I had five…

If any of you caught me today…I thought FIVE games sounded better….so the post was originally Five Great Games…but then I realized that I had put six on the list–and I wasn’t willing to give any of them up!  Funny how attached I get!

You know maybe it’s something new…most lists are Five or Ten…but why not Six?



toyportfolio.com: Six Great Games to Play with Your Kids

Here are six  great games to think about for the holidays. The complete reviews of these award winners are on our site, www.toyportfolio.com

Active Fun Games

Dr. Seuss Super Stretchy ABC Game (I Can Do That Games)

Boochie (Gamewright)

Pure silly fun

Feeding Frenzy (International Playthings)

Ring-0 Flamingo (Gamewright)

Concepts and Strategy Games

eeBoo Color Dominoes (eeBoo)

Double Shutter (Blue Orange)

Encourage Curiosity about Nature with Discovery Box

worlddiscoverytreasuresMy grandfather used to take us rock hunting at a quarry in Franklin, New Jersey.  These adventures with my grandparents (my grandmother went along for the ride, but did not share my grandfather’s enthusiasm for the rocks)…were part of our childhood.  After finding our rocks, we would then go into the dark room with our black light (along with other rock folks) and see if we had found any with fluorescent substances.  Pretty cool right?  Kick in a guaranteed trip for ice cream cones–and you could see how much fun this would be.  My grandfather (an engineer by training) sold the first tv in their area (in upstate New York).  My mother recalls that when there was a big fight or important event on tv, that people would gather to watch it in front of their appliance store.  His backroom was always fun to visit because there was always something to look at including his great collection of rocks.  He always encouraged us to build our own collections.  One of my last road trips with him before he died was to a rock show.  He was still delighted that I was interested (I was 17).  Truth be told, I just really enjoyed being with him.


World Discovery Box with a sampling the treasures

So when I first came across World Discovery Box, it made me think of my Grandfather.  The focus of the company is to help build your child’s own collection of nature and science collectibles. Of course, you could do this yourself if you were so inclined but I really love the quality of the materials and boxes you can order. The wooden boxes and artifacts range in price from $69 to $199.  You can add to your child’s collection from their site – making this  a gift that you can add to as your child grows.

I also like the idea of using the box as a starting point.  Adding treasures you may find together-from a trip to the beach, on a walk in your own neighborhood.  Maybe because of my own experience, I think this is a great present for grandparents to give since it starts a dialogue. The only aspect of this product that could use some beefing up–the limited reading materials about the insects, minerals, shells, fossils that comes with the box.  (It’s just a folded guide). For the money,  I would have thought it would be paired with a book  about these topics and maybe some tools for your own rock, fossil and bug collecting adventures. In any case, it’s something you can add on your own.

Two great books:

Smithsonian Rock & Fossil Hunter

Smithsonian Bug Hunter

Bug tools:

Insect Lore Big Bug Magnifier

Creature Peeper

Jim Dale…wonderful as always!

Screening audios can be pretty painful- each year we ponder giving it up.  The music is often preachy or so frenetic that you want to scream, and so many of the books on audio are so dry, you can’t imagine any child sitting through any of it–without falling asleep.

And then we get to something recorded by Jim Dale and we feel happy that we cover this category of children’s media.   If you’re looking for something to enjoy in the car, we’d highly recommend Return to the Hundred Acre Wood read by the unmatched narrator of our generation, Jim Dale.  It’s now available from Penguin Audio.  Don’t be put off by the introduction…get to the story and all of the wonderful voices of Pooh, Tigger, Piglet and gang.  As you may know this is first authorized sequet to A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh and The House At Pooh Corner in more than 80 years. There are two new characters, Lottie and Otter.  (And if you have a child that wants to begin the Harry Potter series but may have trouble with the length of the titles–Jim Dale brings the whole Hogwarts gang to life.  Perfect for long trips–you’ll all want to get back in the car.)

Are you looking at me? My Little Pony is Back!

mylittleponyHasbro is re-introducing the “iconic” (their word) My Little Pony Collection…there’s Pinkie Pie (The Leader and Everyone’s Best Friend), Rainbow Dash (Glamour Girl), Cheerilee (Storyteller and Hairstylist), Scootaloo (The Playful Little Sister), Sweetie Belle (The Fun Loving Unicorn), Toola-Roola (Artist) and Starsong (Multi-talented Singer and Dancer).  And all along I thought they were plastic little pony figures with outrageously colorful mane and tails!


