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Send us your toys ... and you may be eligible to win a TDmonthly Magazine Top Toy Award!

Well-reviewed toys and products recommended by specialty retailers are more likely to be nominated for a TDmonthly Award and appear in our annual Specialty Toys Report. For submission information, please see the bottom of the page.



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Recent Reviews:

The Thread of Life by RUNNING PRESS BOOK PUBLISHERSName: The Thread of Life
Company: RUNNING PRESS BOOK PUBLISHERS
Age: All Ages
Price: $15.95
Category: Books

What is It?

Domenico Vittorini retells 12 Italian tales of shepherds, sultans, cats and snakes in The Thread of Life. This illustrated book is much like Aesop´s Fables, imparting traditional values of wisdom, justice and honesty.

What We Thought
Vittorini does a wonderful job of presenting these classic tales for future generations to enjoy and learn from. Mary GrandPré, famous for her work on the Harry Potter series, has created stunning illustrations that bring each story’s characters to life.

Why They´ll Want It
The stories contain a wealth of timeless insights that children won’t get from watching SpongeBob SquarePants.

--Nancy Tan

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Learning with Animals by KIDS CAN PRESSName: Learning with Animals
Company: KIDS CAN PRESS
Age: All Ages
Price: $16.95
Category: Books

What is It?
Learning with Animals is a set of five books that use animals to teach children the alphabet, numbers, shapes, colors and opposites. Kids can travel from the farm to the tropics to deep under the sea as they explore the fun ways that Melanie Watt incorporates learning into her illustrations.

What We Thought
The pictures are highly detailed and expressive, and the set is conveniently packaged so that young ones can carry all five books in one "big book," just like a grown-up.

Why They´ll Want It
Colorful animals frolicking in their natural habitat makes Learning with Animals a visually stimulating and educational experience.

--Nancy Tan

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The Twelve Days of Kindergarten by ABRAMS BOOKSName: The Twelve Days of Kindergarten
Company: ABRAMS BOOKS
Age: All Ages
Price: $14.95
Category: Books

What is It?
After the Christmas season has passed, carolers can still belt out The Twelve Days of Kindergarten. Deborah Lee Rose has re-made the classic song "The Twelve Days of Christmas" to apply to the hectic days in the classroom where young minds learn counting, building, stringing, sorting and the alphabet.

What We Thought
Carey Armstrong-Ellis does a fabulous job of illustrating this book. There is a wealth of detail in each picture, showing what occurs when you put a teacher alone in a class full of rowdy five-year-old children.

Why They´ll Want It
Children will love to sing along to this book and will be enthralled by the pictures. Parents and kids can spend some quality time together pointing out the idiosyncrasies of each child, helping kids learn that all of us are unique.

--Nancy Tan

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Hands-On Grossology by PENGUIN GROUP USAName: Hands-On Grossology
Company: PENGUIN GROUP USA
Age: All Ages
Price: $5.99
Category: Books

What is It?
Ever wanted to know the amount of urine you produce each day? Or did you ever want to create realistic flesh wounds to scare your friends? Or even mix up a batch of fake poop? If you´ve ever desired to do any of these, ummm, scientific experiments, then Hands-On Grossology is for you. This handy book gives readers different ways to fake grossness, perform personal gross experiments or have a communal grossness study.

What We Thought
This is a fun book that is sure to please any gross-out-loving child. Sylvia Branzei uses scientific jargon in a non-intimidating format, allowing children to learn complex terms such as "sebaceous glands" and "salivary amylase" while exploring some unsavory subjects.

Why They´ll Want It
Children are always thrilled to learn and share the information they acquire for themselves.

--Nancy Tan

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Teeth are Not for Biting by FREE SPIRIT PUBLISHINGName: Teeth are Not for Biting
Company: FREE SPIRIT PUBLISHING
Age: 2-5
Price: $7.95
Category: Books

What is It?
Teeth are Not for Biting
by Free Spirit Publishing (ToyDirectory) is a great guide for youngsters who use biting to relieve frustration, crankiness, or mouth pain from teething. The book also provides a list of tips for parents who are dealing with a child who is teething or biting.

What We Thought
The book gets the point across directly and simply that teeth are for chewing food, not biting people or gnawing on objects. Using onomatopoeia, the authors make this message very easy to remember: strong teeth go "Crunch! Crunch! Crunch!" but "Ouch!" biting hurts so don´t do it because a hug from a grown-up will make everything "Mmmmm…" better.

