosed (about 2-12 inch diameter) black PVC heads weighted just right for throwing. And when you toss them, the three soft, foam wings sported by each Copter Dart ensure a dazzling spiral, a helicopter-like effect that tends to slow and steady them as they arc towards their target. Those aerodynamic wings are made from EVA foam, and, like the nose, bear heavy use (both indoors and outdoors) without wear and tear. As for playing, the goal is to aim the darts so that they land as close as possible to the target ball, earning varying point scores for hitting it or for being first or second closest. There are 3 different ways to play outlined on the box, and players are encouraged to invent their own games. Play 1 on 1, in teams, or solo. Includes 4 Copter Darts (2 yellow, 2 blue), 1 Target Ball, and 1 Dart Holdster for easy carrying and storage.

OgoSport Micro Copter Darts

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OgoSport Micro Copter Darts
Price $15
By OgoSport, LLC
Age
6+
Top Toy

These miniature versions of Copter Darts (see Copter Dart review above) bring a whole new kind of excitement to indoor/outdoor play. Smaller, lighter, and faster than their big brothers (but otherwise virtually identical in design), these soft foam darts spin with the same remarkable aerodynamic motion. With their weighted PVC noses, all Copter Darts land standing straight up, wings in the air, making them easy to spot. Each package contains two yellow and two blue Micro Copter Darts, ideal for both one-on-one and team competition, as well as solo play. The packaging outlines two different games, with varying scores depending on nearness to the target or the number of throws it took each player to hit it. Players are encouraged to make up their own games, very easy to do (our players effortlessly morphed through 5 new games in the space of 45 minutes or so). Regardless of the game at hand, Micro Copter Darts are simply fun to bounce in your hand, toss, throw, juggle, flip, catch, and generally create all kinds of dazzling aerial fun with. In other words, gravity and air resistance, two inescapable facts of life on Earth, will be your new best friends. Also includes 1 Dart Holdster for easy carrying and storage.

OgoSport Volo Fleet

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OgoSport Volo Fleet
Price $15
By OgoSport, LLC
Age
6+
Top Toy

OgoSport's products consistently have a unique look and feel, a high level of quality and appeal that immediately catch the eye. That perception, of something fun, and different, increases the closer one gets. Volo Fleet consists of 3 different Volo Darts, each sold separately - the Havik, the Fenik (with solid foam-ball noses), and the Hok (with a hollow rubber nose). With their lightweight, throw-perfect design and copter-spin action, Volo Darts get kids of all ages moving in no time - throwing, catching, running, leaping. The three wings on each dart create a helicopter-like spin action, and both spin and speed can be quickly altered by sliding the power ring up or down the dart's length. Almost any game that can be played with a ball can be played with Volo Darts. However, the darts' unique play characteristics - throwing and catching by the nose or tail, spinning flight, and variable speed and spin, generate a more razzle-dazzle kind of play and will inspire new games that would otherwise never have been born. Volo Darts are built for use and abuse, with a durability level that makes them virtually indestructible. They're also waterproof and they float, perfect for every kind of active play.

Once Upon A Time, 3rd Edition

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Once Upon A Time, 3rd Edition
Price $24.95
By Atlas Games
Age
8+
Best Family Fun

One of the many wonderful things about this game is the ease with which it stimulates improvisational storytelling while keeping everyone thoroughly engaged. The game is as much about listening as it is about storytelling. One player at a time actively spins the tale by placing Story Cards on the table while introducing elements found on those cards (a dragon, a witch, falling in love, etc.) into her story. The other players, however, are not passive listeners. They are actively engaged in seeking to take over the story, either by playing an Interrupt Story Card that matches a Story Card just played, or by playing a Story Card of their own that contains something just mentioned by the storyteller. The interrupter takes over the story, continuing the tale by playing Story Cards from his own hand. The goal of every player is to win the game by playing their Ending Card (e.g. 'The curse was lifted as had been foretold'). Doing so requires that a player first rid her hand of all other cards AND successfully steer the story to the conclusion found on her Ending Card. The beauty of this game is the ease with which it unfolds. There's no sense of pressure to be creative. It just happens, spontaneously and playfully, the mark of a very good game. For 2 - 6 players.

Ooga Booga

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Ooga Booga
Price $12.99
By Blue Orange Games
Age
7+
Laugh Out Loud

This is the funniest party game we've seen in a very long time. If it doesn't have you in stitches, you either lack a sense of humor or are way too competitive. On the other hand, Ooga Booga is very much a competition, so either way you're in for a good time. Each player is dealt an equal number of cards. The first player flips over their top card and says the word written on it, for example, 'Kana,' and adds the word 'Ha!' while pointing at the player to their left to pass the challenge. That next player flips her top card, placing it so that it covers the word on the previous card before reciting both words, in order, finishing with Ha! (for example, 'Kana, Bo, Ha!'). As the word chain grows, so does the difficulty and the fun. To challenge a player thought to have made an error, players begin banging both fists on the table, chanting in unison, 'Pabo! Pabo! Pabo!' If indeed there was a mistake, the challenged player adds 3 cards to his pile. If the initial challenger was wrong, it is he who must add 3 cards. The fun escalates even further whenever any of 3 different action cards (bang your fist on the table, clap your hands, or stick out your tongue) comes into play. The action becomes part of the chain and must be performed in the proper order amidst the spoken words. The first player to use up all their cards, wins. There's only one thing left to say. 'Kana, Bo, Ooga, Grrr, Kiki, Ska, Yonka, Toto, Ha!' Which we're pretty sure translates to 'Good luck with that.' For 3 to 6 players.

Pan for Gold

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Pan for Gold
Price $19.95
By Discover with Dr. Cool
Age
6 - 12 yrs.
Brain Child

Once you've tried your hand at panning for gold, you'll understand the allure that drew so many people to pull up stakes and race cross-continent in hopes of striking it rich. This kit gives you all the tools you'll need to hone your knowledge and prospecting skills - a 10-inch miner's pan, 2 bags of 'pay dirt,' fool's gold, tweezers, magnifying glass, nugget vial, and a velvety draw-string storage bag. Step-by-step instructions teach you how to use a gentle side-to-side shaking motion to sink the gold to the bottom of your pan before rocking it back and forth to separate the sand from the gold. An Activity Booklet provides page after page of gold-themed fun and games - word-play, dot-to-dot, pictogram, cryptogram, maze, and true or false. Last but not least, a photo-filled Adventure Guide gives up fascinating facts and stories on the properties and history of gold, as well as it's uses, past and present.

Pattern Smart

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Pattern Smart
Price $26.99
By Edustic
Age
5+
Brain Child

The human brain has an amazing capacity for recognizing and predicting patterns. Pattern Smart uses and cultivates that ability beautifully, helping players develop geometric aptitude, critical thinking skills, and math confidence. This rousing action-packed competition involves rounds of play during which all players race one another to complete a pattern from a flipchart, using shape tiles. The patterns come in three distinct levels of difficulty and become progressively harder as you move through the flipchart. The tiles (triangles, squares, hexagons, trapezoids, and rhombuses) are color-coded, aiding in shape recognition and the construction of patterns. The first player finished earns 10 points if correct or -10 points if he has made any errors. All other players receive -1 point for each piece missing from their pattern. The player with the highest score after 5 rounds wins. There are a couple of excellent game variations included, making for endlessly engaging, highly stimulating entertainment for all ages. For 1 to 3 players.

Pelican Cove

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Pelican Cove
Price $40
By SimplyFun
Age
8+
Brain Child

The components in this game are so rich, varied, and colorful that opening the game box is like peeking into a goodie bag filled with treasure. You just want to reach in, touch everything, and play with it. And you're in luck, because this is a game, and that's the idea. Each round starts by laying out 8 Request Cards on the Game Board. The content and placement of these cards indicates where each player can or cannot place each of the 8 colored Pelicans in his possession. The timer is flipped. Players leap into action. When time's up, players are evaluated, receiving one penalty stone for each Pelican he or she placed incorrectly. The player with the fewest penalty stones at the end of the game wins. Pelican Cove is a puzzle of sorts, one that requires players to quickly absorb and juggle several pieces of information. Its real magic lies in the ease with which players become engaged in fairly advanced logical, relational thinking. You'd never guess this from watching kids play the game - the human brain, with the right stimulation, becomes very adept at this sort of thing. And because Pelican Cove is hugely fun, they'll keep coming back for more, getting better and better. For 1 to 5 players.

Periodic Quest Basic Card Games

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Periodic Quest Basic Card Games
Price $14.95
By Yathi Enterprising Solutions
Age
8+
Top Toy

What a fabulous way to explore the Periodic Table of Elements, with several of the most beloved family card games of all time ever to come packaged in a single box. Kids can effortlessly explore chemical elements and their properties while playing adaptations of Rummy, Go Fish, War, and Crazy Eights, as well as the Atomic Number Game. Rather than being focused on learning the periodic table, players find themselves immersed in the sheer enjoyment of these timeless games while absorbing information embedded in the special deck without conscious effort. The deck consists of 118 cards, each representing an element on the Periodic Table including the element's name, symbol, position, Atomic Group, Atomic Number, and whether or not it's radioactive. This information, a good portion of which is functional to game play, is organized in a way that makes it easy to take in at a glance. The instructions for each game are written with a high level of clarity and precision, making it easy to jump right in and start enjoying this rare blend of fun and learning.

Personalized Name Art Placemat

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Personalized Name Art Placemat
Price $23.75
By NameArt.com
Age
2-7 yrs.
Sterling Fun

Kids love to see their name in print. Especially thrilling is to see it writ large in a unique, ultra-cool font, personalizing a prized possession, in this case their place at the table. NameArt.com takes personalizing to the level of art-form, allowing the child (or a gift-giving friend or relative) to choose from a host of themes - Fairies, Monsters, Mermaids, Robots, Angels, Dragons, Teddy Bears, Wizards - and styles. There are over 20 hand-drawn, colored alphabet styles to choose from, and each letter of the child's first name can be customized in terms of skin, hair, and clothing color. The personalized creation is then printed on the Name Art Placemat, an easy-to-clean 11 X 17 inch laminated placemat, that's shipped to the destination address of your choosing. The placemat's front and back make an entertaining canvas for your child's added artwork, making mealtime fun time, every day of the week.

Pet Frenzied

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Pet Frenzied
Price $9.99
By Petsapalooza, LLC
Age
3+
Sterling Fun

There aren't a great many games well-suited to young players, perhaps because getting youngsters to sit still at a table for any length of time is not so easy. Both parents and kids are likely to find Pet Frenzied to be a double-dose of fresh air then, for not only can kids as young as 3 or 4 easily play, but there's no sitting still involved. The Pet Frenzied deck consists of two kinds of cards - Houses (with pictures of houses), and Pets (cats or dogs). Both types of cards have colored backgrounds, and for every House card, there's a matching colored Pet card. At the outset, all Pets are hidden around the play area, face down (with at least some part visible). The Hider yells, 'Pet Frenzied,' and players each grab a House and start seeking a matching colored Pet. As soon as someone finds a match, he goes back and grabs another House and begins searching anew. The seeking goes on like this until all Pets have been matched to Houses. The player with the most Pets at this point is the winner. The action in Pet Frenzied is continuous, with never a dull moment. Kids employ search and recognition, memory, matching, and color skills. And most important of all, they have great fun.

PicWits

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PicWits
Price $24.95
By Mindware
Age
10 +
Best Family Fun

PicWits is an outstanding party and family game that's brilliantly simple and fiendishly fun. There are two types of cards in PicWits, Picture Cards and Caption Cards. Each round of play kicks off with players holding 8 Picture Cards apiece. The judge (a different player every round) flips over a Caption Card for all to see and reads it aloud. Players (other than the judge) review their Picture Cards to find the one that will best match the caption - in the judge's opinion. A Caption Card might, for example, say 'Be careful what you ask for,' while a Picture Card might display a beautiful young woman with her arm around a wealthy, elderly man, or a skydiver falling through the air, mouth wide open in a scream. The player whose Picture Card is selected by the judge as best fitting the caption is awarded the Caption Card, thus edging closer to a win. Many of the Picture Cards are kooky and brazen enough to elicit laughter all by themselves. But the pairings between that round's Caption Card and the players' chosen Picture Cards (flipped over by the judge one at a time) are what really send the laughter through the roof. PicWits moves quickly, takes seconds to learn, and generates tons of easy, flowing laughter and conversation, essential ingredients in great group fun! For 4 or more players.

Planet Sock Monkey

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Planet Sock Monkey
Price $21.99
By Patch Products
Age
8+
Top Toy

Patch Products has taken sock monkeys to the next level, giving them loads of personality, individuality, humor, and style, and pretty much just making them way cool. Planet Sock Monkey is a limited edition, collectible soft doll line full of bold originality and plenty of attitude. Each 10" knit sock monkey comes dressed in a signature style, complete with quirky accessories. There's M.O.N.K., the rough-edged male rapper (with pierced ears, hip hat, bling, and a boom box), Ima Bananerd, whose thick-rimmed glasses, long, unstylish hair, and obvious intellect make her nerdishly irresistible. There's Eaton Dedd, a ravenous zombie always on the prowl for his next fresh snack, and Long Sock Silver, a dastardly pirate replete with flowing dreadlocks, eye-patch, hook, and some pretty dashing duds. You've also got Magenta Beetsch, a purple-haired, punked-out female drummer you don't want to mess with, and finally, there's Star Harmonkey, a sweet, stylish singer (and the only blonde in the bunch) whose diaphanous dress, bejeweled belt, and pink boots give her a hip, angelic glow. These adorably over-the-top characters are only available for a limited time before new Planet Sock Monkey characters arrive to take their place. Hot!

Play Tent Tepee

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Play Tent Tepee
Price $79.99
By HABA
Age
18 mo.+
Top Toy

HABA must be commended on the high level of quality and originality consistently on display in their products. Play Tent Tepee is a fine example of this. Open the box to find a compact, playfully-illustrated storage bag holding what will spring up to become your child's favorite new playscape. The cloth teepee (100 % polyester) assembles in seconds using polycarbonate rods like the ones found in camping gear, and breaks down and stores away just as easily. It stands 5 feet, 1 inches tall, with a mesh window on one side and entryway on the other. For indoor use only, the teepee sits solidly on the floor but is remarkably lightweight. Roughly 43 inches across at the base, it can easily accommodate a couple of youngsters inside, and the entryway ties open to create an extended play space between those inside and outside the tent. The bright orange exterior contains playful Native American-themed artwork and colorful borders around the top and bottom. Kids will love the non-stop imaginative fun, parents the attractive appearance, portability, and compact storage.

PlayMais Basic Large

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PlayMais Basic Large
Price $19.99
By Loick Biowertstoff GmbH - PlaiMais Canada
Age
3+
Best Creative Fun

Set your imagination free with PlayMais, an almost magical crafting material that lets you quickly and easily make almost anything your mind can see. PlayMais Basic Large contains over 700 PlayMais pieces in 9 different colors. In look and feel they resemble the foam peanuts used in packing. But PlayMais is made out of corn starch, food, and water - natural, safe, and 100 percent biodegradable. PlayMais can almost effortlessly be cut, squeezed, rolled, molded, and most importantly, with just a small amount of moisture you can join them together in an instant. No glue, no fuss, no muss. Just wet the included piece of cloth with water, wring it out, and touch the wet cloth with the side of one piece you wish to stick to another. Press them together, and voila! You'll build miniature houses, barns, cats, dogs, farm animals, trees, tractors, skyscrapers, anything you can imagine. PlayMais can also stick to glass and paper, making decorating windows or creating your own greeting cards a snap. It's amazing, the level of detail you'll achieve. With PlayMais, your creativity knows no limits.

