Stephanie Oppenheim on NBC's Today Show: Recession Proof Games and Construction

Recession Proof Games

When I was putting together the products for this week’s segment , games came to mind right away.  If you’re in the game zone with your kids (how many times have you played Candyland?)…then you know that kids love to play games over and over again-  making them one of the best values in toyland!  You can check out the for current and past awards winners.  Here are the games we featured on the show:

Scrabble Slam (Parker Brothers/Hasbro  $6.99)  – A brand new card game that is quickly on its way to becoming one of our favorites of the year.  It’s a blend of Scrabble and Upwards–love the fact that you can take this one with you anywhere.
I Spy Flip Five (Briarpatch $12.99)- Based on the  award winning I SPY books by Jean Marzollo and Walter Wick,  this is a fun visual discrimination game where you’re looking for matches of photos and silhouettes of the same images.  Challenging for the 7 & up crowd–and parents won’t mind playing this one either.   Instructions are straightforward and just like the books, the images are pleasing.  There’s also a Flip Five Dinosaurs version–will be most enjoyed by true dino-holics. 
Dog Dice (Gamewright $11)-  A fun, easy to play  bingo game for the doggie lovers everywhere!  Our testers love the dog dice and looking for the images of doggies doing fun things.  Throw the whole game into a large zip-lock bag and now you’ve got a travel toy.

I Never Forget a Face Matching & Memory Game (eeBoo $13.95) – A classic version of Memory featuring a multi-ethnic cast of kids beautifully illustrated.  The thing about memory games–your five year old can usually beat you fair and square–but it’s also really great for your brain to play these games. So it’s a win-win.

Recession Proof  Building Sets

Another top rated and truly “recession proof” toy are building blocks. Whether you’re talking about cardboard blocks, wooden unit blocks or LEGO bricks–they’re all wonderful choices because they are so open-ended.  Blocks can be anything your child wants them to be!  They can be combined with farm animals, action figures and cars to create entire pretend settings.  And remember getting your girls building too–we know that building develops visual discrimination skills that translate to better performance in math!

While the new Star Wars LEGO sets are among the hottest toys requested by our testers, we’d also recommend the new LEGO Basic Bricks Deluxe ($29.99) – the set comes with 650 LEGO bricks and instructions for 15 builds and starting in June there will be more models posted on So it’s the set that keeps on giving.  You can also do with with your own stash of LEGO around the house…color sort them and encourage your kids to make their own creations.

Company Links:, Briarpatch, eeBoo, Gamewright, Hasbro, Lego


For free activities for 3-8 year olds,  take a look at our Read It! Play It!

For free activities for Babies and Toddlers, take  a look at our Read It! Play It! with Babies and Toddlers

Read It! Play It! with Babies and Toddlers  is also available in Spanish, A Leer! Y Jugar!: Con Bebes Y Ninos Pequenos



Stephanie Oppenheim on NBC's Today Show: Recession Proof Toys and Activities

Here’s the scoop on the toys and activities that we’re talking about on NBC’s TODAY SHOW

We have so many parents write to us that are anxious that they can’t give their kids the same amount of “stuff” they used to be able to afford.  Here’s the good news, it’s not the stuff your kids will remember but the time you spend together.  Playing with your kids is not only good for them—it’s really a great stress buster for you.  The idea is to be present with your kids.  It doesn’t have to cost a lot either.

Our series Read It! Play It! (for 3-8s) , Read It! Play it! with Babies and Toddler & A Leer! Y Jugar!: Con Bebes Y Ninos Pequenos has 100s of free activities that are inspired by picture books that you can borrow from the library.

Arts and Crafts

Arts and crafts are always a great choice because they’re open-ended materials that can be used in multiple ways—and they are usually one of the best buys in toyland.

Draw Your Own Garden. Crayola Washable Window Crayons (Crayola $4.99)  and Crayola Washable Window Markers (Crayola $5.49)- are both great  ways to bring in spring – by allowing your kids to draw on the window and doors.  You do need to set some ground rules so that your kids understand that they should only draw on the designated window or sliding door. Personally, I prefer the wonderfully real greasy crayon feeling to the markers.

Painting Outside.  Spring is blooming…so take the kids outdoors and have them paint what they see. It’s even more fun if you get into the act. You can use the red Easel for Two (Step 2$59) or put the paper on a table and let the kids create their own art show.

Two freebie,  easy to do activities from our book that you can do:

Crayon Muffins – recycling your old crayons to make uber super crayon muffins is fun and a really easy to do.  Take a small muffin baking tin and line with foil liners.  Have your kids take off all the paper wrappers from their old crayons. Fill up the liners with broken crayons (have fun with mixing colors or sticking to one color family).  Bake in an oven at 325º for approximately 8 minutes.  Let cool for at least 30 minutes–peel off the foil and get coloring!!

Wax Painting– Take a  left over candle and draw a design on colored construction paper.  Then use watercolor paint (watered down with water) and voila…your design will emerge.  You can make placemats and even Easter eggs by precutting ovals for your kids to design.

Active Play

You may not be going far this year, but having some active games to play at the park or in your backyard is also a great low cost way to connect. Balls are just about the perfect toy – at every age.  They provide an opportunity to be active and social–and for the most part they are really inexpensive.

For Babies & ToddlersA soft fabric ball is ideal for playing games of roly poly and encouraging a baby to crawl.  Soft fabric balls are also a safe choice for toddlers who rarely know their own strength or have developed perfect aim.

Two Fabric balls we really like this season: The Sweet Chocolate Ball from Mary Meyer ($19) comes both in blue and pink.  The soft covering makes this an appealing choice–but what we really love about it is the chime sound it makes when the ball is rolled or thrown.  Very sweet.  The new Taggies Colour Toss ($19.99) is also a fun choice – done in bright colors this season and with their signature taggie ribbons-makes this a solid choice for older babies and toddlers. The “taggies” are pleasing to touch and make it eaier for small hands to pick up and toss.

For Older Toddlers and Preschoolers- Gertie balls  ($4.99-$15.99) from Small World Toys are an Oppenheim Toy Portfolio  Blue Chip Award winner. We love these  soft, lightweight balls that are slightly  sticky so they’re easier to catch (and they don’t hurt either!).  They come in all sizes, with interesting textures.  We love the oversized (24″) Mondo balls and the color changing Magic Gertie ball.

You also can’t go wrong with having a basketball hoop in the backyard.  The Adjust n Jam Basketball Set (Little Tikes $44.99)  is a good value since you can adjust the hoop to accomondate different ages and will grow with your own kids.

One of the other best values for outside play is sidewalk chalk.  I’m always on the look out for a good set. The new Crayola Sidewalk Crayons (Crayola $4.99)- comes with 15 colors- great value especially if you have a group of kids at work.

Company Links: toyportfolio.comCrayola, Step 2, MaryMeyer, Taggies, Little Tikes. Small World Toys

Today Show tomorrow: Recession Proof Toys and Activities

Getting ready this morning for tomorrow–making more crayon muffins (you’ll see)…The forecast is now for a beautiful morning but we’ve been moved inside.  Too bad since I had a really great spring coat all good to go.  The segment will be on in the 9 o’clock hour.

Looking forward to seeing the kids that will be doing the segment with me–we have a new family joining us.  Two of the kids have been testing for us since they were toddlers–it’s fun to see them getting older and getting to see them with their younger siblings.  Funny to think of five year olds as the veterans.