Why They´ll Want It
This colorful book lets children learn some facts about their teeth and that it’s normal to feel the need to bite sometimes—but the important thing is that they don´t!

--Nancy Tan



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Farm Animal Jigsaw Book by USBORNE PUBLISHINGName: Farm Animal Jigsaw Book
Company: USBORNE PUBLISHING
Age: 4 and up
Price: $8.95
Category: Books

What is It?
The Farm Animal Jigsaw Book does a wonderful job of combining the art of storytelling and the activity of a jigsaw puzzle. The book comes with four detailed puzzles that illustrate the text on the opposing page.

What We Thought
This cute book recounts the activities of Poppy and Sam, as they help Mrs. Boot feed the animals on Apple Tree Farm. From a visit to the chicken coop to the apple-shed fiasco, children can learn about barnyard animals as well as practice their hand-eye coordination by putting the puzzle pieces together.

Why They´ll Want It
Farm Animal Jigsaw Book gives a reader more than just a story; it gives them an activity that can be done over and over again. The illustrations will delight even the youngest eyes.

--Nancy Tan

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Face Painting Kit by SNAZAROOName: Face Painting Kit
Company: SNAZAROO
Age: 3 and up
Price: $14.99
Category: Creative Activities

What Is It?
Children are such clowns sometimes. With Snazaroo´s (ToyDirectory) Face Painting Kit, kids can become everything from a Dalmatian pup to a ferocious striped tiger. The kit comes with an 8-color palette, face painting brush and sponge, and a face-painting guide. For those who like the whole package, there is also Snazaroo Zoo ($12.95) by Janis Bullis that gives face-painting ideas along with costume designs.

What We Thought
This is a necessary kit to have for Halloween and all other costume parties. The paint is easy to apply and stays on until washed off with mild soap and water. The kit also comes with enough paint for 50 different faces so that young ones can explore all the animals, bugs and monsters that their imaginations create.

Why They´ll Want It
All children love to dress up, and Snazaroo´s Face Painting Kit makes any costume complete.

-- Nancy Tan



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Mandala Designer by RAVENSBURGERName: Mandala Designer
Company: RAVENSBURGER
Age: 5 and up
Price: $12.99
Category: Arts & Crafts

What Is It?
Ravensburger's Mandala Designer is an art activity kit that makes complicated Mandala designs easy to create and enjoy. The set comes with a frame, Mandala template, 10 sheets of paper, pencil, felt pen, and 6 color pencils. Children can draw a number of classic Mandalas that are featured on the box or experiment with the template to produce their own masterpieces.

What We Thought
This great activity will keep children occupied for hours. The result is a plethora of colorful Mandalas that will look great on a wall or on the fridge. Children will be inspired by the works they create.

Why They’ll Want I
Patterns, designs and color pencils are a great way to pass a lazy afternoon.

-- Nancy Tan

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Buzzword by PATCH PRODUCTS INC.Name: Buzzword
Company: PATCH PRODUCTS INC.
Age: 10 and up
Price: $19.98
Category: General Games

What Is It?
Buzzword is a challenging brain twister that requires players to discern familiar catch phrases that utilize a given keyword. For example, for the buzzword "over," what kind of answers do you come up with? “Oversee.” “Overtime.” “Over-the-hill.” “Hand over fist.” It's not as easy as it looks -- especially with only 45 seconds to answer 10 clues and an opposing team waiting its turn to steal your points. The game comes with 400 sets of clues on 200 cards, 10 scoring cards, sand timer, scoreboard and marker.

What We Thought
This is a great activity for family game nights or get-togethers with friends. Team competition and time constraints make the game exciting, as well as a mental workout.

Why They’ll Want I
Buzzword is a combination of quick wit and synaptic firing that’s fun for the whole family.

-- Nancy Tan

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Penguin Pile-Up by RAVENSBURGERName: Penguin Pile-Up
Company: RAVENSBURGER
Age: 5 and up
Price: $19.98
Category: General Games

What Is It?
Ravensburger
´s Penguin Pile-Up is a fun new twist to games such as Topple because, instead of colorful disks, the game uses the most loveable Antarctica animal: penguins! Players attempt to balance their penguins on the shifty iceberg without making any of them fall into the “icy water” below. The game comes with a game base, iceberg with flag, 24 penguins and game rules.