Diary of a Wimpy Kid Dog Days

417Zb5YN60L._SL160_Diary of a Wimpy Kid Dog Days by Jeff Kinney is ranked # 7 on Amazon this week and the series  now enjoys print runs in the millions. In Dog Days, many kids will relate to Greg’s preference to spend his summer indoors, playing video games…”with the curtains closed and the lights turned off.”  We’ve all been there as parents of school age kids–it’s hard to compete with the mind-sucking video games and 24 hour access to cartoons,  movies and reruns of 80 sitcoms.  (My own current addiction to Bubble Spinner makes me much more empathetic to the whole video game time loss phenomenon.)  I laughed out loud at Greg’s Mom — who is full of “great” suggestions for the summer.  She even starts a reading club…of course that doesn’t go very well.  Her book selections for a bunch of boys are also so clueless (Anne of Green Gables, Little Women), it’s hard not to see Greg’s point of view.

I also get the appeal of the illustrations that have a very current look to them and make the book more accessible to kids that would otherwise shy away from a 200 plus page book.  All good–I get it.

Most of the debate about these books has to do with the less than stellar moral and ethical compass of the main character Greg.  Yes he’s decidedly lazy, anti-reading, anti-doing anything really beyond watching tv and playing video games. Yet, I’m confident that kids can appreciate the exaggerated nature of his character- rather than believing that he is someone to emulate.  In fact, Greg readily gives them someone that they can be better than (it’s not too difficult).   In a recent interview by Tara Parker-Pope in The New York Times,   Jeff Kinney shares that “[i]f there is a lesson in the book, it’s to do the opposite of what Greg does.”  I agree with Mr. Kinney–kids are pretty smart.  They get it,  much the same way we watch Larry David in  Curb Your Enthusiasm…it’s a train wreck at times, utterly painful –  but entertaining (most of the time).

Here’s my problem and perhaps it’s because I am now watching my son Matthew, a high school junior, get ready for the grammar portion of the SATs.

Here are some quotes from the book:

“But I spent the first part of the summer at my friend Rowley’s pool, and that didn’t work out so good.”

“Me and Rowley were better off without a girl hanging around, anyway.”

“I told Mom me and Rowley are just kids and it’s not like we have salaries or careers or whatever.”

I don’t mind that Greg is lazy, has no ethics and no ambition in life–but could we clean up his grammar?    I don’t think it would take away from his persona – and at least on the grammar front, he could do the right thing.


My mother–always the teacher at heart– suggested that kids should “edit” the book and correct Greg’s grammar.  Not a bad idea–certainly sounds more enjoyable than the worksheets we all used to get to learn these rules.


How to be a Vampire: A Fangs-On Guide for the Newly Undead

51oB0EijPDL._SL500_AA240_We just started laughing when Amy Gray’s new book, How to be a Vampire: A Fangs-On Guide for the Newly Undead came across our desk. You have to know tweens, teens and young adults to know that vampires are all the rage.

The book is marked for kids 12 and up.  You have to be in the zone to appreciate the humor of such topics as “Dos and Don’t of dating a mortal” and “What’s Your Vampire Persona?”…of course you may not find the page on “Finding the Perfect Sire” appropriate for your teen–so I’d recommend taking a look at this one first.

Of course it will be the perfect holiday present for my 21 year old niece!

How does this young adult book grab you?

“Four teenagers escape from their prison-like boarding schools to take up the fight against the tyrannical government that murdered their parents fifteen years earlier….As the battle rages, the three friends are in a race against time to save ther companion, who has been forced to participate in a deadly, ancient game for the amusement of his captors.”  From the book jacket of Winter’s End by award winning French author Jean-Claude Mourlevat–this is his first young adult novel.

Pretty dark…


Don't forget It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

Rec_greatpumpIt’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown always signaled the kick-off of Halloween for me. Just thinking about that video makes me smile–it’s now on DVD and an Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Blue Chip Award winner.