Lilydolls: Quirky, Special and a little Pricey

Lilydolls from Manhattan Toy

Astrid, Josephine and Harper are the new Lilydolls from Manhattan Toy.  They all have stitched faces, velvet hair, quirky outfits and an old fashion folksy feel to them.  You’ll really either love them –or not. I didn’t really play with too many dolls as a kid–but I did have one from a folk art festival that kind of reminds me of the Lilydolls.  At $49 each – they aren’t just an impulse doll.

Harper of the Lilydolls

Pick of the Day: CitiBlocs Hot and Cool Colors

Citibloc Hot Colors

Last year CitiBlocs rolled out with basic sets of naturally colored wooden slate pieces– no Star Wars themes here or intricate step-by-step instructions– just wonderfully open-ended building supplies to create whatever is on your child’s mind on any particular day.  Citiblocs got a lot of credit in our book for delivering a quality product at a much lower price than their more pricey competitors and they were rewarded by shelf space in major stores and a boat load of awards (including ours).

New for this year, they have brought out new colored sets–Cool Colors (blues and greens) and Hot Colors (pinks and yellows).

CitiBlocs Cool Colors

Each color has two sizes. They have the same open-ended concept but with an infusion of color.  Many of the wood toys we’ve reviewed this year have been poorly executed–chipped paint or rough edges have been more the norm—so we were especially happy to find that these new Citibloc sets have a high quality level. The colors are saturated into the wood– rather than painted on- so there isn’t the same chipped-paint issue here.

This type of open set is really best suited for older 4s and up.  It takes more fine motor skills and dexterity than regular wooden unit blocks. I love the idea of putting these in a basket in the family room and letting everyone dabble while they’re talking, watching tv and hanging out together.  Citiblocs is a great parent/child project–and you’ll find yourself taking a turn even after the kids go to sleep.

For hardcore LEGO builders, the open-endedness of these sets may be frustrating and overwhelming at first.  There are suggested builds that come with the sets (but not step-by-step instructions)–that may make them settle in and feel more comfortable.

Disney Pixar TOY STORY 3 – Toy Reviews

Even though Disney PIxar  Toy Story 3 does not open until June 18th, if you watch any type of TV you know the full court press has already begun.  And we know from our testers, that they want their Toy Story 3 toys!  So we have been super busy this week taking a look at a range of toys–with more promised to arrive next week.

Here’s what we’ve found so far:

1. Crayola Toy Story 3D Chalk – this is a deluxe set with stencils of the characters. Fun, but if you’re a four year old boy, this isn’t the toy you want. Read our full reviewI wrote about this product before as a great product for outside play.

Woody and Buzz from the LEGO DUPLO set

2. LEGO DUPLO Toy Story 3 The Great Train Chaise Duplo Play Set – Love this set. The pieces are big and chunky and there’s something very satisfying about having small versions of your favorite characters–great for on the go play or to incorporate into your block play. This set comes with a train, blocks and four characters. Marked 2 & up–this set will most appeal to 3s and 4s. Your preschooler will need help putting the train together–making this a parent/child toy–but once put together this can be used for independent playtime as well.  This would be a fun addition to a basic bucket set of DUPLO.  Sometimes bringing home a new novelty set can renew your child’s interest in building– something you definitely want to encourage.

Comparison of LEGO and LEGO DUPLO train sets

LEGO Toy Story 3 Western Train Chase Set

3. LEGO Toy Story 3 Western Train Chase–  Super set. This set is designed for kids 8 and up…the pieces in it are not for kids under 3–so even if you think it’s cooler, it really is meant for older kids.  Take a look at the size difference in the characters.

Size difference between DUPLO and LEGO Buzz Lightyears

Toy Story 3 Action Links Buzz Saves the Train Stunt Set

4. Toy Story 3 Action Links Buzz Saves the Train Stunt Set – Really a one trick pony–actually there are a couple of ways to set this tracks up but the toy is still pretty limited.  Not a lot to do here passed the first three minutes. Your child will probably play with the Buzz figure that comes with the set longer than the train and tracks. Watch our demo.

Buzz's motorized wings in the open position

5. Toy Story Basic Buzz Wing Pack– Here’s a really neat toy that makes us send out a big warning.  The toy itself is super cool–you strap on the wings to your back and then there’s a control panel that makes the wings go up and down AND you can also hear Buzz  say his favorite lines.  All fun and the toy itself does work really well.  BUT here’s our serious concern–the toy is design for kids 4 & up – at this stage children are working out the difference between fantasy and reality. While you may poo poo our warning-remember these are the same kids that take the Tooth Fairy as a real magical reality.   If you can’t resist this toy–we would high recommend you have many a conversation about this toy with your child. The toy itself has a safety warning on the packaging–not really a deterrent to your preschooler.  I also have a sense that this toy will be purchased for even younger kids.  Ok, you get our point. Watch our video demo.

