Harry Potter at Universal Orlando

Sometimes you watch actors on press tours and feel their discomfort. Maybe the movie isn’t what they hoped it would be–or maybe after a month of saying the same thing around the globe they’ve had enough.  We can usually feel those moments..

But if you watch this video that announces the new Harry Potter experience at Universal Orlando…and more specifically the Ollivanders wand shop…you’ll see a cast deliver the lines…my favorite is from Michael Gamdon (Dumbledore)…”I need  a new wand…”

Even the coolest wizards in the world sometimes still need to sell the soap.

How you can help: haitipeacequilts.org

The day of the earthquake I was in my husband’s office (Andover Fabrics- they produce beautiful fabrics for quilters).  While we were talking about what we could do, Cliff Quibell (his amazing VP!) shared a book with me about the organization haitipeacequilts.org.  This non-profit has been working with women in Haiti – teaching them quilting techniques and then helping them sell their quilts.  The book about their quilts and a recent exhibit took my breath away – a stunning collection of vibrant quilts and the stories of the women who created them. We all wondered, how these women and their families were…did they survive?  We were also amazed to hear that one of the volunteers had been at the airport in New Jersey that morning on a scheduled flight to Haiti–bringing more supplies with her for the program. Her plane had mechanical difficulties–and thankfully never took off.  Goose bump time..right?

Please take a moment and visit the site–the group of volunteers in the states has mobilize their efforts with their contacts in Haiti. If you’re like me, you want to help–but sometimes feel at a loss to make a real difference.  Here’s an opportunity to help families that so far have been out of the reach of the international relief efforts. They need our help.

Should I buy….A New Weekly Feature!

I love the emails we get from testers and readers about specific toys. One of our long time testers suggested we do this type of exchange more openly…I agree.  So each week, I will start a conversation “Should I Buy”…I’m also open to other names for this new feature!  If I haven’t tested the toy yet we may find someone who has—or as we often do, we can request the toy for testing so that we can consider it for everyone on our site.

So bring it! Look forward to conversation.

Here’s the image of the Eco Mic from iplay that we’re discussing below–

Toy Stories NOW

Since so many toy stories are embargoed until Toy Fair officially kicks off next month, if you have an exciting story that you’d like to share now…send them on in!

Our office is so quiet today…the Zhu Zhu Hamster is hanging out near the LEGOs by the window, Big Bird, Barney, Kermit and Madeline are all in their honored “dolls that must stay” shelf.  I have assorted solar toys by the window, but there is no sun now so they’re all still.

Can you tell I’m ready for the new toys?

Free Game: To Go With Polar Bear, Polar Bear What Do You Hear?

Chances are you have a copy of Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle’s Polar Bear Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?

Here’s one of the games we recommend in Read It! Play It! with Babies and Toddlers that you play after you share the book with your child.

I Went to the Zoo

Borrow the refrain of “Polar Bear, Polar Bear…” as you pull your child’s toy animals out one at a time. Before long your child will be adding animals as you both say…”I went to the zoo and what did I hear? A little lion growling at me!”

Make a “zoo” for the animals with a collection of shoe boxes or blocks that your child can continue to play with alone.

(from p. 46, Read It! Play It! with Babies and Toddlers)

Free Game: How High Can You Go?

Yesterday I walked past a display of silverware that was in the form of the Empire State Building. It reminded me of a great game to play with your kids that will keep them busy on a cold winter’s day.

Challenge your kids to build the tallest building using their LEGO Bricks!  For younger kids this will be about adding more bricks until the structure falls down.  But for older kids this can also become a real hands-on experiment–how do you make the structure more stable?  What do we need to add to the base to make it less tippy.  If you’re really into the building why not make your own city of skyscrapers. What kind of buildings do they think should be in the city?  A sports arena, a shopping mall, a grocery store…always fun to hear what they want on their list.   Matchbox cars and trucks can also be used to populate the city.  Be sure to take pictures–you’ll be happy to chronicle the challenge.  You can also have them create a book with the pictures–something that can be sent to Grandparents or shared on-line.  Either way, I like encouraging kids to create their own structures from materials they have around the house.

Free Game: Can you find anything blue?

Get a box or a basket…and ask your kids to find things that are blue (or any other color that you’d like) and bring them to the basket.  You can also make this part of cleaning up toys…can you find all the yellow pieces first and put them away?  Making a game out of cleaning up is half the battle.

For games and activities for your baby or toddler, check out our Read It! Play It! with Babies and Toddlers. Also available in Spanish.

For games and activities to play with your child 4-8, check out the original Read It! Play It!

Free Game: Sorting Socks

If you have a preschooler at home,  you can play a mean game of sorting socks.  Works best with kids socks since they tend to have more patterns.  After you take the socks out of the dryer, have your child close their eyes.  Distribute the socks around the room/house….and then challenge them to find the socks that match. How many pairs can they make.  It will make this chore a little bit more fun for everyone.

WWE Action Figures join Barbie

Mattel announced today that it will release a new line of WWE action figures.

The release includes:

“… the FlexForce Action Figures, as well as Core, Elite and Entrance Great Figures for fervent collectors. Mattel boasts its innovative technology in the FlexForce Action Figures, allowing young fans to safely re-enact the hook-throwin’ and flip-kickin’ finishing moves of their favorite WWE Superstars from John Cena to CM Punk.  Avid collectors will see every detail of Randy Orton’s
tattoos and every stitch in Rey Mysterio’s mask in the most authentic line of WWE action figures ever created.”

Do you think Barbie will date any of these guys?