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

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

  1. Go Crayola! Gotta get me some window & sidewalk crayons!

    And LOVE the muffin idea

  2. I also recommend eeboo’s Life on Earth Matching and Memory Game. The illustrations are gorgeous and the cards are of very thick cardboard stock — survived being doused in pineapple juice!

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