PlayTime Babies

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PlayTime Babies
Price $29.95
By Adora by Charisma Brands
Age
12 mos. +
Best Creative Fun

Few impulses are stronger in young girls than the desire to emulate their moms. In particular, they feel a pull to 'mother' someone - to nurture, cuddle, feed, rock, tuck in, keep safe - in short, to love and care for another being. The best opportunity to express and explore that essential part of themselves is with a doll of baby-like proportions. That's where PlayTime Babies comes in. It's a delightfully authentic doll whose carefully thought-out design emulates the fragility and softness of a newborn. One of its greatest strengths is its simplicity. Its open and close eyes, baby powder scent, light weight (12 ounces), life-like expression, and detailed hands and feet are all appropriately low-tech features. Together they create an effect that spurs your child's imagination and evokes emotion, the real tools of creative play. The bean-bag weighted bottom and smooth, squeezable vinyl provides a life-like feel. Best of all, PlayTime Babies are 100% machine washable. This 4 piece set includes the 13-inch doll, a baby bottle, sleeper, and headband. (Toy Fair Booth #1151)

Posh Ball

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Posh Ball
Price $4.99
By Treasure Bay
Age
3+
Sterling Fun

Try holding a Posh Ball in your hand without wiggling or jiggling it. Then try putting it down. It's almost impossible. For one thing, they just plain feel good. For another, Posh Balls are made up largely of squishy but resilient fibers that shimmy and shimmer in response to even the slightest movement. Before you know it, the wiggling, jiggling, and jostling leads to tossing, throwing, and catching, and that's a good thing, because that's what Posh Balls are for. Lightweight, super-soft, and very easy to catch, just a light swing of the arm sends it flying through the air. And the gentleness with which Posh Balls land (soft as a feather and nary a sound, even on hard surfaces) makes them equally suitable for young children learning to catch and older, more athletically inclined kids looking to dazzle. Posh Balls come in either 4-inch or 3.25-inch diameters and a variety of colors, and are entirely latex free.

Power Block 9100

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Power Block 9100
Price $28
By Laser Pegs Ventures, LLC
Age
6+
Top Toy

With the flick of a tiny switch, Laser Pegs' uniquely-designed rolling model cars cast an ethereal glow that emanates from within, spreading throughout their many multi-colored pieces. This particular set consists of 83 Construction Parts, 4 Tire Pegs, 2 Laser Pegs, and 1 Power Block that assemble into 8 different sports car models. The Power Block is the base on which you build, a nerve center of sorts that allows the light to spread throughout the reaches of the finished vehicle. The ease with which the pieces connect to one another using nothing but gentle pressure, and the clarity with which the image-based instructions guides you, bring an added sense of gratification to both the process and results. The accompanying instructions show how to assemble one of the eight sports cars, while manuals for the other seven (Roadster, Truck Hot Rod, F-1 Racer, Land Speed Record, Modified Racer, Rally Car, and Utility Truck) are downloadable for free from the Laser Pegs website. Requires 3 AAA batteries.

Princess 3D Interactive Puzzle Game

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Princess 3D Interactive Puzzle Game
Price $14.99
By Popar Toys
Age
6+
Sterling Fun

Popar Toys has made a name for itself in augmented reality books and toys. And now, Popar has just added a line of premium puzzles that utilize their special technology, giving this traditional play medium new life. Just download and open the free app and point your mobile device at the assembled puzzle. A princess springs to life before your eyes, waving, twirling, or dancing atop the puzzle surface according to directions chosen via an onscreen menu. The princess's appearance is customizable. Choose from a variety of skin tones, eye colors, hair styles and colors, as well as dress patterns, styles, and prints. You can save and load your newly personalized princess to the play section of the app for round after round of fun and action. A variety of effects can also be activated, ranging from a 3D castle to snow, rain, and circle or diamond confetti swirling down over the princess and her tableau. The Princess 3D Puzzle is 100 pieces large, and assembles to a hearty 22IN (W) X 16.5 IN (H). The puzzle's illustrated artwork, showing five beautiful princesses seated in front of a castle at the Rainbow Ball, has gorgeous colors and just the right degree of detail to satisfy a broad range of ages and puzzle lovers.

Q-BA-Maze 2.0 Mega Stunt Set

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Q-BA-Maze 2.0 Mega Stunt Set
Price $79.95
By MindWare
Age
6+
Top Toy

Putting together this puzzle-like multilevel stunt maze, with its twin pinnacles and multiple pathways is immensely entertaining in and of itself. The instructions are easy to follow. There are no screws, tools, or glue. The components are designed to fit together with perfect ease, and can be taken apart and reassembled in near infinite configurations. When you drop your first marble into one of the towers and watch it fly through interconnecting cubes, tubes, stilts, and other assorted components - that's when the real fun begins. There are so many intersections and pathways to flow through, you never know where it will take you. Many of the chambers on the way down have dual exits. At these junctions the marble tends to pause for a moment, wiggling back and forth as if with a mind of its own before taking one path or the other. This lively unpredictability adds to the fun big-time. One of our absolute favorite components was the Pivot Trampoline, onto which a marble drops from directly above before bouncing off in a direction determined by its adjustable angle. Angle it properly and your marble will bounce from one part of the maze to another with brag-worthy results. The set includes 30 metallic marbles - enough for all the action, experimentation, stunts, and races you can imagine. (Toy Fair Booth #5903)

Q-bitz Extreme

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Q-bitz Extreme
Price $24.95
By Mindware
Age
8+
Brain Child

Your hands and brain work together in crucial, sometimes frenetic, ways while playing Q-bitz Extreme. Players race one another to recreate a pattern shown on a card, using wooden cubes with various shapes on all sides. Each player is given a tray and 16 cubes. A pattern card is flipped and everyone launches into action. The first player to complete the pattern wins the card from that round. Mental muscles flex, stretch, and grow, with each of the four rounds stimulating a different kind of mental gymnastics. Round one allows players to manually rotate their cubes in any way, freely seeking the shapes they need. In round two, cubes are rolled like dice and must be played as rolled, with unusable cubes rerolled only after as many cubes as possible have been placed. Round three brings memory to the forefront, and round four requires players to create the reverse of the image they see. From your highly energized neural pathways to the tips of your fast-moving fingers, Q-bitz Extreme puts you in a state of pure, dynamic fun. For 2 to 4 players.

Radz Gone Wild

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Radz Gone Wild
Price $5.99
By Radz Brands
Age
3+
Top Toy

Radz delivers top-notch fun to children in both the physical and online worlds. Radz candy dispensers are wild, happy-looking little creatures whose tongues pop out and deliver a piece of candy each time the hair or cap on its head is pushed back. Kids not only get to enjoy countless hours of imaginative play with these pocket-sized characters, they also have a blast bringing them to life through online games, videos, and app downloads accessed at Radz.com by entering the code that comes with each dispenser. Radz Gone Wild introduces four new animal characters to the Radz family: Scratch (tiger), Bandit (zebra), Spanky (monkey), and Squeak (penguin). Each Radz Gone Wild character includes a pack of colorful candy, a backpack clip, and an online access code. Radz dispensers have mix-and-match tops, allowing kids to increasingly alter their dispenser's appearance as their Radz collection grows. Radz Candy is gluten-free, peanut-free, and Kosher certified.

Radz Toy Candy Dispenser

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Radz Toy Candy Dispenser
Price $5.99
By Radz Brands
Age
3+
Top Toy

Radz bridges the gap between the physical and virtual worlds, putting both kinds of fun right at your fingertips. The kooky, quirky Radz characters, wild-looking little creatures that deliver candy to your hand on command, can go anywhere with you. Clip them to a belt loop, strap, buttonhole, or just carry them in your pocket. Need a treat? Slide the Radz' hat back on its head, and a little scoop-like tongue emerges holding a small piece of colorful, delicious candy. There's also an online world of fun awaiting Radz fans. Just go to Radzworld.com and enter the 16-digit code that came with your Radz candy dispenser to gain access to online games, videos, and apps. You'll have a blast playing games like Peps Peak and Antic's Bounce (our favorite) among others, and downloading fun Radz apps to mobile devices. There's also Radz TV, featuring many highly amusing animated videos, as well as an array of other entertaining features from contests to fan art. Roll Call allows Radz collectors to get to know the personalities and characteristics of each of the Radz characters they've either already grown to love or wish to add to their collections.

Ratuki

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Ratuki
Price $9.95
By USAopoly
Age
7+
Best Family Fun

Ratuki has all the ingredients that make a great family game - fast-moving fun, just seconds to learn, and it plays well across a broad range of ages. Each player starts with 3 cards in hand and their own draw pile from which to replenish their hand as needed. The majority of cards bear a single number from 1 to 5 expressed in a variety of ways - Arabic or Roman numerals, written word, fingers on a hand, or an image of a die. The remaining cards bear the word RATUKI, making them wild cards. The action kicks off with someone shouting "RATUKI," at which point any player with a 1 in their hand can start a stack by placing it face up on the table. There can be as many stacks as there are players, and as soon as one is started, any player can add to it a card that is one number higher or lower than the stack's top card. Someone playing a 5 or a RATUKI card on a stack shouts RATUKI! and collects the stack, placing those cards in their score pile. There's no turn-taking in this game, so right from the get-go fingers are flying, stacks are being grabbed. As soon as someone runs out of cards, the action stops and each player scores one point for every card in their score pile and loses one point for all other cards in their possession. Ratuki is fast, furious fun for the entire family. For 2 to 5 players

Rhyming, Sight Words, Initial Consonants Wipe-Off Bingo

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Rhyming, Sight Words, Initial Consonants Wipe-Off Bingo
Price $7.99
By TREND enterprises, Inc.
Age
4+
Best Family Fun

The 30 wipe-off bingo cards in this portable set provide 3 different but equally enjoyable games during which kids develop and hone their language skills. The cards are color-coded for quick, easy separation. Both the Rhyming and Initial Consonants bingo cards are loaded with real-life photos and their word names, while the Sight Words cards are word-only. Kids learn 15 pairs of rhyming words, 36 common sight words, and consonant sounds, all while building phonics, reading, and spelling skills as they play. There are excellent Challenge Game variations in the instructions, in addition to which each and every bingo game can be played 6 different ways simply by changing the goal (fill in the top row, bottom row, four corners, etc.). The fun starts the minute the cards are out of the box, and the high level of variety not only keeps play fresh and entertaining, it keeps the kids coming back to the table for more! For 3 to 8 players.

Ring Bling

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Ring Bling
Price $29.95
By Super Duper Publications
Age
5+
Brain Child

The simplest games are often the best. When that simplicity yields lots of fun and creativity while promoting the development of essential skills, you've got a real winner. In Ring Bling, students learn to follow directions (and indirectly learn how to formulate them). Each player receives a given number of rings and a different color Happy Hand that stands upright on the table. Players take turns drawing an activity card from the 50-card deck and following the directions on it. If successful, he or she spins the spinner and collects one or two rings (or gives one away) as indicated, sliding them onto the appropriate happy hand. The first player to reach a designated number of rings, wins. The card deck contains three types of directions - basic, conditional, and temporal. A basic direction is the simplest, with no order or conditions involved ('Talk like a pirate's parrot.') Conditional directions always contain some form of what is commonly referred to as an if-then statement. It is only when the 'if' part of the direction is true ('If lemons are yellow, make a funny face') that the second part is executed. Temporal directions involve two actions to be taken, one of which is to be done either before or after the other ('Before you drink your milk, eat a very crunchy cookie.') With 50 rings included and three game variations in the instructions, kids will have hours of laughter-fueled fun and learning.

Robot Felt Crown

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Robot Felt Crown
Price $19.99
By Mudpuppy
Age
1+
Best Creative Fun

Dress-up, that cornerstone of childhood imaginative play, has an exciting new addition in the form of this felt crown set from Mudpuppy. This colorful crown is detailed and layered with felt pieces in the kinds of mechanical-flavored shapes and designs one would expect to find on the head of a robot prince, king, or overlord. The crown is instantly and easily resizable. Just wrap it around your head for a snug fit and press the velcroed end-pieces together. The elaborate centerpiece of the crown, jutting to the highest point just above the eyes, is formed using any one of six interchangeable felt badges (lightning bolt, robot face, screwdriver, . . .) that are included with the set. Velcro is the key that allows them to be exchanged in a flash, so the feel and appearance of the crown can be altered to suit the mood of the character you are portraying. The crown's soft material, ease of use, and quick resizing mean that even very young children can play with and share it, and the kit comes unusually and attractively packaged in a canister that shows it off even before it's been opened.

Rock-A-Bye Bear

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Rock-A-Bye Bear
Price $39.99
By Gund
Age
0+
Top Toy

Once you touch Rock-A-Bye Bear, you won't want to take your hands off her. That's how soft and luxurious she feels. And, frankly, if that's all there was to her - a beautifully well-made, stunningly soft momma bear cradling her baby bear in her arms, swaddled in a soft little blanket - that would be more than enough to make this a wonderful toy. But squeeze the momma bear's foot, and you're in for some special pleasure. She sweetly sings Rock a Bye Baby, her mouth opening and closing with the words. All the while, her body gently rocks back and forth. When her song is over, she bends forward, says 'Good Night,' in that sweet, lovely voice, and delivers a kiss to her baby bear. This unique, loving, lovable bear would melt a heart of stone. For those of us with regular hearts? We'll just want to cuddle with her all the time. Rock-A-Bye Bear is 10 inches tall and comes with 3 AA replaceable batteries.

Rumble Pie

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Rumble Pie
Price $23.99
By Goldbrick Games, LLC
Age
8+
Best Family Fun

A fast-paced pie fight with every player in on the action from start to finish - now there's a juicy concept! And fear not, Mom and Dad, no pies are thrown in the playing of this game. Instead, opponents play cards from their arsenals onto one another's Battle Boards with the goal of landing a pie on the opposition. This can only be accomplished by playing a KaPow! card on top of a 4 card, which first must be played on a 3 (numeric cards must be played in sequence). Ah, but not so fast! Sequential movement can be up or down, opening the door to rapid-fire offensive and defensive strategies. For example, either a 4 or 2 card can be played on a 3, allowing players to defend against a pie attack by steering their own pile away from a 4 and a possible KaPow! Meanwhile, players must constantly monitor and repopulate their arsenals, taking care not to cover cards they may need in order to score or defend at a moment's notice. Rumble Pie is for 2 or 3 teams of 1 to 3 players. Each team earns a point for every KaPow! card they played as well as a bonus if they ended the round by playing all cards from their deck. First team to reach 25 points wins.

SeatPets

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SeatPets
Price $19.99
By Jay@Play Intl.
Age
3+
Sterling Fun

Traveling with kids, be it by plane, train, or automobile, has its challenges. Immobilizing children (ironic, isn't it -we're moving, sit still!) while asking them to maintain an indoor voice, a sweet disposition, and, while we're at it, hurry up and have fun, is a bit like asking the sun not to go down at the end of the day. Good luck with that. But help (of the fun, playful variety) has arrived. SeatPets, the ultimate travel companions for kids, are 22-inch-long, soft, colorful creatures that attach in seconds (thank you velcro) to any seatbelt shoulder strap. SeatPets' 7 different colorful creature designs (Malibu the Monkey, LoveBug the Lady Bug, Mercedes the Cat, Yukon the Cow, Lincoln the Lion, Bentley the Dog, and Edsel the Monster), with their loose limbs and happy faces, inspire countless hours of imaginative play. Rest time? No problem. With bodies made for cuddling and large, squeezably soft, pillow-perfect heads, SeatPets are snuggle- and sleep-ready. And with pockets aplenty (both with and without zippers) for storing treasures and necessities, SeatPets pulls triple-duty - playmate, sleep-pal, carryon bag. And lo and behold, they're even machine washable, too!

