A little tired…

Not from staying up too late from the Olympics or the Oscars…but watching our imperfect, yet amazing government at work. Forward motion…a good thing. Like a good drama..there were moments last night that made me cringe, made me angry…but ultimately making way to insure 32 million fellow Americans…made me proud.

The Hunt for the Perfect Travel Games

The sun has come out…finally. The temperature is above 45 degrees…so in toyland, this means travel toys!  We just got a whole slew of familiar games that have been shrunken.  Mad Gab..I’ve never quite gotten this game.   You read a card that may say Estates In it Her…and from that you’re supposed to guess A State Senator. I can never guess what they’re talking about and each time someone tells me the answer, I always say “oh”…it makes me feel really inadequate as a game player. If you like Mad Gab big, you’ll probably like the smaller version. The set is small and it does fold up so that the little cards are safely enclosed.

Uno Spin - Travel Version

Uno Spin (Mattel)…one of my favorite games when it’s normal size (we gave it an Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award) , just doesn’t feel right super small. For kids, the little cards are hard to hold onto…and from my point of view the plastic cover that’s supposed to keep the cards in place is way to iffy. I could see the cards flying all over the airplane, the airport…just not the best design.

Stay tuned…

If you love worms, you’ll love Yucky Worms

Fishing with my Grandpa

I’ve raised two city boys…both completely wigged out by bugs, spiders, worms, etc..  Having grown up in the country, I’m always amused by their reactions.  One of my favorite moments was an early fishing expedition.  “Great, we’ll need to get a cup of worms!” I couldn’t wait to share this experience with them…after all what was better than a cup of worms?    “Gross, no way!” – they both let me know that the worm thing was not going to be part of their fishing ritual.

As a child, getting the cup of worms was part of the day I spent with my grandfather (he’s in the background on his dock). In my mind I’m much more grown-up than the six or seven year old in the picture. He was a man of few words- so I guess the whole be-quiet-while-you-fish concept suited him well.  Looking back, I realized that he put up with my constant chatter about “when do you think we’ll get something?” “we’re going to put it back? right?” (we always put them back), “do you think we’ll ever catch that really big cat fish?”  If I got really bored (almost every time), I would jump into the water and dive for mussels (we were never allowed to eat them)…he never seemed to get upset that I was disturbing his fishing.  It was our time.

My early fond experiences with worms is probably why I love Yucky Worms (Candlewick Press) by Vivian French and beautifully illustrated by Jessica Ahlberg. In this spot-on early science book, it’s the little boy’s Grandma that shows her grandson how useful worms can be in the garden.  The story is full of information without being dull or preachy–and the illustrations of what’s going on above and below the garden are the type of pages children will enjoy poring over.  In addition to the story, there are little factoids throughout the book that will also appeal to kids that love knowing trivia about the world around them.  For a full review of the book, visit www.toyportfolio.com. We have given this title an Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Book Award.

Please note that Yucky Worms does not discuss using worms as bait…but because my mother knows of my love of worms, she told me to stop playing with the bubbles today and read this book. I’m glad she did. Great science books for kids are hard to come by…Yucky Worms hits just the right balance of story and information for young readers.

The big cat fish? On our last fishing adventure together (I was now a teenager and rarely joined my Grandpa on the dock), we finally caught it.  I was so scared by the whiskers, the thrashing-that I remember screaming, crying and laughing until my grandfather forcibly got it off the hook and back into the water. I think he was even a little taken aback by the ferociousness of this particular fish.  We sat there for a while – taking in that we had just accomplished,  a goal we had shared for years – even if the whole moment wasn’t exactly what we had had in mind.  We did it. My grandfather died not long after.

Amazing! : Optrix 3-D Bubbles from Imperial Toy

Optrix 3-D Bubbles

It really must be almost Spring time–the first set of amazing bubbles has arrived. Optrix 3-D bubbles from Imperial Toy comes with 3-D glasses.  So when you blow the bubbles (the set comes with bubbles, a pan and a medium sized wand…you can see STARS around the bubbles!  Super fun.  There are also sets that make you see hearts, lightening bolts and butterflies. We did not test these–but assume they’ll work the same way!  Sets range from $7.99 to $9.99 at places like Walmart and TRU.  We found them on Amazon but the price was above $20 – so be careful to shop this one before you buy…but try them!

With the excitement surrounding Avatar and Alice in Wonderland–it does seem that 3-D is a major trend in entertainment and now toyland.

One disclaimer- I’m really ridiculously happy about bubbles.  It’s hard to stay in a bad mood when you blow bubbles. My suggestion is always be sure to stock up on bubbles. For really little kids, they’re great for tracking and for older kids–there’s nothing more satisfying than making bubbles happen.

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Reluctant Eaters? Checkout Constructive Eating

Constructive Eating Utensils

If you have a reluctant eater, this fun line of constructive eating utensils from Constructive Eating, Inc. may get your child to take another look at meal time.  Or if you have a child that refuses to use their silverware…this may also come in handy!

Constructive Eating Plate

I also love the plate that makes a meal into your child’s personal construction site.  Yes, some may think playing with food is a bad thing–but from my point of view, getting your child to take the time to eat–to make sitting at the table part of their daily ritual–is so valuable to a healthy lifestyle that it’s worth the tongue and cheek approach.

In this economy, even a Princess needs a bank

The Princess Money Manager

Just got the new Princess Money Manager from Little Flower Products LLC. The name of the product suggests that in these rocky financial times, even a princess needs to be careful with her money. I’m big on banks for kids. And most of the new banks suggest that kids separate their money into three categories: savings, charity, and spending –  all valuable concept for school aged kids.  Yet, my feminist core is taken aback by the concept of introducing the notion of our daughters as princesses in the real world. Playing “princess” is one of the most popular pretend themes for little girls…but somehow this bank takes it into another space for me that makes me feel uncomfortable.  Maybe I’m being too literal–but I also thought the $40 price tag was fit for a real princess!  The bank is well constructed with a moving top so that you can drop your coins into the three separate compartments.

Barbie: Reverts to form…put a ring on it!

There has been a lot of coverage this past month celebrating Barbie’s careers…Anchorwoman and Computer Engineer both scheduled to be her latest professions.  I have enjoyed the memory lane of Barbie’s past professions…Miss Astronaut Barbie who is packaged with a bubble that says “Yes, I am a rocket scientist!”

Miss Astronaut Barbie

Nurse Barbie

Or Nurse Barbie with the bubble “Get new shoes and call me in the morning!” This Barbie is from 1961…so she wasn’t talking about Jimmy Choos.

Jimmy Choo

I can be...Bride Barbie

I was feeling happy for Barbie…until  I discovered in the same box… I Can be a Bride Barbie…complete with a Beyonce-worthy massive rock on her finger.

Barbie wears Beyonce worthy bling!

Yes, marriage is great and yes little girls think about being married and having kids…it just seems like for every step forward, Barbie still takes three giant steps backwards to her 50’s roots.  I don’t think most women or men today think of being married as a profession.   I understand the role play appeal of being a bride…but why include it in the I Can Be series?

Barbie joins the cast of Mad Men

Barbie joins the cast of Mad Men

Somehow Barbie taking on the Wizard of Oz or I Love Lucy doesn’t make you pause…but Barbie joining AMC’s Mad Men? Of course this line is for adult collectors with an adult price $74.95 each. They reportedly will come with padded undergarments…but will they be true to the period and include girdles? You can read Stuart Elliott’s complete article in the NYTs by clicking here.

To see other Barbie collectibles, visit barbiecollector.com.