What We Thought
Penguin Pile-Up is a great game to play alone or as a group. It involves concentration and balance that would challenge even the most coordinated of adults. Penguin figurines do require assembly, but this is also an amusing activity to do with the entire family before play.


Why They´ll Want It
The stacking game is tons of fun, and it’s even better with penguins!


-- Nancy Tan



Learn more about Penguin Pile-Up

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Loopy Links Jewelry by MANHATTAN TOYName: Loopy Links Jewelry
Company: MANHATTAN TOY
Age: 1-3
Price: $19.95
Category: Creative Activities

What Is It?
Every girl cannot wait to grow up to be just like Mom, but if you don't want your tot going through your jewelry box, Manhattan Toy's Loopy Links Jewelry is a great alternative. The activity kit comes with magnetic linking necklaces, bracelets and earrings that can be stored in a convenient see-through purse. All pieces are covered in colorful cloth and can be combined with other Loopy Links sets.

What We Thought
Loopy Links Jewelry is a safe activity for little girls to indulge in fantasies of being a princess or diva. With the lots of different combinations of accessories, playing with the jewelry will also increase imaginations and help build motor skills.

Why They’ll Want I
This kit is a fun way for young girls to dress up without growing up too quickly.

-- Nancy Tan

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Little Yogis by WAI LANAName: Little Yogis
Company: WAI LANA
Age: 3-8
Price: $34.99
Category: Play Sets

What Is It?
Wai Lana´s (ToyDirectory) Little Yogis is a yoga kit that helps children practice physical coordination, increase flexibility, and build muscular strength. Yoga not only benefits the body, but also the mind, as the activity develops concentration, focus and patience. Yoga also leaves children relaxed and with heightened self-control. The kit comes with a yoga mat, asana poster, Little Yogis video (60 minutes) and tote bag.

What We Thought
Little Yogis is a great way for children to get some exercise in a fun and valuable fashion. The video is enjoyable to watch with entertaining cartoons and musical introductions preceding Wai Lana and her entourage of children practicing the different poses. Her soothing voice can calm the rowdiest crowd, and the positions are fun, yet challenging.

Why They’ll Want I
Kids can use the kit by themselves or with others. Have fun yoga parties to entertain all the kids in the neighborhood!

-- Nancy Tan



Learn more about Little Yogis

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Learn Through Music by FISHER-PRICE INC.Name: Learn Through Music
Company: FISHER-PRICE INC.
Age: 1 and up
Price: $34.99
Category: Educational

What Is It?
Learn Through Music is an interactive educational toy that teaches—both in English and Spanish—words for barnyard animals (with moos and oinks), find-it games, sing-alongs (with a karaoke-style mic included!) and lots more. The toy has touch-screen features, as well as large buttons a toddler can push to advance to the next game.

What We Thought
We all remember learning our ABCs by singing them, and this toy works on the same principle: rhythm and melody help kids retain what they’ve learned. Learn Through Music is simple to operate; the touch-screen and toddler-friendly buttons make it a toy even the youngest child will be able to play with on his or her own. Familiar characters such as Blues Clues, Sesame Street, Barney and Dora the Explorer boost the appeal. And imagine how powerful a toddler will feel when he hears his voice projected through the built-in microphone!

Why They’ll Want I
What parent wouldn’t want a toy that’s fun, educational and—perhaps most importantly—durable? Learn Through Music is all three. And the price isn’t bad either.

-- Tim Connolly

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Powertouch Learning System by FISHER-PRICE INC.Name: Powertouch Learning System
Company: FISHER-PRICE INC.
Age: 4-8
Price: $59.95
Category: Educational

What Is It?
Powertouch is an interactive system that teaches reading, numbers, shapes, colors and more. Kids touch words, pictures and numbers to hear pronunciations, spellings, phonetics, play counting games or follow along as the story is read aloud. Each Powertouch comes with two books.