Slackers 70' Eagle Series Zipline

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Slackers 70' Eagle Series Zipline
Price $139.99
By Brand 44
Age
8+
Top Toy

It was not so long ago that backyard fun consisted almost entirely of tossing a ball or Frisbee, a game of tag, or, if you were lucky, a swing hanging from a tree. Be prepared to have your world rocked when this zipline kit turns your backyard into a fun zone beyond your wildest dreams. All you need to get set up are a couple of good-sized trees, a wrench, and plenty of soft grass to glide above. You'll be zipping along in no time. This Eagle Series kit includes a special rider seat and rope that, in addition to providing an easier ride for those not so athletically inclined, reduces the necessary riding height, making longer rides possible over any given terrain. And for those who prefer hanging by hand, the seat is easily removable. The quality and appearance of this equipment, from the easy grip trolley to the 70' stainless steel cable and accompanying hardware, is extremely high. Installation is straightforward but must be performed by an adult. And as with any ziplining activity, there should be adult supervision at all times during use.

Snapo Building Blocks - Dream & Play Blocks

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Snapo Building Blocks - Dream & Play Blocks
Price $23.98
By Snapo
Age
1+
Brain Child

Snapo Dream & Play Blocks consists of colorful building blocks that connect to one another with near-magical speed, ease, and versatility. This ease of use is particularly helpful in allowing very young children to explore their creativity, and promotes the development of spatial and fine motor skills. Placing the sides of any two blocks against one another and exerting a little pressure causes them to snap together with a satisfying 'click.' The result is surprisingly sturdy and yet can be taken apart with a simple pull. On top of each block is a cylinder that fits perfectly into the bottom of any other block, allowing you to quickly stack and even rotate them into various positions as you build. The sides' unique design also allows them to connect through a sliding motion from above or below, a fact that comes in handy when filling a single space in an existing structure. This particular Snapo set's pieces are intentionally sized large, so that even very young hands can grab and manipulate them - turning, stacking, connecting, and building. Includes 35 pieces in a lidded plastic storage container for easy clean-up.

Snapo Building Blocks - Snap & Play Blocks

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Snapo Building Blocks - Snap & Play Blocks
Price $35.98
By Snapo
Age
3+
Best Creative Fun

Snapo Snap & Play Blocks are geared towards a slightly older audience than the Dream & Play blocks (see review above). The various-colored blocks in the Snap & Play set are smaller, more plentiful (over 275 pieces), and include pieces with specific functions such as a human figure, small and large wheels, a propeller, and a variety of special blocks suited to creating and connecting vehicles. The Snap & Play blocks use the same patented Snapo design as the Dream & Play. They snap firmly together and can be taken apart in the blink of an eye, with the cylinder shape atop each block allowing them to be stacked, rotated, and interconnected every which way. This ease of use and interconnectivity is highly valuable, enabling kids to explore creative play and build spatial and fine motor skills without the impediments found in less versatile building blocks. That freedom will inspire kids to invent things never before conceived as well as to replicate things they already know - buildings, towers, trucks, spiders, dinosaurs, race cars, helicopters, jet planes - the sky's the limit.

Soft Shapes Giant Shaped Puzzle: Best Friends

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Soft Shapes Giant Shaped Puzzle: Best Friends
Price $24.99
By innovative kids
Age
3+
Top Toy

It's been a long time since we said, 'Wow!' about a puzzle, but this one earns that exclamation in so many ways. The packaging alone (a nifty, see-through paint-can-style bucket for easy travel and storage) is entertaining enough to want to have around the house. But the real prize is the puzzle itself, geared towards young puzzlers. The 24 large, chunky pieces are made of highly durable waterproof soft foam, so take it to the pool, the beach, or just play with it around the house without worrying about spills or damage. Another thing we really liked is the way this puzzle balances simplicity with challenge. Some early-age puzzles are just too easy. A puzzle, at any age, should stimulate thought and exploration. This one does so beautifully, using strategically placed splashes of color and shape to provide clues as to where pieces should go. By comparing the work-in-progress to the completed illustration on the package, kids assemble the puzzle while being thoroughly stimulated and entertained. When finished, they display genuine excitement and a sense of accomplishment. And then they take it apart and do it all over again.

Sphero

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Sphero
Price $129.99
By Orbotix
Age
8+
Sterling Fun

Sphero is the robotic ball you control with your smartphone or tablet. Make Sphero zig, zag, spin, change color, follow any path you desire. Sphero will do your bidding. You can instantly create a pattern for Sphero to follow using your fingertip on the screen, or choose tilt mode and have your device become a multi-directional steering wheel, with Sphero following every subtle angle of your wrists and hands in real time. Or give Sphero a turbo boost and watch his sudden burst of speed. There are more than 20 free apps to download and use, including Sphero Golf (control Spero with a flick or a swing and aim for a hole in one), Draw & Drive, Zombie Rollers, and Sphero Tag. The Sharky the Beaver app lets you take a virtual 3-dimensional beaver for a walk around your house and feed Sharky by launching virtual cupcakes into his mouth. One of the first things my daughter said when she saw Sphero in action was 'Teddy would love this.' (Teddy is a ball-obsessed dog we know.) Sure enough, there's an app, Sphero Pet, for that. The apps are all very easy to use and include lots of neat tricks, surprises, and fun games for both solo and group play.

Spot it! Party

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Spot it! Party
Price $19.99
By Blue Orange Games
Age
10+
Top Toy

This edge-of-your-seat fun is a blend of intense competition and silliness that makes for a rollicking good time. Regardless of which of the 6 Spot it! Party mini-games you're playing at any given moment, the goal is always to be the fastest player to spot the matching symbol between 2 cards and call it out. Each card bears 8 (out of more than 50) symbols, and only one matching symbol exists between any two cards. Spotting a match might mean gaining a card or losing one, and the object might be to end with the fewest cards, or the most. Several mini-games incorporate the Hand Mascot, a quirky one-eyed hand standing on the table that can work for or against you. One of our favorite mini-games is Dynamite, in which a series of cards in front of each player is a 'fuse,' burning down based on the speed and skill of that player. Only when you reach the end of your fuse can you call out a match between your hidden card and another player's, an ability dependent on keen attention and a good memory. Another, Hot Potato, consists of lightning strikes in which players spot matches and dump cards into the palms of one another's hands until somebody holds them all and loses. The Tower, The Well, Double Frenzy, and The Race are equally fast fun, and the player who wins the most mini-games in a sitting is declared champion until the next time you play. For 2 to 8 players.

Starter Stencils

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Starter Stencils
Price $14.99
By Mudpuppy
Age
4+
Best Creative Fun

You might just forget how much fun stencils can be until you see kids having a blast with Starter Stencils from Mudpuppy. It's a fabulous introduction to tracing and drawing, perfectly designed with preschool kids in mind. There are a variety of Starter Stencil kits available, each with a different theme (On the Farm, Pretty Princess, Retro Robots, and several others). Each kit consists of 10 colorful stencils related to the theme, packed neatly in an illustrated, hinged, tin storage box. For example, On the Farm includes farm animals, a barn with a silo, a tractor, and produce, among others. These highly durable stencils are printed using nontoxic soy-based inks on greyboard that contains 90% recycled paper. Each stencil card is 4 X 4-1/2 inches in size, perfect for young hands and imaginations that can't wait to express themselves through charming, playful images.

States & Capitals Pocket Flash Cards (T23014)

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States & Capitals Pocket Flash Cards (T23014)
Price $2.99
By TREND enterprises, Inc.
Age
8+
Brain Child

A lot of care and thought clearly went into devising these playful, educational, teacher-created, child-tested cards. There's an abundance of information on each of the 56 cards in the deck, organized in a way that makes it fun and easy to absorb and retain. Each of the 50 state cards (plus one for the District of Columbia) shows, on one side, the name of the state, its capital, its major cities, nicknames, the state bird, state flower, major industries, and the types of agriculture sustained there. Beneath that appears three fun, remarkable facts about that state, and in the upper right hand corner, a snippet of the U. S. map reveals the borders with, and names of, surrounding states. The order in which that state joined the union (and the date on which it happened) is also provided. The flipside of each card displays an unlabeled map of the United States, providing the opportunity to name the highlighted state on sight and recite whatever knowledge you have before referring to the facts listed on the other side. There are also 5 special cards included - 3 providing fascinating information on the five regions of the United States, one that lists the original 13 colonies, and another that contains instructions for two fun educational games for group play - Name that Capital and United States Rummy. The cards are a handy 3-1/8 inches by 5 inches in size.

Sticky Mosaics Princess Palace Treasure Box

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Sticky Mosaics Princess Palace Treasure Box
Price $19.99
By The Orb Factory
Age
4+
Best Creative Fun

This mosaic by numbers kit allows children to create a lovely three-level palace to use for imaginative play and as storage for their most treasured possessions. Each level consists of a cylindrical treasure box, illustrated with a colorful fairytale motif. These can be used individually or stacked in decreasing sizes into a palace that narrows as it goes up. The glamour and beauty of the boxes and palace further comes to life as kids add hundreds of different colored sparkly jewels and sticky tiles using the easy-to-follow numbered legend for guidance. It's a pleasure to observe the pride and excitement children take in bringing about this transformation. That they helped create such beauty using their own hands inspires them to greater levels of creativity and fun during the countless hours of play and usage they'll enjoy with the finished results.

STRIDER ST-3 No-Pedal Balance Bike

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STRIDER ST-3 No-Pedal Balance Bike
Price $99
By Strider Sports International
Age
18mo-5yrs
Top Toy

The STRIDER ST-3 No-Pedal Balance Bike proves that not all balance bikes are created equal. Rugged, lightweight, (only 6.4 lbs.) and portable, it was developed specifically to help children learn balance before pedaling. No training wheels for your budding bicyclist, just two wheels right from the start on a bike so handsomely sporty that many adult models pale by comparison. Assembling it takes seconds and requires no tools. EVA polymer tires never need air or maintenance. No flats, ever. Kids gain instant mobility, learn steering and coordination, and the bike's durable design ensures many years of active outdoor play. The welded steel frame incorporates Strider's unique Launchpad footrest for gliding, and special Quick-Clamp levers enable you to easily and firmly adjust seat and handlebar heights so that the bike can grow with your child. Most importantly, it's your child's confidence that will grow, making riding a pleasurable experience from the get-go and enabling a smooth transition to pedal-riding when the time is right. The STRIDER ST-3 is available in six different dynamic colors.

Stuffies

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Stuffies
Price $29.95
By martFIVE, LLC
Age
3+
Sterling Fun

Stuffies are big, soft, lovable plush animals with seven secret pockets in which kids can carry all their favorite things. Stuffies make fantastic travel companions and all-around cuddle-buddies, perfect to snuggle and play with or use as a pillow. Each Stuffie comes with a full-sized 33-page illustrated storybook that tells a tale featuring that particular Stuffie. The stories help children learn to be their best - helpful, hopeful, empathetic, and embracing of others. There are currently 11 different Stuffie animals, including Muddzie (the pig who is not afraid to get dirty helping others), Scout (the monkey who is always watching out for others), and Prancine (the unicorn who believes everyone has a little magic inside). Stuffies are more than just stuffed animals. They inspire imagination and help instill positive values in children through specific themes and stories related to each character. Each storybook has discussion questions at the end that help kids get the most out of it. As Stuffies always say - It's What's Inside That Counts!

Suds & Shine Carwash

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Suds & Shine Carwash
Price $14.99
By Recent Toys International
Age
3+
Best Creative Fun

Suds & Shine Carwash has several distinctly wonderful things going for it. The imaginative play it inspires and stimulates is, of course, one of its finest features. Kids will be enthralled by the little world they have created. That the playset is made of soft foam (no sharp edges, no breakable pieces) adds to its safety and makes it light enough that even very young children can easily lift and carry it. The design of the colored foam pieces and the way they are fitted together during assembly (using nothing but your hands), is half the fun. There is an educational component to the assembly process, which, while easy to do, can involve a certain amount of visual inspection and trial and error. This is a very good thing - contemplating the color, shape, and orientation of pieces and how they fit together focuses several key areas of developing thought and motor skills. With Suds & Shine Carwash, kids have a miniature world they'll take pride and pleasure in having helped create, where they'll spend countless hours creatively acting out one original story after another.

Tangram Smart

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Tangram Smart
Price $24.99
By Edustic
Age
5+
Brain Child

Here we have another great game from Edustic that's full of action, with all players in on the fun from start to finish. In a head-to-head race, players use simple geometric shapes to create an animal, object, or number shown on a flipchart. The shapes come from the famous seven-piece Chinese tangram puzzle. That these simple geometric shapes can be used to form such a vast variety of creatures and objects is astonishing. The first player to complete the puzzle earns seven points, while the other players lose a point for each tile missing from theirs. Tangram Smart helps develop math confidence, geometric skills, critical thinking, prediction, spatial rotation, and in an added twist, language skills! Each page in the flipchart booklet also shows the Spanish, French, and Chinese word for the object, animal, or number to be created, and part of the game play is to discuss these translations. One game variation even allows points to be stolen based on language skills. The player with the most points after five rounds wins the game. For 1 to 4 players.

Tapple

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Tapple
Price $19.95
By USAopoly
Age
8+
Top Toy

Tapple is easy-to-learn, fast-paced, involves outside-the-box thinking, and generates loads of laughter. It also has a Tapple wheel, an ingenious gizmo with 20 letters of the alphabet displayed on keys encircling the device's outer perimeter. When you press a letter, it stays down until you reset the wheel for a new round. In the center of the wheel is a timer button that, when pressed, beeps and begins making a harrowing tick-tock sound. The first player pulls a card from the stack of category cards and starts the timer. He has 10 seconds to name something in the category that begins with a letter on the Tapple wheel and to press that letter. Letters pressed can no longer be used for the round, so when the player to his left (and each subsequent player) resets the timer and attempts to name something in that same category, their job is that much harder, and creative thinking can come in handy. For example, if the category was 'Something Cold,' a player might answer 'winter,' 'corpses,' 'soft-serve ice cream,' or 'Minnesota.' Play continues, rapid-fire, with players being eliminated either by giving wrong answers or running out of time. The last remaining player wins that round's card, and a player with 3 cards wins the game. For 2 - 8 players.

Tinkertoy 100 piece essentials set

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Tinkertoy 100 piece essentials set
Price $34.99
By K'NEX
Age
3+
Top Toy

The very name, 'Tinkertoy,' conjures joyful feelings and warm memories, such is its place in the lives of so many families over so many years. This new Tinkertoy release includes the most familiar parts (spools, rods, flags, washers, four-way connectors, and more) updated in simple, yet striking, ways. The colors are richer, pieces smoother, and the now-plastic components snap together with unprecedented ease. One glace at the illustrations in the instruction sheet reveals a dazzling array of creative possibilities - towers, houses, scooters, waterwheels, animals, exotic inventions. Soft, bendable rods make it easy to create loops and other circular shapes that open the door to creations you wouldn't have thought possible. The package, with its classic yet modern feel, makes a sturdy storage box, and the components' stellar level of durability means they can be passed down from generation to generation, a never-ending cycle of fun.

Toobaloo Headset

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Toobaloo Headset
Price $2.95
By Learning Loft, Inc.
Age
5+
Brain Child

This hands-free headset is designed to attach to all Toobaloos. The Toobaloo, also produced by the headset's manufacturer, Learning Loft, Inc., is a device that allows children to hear themselves clearly, even when speaking at a soft volume. The Toobaloo is hollow, shaped a bit like the handle on a suitcase, and is open at both ends. The student speaks with their mouth at one end and ear at the other. Despite there being no technology involved, the device produces a startling clarity of sound, and students who use it gain confidence in reading, comprehension, and speaking skills, as well as greater clarity of speech in general. It's also helpful for actors and other performers seeking to produce greater nuance with the spoken word. Both the headset and Toobaloo weigh very little, and the hands-free use enables students to turn pages, write, or gesture dramatically while speaking, singing, or reading.

