Pre-Toy Fair Buzz: Green Toys Ecosaucer Flying Disk

ecosaucerminiMaybe because it’s refreshingly not 10 degrees outside, but just the image of this saucer makes me think that Spring is really going to come….eventually.  We’ve requested samples to try with our testers. The Ecosaucer from Green Toys is made from recycled plastic milk containers.  Not sure why it’s green…other than the obvious green statement. We have given this company’s Indoor Gardening Kit an Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Award.

Notable Birthday: Fisher-Price Little People Hit 50!

41ztrqmn7xl_sl160_aa160_Move over baby boomers, the iconic Fisher-Price Little People are turning 50 this year. The Little People Farm that seems like it’s been around forever, first hit the shelves in 1968…and the School House arrived in 1971.

This year we tried the updated (there is always a new version!) of the school bus and airplane.  These classic toys got rave reviews from new parents. If you’re looking for vehicles for toddlers, this line is really a consistently strong choice. The vehicles make some sound, but not overpowering and you can use the vehicles without the sound (a plus). The openings, handles and weight also make these appropriate choices for toddlers that love moving their toys about.

We put the School Bus on our SNAP Award list (Special Needs Adaptable Product Award)– a long time ago when the company added a play figure with a wheelchair. We’re delighted that feature has continued.  The farm has been a focal point for us over the years–especially when they made the “barn” talk — so if you put the cow where the pig is supposed to go — your cow will oink…not moo.  We love technology but here’s an example of missing the way kids play with toys.   There shouldn’t be only one right place to fit an animal.  Or here’s a novel concept…your child can provide their own sounds!

Pick of the day: Zoobie Pets

zoobies-mudd-the-moose We arrived at our offices a few days ago to be greeted by this moose, a bumble bee and a black bear- three of the new animals from Zoobie Pets.  Here’s the great things about Zoobie Pets, in each belly  there is a wonderful soft fleece blanket.  So in one fun toy you have the fun of a soft huggable  with the added perk of it being the perfect take along for your blankie!!  I would have loved this– like Linus, my security blanket was really important to me!  Parents will also like that the blanket can either remain connected to the animal by a zipper–but it can also be unzipped for easy washing.   Very clever! We have given the animals we’ve seen to date an Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Award.

Pre-Toy Fair Buzz: Mythbusters comes to toyland!


It’s likely that if you have tweens or teens in the house, you’ve heard about the hit Discovery Channel’s show Mythbusters.  In fact, if you’re having trouble connecting with your son– here’s a perfect subject.  All  you have to do is ask what they did on the latest edition of Mythbusters and your heretofore monosyllabic boy will become a virtual chatty Cathy detailing what they set out to do and how it turned out.  Better yet, watch the show together!   So I was pretty excited to hear that Elmer’s has created kits based on the show.  There will be a Weird, Wild and All Wet Trial and Error Water Kit and a Cockpit Confidential Trial and Error Aviation Kit.  We usually have a hard time finding non-home schooling kids interested in these kits, but I think the license here will attract a wider audience.  We’re looking forward to testing them.  Elmer’s is also previewing a new line of Kinder-Ready activity kits including The World of Eric Carle Art of Science Experiment Kit–that has color mixing experiments.

Pre-Toy Fair Buzz: Does your three year old need a BlackBerry?

leapfrogblackberryPart of LeapFrog’s new product line this year includes the Text & Learn that references the design of the adult BlackBerry.  While there seems to be a lot of uproar about this latest grown-up device scaled down for the sandbox crowd, there’s really nothing very new about the concept.  When fax machines were new (remember that?), Tyco had a really neat version for kids.  The typical toy phone has gone through many variation that track the design and functions of the real thing.  So it didn’t really seem that unusual to me that there would be a BlackBerry styled toy–given the adult dependence on their devices.  In terms of play value, preschoolers love taking on grown up roles with literal props. Pretend kits for playing office, restaurant, firefighter, etc. are generally a huge hit with this age group.  It’s developmentally right on target in terms of expanding their own sense of themselves in a larger community.  Of course that doesn’t necessarily mean they need this particular electronic prop or any other.  The proof will be in the game play – which is really hard to judge until we see a finished product and try it out with kids.  There is another problem that every parent runs into at some point…even toddlers know the difference between your keys and   some fake set of toy keys.  Most kids will not accept the substitution!  On the other hand,  if this is a fun, easy to take along hand held device that has age appropriate content–it might be very appealing.

Pick of the Day: Global Babies

9983471My mother just handed me this book across our desk.   While it’s intended for babies and toddlers, it will make even the most cynical adult melt.  The book features photographs of babies from all over the world. Each picture captures the beautiful essence of each featured nation including India, Fiji, South Africa, USA, Peru, Afghanistan.  Part of the proceeds will be donated to The Global Fund for Children ( The book is published by Charlesbridge ($6.95).

Pre-Toy Fair Buzz: Sprig Toys New Eco-Trucks

eco-trucksexcavatorlrI’m often asked for good truck recommendations–so I’m eager to see this new line of  trucks from Sprig Toys.  Their products are made from repurposed plastic milk cartons and saw dust–so there is a very nice green component to this line.  We should have samples soon.   Each of the three trucks (Dump Truck, Excavator and Loader) retail for $14.99 – making them competitive with the big guys in this category.

Pre-Toy Fair Buzz: Leapfrog's Zippity System

image00212 Move over Wii.  LeapFrog is vying for that active plug in play experience for kids 3-5.  Zippity is co-developed with Disney.  While we haven’t tested it yet, we like the idea that kids are up and moving while playing games that require them to run, jump and hop on the play mat.  Of course the big question will be the content.  The price is $79.95 (comes with eight pre-loaded games)–additional games will be $24.99.  Scheduled for a summer release.

One Year Extension for New Toy Safety Requirements

Toy makers got an extension last week  to meet some of the new requirements under the new Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA).  You should know that the stay does not apply to the following:

“The stay does not apply to:

  • Four requirements for third-party testing and certification of certain children�s products subject to:
  • Certification requirements applicable to ATV�s manufactured after April 13, 2009.
  • Pre-CPSIA testing and certification requirements, including for: automatic residential garage door openers, bike helmets, candles with metal core wicks, lawnmowers, lighters, mattresses, and swimming pool slides; and
  • Pool drain cover requirements of the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act.”

To read the Commission’s complete press release, click here. While I’ve heard from some of our testers about their concerns about the delay, I’ve also been in touch with small toy companies that want to comply but are completely confused as to how they achieve full compliance. The mechanics of compliance need to be address so that everyone knows what they need to do and it needs to be set up so that companies can do it without going out of business.

Much of the innovation in this industry has always comes from small start up companies– yet I can’t imagine taking on this industry at the moment. And as much as toy makers have been slammed in the last two years…many are really sound  businesses that strive to make quality products.   From our conversations, they want to do the right thing–they just would like some clarification. If you take a look at the faq’s section of the TIA’s website you’ll see just a glimpse of the scope of questions confronting toy makers.

So to answer some of your emails–yes, we’re disappointed…but more with the lack of clarity from the CPSC.  Our hope is that they streamline the process so that companies can easily comply and restore the public’s confidence in the industry as a whole.