What We Thought
The “finger-touch” system is truly cool. Even holding a finger slightly over the picture or word will activate a response, and the auto-page detection makes sure you always get the right responses for the page you’re looking at. Powertouch is simple to set up and operate; kids can put the books in themselves and start reading along (There’s also a headphone jack to allow others to concentrate.). A row of menu tabs at the top of each page allows parents or kids to choose “story,” “words,” “phonics,” “find,” “spelling,” “music” or “surprise” for each page. My only criticism is that the pages of the books might be somewhat slim for little fingers to turn. (Note to budding DJs: the finger-touch response is sensitive enough to allow for scratching effects. Try the letter “P”: P-P-P-Party!)

Why They’ll Want It
This toy can be shared by parent and child together, as well as letting kids practice reading and counting on their own with familiar characters such as the Sesame Street gang, Blues Clues, Dora the Explorer and lots more. It’s an interactive toy that rewards intelligence rather than competitiveness and aggression—and it’s fun.

-- Tim Connolly



Learn more about Powertouch Learning System

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Team GK Dolls by TEDDI TOYS INCName: Team GK Dolls
Company: TEDDI TOYS INC
Age: 6 and up
Price: $39.99
Category: Dolls

What is It?
Teddi Toys’ (ToyDirectory) new line of dolls, Team GK, is based on the comic book series Team GK: The Power of Nine. Each doll comes with its own accessories as well as trading cards, stickers, comic book and membership documents. Children can also go online to GK Headquarters and play math games and practice art skills.


What We Thought
Team GK allows children to play with the comic book characters they admire. The website is very educational and may inspire children to get excited about learning.


Why They’ll Want It
The Team GK comic has quite a following, which brings a built-in consumer base for spin-off products.


--Nancy Tan



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Precious Impressions Memory Hands Kit by PRECIOUS IMPRESSIONS INCName: Precious Impressions Memory Hands Kit
Company: PRECIOUS IMPRESSIONS INC
Age: 10 and up
Price: $24.99
Category: Educational

What is It?
The Precious Impressions (ToyDirectory) Memory Hands Kit allows families to create a life-sized replica of one or two hands cast in dental-quality plaster.


What We Thought
Precious Impressions has made this kit practically foolproof. The end result is a lasting reminder of a moment captured in time.


Why They’ll Want It
The sentimental nature of Memory Hands will appeal to both parents and grandparents alike. Its keepsake value far outweighs the reasonable price.


--Andrew Windchanz



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Rainbow Color Cones by LEARNING RESOURCES INC.Name: Rainbow Color Cones
Company: LEARNING RESOURCES INC.
Age: 3 and up
Price: $12.95
Category: Educational

What is It?
Rainbow Color Cones gives children the chance to build their own ice cream cone without the mess. This educational toy comes with two cones and eight scoops of ice cream with the name of its color underneath.


What We Thought
This toy is a fun and creative way for children to learn color identification and practice their motor skills by building a delicious-looking treat. They will also build some arm strength since some of the pieces are difficult to separate once locked into each other.


Why They’ll Want It
Kids love ice cream. Parents love toys that teach as well as entertain. Rainbow Color Cones make everyone happy.


--Nancy Tan

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Pizza Fraction Fun by LEARNING RESOURCES INC.Name: Pizza Fraction Fun
Company: LEARNING RESOURCES INC.
Age: 6 and up
Price: $17.95
Category: Educational

What is It?
Pizza Fun Fraction lets children learn fractions by playing seven fun-filled pizza games requiring players to estimate, match, multiply and manipulate numbers to beat their opponents.


What We Thought
What kid doesn’t love pizza? The game makes learning fractions enjoyable by disguising the math lessons with this favorite food.


Why They’ll Want It
This game is a non-intimidating way for kids to learn fractions—that rare part of mathematics that ordinary people actually use.


--Nancy Tan



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Learn a Craft: Needlepoint by DIMENSIONS/PERLERName: Learn a Craft: Needlepoint
Company: DIMENSIONS/PERLER
Age: 8 and up
Price: $2.99
Category: Educational

What is It?
Learn a Craft: Needlepoint comes with a needle, wool yarn, cotton thread, a seven-count plastic canvas and easy instructions that allow beginners to make cute and fuzzy designs.


What We Thought
This kit gives kids who aren’t ready to start on a quilt the chance to create a small piece of needlepoint art while learning concentration, patience and creativity.


Why They’ll Want It
Needlepoint is an enduring American craft, and this kit is an affordable introduction to the art.