6. Fisher-Price Toy Story 3 Character Flash Lights.    Pure novelty and great fun for kids that like noise. There’s Rex, Bullseye and Dr. Evil Porkchop. When you squeeze their tails–the flashlight comes on (their mouths open) and you’ll hear a sound or a phrase (they each say one thing and make one sound). Watch our video.

Toy Story 3 Rex Light

Fisher-Price Spiral Speedway

7. Fisher Price Toy Story 3 Spiral Speedway Perfect toy for your two year old.  Older toddlers LOVE making something happen over and over again–and this easy to activate spiral raceway gets it right. This toy has been in the Fisher-Price line before, but now it has Toy Story 3 characters racing (Buzz vs. Lotso)…and sound effects (it is a little noisy).  This toy will have a limited time frame–but it will be a true hit when your child is in the zone of “again, again!”  Watch our video demo.

One more thing about chalk…

Crayola Spira-Chalk Blaster

Crayola has a new Spira-Chalk BlasterYou can watch our video demonstration. It comes with five chunky pieces of sidewalk chalk and two spinner rings–that fit into the launcher. We loved the fact that the launcher does not require batteries and that it really does create a spiral design on the sidewalk. With the exception of one of our testers, we got positive feedback on this product.  (One tester found the release mechanism difficult to work–we think she got a dud.)   We wish that it came with two launchers so that two kids could use it as the same time…but for $15.99–it’s still a good add-on if sidewalk chalk is big in your neighborhood.

Just crossed my desk…vamplets

We can’t seem to keep up with all the vampire inspired entertainment – how to date vampires, cook for vampires…we’ve seen it all.  We thought.

Take a look at a new line of Vamplets…from the artist known as G-Ra…you can also buy Disappearing Bottles of Blood to feed them. I guess breast feeding is not pc for vampires. More about the vamplets can be found at

TODAY Show today…active and fun

Natalie and Stephanie discussing ride-on toysI headed up to the studio this morning with my intern Daniel — after putting toys together for us all semester, I thought it would be fun for him to see the studio and the end result of so many packages, emails and testing. I tried doing my hair this morning–and emerged from the building looking like a bad 1970s “before” picture.  Happily, the hair and make-up people at the show are so terrific, that I knew it was going to be ok.  I think they were even a little shocked by the sheer volume of hair.  Thanks to high def tv, I also think make up takes longer (not to mention that I’m a little older!) than it used to.  It really is amazing what professionals can do.  Everyone emerges from the hair and makeup area a better, more polished version of themselves.

This morning we had about ten kids.  One family has tested for us since their son was born five years ago.  They moved to Hong Kong in between and as I traveled up to the studio I realized that we had never met–so that was fun!  They now have two kids and I’m so happy they’re back from their adventure and can resume testing for us! Other kids were on with me about a year ago–so to see them now as full preschoolers was fun.  A new group joined us – I have to say this was the most well-behaved group of kids in the green room.  Their parents were really careful to hold off on the delicious donuts and cookies until after the segment. Smart move.

The challenge was to show toys and equipment for active play –indoors!  The YBIKES were a hit and disappeared when we went to talk about them–but I think they got camera time later on. The Kazam Balance Bike – also great was on the pedestal–and may have been blocked a little by the fire truck. You really couldn’t see how amazingly high the Sky Balls bounce in the air–or the 3D bubbles…but trust me – there are fun choices this season.

A very polite "excuse me" in the middle of the segment

Half way through the segment one of our testers very politely asked if she could go play in the playhouse…one of those great real live moments…priceless.

Natalie, Finley and the end of the segment

Segment over, chocolate donut enjoyed on the car ride home…a good day!

Taking a look at the indoor Hopscotch Rug from Alex

To read the full article about the toys featured, visit

Today Show on Monday

I’ll be on the Today Show Monday morning to discuss great toys and equipment to encourage active physical play.  We have kids coming from all over the tri-state area to help me out.  Looking forward to sharing some of our best picks of the season. The article is on our website at  We have some really fun new 3D bubbles, ride-ons, retro games…get ready to play!

A little bit in love…

Crayola's new Model Magic Presto Dots

We just got the new Model Magic Presto Dots and I’m in love.  I do have to own up to really enjoying the original Model Magic.  It’s fun to work with and it doesn’t leave your hands oddly moist like other molding materials.  So with the Presto Dots you use the little blue tool to cut out some of the model magic. They suggest using wax paper but if you just use the inside of the model magic pouch–it also works.  When you press the blue tool against the form for your animal, the model magic comes out like a little marshmallow — very satisfying. That said–be careful that smaller children don’t mistake them for candy!  There is a sheep and a puppy kit–as well as a larger multi-pack (comes with two forms) – and more alien-like creatures.  The sets start at $9.99. Not a big deal, just fun.  For other craft kits, visit our site at