Tummy Stuffers

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Tummy Stuffers
Price $19.99
By Jay@Play, International
Age
3+
Top Toy

Anyone who has ever owned a dog knows how easy it is to clean up food you accidentally drop on the floor (hint: the dog does all the work). Tummy Stuffers are kind of like that, only in this case it's your kids doing all the work, and loving every minute of it. Tummy Stuffers are plush animal toys with big mouths and spacious bellies capable of holding lots of stuff - socks, PJs, slippers, sweaters, books, toys. The more you put in, the more huggable they become. The childhood debris that used to make your floor its home now has a place to call its own, because kids love feeding their Tummy Stuffers. Tummy Stuffers come in three different sizes and six different styles - Brown Monkey, Red/Black Ladybug, Tan Dog, Lilac Unicorn, Green Gator, and Pink Cat - enough for the entire family's cleanup and storage needs. It's finally happened. Cleanup time has become fun time.

TWINI First Blocks        Art. No. 81118

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TWINI First Blocks Art. No. 81118
Price $89.9
By Poly-M Spielwaren GmbH
Age
1 - 4 yrs.
Best Creative Fun

It would be difficult to imagine a building set better suited to 1- to 4-year-olds than this one. Its stunning versatility adds up to a very fun and stimulating time for young hands and minds. The soft plastic building bricks and pieces come in a variety of colors and shapes that can be used to form flora, fauna, farm animals, castles, kingdoms, as well as contraptions and creatures never before seen. Everything is sized just right for little hands, and so easy to use. There are 118 pieces, including 2 racing cars and 2 play figures, delightfully packaged in a portable, plastic tub that makes cleanup quick and easy. The lid and bottom are a functional part of playtime, with specially designed surfaces onto which the pieces slide and hold in place, much the way the bricks connect snugly with one another. There's also a durable, playfully-illustrated standup piece that provides background scenery for the fun at hand. Silly stickers and a pattern sheet round out the fun. With so many possibilities, the exploration is endless.

U.S. Presidents Pocket Flash Cards (T23013)

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U.S. Presidents Pocket Flash Cards (T23013)
Price $2.99
By TREND enterprises, Inc.
Age
8+
Brain Child

This set of 3-1/8 X 5-1/4 inch flash cards is like having a presidential history book that fits in your pocket, with lots of fun thrown in for good measure. In addition to 44 President Cards, there are 12 special cards, some with presidential trivia games to play, others with concise, essential information on key historical events and periods all the way from the birth of our nation to the present. Each President Card displays on one side the name and portrait of a particular president, years of birth and death (unless living), and number in the order of presidents. The flipside includes exact dates of birth and death, number of terms served, party affiliation, birthplace, college education, and the names of the first lady and vice president. Beneath that appears a list of interesting facts pertaining to that president. Both sides are organized in a way that makes information accessible at a glance. The extremely attractive portrait side displays official White House Historical Association Portraits of each of the 44 presidents. There's something fun and exciting about just fanning through these giants of U.S. history. The games and activities included are fast-moving, fun, and, of course, highly educational.

Ultimate Dinosaur Dig

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Ultimate Dinosaur Dig
Price $19.95
By Discover With Dr. Cool
Age
6 - 12 yrs.
Brain Child

With this kit, kids use special tools to carefully dig specimens out of an excavation brick before assembling a miniature dinosaur skeleton from components of their find. In addition to the miniature skeleton parts, each brick contains 3 genuine specimens (dino poop, dino bone, and dino tooth fossils). The kit also includes an illustrated Adventure Guide loaded with facts and details about the history and practice of paleontology that is so well written and informative as to be both utterly compelling and entertaining. There's also a fun-and-games Activity Booklet included that's filled with 10 dinosaur-related puzzles (wordplay, maze, dot-to-dot, cryptogram, true or false . . .) and will keep kids riveted and mentally active for hours of amusement. This outstanding hands-on kit sits squarely at the intersection of fun and knowledge.

Under the Sea Deluxe Puzzle

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Under the Sea Deluxe Puzzle
Price $14.99
By Mudpuppy
Age
2+
Top Toy

This circular puzzle for children age 2 and up has a uniquely appealing look and design, evident from the moment you lay eyes on it. The packaging alone is so attractive and distinctive that it immediately catches the eye and arouses curiosity. The two-sided, seven-piece puzzle inside is made up of large, extra-thick pieces with vividly playful illustrations of sea creatures on one side and a color wheel on the other. The puzzle, a foot in diameter when completed, is extremely well-suited to play by young children, who find both the individual pieces and the process of fitting them together to be captivating. The deluxe packaging makes a beautiful, compact, strikingly high quality storage and carrying case, perfect for travel or at home.

Vikings

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Vikings
Price $19.99
By Smart Toys and Games, Inc.
Age
6+
Brain Child

Vikings is a puzzle game that gets your mind working in a variety of new and exciting ways. It's so engaging that once you start playing, it can be very hard to stop. One or more ships with different colored sails are placed on a playing board that contains 9 rotating puzzle pieces. The placement and orientation of those ships and pieces are dictated by a challenge the player has chosen from a booklet. The goal is to then move the ships from their starting points to the designated end points. The only way to do this is by gently rotating the boats, (and through indirect contact, the puzzle pieces they snuggle against) by hand, easing them through a succession of positions on the board. The catch is that one puzzle piece often blocks the movement of others. As a result, the path to where you want to go may be quite circuitous. In order to avoid unnecessary detours (like retracing your steps), a bit of forethought and a sense of how the pieces move can yield very gratifying results. There are 60 different challenges, from easy to expert. Vikings builds logical thinking skills, strategic planning, problem solving, and visual and spatial perception. For one or more players.

Wits & Wagers Party

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Wits & Wagers Party
Price $29.99
By North Star Games
Age
8+
Laugh Out Loud

This wildly enjoyable trivia game (that doesn't require any trivia knowledge) is, at heart, a guessing-and-betting game loaded with fun facts. Having an inkling (and taking calculated risks) will take you far. In each round a question is asked (What percent of U.S. adults have a tattoo? In how many movies did Elvis Presley appear?) The answer is always a number, and teams write their best guess on their Answer Board. Once answers are displayed, each team uses two tokens to bet, either placing both tokens on the same Answer Board or splitting them between any two. You don't have to bet on your own guess. There are two ways to score - by being the team that made the winning guess or by having a token on the winning guess. If you made the winning guess AND bet both tokens on yourself, you would win 3 poker chips on a single turn, but it might prove smarter to hedge your bets. This sweet cycle of guessing and betting goes on for 7 rounds, the last of which lets players include some or all of their poker chips in the final bet, a risky strategy that could seal your fate one way or the other! For 4 or more players.

Word Bits

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Word Bits
Price $22.5
By SimplyFun
Age
8+
Brain Child

Here's a fun, quick-moving word game that will get your brain and word skills moving in high gear. Two of its strengths are its simplicity (less than 30 seconds to learn) and the fact that everyone plays at once from start to finish. There's no waiting your turn. Just flip a card, roll the dice, and let everyone's brains jump into action. The card reveals a category and number of Letter Dice (from 1 to 4) to be rolled. The first player to call out a word that fits the category and contains all the letters shown on the dice wins the round and keeps the card. For example, let's say the category and number on the card were Dog Breed and 2, and the two dice showed the letters P and D. A player might call out 'Poodle' and in so doing (if first), win the round and the card. Since all the letters rolled must appear in your word, the higher numbers can be more challenging. Cards that require 4 Letter Dice to be rolled allow players to choose any word containing those letters, with no category specified. The player with the most cards at the end wins the game. For 2 to 4 players.

X-treme Sticker Maker

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X-treme Sticker Maker
Price $30
By Creativity for Kids
Age
6+
Top Toy

This sticker maker is beyond fun. It takes about 2 seconds to learn how to use and includes a really cool sticker art assortment (butterflies, peace signs, words, birds, paw prints, and dozens of others) and markers you'll use to add your own creative touches. It comes pre-loaded with 20' of sticker tape (plus a 20' replacement roll). It also includes a sticker journal whose themed pages, with dramatic patterns around the borders, are the perfect canvases to decorate with your creations. It's so simple. Just choose a piece of sticker art from one of the four sheets (metallic, glitter, velvet, or regular paper), color it in, feed it in to the sticker maker, then tear it off as if it were a piece of tape. What you have instead is an individual sticker, ready to be removed from its backing and applied. You can also design your own original stickers, using little photos, cuttings from magazines, pieces of ribbon - anything small enough to fit through the top of the sticker maker. The possibilities are endless. Once you've burned through the 40' of sticker tape provided, refills are available at toy retailers and online. (Toy Fair Booth #1673)

YooHoo & Friends

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YooHoo & Friends
Price $9
By Aurora World, Inc.
Age
3+
Top Toy

Not all plush toys are created equal, as anyone who has laid eyes or hands on these cuddly creatures can attest. YooHoo & Friends are an assortment of irresistibly adorable 5-inch-tall plush toys. Their detailed designs, rich colors, and large, baleful eyes instantly melt hearts and beckon hands to pick them up and play. Based on animals from around the world, many of which are rare and endangered, these cute, colorful creatures appeal to both boys and girls. Each super-soft animal makes a secret sound when squeezed and comes with a tag showing its name and information about the species. Kids can also go to the manufacturer's web site to view the full line and learn additional information about each YooHoo & Friends toy and the animals on which it's based. The sheer fun, variety, and affordability of YooHoo & Friends will inspire people of all ages to want the entire collection. (Toy Fair Booth #767)

Zeenie Dollz

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Zeenie Dollz
Price $49.99
By Zeenie Dollz
Age
8 - 14 yrs.
Brain Child

Zeenie Dollz are beautiful, with gorgeous hair and eyes, a remarkable level of detail, and an amazing fashion sense. But they're far more than pretty dolls in stylish clothing. Zeenie Dollz' product tagline is 'Saving the planet . . . that's out style!' In addition to providing and inspiring high-quality imaginative play, Zeenie Dollz educate and illuminate via the product's conceptual back story and the manufacturer's practices. Zennia (the special edition doll in the series who embodies Mother Earth) leads a group of five eco-warrior fashionistas - Evee, Kazumi, Lina, Sini, and Yana - each of whom has a specific eco-power that brings to light an environmental cause that needs our attention. Each of the six 12-inch-tall dolls contain 12 ball joints, resulting in an unusually high level of flexibility and expressiveness, and is made entirely from recyclable materials and non-toxic plastics. Even the product's shipping cylinder is made of biodegradable plastic. By practicing what it sows, Zeenie Dollz allows all of us to reap the benefits. Includes doll with stand, 1 silicone bracelet, 1 plush toy, 1 luggage tag, and 1 doll hairbrush.

Zig-Zag Xylo Train

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Zig-Zag Xylo Train
Price $18.99
By Patch Products
Age
18 mo.+
Brain Child

A xylophone that's also a pull-along train, this is classic play at its finest. Zig-Zag Xylo Train elicits exploration and wonder in young children, inspiring the kind of play essential to their physical and mental development. The train cars, with colorful xylophone bars on their backs, start out lined up side by side to form a traditional toy xylophone. But pull on the attached mallet and the xylophone unfolds into a smooth-riding, 17-inch long pull-along train that wends its way wherever your child chooses to take it. It can be played musically regardless of which form it's in. And because the brightly colored train cars are connected in a way that enables them to be turned, angled, and manipulated in numerous ways, there's a simple, almost puzzle-like quality that gets youngsters actively curious. Fascinated by the shapes, colors, sounds, and motion, they wind up checking out everything they can possibly do with this toy. And in doing so they build motor skills, musical ability, experience self-expression, and gain a sense of where they fit into the physical world and its possibilities.

Zipperoos

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Zipperoos
Price $16.99
By Wiggles 3D
Age
4+
Best Family Fun

Zipperoos combines 3 great playtime elements brilliantly. It's a plush toy and a game, with a built-in zippered storage pouch that makes for a portable, self-contained blast of fun. Components vary depending on which Zipperoos you've got. There are two now available - Frantic Frog, and Monkeys Wild. Frantic Frog includes both a big and a small plush frog, and Little Hopper figures prominently in the action. Players deal out an entire deck of animal cards face down, then simultaneously flip their top cards up. The first player to spot a match (color or animal in 2-player games, animal-only for 3-4 players) and grab Little Hopper wins the cards. Play continues until one player has all the cards and wins. Monkey's Wild includes 63 animal chips (monkeys are wild) to spread out on the table. Players take turns either taking a face-up chip or flipping a face-down chip (taking it if it's one they need). First to collect 3 sets of 3 matching animals wins. Zipperoos is a triple-dose of fun for kids to have at their fingertips anytime, anywhere. For 2 or more players.

All 2013 Tillywig Award Winners

Music & Audio

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Action! Fun! Dance!

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Action! Fun! Dance!
Price $15
By The Learning Station
Age
3+
Top Toy

Get ready to get happy. The music, songs, and rhythms on this action and learning CD are so fun, physical, and contagious that no one will be immune to them. We dare anyone to keep a toe from tapping, a hip from swiveling, hands from shooting up into the air. Fortunately, the idea is not to resist, but to go with the beat and the flow. Let the sing-alongs and lively dance numbers work their magic on you. Many of the songs' lyrics guide listeners through specific actions, coordinating various limbs to move in concert at different times, making sure the entire body gets in motion. Part of The Learning Station's strong appeal lies in its ability to convincingly and skillfully put forth a variety of styles - Reggae, Rock & Roll, Funk, Swing, and more - all in the service of a wily blend of original and familiar material. Their updated version of Singin' in the Rain is as catchy as catchy can be. Zumba Dance and Jamaican Dance are among the numbers that generate an intoxicating international feel. And while humor and playfulness pervade the entire CD, songs like Icky Sticky Bubble Gum and Herman the Worm will have listeners giggling from start to finish. For all the wonderfully diverse, healthy activity you'll experience with this CD, the body parts sure to get the biggest workout of all are your smile muscles!

Aoede's 'What Are Dreams Made Of?'

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Aoede's 'What Are Dreams Made Of?'
Price $15
By Aoede Muse Music
Age
11+
Best Creative Fun

In 'What Are Dreams Made Of?,' singer/songwriter Lisa Sniderman and her collaborators have created something more than just a unique combination of story and song. They've fashioned a fully-formed universe whose carefully wrought details rival those in the fantastical novels so popular with teens and tweens nowadays. In the story, Aoede The Muse sets out to understand her recurring bad dream (a 'Nyxmare') that overlaps with events in the magical town of Wonderhaven, where children have been going missing. Along the way we meet a cast of memorable characters - Luk, Morpheus, Goblins, The White Witch - some friendly, some not so much. The audio tracks regularly alternate between spoken word and melody, with songs ranging in tone from catchy pop to darker fare. The rich inventiveness of the characters, storyline, and language flesh out a mystical world into which listeners are drawn, the recording acting as a portal to the deepest levels of our imagination.

