Barbie and Tatoos

Not sure how we missed this at Toy Fair…but there’s a new Barbie that comes with a variety of body art. Totally Stylin’ Tattos Barbie comes with 40 pieces of art and a tattoo stamper.  We haven’t seen this doll in person yet–to see how well the tatoos stay on (or to see what the tatoos say).  Perhaps this is a teachable moment—”now dear you have to think about what that tramp stamp will look like when you’re 50.”

Pick of the Day: Chickyboom from Blue Orange Games

Chickyboom from Blue Orange Games is a fun balancing game that appealed to our school age testers (and their parents). Most balancing toys like this ask players to add pieces – here you take away chicks, bales of hay and wagon wheels…they all have different weights and will affect the balance of the perch. Points are assigned for each of the play pieces–the players with the greatest point value (when the rail finally falls over) wins.  Easy to learn –and fun to play. The company says that each round takes about 1o minutes.  Our parent testers gave this one a thumbs up.  We’re giving this one an Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Award. A solid gender free choice for kids 4 & up.

Barbie vs. Bratz

The U.S. District Court upheld the $100 million dollar jury verdict in favor of Mattel (the maker of Barbie). The jury held that the Bratz dolls were substantially similar to drawings done by a former Barbie designer. The judge also appointed a temporary receiver to oversee the Bratz business.  MGA (the makers of Bratz) plan on appealing. Stay tuned. If Mattel prevails–what will become of the wildly successful tarty Bratz line?

Pick of the Day: PushAlong Dog from ImagiPLAY

This friendly PushAlong Dog from ImagiPLAY is just right for toddlers that love have wheel toys but are not ready for cars that have small parts. He doesn’t make any sound–also a welcomed novelty these days!  There’s also a really cute yellow duck, greencar, and red cat in this line. All $14.99.

Pick of the Day: Learning Curve's Thomas and Friends New Talking Train Set

I’m pretty old school when it comes to wooden trains.  Having watch kids play with trains sets for a long time, they usually don’t need a lot of bells and whistles.  Several years ago (before all the lead issues), train makers were looking for ways to compete with all the electronic toys–so there were lots of  trains with lights and sounds.  They were ok, but truth be told if you have a child really in the train zone they provide their own scenarios and excitement.  So I was pretty skeptical when Learning Curve announced voice recognition technology for their new set, Thomas and Friends Wooden Railway-The Great Discovery Set.  I have to say–it is pretty amazing.  Sir Topham Hatt greets the trains by name as they go through the station…how does he know?  While one of our testers was amused (not amazed) with this aspect of the toy, what I loved was that he continued to play with the setting in a very traditional manner.  The technology did not take over the play experience–it enhanced the play possibilities.

Trains are a wonderful puzzle–which is why I do not recommend gluing down tracks or being wed to a train table.  Train tracks can take all different turns — I’ve also observed that 4 year olds are better at making train tracks work than most adults.  Watch your child as they work out how to make the tracks connect–it’s really one of those moments to enjoy.

This 35 piece set comes with enough for making a figure eight, the Great Waterton Station, Morgan’s Mine, Thomas and Stanley.  The trains and accessories are sold separately so you can them to your existing trains.  The sound levels are set very high when you demo them in the box–the good news, you can turn down the volume.   With BRIO all but gone from the US market–it’s nice to see Thomas the Tank back with all engines a go.

Pick of the Day: Gamewright's Too Many Monkeys

Gamewright’s new card game Too Many Monkeys is easy to learn and great fun to play. The storyline borrows from the classic story — one monkey is trying to sleep but other monkeys keep dropping by, not to mention the occassional giraffe or elephant.  The game play is to get your monkey sleeping all by himself–you do this by getting the cards in front of you in order by pulling from the draw pile.  Our testers loved that they were swapping cards until they had them in order. The rounds move very quickly-also a plus. Fun for 2-6 players. They say 6 & up.  Our adult testers also enjoyed playing this one!

Top Ten Green Toys

With Green Day hours away, we are certainly pleased with the trend in the toy industry to go green.  It seems like every week there are new organic doll collections, toys made of recycled materials, and toys/games that have an empowering (but not obnoxiously heavy-handed) green agenda.  More good news-the packaging also seems to be more friendly to the environment-with fewer toys trapped in a sea of plastic.

Here is our current list of top ten green favorites–happily the list keeps growing!

blabla dolls (blabla)

Earth Mates (Mary Meyer)

My Natural Collection (Hosung NY)

Organic Joobles (Fair Indigo)
Recycling Truck (Green Toys

Recycling Truck (Playmobil) ptru1-4866605reg1

Eco-Trucks (Sprig Toys)
Busy Bugs (Mudpuppy) fp_busy_bugs1
Green Dollhouse (Plan Toysimages-1
Elia Mini Chair (eliafun.com) eliaminichair11

Fun…from songwriter/artist Cathy Block

A fun little clip from artist/songwriter Cathy Block!

One of my favorite recordings for kids is from Cathy–it’s called Timeless.cathyblock2For more information about Cathy’s music, visit www.buildingblockmusic.com. Cathy is such a joyful songwriter and person–she has just started music together classes in Bucks County PA–if you’re close enough to go–it will be a treat. She’s the person you wish would come over with the guitar or banjo and play…she has that kind of energy that’s infectious. In interest of full disclosure, she’s also my sister in law (lucky for me!).