--Nancy Tan

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Pencil Works by DIMENSIONS/PERLERName: Pencil Works
Company: DIMENSIONS/PERLER
Age: 5 and up
Price: $5.99
Category: Educational

What Is It?
Pencil Works is a color-by-number product that allows children to experiment with mixing colors by following the numbers on the guide chart provided. The kit comes with a set of 12 coloring pencils, pencil sharpener and pre-marked picture.


What We Thought
Through the easy-to-follow chart, little artists can achieve a professional-looking result while learning about color interaction.


Why They’ll Want It
Dimensions (ToyDirectory, ToyShow)takes the guesswork out of discerning what to draw and allows children to focus on coloring itself.


--Nancy Tan



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Paint Works by DIMENSIONS/PERLERName: Paint Works
Company: DIMENSIONS/PERLER
Age: All Ages
Price: $7.99
Category: Educational

What is It?
Paint Works gives children eight different colors to brush into precise numbered zones to create the picture provided.


What We Thought
The convenient packaging allows children to experiment with mixing different colors for certain areas of painting, and the aquatic life composition is dynamic and kid-friendly.


Why They’ll Want It
Creatively minded kids will be drawn to Paint Works’ compositions for the chance to create a professional-looking painting.


--Nancy Tan



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Glass Art  by DIMENSIONS/PERLERName: Glass Art
Company: DIMENSIONS/PERLER
Age: 8 and up
Price: $9.99
Category: Educational

What is It?
Glass Art comes with four different colors, a glass template, eye droplet and materials to create a beautiful wind chime. Parents must provide aluminum foil, paper towels, cotton swabs, a cup of water, straight pins and toothpicks.


What We Thought
Glass Art makes a craft project accessible to even the youngest artist. Children can create a piece of real artwork, while learning patience, concentration and precision.


Why They’ll Want It
Glass Art will not only entertain kids, it will give their parents a piece of childhood to be cherished for years to come.


--Nancy Tan



Learn more about Glass Art

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To Learn Time Playing with My First Real Watch by PRIM'TIME TECHNOLOGYName: To Learn Time Playing with My First Real Watch
Company: PRIM'TIME TECHNOLOGY
Age: 3 and up
Price: $24.95
Category: Educational

What is It?
The My First Real Watch set, created in collaboration with the French Ministry of Education, features an animated watch with pictograms, another more traditional watch adorned with the cartoony character, “Tim,” and a glossy picture book and playing cards. Both watches are water-resistant and boast a one-year warranty and hypoallergenic bracelets.

What We Thought
Maybe if I’d had this set in kindergarten it wouldn’t have taken me ten minutes to answer when the teacher asked, “What time is it?” This toy is a fun and engaging way to introduce preschoolers to telling time.

Why They’ll Want It
Parents of kids who need to be weaned off digital time-tellers will enjoy the simple card game and pictogram watch: both keep kids´ attention while teaching basic daily routines. (The included book offers a narrative review of school, play and lunch times.) Kids can wear the pictogram watch or the standard face version and learn which hour goes with what activity.


--Kris Dukes



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Phonics Activity Set - Word Building by LEARNING RESOURCES INC.Name: Phonics Activity Set - Word Building
Company: LEARNING RESOURCES INC.
Age: 6 and up
Price: $24.95
Category: Educational

What is It?
The Phonics Activity Set By Learning Resources (ToyDirectory) was developed by educators to help kids group rhyming words, play with vowels and recognize spelling patterns.


What We Thought
Parents looking for a tactile and fun way to engage post-alphabet-block kids in learning the foundations for reading will enjoy this set. Sophisticated, but straightforward and easy to understand, the Phonics Activity Set supplements any formal reading program.


Why They’ll Want It
This kit creates and encourages budding wordsmiths. The carrying case looks just like a high school binder. Unzip it to reveal a well-organized safe place for Reading Rods, activity cards, stand and a dry-erase board. The included "Dear Parent" pamphlet reads like a letter from the perfect teacher.


--Kris Dukes

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Teaching Young Children, Never-Bored Kid Books by EVAN-MOOR EDUCATIONAL PUBLISHERSName: Teaching Young Children, Never-Bored Kid Books
Company: EVAN-MOOR EDUCATIONAL PUBLISHERS
Age: 1-9
Price: $19.99
Category: Educational

What is It?
Evan-Moor´s (ToyDirectory, ToyShow) four activity books: Teaching Young Children (ages 1-6) and Never-Bored Kid Book (books for ages 4-5, 6-7, 8-9).


