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Top toys for preschool kids

Toys that passed the test for the three to five-year-old set. Consumer specialist Herb Weisbaum shares a look at this year’s winners. Check out the list.
/ Source: TODAY

“TODAY’S TOY TEST 2003”: WINNING PRESCHOOL TOYS

More than 8,000 kids road tested hundreds of new toys for “Today’s Toy Test 2003,” and “Today” contributor and consumer specialist Herb Weisbaum has the skinny on which ones ranked highest for the preschool set. Check out the winning results.

WOODEN DOLL HOUSE BY BATTAT

Battat

The clear favorite in the preschool category is a three-story deluxe doll house that is truly a custom-built model because kids build it to their specifications, which can be different every time. Teachers told us the open design makes it easy for a number of kids to work on this construction project together. Special features include: a decorative railing, skylight, extended balcony and two sets of stairs — one inside and a spiral staircase outside. This dollhouse comes loaded with wooden furniture and accessories. There’s even a patio set and car for the garage.

MADELINE STORYBOOK DOLL HOUSE BY RC2

84616Storybook_bath_POSRC2

When was the last time you saw a doll house priced at under $30? This innovative dollhouse folds out for fun play and folds up for simple storage. It has four brightly-colored rooms: kitchen, classroom, bedroom and bathroom. They’re all sized for existing Madeline poseable dolls and furniture (sold separately). Because it’s made to be portable, this doll house comes in a clear PVC carrying pouch with a handle.

POWER WHEELS BARBIE VW DUNE NEW BEETLE BY FISHER-PRICE

Fisher-Price

It’s sporty and sassy and ready for back yard crusin’. This stylish two-seat ride on toy is battery-powered (the 12-volt battery and charger are included). It has rugged over-sized purple tires, a tinted windshield, and plenty of storage room in the back. The pretend radio has three buttons for music, engine sounds, and the horn (that’s the real VW horn sound). There’s even a flower bud vase on the dash with a flower that bounces and wiggles as you drive along. There are two speeds in forward, 2.5 mph and 5mph. In reverse it goes 2.5 mph.

THOMAS & FRIENDS SODOR RESCUE TEAM BY RC2

This is the latest in a long line of winning Thomas & Friends play sets. This combined track and roadway set has 100 wooden pieces, including: Thomas the Tank Engine, Harold the Helicopter, Butch the Towtruck, an ambulance, fire truck. It features the popular Rescue Hospital and Fire Station. There’s also the Arched Stone Bridge, and Single Stone Tunnel. The sturdy wooden storage box, decorated with Thomas artwork, has a pad on top, so it doubles as a bench. One teacher commented that this toy is “beautifully made.” Like other Thomas & Friends toys, this set is guaranteed for life.

BARBIE “COOK-WITH-ME” SMART KITCHEN BY KIDDESIGNS

The kitchen play set has now gone hi-tech, with burner lights on the stove and LED indicators on the microwave. But this “smart” kitchen has more than modern design — it’s truly interactive. The pretend food has built-in smart chips, so the microwave, oven and range recognize what’s being “cooked” and make the appropriate sounds. They even tell you when the food is done. As one teacher put it, “this is way cool!” The friendly voice of Chef Barbie shares cooking instructions and encourages little chefs. Teachers liked the fact that this toy “teaches the kids manners while they play.” This set comes with a lot of little pieces. There’s food (a whole turkey, muffins and broccoli), cooking accessories (frying pan, pie tin spatula, and oven mitts) and tableware (cups, dishes, flatware, even salt & pepper shakers).

EDUCATIONAL WINNER: FLY & DISCOVER GLOBE BY VTECH

Once again, VTech proves that an educational toy can be incredibly fun! You’re the pilot of an airplane that flies around the world. Just grab the built-in joystick and off you go! Come to a place you’d like to explore and this interactive talking globe will tell you the location, about the animals that live there and provide other fun facts. A magnifying glass attached to the plane enlarges that spot on the globe. There are three discovery modes: 1. Free Flying: where the child controls the adventure, 2. Tricky Travels: where the child follows clues to find a location, and 3. Creature Feature: where the child follows verbal instructions to find animals and learn about them and their habitats. One test center told us the teachers liked this toy as much as the kids!

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