Cool Things

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Cool Things
Price $10
By The Hoots
Age
2 - 7 yrs.
Best Family Fun

There are several aspects of the album 'Cool Things' that set it favorably apart from other children's music recordings. One is the enlivening, upbeat feel of the material. There's such an ebullient, playful quality to the music that it's hard to feel anything other than happy when listening to it. The songwriting also stands out. The melodies are pleasant and memorable, the choruses catchy. The lyrics are brilliantly whimsical, as if the songwriters had a direct line into the collective brain and funny bone of youngsters, as well as an understanding of what makes parents smile. The band's makeup is guitar, vocals, bass, drums, and keyboards, with a strong acoustic rhythm guitar element and a sound at times reminiscent of a more playful Tom Petty or Counting Crows. The album's opener 'Harv,' about a water-sock-wearing hippo who gets sunburn on his armpits, is a standout that sets the tone for the 10 happy, kind-spirited songs that follow. Happy listening.

I'm So Glad

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I'm So Glad
Price $11.98
By Kaleidoscope Songs
Age
0 - 9 Yrs.
Best Family Fun

There are so many things this music CD does well, and one of them is to make the listener smile. Repeatedly. The songs are so upbeat, the pulses so rhythmic and danceable, you'd be hard put to stay in a bad mood even if you tried. Alex Mitnick's strong, rich vocals infuse the lyrics with warmth and personality. The excellent background singers provide dynamic harmonies and a depth of interplay that makes the songs especially engaging. The lyrics are playful and positive (while the descriptor 'feel-good' is oft over-used, in this case it would be spot on). The CD has a decidedly 'world music' feel to it, with strong compositions in a range of styles. The band incorporates rock (including sprinklings of folk-rock and country-rock) reggae, funk, and zydeco in a cohesive way, with its own unique sound evident throughout. Thematically, there's a focus on nature, including bodies, both human and animal. Kangaroos jump. Crocodiles devour. The song 'Tyrannosaurus' extends appreciation ('as a monster, you're glorious') to even that terrible king of beasts, while 'The Tongue Song' sings the praises of an essential body part. In fact, appreciation seems to be the letter of the day with this CD - of ourselves, of creatures great and small, of the world we live in, of life! What could be better than that?

Tales2Go

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Tales2Go
Price $10
By Tales2Go, Inc.
Age
3+
Brain Child

Imagine having unlimited access to thousands of name-brand audiobooks from top publishers at your fingertips wherever you go. That's the striking and invaluable service Tales2Go provides to families and educators. This exceptional asset in developing vocabulary, critical listening, fluency, and comprehension skills is available to families for $10.00/month or $100.00/year. And for educators, bulk purchase options make it viable to serve large numbers of students. Just sign into your account using desktop or laptop computers or Apple mobile devices (iPads, iPod Touches and iPhones . . .). You'll gain immediate access to a seemingly endless array of novels, stories, and non-fiction, beautifully organized and categorized in a number of useful ways (Highest Rated, Most Popular, Age, Grade Level. Fiction, Non-fiction, Kids Music . . .). This subscription-based plan allows you and your family to sign in from up to five different devices, more than enough for most families. The content is predominantly child-focused, with an age range from 3+ through pre-teen and young adult, but there is also a menu option that contains a large number of offerings for mom and dad.

Tom Chapin - Give PEAS a Chance

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Tom Chapin - Give PEAS a Chance
Price $15
By Sundance Music
Age
4 - 11 Yrs.
Top Toy

This delightful musical CD excels at every level. The 14 well-crafted songs presented here are memorable and singable, the musicianship of the performers exceptional - which is one way of saying you're in for a highly enjoyable listening experience. Whether or not you consider yourself to be socially conscious, you'll be familiar with many of the food themes visited here - sometimes humorously, sometimes not, but always in earnest. There's locally grown food, school lunches, junk food, picky eating, Farmer's Markets, world hunger, and more. Yet there's nothing preachy about the lyrics. Everything fits together so seamlessly - one sign of exceptional songwriting - that you just find yourself swept up in the music. From the opener, 'Farmer's Market,' with its joyous, vivid imagery, to the beautiful, hymn-like closing tune, 'Enough For Everyone,' you'll find yourself happily in for the ride. The diverse instrumentation is largely acoustic, although there are a couple of numbers with an overtly electric sound. Humorous selections such as 'The Junk Food Pyramid' give testament to the cleverness of the songwriters. From song to song, there's a great variety of tempo and feel, while throughout, the production quality remains exceptionally crisp and clear. Even the packaging and cover artwork are first-rate.

All 2013 Tillywig Award Winners

Books & Magazines

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50 Fantastic Things to Do With Babies

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50 Fantastic Things to Do With Babies
Price $16.95
By Gryphon House
Age
0-16 mo.
Brain Child

Babies' brains are amazing sponges, but not in any passive way. They constantly soak up information and process it, making connections and building neural pathways. Consequently, the stimulation you provide your baby during those early months of life can have a dramatic impact on how they learn and what they know going forward into adulthood. This book is filled with 50 simple activities to do with your baby that take just a few minutes apiece and require little or no props or equipment. Some are variations on well-known classics like peek-a-boo and hide-and-seek. Many you wouldn't have thought to do on your own. Each activity's description consists of a few steps outlined on a single page under the heading 'What To Do.' If you're in the mood to know more about what your baby is learning or how he or she develops with respect to the activity at hand, that information is provided concisely in colored text boxes on the page, and can be taken in almost at a glance. This easy-to-absorb format is invaluable because it affords you, the parent or caregiver, the ability to weave these activities into the fabric of your day as available moments arise, without it seeming daunting to do so. Equally valuable are the playfulness and intimacy that grow between you and baby as a result of these activities.

Alphabet Fun Sock Monkeys Wipe-Off Book

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Alphabet Fun Sock Monkeys Wipe-Off Book
Price $4.99
By TREND enterprises, Inc.
Age
PreK-K
Brain Child

Kids are naturally drawn to the colorful illustrations and game-like activities in this wipe-off book, and their progress through its pages is a happy and productive one. The Sock Monkey theme (their adorably familiar faces appear on almost every page like little helpers) creates a sense of comfort and continuity. The book makes exceptional use of visual presentation as a means of engaging children and enhancing their learning. And the activities themselves incorporate just the right amount of variation and repetition to reinforce one another. Kids name objects in pictures before tracing and writing the first letter of the words just spoken, draw lines to connect matching letter pairs in a variety of contexts, find and circle letters hidden in a picture, follow a maze of letters from a to z, and connect pictures that start with the same letter. There's a great deal more, and to children working their way through the book, it's a smorgasbord of fun. To parents wanting to boost their child's learning, it's a godsend.

Flood

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Flood
Price $15.95
By Capstone Young Readers
Age
6-8 yrs.
Brain Child

There is so much beauty in this book. Its images are gloriously rendered, and the lovely storytelling is made even more powerful by the fact that the pages are entirely wordless. This absence of written language only serves to enhance the reader's level of engagement, by attuning the mind to interpreting and absorbing the rich level of nuance and detail present. Each and every illustration is breathtaking. The storyline, of a happy family whose home in stunning natural surroundings is deluged by a storm and ensuing flood, is an emotional one. The family leaves home in the face of the coming storm, only to return afterwards to find their house and the surrounding area devastated. But rather than being tragic or heartbreaking, the tale is warm and reassuring. The family works hard with the help of others, cleaning, painting, fixing and replacing where necessary, planting trees, whatever is needed until their house is once again not just livable, but a genuine home filled with life and beauty. Children hunger for stories, not just as entertainment, but to help them understand and process their own life experiences and emotions. 'Flood' provides a remarkable tale perfectly suited to those rich and varied appetites.

Goodnight Baseball

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Goodnight Baseball
Price $14.95
By Capstone Young Readers
Age
4-7 yrs.
Sterling Fun

Sports fans of all ages will enjoy this tale of a boy's day at the ballpark with his father. This hardcover book's design, from its cover, fonts, and illustrations to the type of paper it's printed on, adds to a nostalgic feel perfect for our national pastime and the cherished childhood memories it's created for so many of us. The story (told in rhyme) and illustrations capture the enduring pleasure of professional baseball. From the hustle and bustle of arriving at the stadium and finding seats to the thrum of crowd-filled bleachers and the sharp impact of bat on ball, the sweet thrill of the game is on display. Page after page captures the warmth of the experience, with the boy noticing every little detail as he says goodbye at night's end to the players, the park, even the popcorn boxes under the stands. The camaraderie of players and fans alike shines through, and the boy goes to bed that night with a smile on his face. Yours will, too!

I Can Count 1 - 100 Wipe-Off Book  (T94223)

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I Can Count 1 - 100 Wipe-Off Book (T94223)
Price $4.99
By TREND enterprises, Inc.
Age
PK-K
Brain Child

'Welcome! The journey from 1 to 100 begins!' So begins this fabulously fun educational activity book. From that point on, it's one playfully illustrated sea-themed learning activity after another. Kids learn and practice recognizing and writing numbers, order, counting, grouping, and more. They'll count crabs, starfish, stingrays, and bubbles, learn counting tips, fill in missing numbers in a counting series, connect the dots, circle hidden number words. There's such variety and so many different activities, colorfully illustrated and effectively organized, that kids just dive right in, playing and learning all the while. Each page wipes easily clean and can be used again and again. This 28-page teacher-created, child-tested book for PreK-K aligns with learning standards and is great for use in classrooms, childcare centers, home, and travel.

Learning to Print Furry Friends Wipe-Off Book (T94145)

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Learning to Print Furry Friends Wipe-Off Book (T94145)
Price $4.99
By TREND enterprises, Inc.
Age
PK-K
Brain Child

This reusable wipe-off book has a number of qualities that make it particularly effective as a tool for teaching young children to print. The feeling of fun exuded by the illustrations and activities on every page immediately excites and draws children in, making them want to stay and play, fully engaged. Having a specific theme (the Furry Friends) allows for a very playful story-like visual continuity that sustains that sense of fun, interest, and excitement. The variety and progressive nature of the activities works to similar effect, keeping kids engaged and motivated. They start out tracing the outlines of simple objects and shapes (ladders, stairs, squiggly lines) before quickly moving on to tracing and writing letters during fun game activities, developing language and printing skills every step of the way. They'll learn basic stroke patterns, left-to-right progression, and letter formation. This 28-page teacher-created, child-tested book is excellent for use in the classroom, childcare centers, and is perfect for home or travel.

Little Dinos Don't Bite

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Little Dinos Don't Bite
Price $7.99
By Capstone Young Readers
Age
2-4 yrs.
Top Toy

This excellent story of a young dinosaur learning to curb his biting impulses is told through simple, effective text and highly amusing illustrations. Chief among these are images of Little Dino, a toothy, glasses-wearing sauropod with a serious overbite. Little Dino hasn't quite learned what constitutes an acceptable use of jaw-power, and the expressions on his face as he alternately chomps, contemplates chomping, and surveys the after-effects of his chomping, while mom guides and gently chides him, are absolutely priceless and hilarious. Using humor and playfulness is, of course, a great way to impress this message on your own youngster's mind, and the author's idea of centering the story around a cute creature with profoundly large and potentially destructive teeth makes the point quite effectively. The final illustration, of Little Dino contentedly nuzzling mom as she hugs him, makes another point - we'll get through this together, with love and patience.

Muddy Truck

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Muddy Truck
Price $7.95
By Capstone Young Readers
Age
1-3 yrs.
Brain Child

This entertaining read-aloud action tale introduces and reinforces key concepts - colors, direction, visual discrimination, counting, vocabulary, nature - in a simple, engaging manner that makes it easy for young learners to absorb. Verbal and visual repetition are used to excellent effect in this story of three different-colored trucks going up a hill one at a time. Rain suddenly comes down, causing Red Truck to become stuck in a giant mud puddle. The sun comes out as Green Truck and Blue Truck come to the rescue. Each illustration contains a partially hidden bunny to locate, adding a fun, visual game element to the story. Muddy Truck is one of the excellent Truck Buddies board books for young readers, a series of truck adventure stories that contain strong learning elements geared for grades PreK-K.

My Alphabet Book Owl-Stars! Wipe-Off Book (T94117)

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My Alphabet Book Owl-Stars! Wipe-Off Book (T94117)
Price $4.99
By TREND enterprises, Inc.
Age
PK-K
Brain Child

This owl-themed wipe-off book is high quality, age-appropriate educational fun for kids PreK-K, a great way to develop writing, sound recognition, and early language skills in young children. Each colorful page is playful and welcoming to the eye, featuring photos of objects whose names begin with the letter at hand. Kids start off practicing saying, tracing, and writing each letter of the alphabet, from a to z. Next come fun activities that include making a picture by connecting the dots in order from a to z, drawing a self-portrait, writing names, connecting matching letter pairs, finding and circling hidden letters, matching pictures to beginning letters, and much more. The book is designed and organized in a way that captures and holds a child's attention, entertaining even as it teaches. The carefully planned activities and images have a progressive quality, and the durable wipe-off pages, steeped in playfulness, entice your child to practice them again and again.

Princess 3D Book

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Princess 3D Book
Price $19.99
By Popar Toys
Age
4+
Sterling Fun

This entertaining storybook incorporates special technology that allows you to experience it in a variety of ways. When you're in the mood for a traditional reading experience, just sit back and turn the pages. The illustrations and text in this large, hardcover book about several Princesses preparing for the Rainbow Ball are plenty engaging and amusing. But when you feel the need for a more unusual, magical experience, the technology here can open up another world to you. Using either a mobile device or a computer with a web cam, just position the camera so that it captures the special marker in the corner of the page (as well as a little rectangle called an 'i' paddle - not needed with mobile devices). A world comes alive before your eyes, allowing the story to unfold in 3 dimensions, with movement and text spoken by a narrator. Turn the page, and watch the next page's content spring to life. At the back of the book are several additional 'i' paddles that allow you to view a variety of animal pals and display the same type of special 3D properties found in the book. (Toy Fair Booth #3205)

Stuffies

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Stuffies
Price $29.95
By martFIVE, LLC
Age
3+
Sterling Fun

Each Stuffie comes with a full-sized 33-page illustrated storybook that tells a tale featuring that particular Stuffie. The stories help children learn to be their best - helpful, hopeful, empathetic, and embracing of others. Stuffies are big, soft, lovable plush animals with seven secret pockets in which kids can carry all their favorite things. Stuffies make fantastic travel companions and all-around cuddle-buddies, perfect to snuggle and play with or use as a pillow. There are currently 11 different Stuffie animals, including Muddzie (the pig who is not afraid to get dirty helping others), Scout (the monkey who is always watching out for others), and Prancine (the unicorn who believes everyone has a little magic inside). Stuffies are more than just stuffed animals. They inspire imagination and help instill positive values in children through specific themes and stories related to each character. Each storybook has discussion questions at the end that help kids get the most out of it. As Stuffies always say - It's What's Inside That Counts!

The Biggest and Brightest Light: The Magic of Helping Others

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The Biggest and Brightest Light: The Magic of Helping Others
Price $17.95
By Robert D. Reed Publishers
Age
4-10 Yrs.
Brain Child

This is a truly touching picture book about a six-year-old girl, Amanda, who discovers the joys of helping others and her own extraordinary ability to make good things happen when she sets her mind to it. When she learns that her teacher, Dr. Malko, is struggling to pay medical bills for her daughter Elena, who is very sick, Amanda comes up with the idea of making and selling Christmas decorations. Her project a huge success, Amanda gives Dr. Malko a thousand dollars to help with the doctor's bills, and the feeling she gets is wonderful beyond words. But she doesn't stop there. She continues to be like a young guardian angel. As Elena's health worsens (she ultimately passes away), Amanda continues to help, baking cookies for the nurses at the hospital, even winning an essay contest that enables Dr. Malko to spend the holidays with her adult son after her daughter's death. This beautiful story is given added emotional depth by the fact that it's based on the childhood experiences of the author's own daughter, now an adult. The real-life Amanda is also the book's illustrator (and quite a good one). The mother-daughter and teacher-student emotional bonds, inherent in both the story and the facts surrounding the evolution of the book (explained in the liner notes), reinforces that the spirit of giving is something that is passed on from one person to another, and that the joy that resides in the giver's heart is the biggest and brightest light of all. Includes a CD with songs written for the book.

