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Top-rated toys for school-age kids

“Today” contributor and consumer specialist Herb Weisbaum, who has been testing toys for over 25 year, gives parents a shopping list of toys that are safe, fun and durable.
/ Source: TODAY

TODAY’S TOY TEST 2003’: WINNING SCHOOL-AGE TOYS

The holidays are just around the corner, but before you hit the stores or do any online shopping, you’ll want to read this. “Today” contributor and consumer specialist Herb Weisbaum had thousands of children across the country test hundreds of toys, and for part three of his special series, “Today’s Toy Test 2003,” he shares a look at the toys that ranked the highest among those choosy school-age kids. Check out the winners below.

BRATZ KRAZY-KOOL KARAOKE MACHINE BY MGA ENTERTAINMENT

Kids love Karaoke! Toymakers have noticed; we had five karaoke toys entered in this year’s toy test. This one was the standout favorite. The Krazy-Kool Karaoke Machine has a built-in 5.5-inch black and white display, two microphones with extra long cords (perfect for sing-alongs with a friend) and special effects features, such as echo. It comes with a CD of four hip songs, such as: “Get the Party Started,” and “1000 Miles.” This is the music that’s so popular with “tweens,” the same crowd that’s made the Bratz line of funky fashion dolls a hit.

EDGERUNNER 2 BY TAIYO EDGE R/C

Taiyo Edge R/C

This is a new version of the popular EdgeRunner (no longer made) that is every bit as exciting as the original — it’s just smaller and lower-priced. This 4-wheel-drive stunt vehicle has twin motors, and huge, hi-torque “Gyro” wheels. It’s fast and fun! The twin-stick transmitter makes it real easy to do jumps, end-over-end flips, and quad spins on two wheels. Use the exclusive Stunt Pegs to “Run the Edge” on two wheels. By the way, you’ll find the same toy, with a custom paint job and a different name, GyroMax, at Discover Stores for around $50 (including battery pak).

IMAGINEXT PIRATE RAIDER BY FISHER-PRICE

Fisher-Price

With its detailed design and skull-and-crossbones rigging, this pirate ship is ready to sail the seas in search of make-pretend adventure and buried treasure. It comes fully-equipped with a triple-action firing cannon, a mast that topples when a target is hit, movable plank and anchor. Three figures (admiral, captain and one crew member) and some animals (yes, there’s a parrot). The Pirate raider has modular parts that can be refigured or combined with other Imaginext sets.

BALL TRACK CONSTRUCTION SET BY HABA

Haba

Haba is a German company that’s just started importing some of its high-quality wooden toys to the U.S. This large construction set, which has been a big seller overseas for years, is now available here. It has 42 beech wood pieces and 6 glass marbles. Just build a track, launch the marbles and watch them work their way to the bottom! No batteries, no electronics, just simple creative play because the track can be put together differently every time.

POLLYPLACE HANGIN’ OUT HOUSE BY MATTEL

Mattel

She’s one of the big sellers in the small doll category and a real hit with our little testers. Polly and her friends have been re-designed to stretch, twist and bend. They can even hold hands. They also have a new place to hang out. This brightly-colored doll house has 5 rooms with magnetic walls that make decorating the place real easy. Pieces can go everywhere-on the floors, ceiling and walls! Because Polly and her friends have “magnetic personalities” kids can stick them anywhere they want, including the roof!

Polly’s place folds up easily and the rooftop handle makes for easy carrying.

EDUCATIONAL WINNER: SCHOOL AGE

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEducational Insights

The Educational Winner in the school age category teaches kids about animals and outer space. It really looks more like a microscope, but the telescope (with 4X magnification) detaches from the base for on-the-go exploration. The base unit is where all the “talking” takes place. Pick one of the 20 slides and put in on the viewing stand. The animal images from National Geographic range from koalas to Komodo dragons. The space slides with images from NASA include Saturn and International Space Station. Kids can choose the facts mode to hear about the object (“Jupiter is so big that more than 1,000 Earths could fit inside it”) or the quiz mode, where they answer multiple choice questions.

Consumer expert and “Today” contributor Herb Weisbaum has been helping people across the country for over 25 years. His award-winning reports have exposed everything from quack medications to bogus investments. Since 1990, his Toy Test has helped millions of parents and grandparents select the bets toys for their kids. To learn more about Herb Weisbaum and his latest consumer reports, you can visit his Web site at: The ConsumerMan Show: www.consumerman.com