Top Trends from ToyFair 2009: Plan Toys

Plan Toys , a Thailand based toy maker, had one of the most exciting collection of new toys this season. We were happy when we walked away from their booth–both Joanne and I were thrilled with the design, eco-friendly design and the incorporation of a green message in their play settings. 6229-eco-home-1

We’ll want to see their new Eco Town (the house at right) is just part of a bigger system that you can to (eco vehicles, charging station for the cars, train station, etc.). You’ll note the house has solar panels and Wind Turbine.

If you’re looking for a bigger more traditional dollhouse with the same commitment to green architecture, the Green Dollhouse also looks promising (below). 7156-green-dollhouse-with-furniture What’s also really pleasing is not only is the green message incorporated in the play pattern, but the company also walks the walk by using recycled wood and what they call E-Zero MDF for assembly. We have also always loved this line because it is gender-free.

Ok, I'm on Facebook

Last week I started getting emails from people I grew up with in Monticello New York. Addicted to my iphone, I was puzzled by the flurry of emails. Of course the source was a new high school page.  My two sons felt pretty strongly that I should NEVER join Facebook. So here I was–with an inbox of friendly invitations from people I haven’t seen in a long time–and many of them I knew since we were in preschool. 

At the same time I started getting email from toy testers and public relations people–all encouraging me to join.  So, with apologies to my sons…I’ve posted.  You can visit my page and there is also one for the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio. Please feel free to join me on either page. If you have pictures of your kids playing with the toys we’ve recommended or toys that you think we should know about…send them our way.

Pick of the Day: Blabla Collection

media-12Today we’ve been opening a whole host of boxes that have arrived since we were at toy fair.  Lots of books (how many books can there be about Miley Cyrus?), games, toy trucks and audio tapes.  At the bottom of the stack we just opened a box that had the most WONDERFUL new dolls inside from Rarely do we get products that are so fresh looking–yet have a very retro, pleasingly familiar feel to them.  There are dolls that will appeal to both boys and girls–they are all knitted – and each character has tons of personality!  They have that extra dose of whimsy that makes this an outstanding collection (can you tell I really like them!).  The entire collection is inspired by a trip to Peru by co-founder Susan Pritchett and French designer Florence Wetterwald. My suggestion–take a break from what you’re working on and go to their website. There are fingerpuppets, mid-size dolls, rattles, and giant (3′) dolls–you will be in for a treat. We have asked to see some of the other dolls in the line – it is truly very special. media-31

Trends from ToyFair 2009: Spin Master's GloDoodle

glodoodle_lifestyle_hiresWe’re eager to test Spin Master’s new Glodoodle ($19.99/available this fall)…It promises to be a light up drawing platform.  Much like the classic Magna Doodle in design (with a stylus) or last  year’s  Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award winning Glow Station from Crayola that is now available in a travel size. You can draw on this board and then with a push of the button the image is suppose to clear completely.  Maybe because I grew up making long car trips — I always wanted something that I could play with in the back seat.   I know it would have cut down on the number of shoving fights with my brothers.  I guess in an era of built in DVD players in the car, it’s not the same issue–but it’s still nice to have a creative outlet that works after dark.

Trends From ToyFair 2009: SpinMasters Air Hogs Switchblade

airhogsswitchblade2Last year we spent way too much time flying Spin Master’s little Havoc Helis around our office. We got pretty good at it too–so we’re pretty psyched that they have new flying machines!  The Switchblade promises to take off like a UFO and transform in the air–into a hig powered aircraft.   We’ll have to go outside for this one…field trip!

Pick of the Day: Mary Meyer's Earthmates

show_image_in_imgtag We just received a new collection from Mary Meyer called Earthmates.  The little Organic Little Sprouts Club here is just 5″ tall, he’s made with organic cotton . There is also a small orange cat and sweet green dog.  The tag reads “They are all made without the use of any harmful pesticides, or toxic chemicals or dyes.”  What your child will love about them is that they are very sweet and soft.  Done in a soft Velour with stitched features, these are safe for infants and toddlers.  If you’re looking for something bigger, there’s    this 12″ friend Big Bear- he’s not as huggable as the smaller animals–but he is very cheery.show_image_in_imgtag-1

So many organic plush lines we’ve received this year arrived looking very washed out and sad. This  line is green and happily does  not sacrifice on play value and overall product appeal.

Trends from Toy Fair 2009: It's BACK, Crayola's Crayon Maker

03-9000_crayonmkr_trayupCrayola’s Crayon Maker (a former Oppenheim Toy Portfolio  Platinum Award winner) is making a come back. It’s smaller than the original unit which seems fine and best yet, the dome is now clear so that you can watch the crayons melt.  Not sure why this process was hidden before behind blue plastic. With all the talk of repurposing products, I love the idea that old crayons that would normally be thrown out become brand new crayons your kids will enjoy using. We’re looking forward to testing the new version.

Honey, They Shrunk the TOYS!


This is a guest piece by noted child development and toy expert  Joanne Oppenheim.

Remember ‘Honey, I Shrunk the Kids?’
Well, this year, Honey, They Shrunk the Toys!

Anyone who has visited the International Toy Fair in NYC this week will note that it’s not just the world economy that has shrunk!

In a bid to make toys more affordable the toymakers have made the toys smaller!

Last year’s $300 animatronic dinosaur, Kota, that filled up a full corner of any room, standing three feet tall+ is now extinct! But now there are  three little 9″ versions that will retail for $15. Touch activated like the original colossal Kota,  these are really  endearingly cute and probably less scary than the high priced dino of last season.

It’s not just Hasbro’s dinos that have shrunk. In one showroom after another we saw pirate ships, castles, and toys settings that are designed to cost less and take up less space in a world where down-sizing is all the rage.

Are the smaller toys as good? Maybe better! The bases for some of the settings are tighter and more likely to hold together. You will no longer need to dedicate most of one room to the castle it took you over a week to assemble. Nor do you need to break the bank to bring home the top of the line motorized construction set. Top of the line is no longer a kit that will take six months to put together. We saw many imaginative building sets that will probably take much less long to build, but allow for all the play value of the larger set.

So, yes, there is something positive to say about this economic turn-down. Aren’t you glad?

Joanne is the president and co-founder of, the award-winning author of more than 50 books for and about children…and oh yes, for those of you new to our story…my mom.

Pick of the Day: My Natural Collection from Hosung NY

tinylove-collectionWe LOVE this new collection of huggables from Hosung NY. They are just right (and safe) for toddlers – velour bodies with stitched features- and are really very sweet looking.  There are three different collections – all produced a round of oohs and ahhs as we went through the box.  There is the Long Leg Collection (sans clothes) – they retail for $14.99.  The ones in the photo are the Tiny Love Collection and are a very reasonable $9.99. The Tiny Tots Collections are smaller animals (fistfuls really) that have a sense of humor and joy about them.  Best yet, the entire line is made from 100% non-toxic cotton.  The coloring is from minerals and soy done with the company calls a “low eco-impact” dye process.  Unlike many “natural” collections we’ve seen, they are very vivid and don’t have that “ok, it doesn’t look great, but it’s very green and pc”.   Each are something you’d be happy sharing with the toddlers in your life….hooray!  We’re giving the entire collection an Oppenheim Toy Porfolio Gold Seal Award and they are certainly in the running for Platinum at the end of the year!