I’ve been listening to The Terrible Two by Jerzy the Giant. Matt Pryor’s voice is wonderful–and the great majority of the songs on this CD have a lovely musical quality to them that is often missing in children’s audio. The arrangements are pleasing to both kids and adults. But then I got to the “mantra” song Great Big Poop…really? I think it’s great to celebrate important moments–but Great Big Poop…I don’t think so. Maybe I’m being too serious?
I have to be honest, I love testing toys. It’s a strange occupation I know–but there’s nothing better than finding something that kids love – that’s the pay off. I also have to tell you that screening children’s audio is one of the most painful things we do around here. I just listened to Trout Fishing in America–it started out great–made me feel like I was on the lawn at a country fair…all good, until we got to the song “Always Chew Your Food”… An important topic but really, a song about keeping your mouth closed? I don’t see it.
I’m now listening to Totally ’80s for kids…including the hits (by the original artists) Celebration, Weird Science, She Drives Me Crazy, Steppin’ Out… I usually pass on these mixes–but if you’re in the mood to jump around to some tunes you probably used to jump around to–it’s fun. There’s also Motown for Kids. My son Matthew is big on the 70s and 80s–and keeps downloading songs that I haven’t heard since high school/college. It’s fun to revisit things–although I was at a family party in Seattle a few weeks ago and watching a room full of 40 somethings dancing and jumping to Talking Heads–well it was fun and sad all at the same time.
If you’re in the market for a digital camera for your child this year, we love the quality and features of the new Disney Pix Jr. and now the price has just been knocked down from $59.99 to $49.99. For a full review of all of its features, go to our site of Platinum Award Winners.
Over the summer I had two babies (both just hovering around their first birthdays) over for a family get together. “Do you have anything for them to play with?” asked one of the grandmothers. Silly question of course since during the summer even our office bathroom tub is literally overflowing with toys. I pulled out the Munchkin Caterpillar Spillers much to everyone’s surprise. With all the big toys around–why such a small set of nesting cups?
They looked a little disappointed (the grown ups, not the babies)…until they watched as one of the babies became completely engaged in picking each cup up (the other baby was playing a mean game of peek a boo with several adults)…In any case our “tester” for the evening loved the cups…she could pick them up by their little tabs…move them about, taste them, toss them…all fun. She even enjoyed it when we stacked them up and then “blew” them down.
My point–this small and inexpensive toy at $6.95 may be something you’d tend to walk by on the way to the bigger ticket items–and yet this is a great toy that can be used on the go (the cups are a perfect take along travel toy), in the bath (each has holes that are fun for exploring as the water pours through) and on the floor (put a blankie over the cups and play peekaboo)…
We debated whether they were substantial enough to put on the Platinum List–but they do meet all the criteria — well made, lasting play value, engaging…all good!
We’ve been bombarded with green marketing this year…some products are well meaning but have really heavy handed messages. With that in mind we looked for toys that represent a more planet friendly agenda in how they are manufactured, as well as toys that do deliver a message but in a child friendly way…Here are our favorites:
1. Parking Garage (Plan Toys)
2. Tonka Lil Gas Pump (Hasbro) – it shows how ethanol is made on the back of the pump.
3. Sprig Vehicles (Sprig)- new line of vehicles made from recycled materials.
4. Gator Golf (Hasbro)- The classic game is now made without batteries.
5. Indoor Gardening Kit (Green Toys)- made from repurposed materials.
6. Think Green Barbie – love that she’s joined this important cause…her motto…”Think Pink, Live Green”
7. National Geographic Kids Animals (International Playthings)- polar bears and snakes–oh my!
8. Cheekeyes Animals (Cheekeyes)- handsomely crafted line of wooden animals – perfect as props for blocks.
9. Recycling Truck (Playmobil)- a fun prop for pretend that reinforces what we all should be doing.
10. Eric Carle Brown Bear Floor Puzzle (Mudpuppy)- a friendly low key way of introducing kids to the creatures we share this planet with…without a heavy message.
If you’re shopping for a Lego fan–look no further. These small kits ($9.99 to $12.99) are great fun to put together. They have from 59-92 pieces so it’s not a difficult build and then you have something to really play with when you’re done. Our favorite kit Red Ace ($9.99/#8493) comes with a ramp–pull back your vehicle and watch it take off as it goes off the ramp. Really fun and the price is just right.
One of the bright spots at toy fair this year was a new company called Sprig- started by a group of innovative toy industry veterans with a commitment to a green line. The first rollout so to speak is a line of vehicles designed for the preschool crowd. The smaller vehicles were a huge hit with our testers–they are chunky and easy to handle. The vehicles are made of a composite of recycled milk jugs, bottles and reclaimed pine sawdust. The faceless action figures have a very contemporary look to them. The coloration (they don’t add paint) is muted and looks related to the color palette of the Ugly Dolls collection. For more info visit toyportfolio.com and sprigwood.com.
My mother is laughing at me. I just opened a new Matching Game from Little Tikes. The game is part of their new “green” line…the pieces are made out of bamboo. Each has a little animal on them (cute enough although I’m not sure why they needed to add the Little Tikes logo under each animal.)
My mother is showing me how the game works– “better if you use the enclosed carton as the holder for the tiles while you play”—rather than putting them face down on the table. She’s forcing me to play (really).
So why is she laughing? I ripped the box open only to discover that the box is meant to be re-useable with it’s groovy bamboo handle. I feel green challenged…perhaps this will remind me to take my cloth bags to the grocery store today…
In all fairness shouldn’t the box say “don’t rip me”…
If you are shopping for a child with ADHD it can be tricky. Bringing home a product that will engage your child and not be frustrating can be a tall order. For some general guidelines and a list of 12 specific toys please read our full article. Our recommendation is that you share the guidelines with everyone in your family!
Easy Bake Oven is celebrating its 45th anniversary this year. For me there was nothing better than making a small chocolate cake with my friend Jeannie. Her house, my house–it didn’t matter–it was all about making the cake all by ourselves.
The last time we tested an Easy Bake with kids, I have to say that their reaction didn’t match my childhood memories. After about 30 minutes of using the oven, they pulled out their creation. “All of this time to make mac and cheese- we could just have nuked it in the microwave!” True–I wonder if in our new age of “instant food” if this device still captures the same enthusiasm. If you’ve tried the Easy Bake with your kids let us know what they thought.
Perhaps to engage a new generation, the folks at Easy Bake are running a Baker of the Year Contest with a pretty amazing grand prize, a trip to Disney World!