featured on BusinessWeek Weekend TV

2e7c661a89bc34d4bb456e0dab2992dd7170172cHere’s a link to the piece we did with BusinessWeek TV’s anchor Jill Bennett about the best toys under $25.  Read It! Play It! with Babies and Toddlers.

Pick of the Day: FlyTech Butterfly

flytechbutterfly I really feel like I need to gush about these really cool flying butterflies. Finding toys that fly without a huge scary propeller can be challenging. There’s also the whole class of flying toys that require a lot of space and finesse. Having neither a lot of space or finesse (when it comes to flying things)…I really liked these easy to use FlyTech insects (there are moths and mosquitoes in the line) when they came in last spring. So I took them to the Today Show. They were intended as the last “wow wee” toy of the segment. At set up the night before the entire crew also really liked them. We all took turns flying them around the studio. The segment was outside the next day–so everything got a little damp when it started to rain. I’m not sure exactly which factor played a bigger role but when I went to show Al Roker how cool they were–none of them would fly, not a one. It was really disappointing since such a poor performance made the toy look bad. (Not to mention that I also looked a bit silly protesting that they really do fly!) You can fly these butterflies inside–the wings aren’t hard–so it’s not like flying a plane in the house. For a full review check out our award listing. They are from WowWee and retail for just under $25–making them a good value for the holidays.

Spin Art–a favorite

I was talking to one of the moms at the Today Show — and she mentioned that her kids are having the best time with an old fashion Spin Art set.  I love Spin Art…I haven’t tested any of the sets on the market for several years–they come and go….but after 18 years of testing toys–I still get excited when they introduce a new version.

I’m not sure why it’s such a satisfying experience–maybe it’s the surprise and almost instantaneous results that pulls me in.  I remember feeling so happy that my kids loved it too.

I have a similar  soft spot for Lite Brite — maybe it’s the toys you played with in that 5-6 year old zone where you feel that sense of accomplishment–mastery in a task for the first time. Both toys are for big kids…I liked that too.

So let me know if you’ve had the same experience with the Spin Art—and if you’ve liked any of the recent variations.

Pick of the Day: Schylling's Color Roller

colorrollerWhen this push toy first came into the office this summer we were really thrilled. Finding fun toys that are right on target for toddlers is one of toughest tasks we have each year.  Much like the Blue Chip Corn Popper from Fisher-Price, the Color Roller doesn’t require batteries to make something happen. It makes a clicking noise when it’s pushed (one of our testers that lives in an apartment thought the noise was annoying after a while…so you do have judge your tolerance for “toy” noise). When you look at the roller part of the toy when it’s not in motion you can see many smaller cylinders of  blue, yellow, and red–but when you push the roller – amazingly the colors of the rainbow appear. High marks to this elegantly designed toy.

I recently took the Color Roller on the Today Show and one of the little sister that came to the green room with her big brother and sister loved pushing the toy. Always fun to see kids enjoy our picks–but here’s the thing I really loved. The older boys (5-7) started pushing the toy all over the place and then they started using the roller in their dramatic play. Not sure why boys (without making sweeping generalizations here) can find a way to turn almost any toy into combative accessories. Having grown up with two boys, having two sons of my own, and having observing so many kids over the years …there is a difference in the way they approach the play experience.

At $20, this is a really well-priced  choice  that encourages active play for toddlers who have tons of energy and will be pleased that they can make something happen.
For other top picks of the season for toddlers, visit

Pick of the Day: Tonka Li l Gas Pump

tonkagasListen up automakers—look what Tonka is suggesting! On the back of this gas pump is a plastic diagram of how you make ethanol. All energy proposals aside, the Tonka Li l Gas Pump ($19.99) is a great prop for pretend play. Comes with a shape sorter, a credit card, and three big chunky buttons to push (to select your preferred fuel choice). Works well with Hasbro’s new Tonka Scoot N Scoop 3 in 1 Ride On…but really you can use it with any ride on. on TODAY SHOW tomorrow

So I’m getting ready for tomorrow’s segment on hot trends in toyland. It may be outside which always gives the segment a different feel than being inside with kids playing on the cozy rug.

One of the biggest trends we’ve been watching all year — prices of toys going up 10-15%. Most manufacturers point to the multi-layered safety testing they’re required to do (very expensive) and just the general increase in production costs (largely due to fuel prices) as the main sources of the price hikes.

The good news – always looking for that silver lining…is that with the economy so weak and with inventories that have to be moved–you’ll find toy prices slashed.

Pick of the Day: Connectagons

725215h A wonderfully pleasing construction set you’ll want to put them on your coffee table (and play with the set yourself). The set comes in a wooden box and includes 240 wooden discs (1-3/4″ in diameter) that each have eight notches on them–making them a really fun open-ended construction set to use. The circles come in a variety of colors–they’re just fun to hold and build with. They came late, but we’re adding Connectagons to our Platinum Award winners for 2009. At $24.98, it’s also a good value. Offered exclusively by HearthSong.