What We Thought
Teaching Young Children is the play manual I wish I’d had in my babysitting days, especially with its rundown on profiles of 1-6 year-olds. Never-Bored Kid Books are deliciously colorful and cool with cut-out quasi-origami projects.


Why They’ll Want It
Day-care providers, teachers and parents will be happy with Teaching Young Children´s pages of educational and fun activities: everything from “how to throw a parachute party” to “learning fractions with food.” Never-Bored Kid Books are more straightforward activity books filled with crafts projects, mazes, dot-to-dots and riddles.


--Kris Dukes



Learn more about Teaching Young Children, Never-Bored Kid Books

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Word for Word Game by LEARNING RESOURCES INC.Name: Word for Word Game
Company: LEARNING RESOURCES INC.
Age: 7 and up
Price: $29.95
Category: Educational

What is It?
The package says it´s fast-paced, word-building fun for the family. Don´t cringe; it really is. Snap together different words with Reading Rods (those color-coded, interlocking manipulatives designed to teach phonics and literacy) until a timer goes off. Instructions give tips on how to tailor the game to various age and skill levels.

What We Thought
Another Reading Rods educational set, this game is more toy than tool. Unlike the Phonics Activity sets, which have a definite academic—though fun—feel, Word for Word is brain-flexing sport.


Why They’ll Want It
Teachers, parents and students will appreciate the challenging, competitive, but light fun of Word for Word. Owners of other Reading Rods sets will think this set is the icing on the cake.


--Kris Dukes

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Sorting Shapes Cupcakes by LEARNING RESOURCES INC.Name: Sorting Shapes Cupcakes
Company: LEARNING RESOURCES INC.
Age: 3 and up
Price: $11.99
Category: Educational

What is It?
Sorting Shapes Cupcakes comes with a plastic cupcake tray and six durable plastic cupcakes. The set is designed to teach children shape recognition, fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination by getting them to figure out which cupcake top fits into which bottom.


What We Thought
Kids love cupcakes, and this game is a straightforward and fun way for preschoolers to use this familiar treat to learn shapes. And it made me hungry.


Who Would Like It
Any preschool-age child.


--Tim Connolly



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Counting Cookies by LEARNING RESOURCES INC.Name: Counting Cookies
Company: LEARNING RESOURCES INC.
Age: 3 and up
Price: $11.99
Category: Educational

What is It?
Counting Cookies comes with a plastic cookie jar and ten plastic cookies, each with 1-10 M&M-colored chips on one side, and the numerical value on the other.


What We Thought
This game is a simple and fun way to introduce preschoolers to numbers, using a treat every kid will recognize.


Who Would Like It
Any preschool-age child.


--Tim Connolly

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Measuring Monkeys by LEARNING RESOURCES INC.Name: Measuring Monkeys
Company: LEARNING RESOURCES INC.
Age: 5 and up
Price: $17.95
Category: Educational

What is It?
Measuring Monkeys teaches kids how to use a ruler by moving plastic monkeys up and down a tree-shaped game-post. Kids spin the wheel to determine how far up or down the tree to move and then place their monkey at the appropriate measurement with a banana-shaped peg.


What We Thought
The game teaches kids the American (non-metric) measuring system while meeting the litmus test of all educational toys: creating enough fun that kids hardly notice they’re learning something.


Who Would Like It
Any kindergarten or grade school kid who needs a fun introduction to fractions.


--Tim Connolly



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Follow Jade! Let's Visit Chinese Kindergarten by MASTER COMMUNICATIONSName: Follow Jade! Let's Visit Chinese Kindergarten
Company: MASTER COMMUNICATIONS
Age: 5 and up
Price: $14.95
Category: Videos & DVDs

What is It?
In Follow Jade! Let´s Visit Chinese Kindergarten, Jade uses her bilingual, activity-based instruction to introduce viewers to colors, numbers and typical Chinese songs.


What We Thought
Parents who want to expose their children to world cultures will do well to take a look at the Follow Jade! Series.


Why They’ll Want It
With a resurgent Chinese economy, you can expect an increasing awareness of Chinese language and culture in North America.


--Jeremy Loudenback

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