The Global Game Changers

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The Global Game Changers
Price $16.99
By Pixel Entertainment
Age
4 +
Sterling Fun

The Global Game Changers story may revolve around fictional superheroes, but the organization and concept behind it are all about making a difference in the real world. This illustrated children's story, available as both hardback book and mobile app, details the exploits of Global Girl and her sidekick Little Big-Heart as they recruit real-life kids to help make the world a better place. We're introduced to three real-life heroes - a girl who helps fight hunger by aiding a food bank, a boy who started an organization to combat bullying, and a girl who formed an organization to provide socks to people in need. The mobile app, which kids can read to themselves or set to be read to them, has several interactive features - swipe an arrow onscreen to cause a superhero to fly, touch orange sparkles for an array of surprises, tap the GGC symbol or the villain, Krumi, and see what happens. The story inspires us to be a superhero, and a call to action at the end invites us to make a difference by joining the Global Game Changers' online community. On the website, kids enjoy activities, create avatars, share their own stories of helping others, earn points and badges of honor, vote for their favorite charities (top choice earns a share of GGC proceeds), and more. The book, app, and website are entertaining and engaging, and the theme - fighting apathy, making a difference, being a force for good - couldn't be more timely.

Time to Create: Hands-on Explorations in Process Art for Young Children

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Time to Create: Hands-on Explorations in Process Art for Young Children
Price $24.95
By Gryphon House
Age
2-8 yrs.
Brain Child

Great parenting books evoke a revelatory feel in the reader, a 'Wow, that makes so much sense! I can't believe I didn't know that,' reaction as well as an eagerness to put the new-found knowledge to use. That feeling of resonance and insight flows from the pages of Time to Create, and both the clarity of Ms. Burnett's writing and her concise, readable way of organizing information are key factors in it doing so. In the introduction, parents will gain an immediate sense of the immense part a child's creative development plays in promoting cognitive, physical, emotional, and language skills. There's also practical information on things like organizing art materials, displaying and storing children's artwork, and supporting your child's creativity. The rest of the book is broken into chapters that each focus on a different mode of artistic expression - drawing, painting, printmaking, collage . . .). These chapters are segmented into sections labeled Learning, Doing, Seeing, and Talking. The Doing section typically covers various approaches to the type of art being explored. The Learning, Seeing, and Talking sections are concise and provide vital information that helps you and your child get the most out of your experiences.

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star

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Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
Price $9.99
By Capstone Young Readers
Age
1-3 yrs.
Top Toy

The word 'charming' doesn't even begin to convey the appeal of this delightful board book for young readers. Illustrator Charles Reasoner has a knack for composing images that conjure warmth and elicit smiles, creating a lively universe on every page. The deftness with which he conveys both story and emotion, whether it be through an owl hurriedly flying through the air to join his family or the star's diamond-like twinkling, is a marvel in and of itself. The text is that of the beloved children's rhyme, but the illustrations tell the story of a family of owls out to catch sight of that twinkling star. The physical design of the book is also something to be treasured. The thick, sturdy cover and pages are cut in such a way that a series of tabs along the right border each reveals a different illustration, telling a mini-story all their own and allowing even very small hands to make their way. Most tellingly, readers both young and old displayed a sense of wonder while taking in its pages.

World History Detective

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World History Detective
Price $34.99
By The Critical Thinking Co.
Age
11 +
Brain Child

World History Detective eliminates the possibility of the passive student. Instead of simply providing facts for rote memorization, it requires students to assess what is put before them, to ferret out evidence and draw inferences and conclusions based on that evidence. And it systematically provides the necessary tools to do so. Through the structure and content of the book, the student gains formidable critical thinking and analytical skills, and an understanding of not just the material presented, but of a process of how to delve into any material and come away with the core knowledge. The focus of Book 1 is on ancient and medieval world civilizations, with content skills based on common state social studies standards for Grades 6 and 7. Each lesson is brief - a page or so followed by a series of questions and a concept map to be completed - keeping the reader fully engaged. Questions are multiple choice, short answer, and short essay. Sentences in the lessons are numbered, and students use these numbers to identify supporting evidence when answering questions, nipping in the bud any tendency towards guessing. World History Detective is effective as a standalone textbook, as an enhancement to another textbook, or as a review course for older students. In any event, the benefits the student gains from it will be lifelong.

All 2013 Tillywig Award Winners

Websites, Video & DVD

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Emotional ABC's

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Emotional ABC's
Price $129.99
By Emotional ABC's
Age
4+
Brain Child

Emotional ABCs gives parents, educators, and children the vocabulary and tools needed to help kids understand, communicate, and make healthy choices about what they're feeling. The program's core is a DVD whose concise chapters (a lively back-and-forth between a warm, expressive female host and a group of equally vivacious children) are engaging and highly effective, while a loveable, cartoon creature named Moody enhances the fun and learning. The behavior, questions, and dawning understand of the onscreen kids reveals that emotions are normal, that we all have them even when not aware of it. We learn to use facial expressions and body language as guides to emotions in others and sensations in our own bodies as indicators of what we're feeling. We learn and practice simple, clear-cut methods that influence our reactions and moods for the better. Five playful activity books do an outstanding job of reinforcing the DVD's lessons, while a music CD, special playing cards, and illustrated magnet provide quick visual reminders of everything we've learned.

iFocus System

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iFocus System
Price $199.95
By Focus Education
Age
6-12 yrs.
Brain Child

This program for improving your child's focus and attention contains an abundance of outstanding materials, but it is the Jungle Rangers Game and the careful science behind it that is the program's core tool. To the uninitiated parent, Jungle Rangers may appear at first glance to be just a video game. But listen to the interviews with Jason Leon (the game's producer), and Kimberly Kerns, Ph.D, an expert in developmental neuropsychology, and you'll learn just how much thought was but into each element of the game's structure and interface. Each task was designed to improve specific elements of your child's focus and attention - working memory capacity, sustained attention, and the ability to keep in mind a sequence of events and make decisions based on things that happened earlier in the sequence, among others. Jungle Rangers automatically adjusts the level of its tasks, becoming easier or more difficult based on your child's rate of success. This invisible feature ensures that your child remains appropriately challenged while avoiding the discouragement he or she might feel if the failure rate were to get too high. The program also includes a number of CDs, handbooks, and Quick Start Cards. In particular, Focus on Food and Focus on Fitness provide excellent information on approaches to nutrition and exercise that can provide your child with health and behavioral benefits.

Lexibook Tablet One

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Lexibook Tablet One
Price $119.99
By Lexibook America, Inc.
Age
5+
Brain Child

Lexibook Tablet One comes loaded with entertainment and educational activities for children. Kids can browse and select from a comprehensive library of books, songs, creative activities, and games, as well as use a weather application and 15-language translator. While parental supervision during browsing is always recommended, parents can set controls on the browser so that kids can more safely navigate the internet, where over 26,000 applications from Lexibook Market and Lexibook Market Premium are available for download. There's a great deal of educational content already on the tablet, specifically developed for children and easily accessible from the home screen. The tablet is roughly 5 X 7 inches, extremely lightweight (about 10 ounces), and the touch screen works like a charm. With many of the features and characteristics already familiar from more expensive tablets, Lexibook Tablet One puts a vast selection of fun and learning at your child's fingertips at a very affordable cost.

Nursery Rhyme Singing Time with Mother Goose Club

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Nursery Rhyme Singing Time with Mother Goose Club
Price $15
By Sockeye Media LLC
Age
2 - 5 Yrs.
Best Family Fun

Kids love rhymes. The spark they feel when they hear one, the satisfaction and pride they show when they make one, and the sheer enjoyment they experience when swept up in a classic nursery rhyme, are all part of what makes rhymes so engaging and fun. Rhymes also activate an exploration of language and provide a wondrous gateway to sounds, structure and reading. And rhymes are something Mother Goose Club does very, very well. This DVD contains a sparkling cast of live action characters straight out of Nursery-rhyme land - Teddy Bear, Jack B. Nimble, Little Bo Peep, and more - who take viewers on a veritable rhyme-a-thon of games, songs, and classics like Hickory, Dickory, Dock and The Itsy Bitsy Spider. There are five highly entertaining, well-produced episodes in all, more than 40 minutes that alternates between live action and animation, spoken word and song. And the common thread throughout? Wholesome, enriching entertainment that helps grow young minds!

Radz Gone Wild

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Radz Gone Wild
Price $5.99
By Radz Brands
Age
3+
Top Toy

Radz delivers top-notch fun to children in both the physical and online worlds. Radz candy dispensers are wild, happy-looking little creatures whose tongues pop out and deliver a piece of candy each time the hair or cap on its head is pushed back. Kids not only get to enjoy countless hours of imaginative play with these pocket-sized characters, they also have a blast bringing them to life through online games, videos, and app downloads accessed at Radz.com by entering the code that comes with each dispenser. Radz Gone Wild introduces four new animal characters to the Radz family: Scratch (tiger), Bandit (zebra), Spanky (monkey), and Squeak (penguin). Each Radz Gone Wild character includes a pack of colorful candy, a backpack clip, and an online access code. Radz dispensers have mix-and-match tops, allowing kids to increasingly alter their dispenser's appearance as their Radz collection grows. Radz Candy is gluten-free, peanut-free, and Kosher certified.

Radz Toy Candy Dispenser

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Radz Toy Candy Dispenser
Price $5.99
By Radz Brands
Age
3+
Top Toy

Radz bridges the gap between the physical and virtual worlds, putting both kinds of fun right at your fingertips. The kooky, quirky Radz characters, wild-looking little creatures that deliver candy to your hand on command, can go anywhere with you. Clip them to a belt loop, strap, buttonhole, or just carry them in your pocket. Need a treat? Slide the Radz' hat back on its head, and a little scoop-like tongue emerges holding a small piece of colorful, delicious candy. There's also an online world of fun awaiting Radz fans. Just go to Radzworld.com and enter the 16-digit code that came with your Radz candy dispenser to gain access to online games, videos, and apps. You'll have a blast playing games like Peps Peak and Antic's Bounce (our favorite) among others, and downloading fun Radz apps to mobile devices. There's also Radz TV, featuring many highly amusing animated videos, as well as an array of other entertaining features from contests to fan art. Roll Call allows Radz collectors to get to know the personalities and characteristics of each of the Radz characters they've either already grown to love or wish to add to their collections.

Skylanders Spyro's Adventure

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Skylanders Spyro's Adventure
Price $74.99
By Activision
Age
6 +
Top Toy

Skylanders are collectible 3-dimensional action figures that come to life in this video game. Just place a Skylander on the Portal of Power, a nifty pedestal that connects to your XBOX 360, and that character is activated onscreen. Spyro's Adventure is extraordinary entertainment that takes players into a world of wildly exciting fun. What elevates it to such exceptional levels is the nonstop variety of its onscreen activities, its vivid imagery, and the endlessly exciting action. Players collect treasures, blast through barriers, liberate trapped villagers, open Monster Gates (by defeating creatures such as the wide-mouthed Chompies), and much more. The game does an incredible job of making it effortless for even young players to understand just how to navigate various types of play, enabling everyone to get the most out of the game. Battle Mode allows players to go up against one another, deploying a variety of weapons and traps. There are 32 Skylanders in all, each with different powers and weaponry. Skylanders can be grouped according to their shared element (water, fire, tech, and so on). The Spyro's Adventure Starter Pack includes software disc, Portal of Power, and 3 Skylanders - Trigger Happy, Spyro, and Gill Grunt. Skylanders comes with a detailed back story that extends to each of the characters. Players will find themselves deeply immersed in the adventure of their lives.

Skylanders SWAP Force

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Skylanders SWAP Force
Price $74.99
By Activision Publishing, Inc.
Age
6+
Top Toy

Anyone who has played the previous games in the Skylanders franchise has experienced the rousing gameplay and thrill that goes with being able to introduce physical toys into the onscreen action. That last bit - catapulting Skylanders toy figures and their special abilities into the onscreen action - just got even better. SWAP Force introduces 16 new toy figures whose top and bottom halves can be swapped, allowing players to mix and match onscreen powers into over 250 unique character combinations. That unprecedented flexibility gives players the ability to tailor powers mid-fight, and in so doing perhaps turn the tide of battle. The story-driven gameplay is loaded with action and adventure, including combat, puzzles, games, and drop-in/drop-out co-op play. In addition to new characters and swap-ability, SWAP Force features brand new abilities such as flying, climbing, digging, bouncing, and teleporting, and can also be played using the entire collection of 100+ characters from 'Skylanders Spyro's Adventure' and 'Skylanders Giants.' For Nintendo Wii, WiiU, 3DS, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation3 and PlayStation4.

Surviving Infancy

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Surviving Infancy
Price $29.95
By Surviving Infancy, LLC
Age
0-3 yrs.
Brain Child

As I watched Surviving Infancy, a thorough and enjoyable video that covers 36 topics essential to parenting children through their first few years, I was struck by how relevant the material is. And not just some of it. All of it. When my daughter was young, my wife and I encountered every concern and situation delved into in this video. I vividly recall the barrage of anxiety-producing occurrences that one little baby girl was able to send our way - inconsolable crying, problems breastfeeding, car and home safety issues, ear infections (oh, the ear infections!), flips, falls, and head bangs when she was a toddler, emergency room visits. The list goes on. And at the time, in the thick of it, it seemed as though it would never end, the hard parts anyway. The beauty of this video, presented warmly and naturally by two female Emergency Medicine physicians and educators, is not just that it provides practical knowledge essential to increasing your child's safety, but that it also gives you, the parent, some much needed perspective. Knowing what to expect and having confidence in how to react takes a great deal of the anxiety out of parenting. And the good doctors are not wishy-washy. Much of the presentation deals with specifics - do this, don't do that - music to a parent's ears. The video is broken up into 36 practical segments that fly by while providing invaluable information. It is available in DVD format (29.95) or as streaming video (24.95).

All 2013 Tillywig Award Winners

Mobile Apps

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A Whale of a Tale! Porpoises, Dolphins, and Whales

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A Whale of a Tale! Porpoises, Dolphins, and Whales
Price $5.99
By Oceanhouse Media, Inc.
Age
5-10 Yrs.
Brain Child

This phenomenal educational app about porpoises, dolphins and whales has the all the appeal and entertainment value of a classic Dr. Seuss story. Written in rhyme and vividly illustrated with original artwork that features characters from The Cat in the Hat, it provides a window into the lives and characteristics of our favorite aquatic mammals. Absorb fascinating facts while immersed in the fun, playful sights and sounds this app offers up in abundance. Learn about various types of dolphins, the differing ways they move and leap, how they use echolocation to form pictures by bouncing sound off objects. Learn to distinguish between dolphins and porpoises at a glance. Kids can read for themselves or let the app narrate, with words highlighted as they're narrated. Touching any object causes the word for it to zoom onscreen and be spoken. Children can soak up a surprising amount of nomenclature (words like cetaceans, baleen, blowholes, krill), aided by a feature that speaks key words and their definitions aloud each time they're tapped onscreen. Every scene has its own mesmerizing background audio, from the sounds of dolphins and whales to the call of the sea. The whales are saved for last, with the blue whale - the biggest of the big - appearing at the story's end. A whale of a tale, indeed.

