Peaceable Kingdom’s new Sunny Day Pond just right for Spring

IMG_5070There’s something especially cheerful about this latest cooperative game from Peaceable Kingdom! Sunny Day Pond was a hit with our preschooler testers. They loved that they were working together to make three puzzles that feature an orange duck, a purple fish and a green frog. Players use the spinner to determine which color puzzle piece they’ll be using. But beware, there are raindrops!   If six raindrops are collected, the round is over! Very sweet. Designed for 2-4 players, ages 3 and up.

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Wonderful Landmark Puzzles from Duo Press

We’re always on the look out for new puzzle makers. Duo Press has joined our short list of favorites! Their new 20 piece My San Francisco Puzzle and My New York Puzzle are both visually very pleasing, made on sturdy stock and are just right for the 3 & up crowd. Each puzzle comes in a well-designed box that will make storage easy and long-lasting. Read our reviews at www.toyportfolio.comIMG_3906.

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Weapons are weapons – even if they’re Pink

imagesThe most troubling quote in today’s NYT’s article, “Today’s Girls Love Pink Bows as Playthings, but These Shoot” is “toys that stimulate aggression are healthy for children.” To suggest that literal props like weapons are something to be valued (regardless of what color they are) puts the conversation about the value of play experiences back a few decades.  Yes, kids have aggression and need outlets for expressing it, but making it part of their play diet with plastic weapons is not beneficial.  Most child development experts would suggest art supplies and puppets as appropriate outlets for expressing emotions.

We have nothing against archery – but here the game play (inspired by mega hit The Hunger Games) is targeting other children, not a bullseye. There is a disconnect between the teen/adult audience of the books and movies and the 7-year-olds  that are the intended consumers of these toys. While we happily support “girl power” when it comes to STEM toys that encourage girls to be all that they can be, this kind of role play perverts the concept of empowerment. Even in the universe from which these toys have come from, we doubt very much that Katniss would approve arming children her sister’s age with weapons.

Toy Fair Preview: STEM TOYS 2014

Last year the buzz was STEM toys with an emphasis on construction toys. Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award-winning Goldie Blox even made its way to a Super Bowl commercial.

Now ThinkFun is launching ROBOT Turtles, a board game that promises to introduce young children (preschoolers) to programming. We haven’t played the game–but I love the idea of kids learning how to program rather than just spending so much time sucked into video games. ROBOT Turtles started on Kickstarter by inventor Dan Shapiro. The game is scheduled for release in June (retail $24.99).

ROBOT Turtles from THINKFUN

ROBOT Turtles from THINKFUN

Playful Socks and Mittens from Hooray Hoopla

socks from HoorayHooplaYou won’t find these animal-themed mittens or socks in the toy aisle, but they are wonderfully playful! We love the idea of kids having different animals on their feet that can speak to each other. We received a three pack of socks ($14.99) that included: Shark vs. Penguin, Lion vs. Tiger and T-Rex vs. Triceratops. There are also delicious booties for older babies and toddlers…Cat vs. Dog, Owl vs. Mouse, T-Rex vs. Triceratops. The booties are sooo soft – you’ll be jealous that they don’t come in your size!

 

The mittens (available in adult sizes), recently spotted on Anne Hathaway, are equally adorable. We wish they were lined with the same material as the booties. We received a pair with Frog vs. Fly. These do vsm-kids-frogfly-mittens-1come in adult sizes – proving that you don’t have to be a child to be super playful!

A fun company. Check out their website at www.hoorayhoopla.com

Calico Critters – A Classic that appeals to the iphone generation

Calico Critters were first launched in Japan way back in 1985. They arrived in North America  in 1993 and are currently distributed by International Playthings.  (They’re known in other countries as Sylvanian families). No matter the name, these small animal collections are enjoying a resurgence with the “iphone generation” of preschoolers and early school age kids.

Calico Critters Ice Cream Truck

Calico Critters Ice Cream Truck

Unless your heart is stone cold, you have to admit that Calico Critters are seriously cute. Even for a preschool generation that lives on fruit ninjas and can navigate youtube like pros, there’s something appealing to actually holding a Calico Critter in your hand.  Our testers also love that they come in families.  For kids that like to pretend in miniature (as opposed to whole body pretending) – Calico Critters will say whatever they want them to say.  There are no bells and whistles here – which is why they’re probably still so popular.

Here’s a link to our most recent reviews of their Border Collie FamilyIce Cream Truck, and Treehouse.