ABCmouse.com 26 A-Z Music Videos app

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ABCmouse.com 26 A-Z Music Videos app
Price $0
By Age of Learning, Inc.
Age
2-6 yrs.
Brain Child

For so seemingly natural an idea as a different music video for each letter of the alphabet to be done this brilliantly and effectively implies that a great deal of talent, care, and research went into their making. From an educational standpoint, it would be difficult to imagine a more impactful approach than is seen here. These original animated videos incorporate a great many features geared towards developing essential reading knowledge and skills in young children, and the songs, production quality, and graphics are absolutely top-notch. Phonemic awareness is increased through exposure to plentiful rhymes and alliteration. Children are also introduced to words they may not hear in daily conversation, a factor that expands their oral vocabulary and can be further explored using the app's glossary. A primary focus of the videos is the development of letter recognition. Each video is chock-full of words that start with the given letter, and that letter is color-highlighted onscreen as part of the animation as the words are sung. Each of the 26 videos is arranged and produced in a different musical style paired with a distinct animation design. This variety not only introduces children to a broad range of musical and artistic genres, it also keeps things immensely fresh and entertaining, invaluable qualities where learning is concerned. Five of the videos can immediately be downloaded and viewed for free, while the remaining videos can either be purchased (for between 30 and 50 cents apiece or all 26 for only $4.99), or accessed for free via the app's ticketing system, which after a set number of repeated listens provides the child with enough earned 'tickets' to download additional songs for no charge.

Alphabet Animals

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Alphabet Animals
Price $1.99
By Auryn, Inc.
Age
4+
Brain Child

The clever, charming, and highly entertaining illustrations at the heart of Alphabet Animals pull children into a world of letters, sounds, visual treats, and vocabulary. Traversing the entire alphabet, each of Suse MacDonald's 26 irresistible illustrations displays an animal in the shape of the first letter of its name. We see a fox, arms outstretched diver-like, forming the letter F. An impish horse's legs, head, tail, and torso create a clearly delineated H. The artwork isn't just fun and playful, it's beautiful. The rich colors and vibrant creativity make exploring each letter an adventure. The queerer the letter shape, the stranger or more clever the illustration might be. To see an Alphabet Animal, select a letter from the bottom of the screen, or swipe to turn the page. Tap the illustration to hear the animal's name. Swipe to unveil a card that displays the fully articulated upper-case letter (doing so makes each animal move in some fashion), then tap to hear the letter name. And for icing on the cake, a sweet game lets kids make cards with Alphabet Animals that can be saved to an album or sent to a friend.

Ansel and Clair Cretaceous Dinosaurs

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Ansel and Clair Cretaceous Dinosaurs
Price $1.99
By Cognitive Kid, Inc.
Age
4-9 Yrs.
Brain Child

This installment in Cognitive Kid's wonderful series of Ansel and Clair apps, with its seamless blend of entertainment and educational content, is the epitome of a Brain Child award-winner. You'll be having such great fun, you won't realize how much you're learning. But learn you will, for the app is loaded with information, gleaned interactively. You'll meet Dr. Lindy Bones before going underground to uncover fossils, breaking up rocks and clearing away rubble using your fingers as tools, then assembling the skeletons. The fossils are the key that enable Ansel and Clair's spaceship, Marley Peterson, to take you back in time to the Cretaceous period. There you'll see, experience, and learn all manner of amazing things. You'll also use the app's camera to take pictures of the things you've learned about before storing the photos in a travel log. Dynamic sound and visual effects, along with the endearing characters, make these experiences visceral, exciting, and fun. But where the app truly shines is in its ability to effectively convey a wealth of information about this long ago time, its creatures, and the planet on which we live.

Breitville

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Breitville
Price $3.99
By Auryn, Inc.
Age
4+
Top Toy

If it's true, as they say, that life is in the details, then it's equally true to say the same of apps. And details are precisely where digital publisher Auryn, and the lovely new app, Breitville, shine. Breitville is a collaboration between Auryn and renowned artist and illustrator Mary Engelbreit, an extension of the paper doll decorating she's popularized and made so enjoyable. Breitville not only let's you choose from and clothe several onscreen dolls, you get to create an entire world for them to inhabit, one that's utterly charming and feels genuinely lived in. Bring the dolls to life with a tap. They'll answer questions when you speak to them. You can even feed them by dragging food to their mouths. And they'll look perfectly at home in the houses you'll decorate for them, room by room. Take them to Breitville's beach or park. Add furniture, trees, birds, insects, toys, seashells, food to your scenes. Breitville is extraordinarily easy to use - change backgrounds and outfits, create, add, remove, rotate objects, all with a touch. There's even a TV Station where you'll record, save, and play videos of your dolls moving around the scene and saying whatever you want them to say. Breitville is both a stunning outlet and an inspiration - the best kind of creative play.

Care Bears: Create & Share

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Care Bears: Create & Share
Price $0
By Budge Studios
Age
3 - 8 yrs.
Top Toy

Care Bears fans and novices alike were delighted by this first-ever Care Bears mobile app. The ease with which even young children explored its magic made the fun highly accessible and very contagious. Kids created and decorated their own postcards, adding personal messages before emailing them to friends and family or saving to a photo library. After dragging a scissors to cut out the basic card shape, choose either the Create or Select menu option. The Select option lets you choose your favorite Care Bear, while Create provides added control, letting you finger-paint the bear's color, activate its belly badge by tapping little stars onscreen, select a (or draw your own) belly badge, and choose the bear's playful facial expression. Both the Create and Select options include decorating the cards with colorful stickers, stamps, borders and backgrounds, adding Care Bear accessories, and typing (or writing by hand) the card's note. While the app itself is free, unlocking additional creative choices on several of its menus is possible through in-app purchases.

Disney Storytime

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Disney Storytime
Price $1.99
By Disney Publishing Worldwide
Age
2-5 yrs.
Top Toy

With its customizable features and built-in library of stories containing your favorite Disney and Pixar characters, this app provides endless entertainment for kids and parents alike. Whether you're reading a story, customizing your onscreen avatar's appearance, or using the Settings screen to quickly alter aspects of how a story plays, this app is extremely easy to navigate. One particular feature that can lead to rampant creativity (not to mention hysterical laughter) is the ability to record your own voiceover. Some kids simply record the story as written in their own natural voice, while others make up wild variations of stories using kooky voices that would put Robin Williams to shame. Beautiful onscreen illustrations provide inspiration and trigger wild flights of fancy. There are two reading modes, Read to Me (with narration) and Read by Myself (no narration). The app's bookshelf starts off with 3 books included and 17 more available to be added. An easy-to-use system allows parents to purchase and manage the number of story credits available to children for the purpose of activating those additional stories. Whether camping out with Woody, Buzz and Jessie or going on an adventure with Abu and Aladdin, Disney Storytime offers the largest collection of Disney stories available in one app.

Oscar Finds a Home

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Oscar Finds a Home
Price $3.99
By You TELL Me Stories
Age
4+
Brain Child

In addition to being a delightful, original story with first-rate illustrations, Oscar Finds a Home incorporates innovative techniques and activities that capitalize on how your child learns language, enabling him to gain as much as possible in terms of vocabulary, comprehension, and listening skills. One such technique, WordWinks, guides children to notice details and nuances that are not directly stated, in effect reading between the lines. The way WordWinks accomplishes this, by weaving onscreen comments and questions throughout the story (distinguished from the main text using red italicized letters) gets children noticing, thinking, and questioning beyond what's on the surface. The seamless ease of this approach enhances both enjoyment and learning by enriching the reader's experience without distracting from it. Another feature, Retell, Record & Share, strengthens listening, speaking, and memory skills by having your child put ideas and scenes from the story in their proper order before telling it in their own words while being recorded. A push of a button then shares the recording with friends and family via email.

Princess 3D Book

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Princess 3D Book
Price $19.99
By Popar Toys
Age
4+
Sterling Fun

This entertaining storybook incorporates special technology that allows you to experience it in a variety of ways. When you're in the mood for a traditional reading experience, just sit back and turn the pages. The illustrations and text in this large, hardcover book about several Princesses preparing for the Rainbow Ball are plenty engaging and amusing. But when you feel the need for a more unusual, magical experience, the technology here can open up another world to you. Using either a mobile device or a computer with a web cam, just position the camera so that it captures the special marker in the corner of the page (as well as a little rectangle called an 'i' paddle - not needed with mobile devices). A world comes alive before your eyes, allowing the story to unfold in 3 dimensions, with movement and text spoken by a narrator. Turn the page, and watch the next page's content spring to life. At the back of the book are several additional 'i' paddles that allow you to view a variety of animal pals and display the same type of special 3D properties found in the book. (Toy Fair Booth #3205)

Radz Gone Wild

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Radz Gone Wild
Price $5.99
By Radz Brands
Age
3+
Top Toy

Radz delivers top-notch fun to children in both the physical and online worlds. Radz candy dispensers are wild, happy-looking little creatures whose tongues pop out and deliver a piece of candy each time the hair or cap on its head is pushed back. Kids not only get to enjoy countless hours of imaginative play with these pocket-sized characters, they also have a blast bringing them to life through online games, videos, and app downloads accessed at Radz.com by entering the code that comes with each dispenser. Radz Gone Wild introduces four new animal characters to the Radz family: Scratch (tiger), Bandit (zebra), Spanky (monkey), and Squeak (penguin). Each Radz Gone Wild character includes a pack of colorful candy, a backpack clip, and an online access code. Radz dispensers have mix-and-match tops, allowing kids to increasingly alter their dispenser's appearance as their Radz collection grows. Radz Candy is gluten-free, peanut-free, and Kosher certified.

Radz Toy Candy Dispenser

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Radz Toy Candy Dispenser
Price $5.99
By Radz Brands
Age
3+
Top Toy

Radz bridges the gap between the physical and virtual worlds, putting both kinds of fun right at your fingertips. The kooky, quirky Radz characters, wild-looking little creatures that deliver candy to your hand on command, can go anywhere with you. Clip them to a belt loop, strap, buttonhole, or just carry them in your pocket. Need a treat? Slide the Radz' hat back on its head, and a little scoop-like tongue emerges holding a small piece of colorful, delicious candy. There's also an online world of fun awaiting Radz fans. Just go to Radzworld.com and enter the 16-digit code that came with your Radz candy dispenser to gain access to online games, videos, and apps. You'll have a blast playing games like Peps Peak and Antic's Bounce (our favorite) among others, and downloading fun Radz apps to mobile devices. There's also Radz TV, featuring many highly amusing animated videos, as well as an array of other entertaining features from contests to fan art. Roll Call allows Radz collectors to get to know the personalities and characteristics of each of the Radz characters they've either already grown to love or wish to add to their collections.

Reading Rainbow App

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Reading Rainbow App
Price $0
By RRKidz
Age
3 - 9 Yrs.
Brain Child

It's easy to see why the Reading Rainbow App, with its digital library of over 300 quality children's books and video field trips, is so popular. Kids visit islands with names like Action Adventures & Magical Tales, Genius Academy, and National Geographic Kids, where hundreds of titles grouped according to island category can be downloaded. Once downloaded, books are stored in the child's digital 'backpack,' where up to 5 titles at a time can be kept and read at your leisure. Kids opt to read to themselves or have the app itself read to them, while the books come to life through special digital effects and options (including games and puzzles) that spice up the learning and entertainment. LeVar Burton is a familiar onscreen presence, his warmth and passion for education shining through in the introduction and other video segments. Parents can review their child's reading progress in the 'For Parents' section. The app itself is free, with up to 5 books accessed at no cost, but you'll definitely want to give yourself and your children access to this amazing library through the subscription option, available for only $9.99/mo. or $29.99/6 months.

Skylanders Battlegrounds

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Skylanders Battlegrounds
Price $6.99
By Toys For Bob/Activision
Age
6+
Top Toy

Skylanders Battegrounds lets kids of all ages use their mobile devices to enjoy a rousing blend of physical and virtual play. The Skylanders' formidable powers are used to fight Kaos' four warlords and their minions. The game play is accessible enough and the action playful enough to be well-suited to children as young as six. Players collect treasures along the way, enabling them to unlock and upgrade powerful abilities for each Skylander. Stepping on the same tile as an enemy causes two of the player's Skylanders to be transported to a battleground, where they'll face waves of enemies. Players tap and slide their fingers either to move their Skylanders or to launch an attack. The app can be purchased by itself for $6.99 on the App Store, or you can buy the starter pack, which includes 3 collectible Skylander Figures, a Treasure Chest, the Bluetooth Portal of Power, and an app download, all for $49.99. While the Portal of Power isn't necessary to play the game, it's what connects the physical and virtual worlds. And frankly, it's pretty darn cool, allowing a player to swap any Skylander in and out of the midst of action just by switching the physical figures standing on top of the portal. Either way, you're in for a very good time.

Sofia the First: Story Theater

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Sofia the First: Story Theater
Price $3.99
By Disney Publishing Worldwide
Age
3-7 yrs.
Best Creative Fun

This fully interactive storybook app provides a wealth of touch-activated animation to go along with the beautifully illustrated story. On each page, touching certain elements causes them to spring to life, often with accompanying sound effects. The story, which can be viewed and read with or without narration, follows the opening storyline of the popular Disney Junior animated series, 'Sofia the First.' The app's story is narrated by ABC's Modern Family star Ariel Winter. It's a lovely, positive tale about a girl who becomes a princess when her mother marries a king, the anxieties and challenges that go along with perceived expectations, and the happy resolutions that occur when new family members pull together. The artwork, animation, and storytelling are all top-notch. In addition to storybook mode, there is a Puppet Theater that allows kids to record stories of their own creation using characters and backgrounds from the storybook while supplying the voices. The puppets can be moved around the screen during recording to add action to the scenes and reflect which characters are talking. The results, which range from charming to wonderfully silly, are always entertaining and can be saved to be played back at will.

Sphero

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Sphero
Price $0
By Orbotix
Age
8+
Sterling Fun

There are more than 20 free apps to download and use with Sphero the robotic ball (see current Tillywig review in the Toys category), including Sphero Golf (control Spero with a flick or a swing and aim for a hole in one), Draw & Drive, Zombie Rollers, and Sphero Tag. The Sharky the Beaver app lets you take a virtual 3-dimensional beaver for a walk around your house and feed Sharky by launching virtual cupcakes into his mouth. One of the first things my daughter said when she saw Sphero in action was 'Teddy would love this.' (Teddy is a ball-obsessed dog we know.) Sure enough, there's an app, Sphero Pet, for that. The apps are all very easy to use and include lots of neat tricks, surprises, and fun games for both solo and group play.

Start With Art!

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Start With Art!
Price $9.95
By Madcap Logic, LLC
Age
7+
Brain Child

One of the many delightful and effective things about this interactive app is the way it delves into the topic of art from a variety of angles, in entirely relatable ways. The visuals, dialogue, and narration are top-notch, and the lessons and activities a joy to experience. Humor and animation play a big part in the app's accessibility. Three animated characters, Furnace, Tickles, and Ruby (a polar bear and penguin siblings) provide an entertaining, light-hearted feel, while both the visual and written content yield a depth necessary for any exploration of art to be meaningful. Each lesson builds on the previous one and must be completed before the next can be unlocked. Activities within each lesson fall nicely into three categories: sayART (explores a specific aspect of art), seeART (video segments that include art by well-known artists), and doART (hands-on exploration using the app's creative tools). An outstanding way to educate your young ones and yourself!

SuperDuper StoryMaker App

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SuperDuper StoryMaker App
Price $4.99
By Super Duper Publications
Age
3+
Best Creative Fun

The design and content of the SuperDuper StoryMaker app gives kids tremendous freedom to exercise their creativity while developing a number of essential skills. Object recognition, vocabulary, reading, spelling, grammar, sentence making, and story building all occur naturally and fluidly with the use of this app. Kids quickly and easily create picture and photo stories, utilizing over 800 places, people, and items contained in the app, adding text, hand-drawn artwork, and voice recordings as they go. You can even insert your own photographs. The elements available to add to your story as pre-drawn images are well-organized by category (Places, People, Foods, Animals, etc.) and are quickly accessible at a touch of the screen. There's even a search function that allows you to quickly find and add a specific item you have in mind. Save your stories like books, then play them over and over again, either flipping through one page at a time at your own pace or using the autoplay feature. Saved stories can always be changed later using powerful editing capabilities that allow you to copy, insert, move, or delete items and pages. Creating and telling stories is a terrific human impulse, and cultivating it in children, when their imaginations are rich and fertile, is what SuperDuper StoryMaker App does best.

Tales2Go

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Tales2Go
Price $10
By Tales2Go, Inc.
Age
3+
Brain Child

Imagine having unlimited access to thousands of name-brand audiobooks from top publishers at your fingertips wherever you go. That's the striking and invaluable service Tales2Go provides to families and educators. This exceptional asset in developing vocabulary, critical listening, fluency, and comprehension skills is available to families for $10.00/month or $100.00/year. And for educators, bulk purchase options make it viable to serve large numbers of students. Just sign into your account using desktop or laptop computers or Apple mobile devices (iPads, iPod Touches and iPhones . . .). You'll gain immediate access to a seemingly endless array of novels, stories, and non-fiction, beautifully organized and categorized in a number of useful ways (Highest Rated, Most Popular, Age, Grade Level. Fiction, Non-fiction, Kids Music . . .). This subscription-based plan allows you and your family to sign in from up to five different devices, more than enough for most families. The content is predominantly child-focused, with an age range from 3+ through pre-teen and young adult, but there is also a menu option that contains a large number of offerings for mom and dad.

Webber Core Curriculum Vocabulary Cards Prek-K App

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Webber Core Curriculum Vocabulary Cards Prek-K App
Price $8.99
By Super Duper Publications
Age
3-6 yrs.
Brain Child

The most successful teaching tools are those that deeply engage the student. Engaging younger students, in particular, is rooted in creating a sense of fun in the learning process, something this app does very, very well. The app introduces and teaches 100 core curriculum words across four subject areas (Language Arts, Science, Social Studies, Math), employing four exceptionally entertaining games to do so. Students can play by themselves or against others, and the app's data tracking feature allows educators and parents to easily examine and evaluate a student's progress. Each of the four games utilizes the 100 pairs of illustrated vocabulary and matching definition cards that make up the app's vocabulary card deck. And while each of the four games is different, providing an exciting variety of play choices, at their core they are about the student being able to correctly pair a word with its definition. A student needn't be able to read to use the app. Tapping the screen causes an immediately relevant instruction to be narrated, while the illustration on each card not only allows the non-reader to play, it promotes new reading skills by showing the text for the word directly below the picture. The app and its games are so enjoyable that students keep coming back for more, getting better and better as they go. That's engagement. That's learning.

Where Do Balloons Go?

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Where Do Balloons Go?
Price $0.99
By Auryn, Inc.
Age
4+
Top Toy

Auryn, Inc. is an absolute master at creating breathtaking apps that are magical worlds unto themselves. There are so many wonderful things going on in this interactive storybook app. Page after page is loaded with stunning visuals, sounds, activities, and games. The charming introduction by actress Jamie Lee Curtis (who is also the author, with illustrations by Laura Cornell) explains how she conceived of this story of a balloon's journey. You can read along with a voice-over by Curtis or turn it off to read on your own. Hints on each page convey how to trigger games and activities. Create custom postcards and send them to friends. Make a constellation in the night sky by touching a succession of stars. A recurring fan icon can be dragged around the page, blowing balloons and characters along with it. You can even inflate an onscreen balloon by blowing into your device, and then twist and fold it into animal shapes. Enter the Balloon Theatre, where you create custom characters and record them in a play, capturing audio and video that is often quite hilarious. Many pages become absolutely enchanting when activated by your touch. Our favorite was the Big Balloon Dance, in which the screen continuously scrolls through dozens of varied balloons dancing to spellbinding music while you take in the gorgeous visuals. Don't miss this app!

All 2013 Tillywig Award Winners

Health & Safety

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Cooshee Classic

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Cooshee Classic
Price $44.95
By BabySmart
Age
2-1/2 +
Brain Child

The moment you lay eyes and hands on this soft, foam booster seat from BabySmart, you'll gain a sense of why it's popular with kids and parents alike. The balance struck between comfort and durability, aesthetics and safety, is evident at a glance. The booster's purpose, of course, is to smoothly transition toddlers from the high chair to the family table, and Cooshee Classic does that job very nicely. The molded foam seat is remarkably soft but firm, and is smooth and pleasing to the touch. The ribbed pattern on the seat prevents your child from sliding, keeping them stable and comfortable. Cooshee Classic is waterproof and bacteria resistant, perfect for indoor and outdoor use, and is very easy to clean because there are no crevices for food, crumbs, or liquids to get caught in. Just wipe it down with a baby wipe and you're good to go again. It's non-allergenic and contains no latex, lead, or phthalates.

Cooshee Hybak

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Cooshee Hybak
Price $49.95
By BabySmart
Age
2-1/2+
Brain Child

Cooshee Hybak has many of the same great features as Cooshee Classic (see above). It's waterproof, bacteria resistant for superior indoor/outdoor use, non-allergenic, and contains no latex, lead, or phthalates. The smooth, soft-but-firm foam design makes it exceptionally comfortable and incredibly easy to clean. The Hybak comes in several colors, and its simple, attractive appearance fits nicely in any setting. The Hybak's higher back is designed specifically to give more support to the younger child, allowing longer, squirm-free sitting. The seat has a special dot pod pattern built into it that helps prevent sliding or skidding. The base is extremely stable, and the front edge of the seat naturally positions legs for proper posture. The Hybak also makes an excellent stand-alone seat on the floor for kids as young as age one. Comfort, safety, style, and ergonomics, all in one ingeniously conceived booster seat!

Hoopersize Fit Kit

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Hoopersize Fit Kit
Price $39.95
By Kidtribe Products, Inc.
Age
5 - 12 yrs.
Top Toy

Hoopersize Fit Kit is something of a marvel, turning an icon of childhood play into a potent and wildly entertaining all-in-one fitness program for boys and girls. The Pro Hoop included in each kit is bigger and stronger than a traditional one, with a cooler, more modern look and feel. You won't believe the hoop tricks your body is capable of, or the workout you'll get doing them, until you've watched and learned from the two DVDs included. The talented and effervescent Miss Kellee and the Hooperstars take us through warm-ups, hoop technique, and plenty of hip, dazzling moves. There's the Alley Oop, the Munchkin, the Criss Cross, and many more. You'll practice them in sequence and in combination while accompanied by the music videos or the 7-song CD included. Miss Kellee lights up the screen, portraying characters in humorous segments that play more like high-quality children's television than something you'd hope to find on a product DVD. Kids will watch, learn, sweat, and love every minute of it!

Lullaby Light Cube

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Lullaby Light Cube
Price $29.95
By SCS Direct
Age
0 - 2 yrs.
Brain Child

Making sure you and your baby get enough rest are high priorities for parents of young children, because the caliber of that rest time directly impacts your entire day. Lullaby Light Cube provides tremendous help in that regard by creating a consistent, controlled environment that soothes your baby to sleep with calming music and a gently lit sky. Lullaby Light Cube is wonderfully sturdy, attractive, and compact (measures just over 3" x 3" x 3"), the perfect portable companion wherever your busy day takes you. To activate lights and music, just touch the side labeled TOUCH SENSOR. Each additional touch toggles through several different sound and light modes in addition to turning it on and off. Play well-known lullabies, Heartbeat Mode, or light only, and watch the color of the projected stars and moon change with each setting. Another touch-sensor lets you choose from various volume levels, and a nifty little white base lets you angle the unit, giving you the choice of projecting on walls or ceiling. Lullaby Light Cube is available in pink or blue and requires 3 AA batteries.

Surviving Infancy

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Surviving Infancy
Price $29.95
By Surviving Infancy, LLC
Age
0-3 yrs.
Brain Child

As I watched Surviving Infancy, a thorough and enjoyable video that covers 36 topics essential to parenting children through their first few years, I was struck by how relevant the material is. And not just some of it. All of it. When my daughter was young, my wife and I encountered every concern and situation delved into in this video. I vividly recall the barrage of anxiety-producing occurrences that one little baby girl was able to send our way - inconsolable crying, problems breastfeeding, car and home safety issues, ear infections (oh, the ear infections!), flips, falls, and head bangs when she was a toddler, emergency room visits. The list goes on. And at the time, in the thick of it, it seemed as though it would never end, the hard parts anyway. The beauty of this video, presented warmly and naturally by two female Emergency Medicine physicians and educators, is not just that it provides practical knowledge essential to increasing your child's safety, but that it also gives you, the parent, some much needed perspective. Knowing what to expect and having confidence in how to react takes a great deal of the anxiety out of parenting. And the good doctors are not wishy-washy. Much of the presentation deals with specifics - do this, don't do that - music to a parent's ears. The video is broken up into 36 practical segments that fly by while providing invaluable information. It is available in DVD format (29.95) or as streaming video (24.95).

Toobaloo Headset

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Toobaloo Headset
Price $2.95
By Learning Loft, Inc.
Age
5+
Brain Child

This hands-free headset is designed to attach to all Toobaloos. The Toobaloo, also produced by the headset's manufacturer, Learning Loft, Inc., is a device that allows children to hear themselves clearly, even when speaking at a soft volume. The Toobaloo is hollow, shaped a bit like the handle on a suitcase, and is open at both ends. The student speaks with their mouth at one end and ear at the other. Despite there being no technology involved, the device produces a startling clarity of sound, and students who use it gain confidence in reading, comprehension, and speaking skills, as well as greater clarity of speech in general. It's also helpful for actors and other performers seeking to produce greater nuance with the spoken word. Both the headset and Toobaloo weigh very little, and the hands-free use enables students to turn pages, write, or gesture dramatically while speaking, singing, or reading.

All 2013 Tillywig Award Winners

Software & Electronics

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ABCmouse.com Early Learning Academy

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ABCmouse.com Early Learning Academy
Price $7.95
By Age of Learning, Inc.
Age
2-6 yrs.
Brain Child

The depth and breadth of this online learning curriculum for ages 2-6 is truly stunning. The material is organized and presented in ways that are highly engaging and easily navigable. With over 3,000 learning activities in the form of books, games, puzzles, songs, animations, and art activities, you might fear being overwhelmed, but don't. The easy interface makes for smooth sailing while providing important educational basics in reading, math, science, social studies, art, and music. And parents set the level at which children learn - from preschool through kindergarten. The family account allows individual accounts for up to 3 children, with each child's home page, onscreen avatar, activity history, rewards, artwork, and creative projects tracked and saved separately. There are 3 distinct ways to learn: The Step-by-step Learning Plan, which follows a prescribed path through lessons; Independent Learning, which allows you to explore any activities anywhere on the site; and Guided Learning, for the parent who wants to create custom lessons for their child. A reward system is integrated into all 3 approaches, with children earning tickets upon completion of each lesson that can be used in the online store, as well as a pride-inducing certificate each time he or she graduates to the next level. A subscription is 7.95 per month.

HearBuilder Series

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HearBuilder Series
Price $499.8
By Super Duper Publications
Age
4-12 yrs.
Brain Child

It's not often you find kids fully engrossed, mentally engaged, and happy to be learning, but HearBuilder accomplishes that feat. In truth, kids may not realize they're learning, because the software is organized and presented so playfully. In other words, it's fun. HearBuilder Series consists of four CD-ROM educational software programs designed to help students improve their listening and memory skills. As a result, kids find themselves deeply absorbed in a highly enjoyable learning process. The four programs each have a distinct focus and can either be purchased as a set ($499.80) or as follows: Phonological Awareness ($149.95) includes nine activities in which children learn to segment, blend and manipulate words, syllables, and sounds. Following Directions ($99.95) helps students improve auditory processing of verbal directions, gaining knowledge of concepts in five key areas. Auditory Memory ($149.95) helps students practice and develop auditory memory for numbers, words, details, as well as closure and comprehension skills. Sequencing ($99.95) targets comprehension and critical thinking skills, with students starting off by ordering simple two-step sequences and progressing to six-step sequences. Each of the programs is progressive in nature, organized in such a way that the child moves fluidly from one level to another. HearBuilder is extremely easy to navigate, and each disc comes with its own full-sized instruction booklet. Tracking the student's progress is made simple via easily accessible onscreen progress reports.

Lexibook Tablet One

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Lexibook Tablet One
Price $119.99
By Lexibook America, Inc.
Age
5+
Brain Child

Lexibook Tablet One comes loaded with entertainment and educational activities for children. Kids can browse and select from a comprehensive library of books, songs, creative activities, and games, as well as use a weather application and 15-language translator. While parental supervision during browsing is always recommended, parents can set controls on the browser so that kids can more safely navigate the internet, where over 26,000 applications from Lexibook Market and Lexibook Market Premium are available for download. There's a great deal of educational content already on the tablet, specifically developed for children and easily accessible from the home screen. The tablet is roughly 5 X 7 inches, extremely lightweight (about 10 ounces), and the touch screen works like a charm. With many of the features and characteristics already familiar from more expensive tablets, Lexibook Tablet One puts a vast selection of fun and learning at your child's fingertips at a very affordable cost.

Little Musician Basic

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Little Musician Basic
Price $199
By BrillKids International Limited (BrillKids Inc.)
Age
6 mos. +
Brain Child

As any world-class musician will tell you, music is very much a language. And children, for a period of time when they're young, have an amazing capacity to absorb and learn languages, music included. Little Musician enables you to take advantage of that incredible learning window by providing the means for even very young children to learn the fundamentals of music - melody, harmony, rhythm, meter - while exposing them to a wide range of instruments and world-famous music via the software. This boxed set includes everything you need - software disc, Quick Start guide, and two concise, extremely well written booklets. The curriculum spans two years (4 semesters of 6 months apiece), and each day's session includes a number of bite-sized lessons - chord recognition, note sounds, clap-along, rhythm, scales, keyboard, and much more - all without you or your child ever touching a musical instrument. The software is exceptionally easy to navigate. Both the software and written materials are so clearly laid out that parents don't need to know a thing about music in order to ensure their child gets the most out of the curriculum. Whether you aspire to have your children become musical prodigies or simply want them to have an understanding and lifelong appreciation of music, Little Musician provides an exceptional means for getting them there.

Skylanders SWAP Force

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Skylanders SWAP Force
Price $74.99
By Activision Publishing, Inc.
Age
6+
Top Toy

Anyone who has played the previous games in the Skylanders franchise has experienced the rousing gameplay and thrill that goes with being able to introduce physical toys into the onscreen action. That last bit - catapulting Skylanders toy figures and their special abilities into the onscreen action - just got even better. SWAP Force introduces 16 new toy figures whose top and bottom halves can be swapped, allowing players to mix and match onscreen powers into over 250 unique character combinations. That unprecedented flexibility gives players the ability to tailor powers mid-fight, and in so doing perhaps turn the tide of battle. The story-driven gameplay is loaded with action and adventure, including combat, puzzles, games, and drop-in/drop-out co-op play. In addition to new characters and swap-ability, SWAP Force features brand new abilities such as flying, climbing, digging, bouncing, and teleporting, and can also be played using the entire collection of 100+ characters from 'Skylanders Spyro's Adventure' and 'Skylanders Giants.' For Nintendo Wii, WiiU, 3DS, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation3 and PlayStation4.