A room of their own…Step 2′s Naturally Playful Countryside Cottage

Step 2 Naturally Playful Countryside Cottage

Toddlers and preschoolers love having spaces that are scaled for them! It’s cozy and has such grown up features as a doorbell, a phone and a kitchen. If you’re shopping for such a cottage (that you can use indoors or out)–take a look at the new Step 2′s Naturally Playful Countryside Cottage. What I love about these types of spaces is how kids play with them differently as they grow.  For twos , the act of going in and out of the cottage is a huge part of the play- it’s much more about exploring the space and enjoying their new mobility–and ability to go move about a space independently.  Older toddlers and preschoolers – armed with more language and ability to pretend–will enjoy spinning their own stories about what they’re cooking, who they’re talking to on the phone, etc.

Our family toy tester pointed out two drawbacks. The photo on the box shows the cottage with flowers in the window box. The product does not come with flowers and there is no drainage hole in the window box for real flowers.  My recommendation – you can add a drainage hole if you’re going to use this outside–or use potted plants. The other comment was that there was no place to sit inside.  While this cottage does not come with a bench or chair, our tester noted that there was space for a child-size chair inside.  The cottage went together well (while the directions say a drill is optional–our tester felt the use of a drill made it much easier.)

One of our testers hard at work!

Baby GoGo and Baby Stella: two great baby dolls

Baby GoGo by Little Sib

If you’re about to bring home a new baby and you already have a preschooler at home, we recommend giving your new “big” sibling a doll of their own. Sometimes having their own baby doll can help them make the bridge from being only your baby to big brother or sister.   (Now truth be told, some kids want no part of babies–real or otherwise. My older son was absolutely stunned to learn that his new baby brother was not going away when our beloved baby nurse was leaving. Adam walked into my bedroom with polar bear in tow “he’s staying?”)

In any case, baby dolls are just right for role playing…you may hear many of your own favorite phrases being used (crack out the video cam for these moments if you can…trust me, you’ll be happy to have them on camera!)

Here are two favorites that have just come in.

Baby GoGo from a new company called Little Sib started by a grandma–who recognized the upside of providing older sibs with their own doll, baby bag, cloth diaper, etc.  The doll is gender neutral (if you agree with me that orange is a gender free color). Read our full review here.

And new from Manhattan Toy, a boy version of Baby Stella.  Our favorite aspect of this one…the pacifier that attaches with an embedded magnet. Baby Stella has been around for a couple of years, but this is the first boy version (clothes only)…not sure why they couldn’t of renamed him Steven or something…but still very sweet.

Baby Stella - boy version by Manhattan Toy

To see our VIDEO REVIEW click here.

A look at the latest in Operation

Shrek Operation

One of my favorite games when I was growing up was Operation.

The Original Operation

Something so pleasing about getting those little pieces out without the buzzer going off!  I’m not really sure how well I did it–but the game remains a fun hazy childhood memory.  It’s probably those memories that always make me perk up at Toy Fair when they unveil the new Operation games of the season. 

Toy Story 3 Operation

So far we’ve received both the Shrek and the Toy Story 3 Versions.  As my son Matthew pointed out this is not the first Shrek Operation — the folks at Hasbro confirmed that there was an earlier version to go with one of the first three movies.  There is also a Buzz Lightyear–you’ll notice that this is the first break from the usual image of one large body image stretched out (a la on an operation table).  You see all of Buzz Lightyear but now he’s in an action pose.  Probably not earth shattering news–but worth noting.  Each of these movie-based versions has you going after appropriately themed pieces accompanied by sound effects that go with their characters.

Watch our VIDEO REVIEW by clicking here.

Hasbro’s Bop It! Bounce

Hasbro Games Bop it! Bounce

This just came in for testing and we’re eager to hear how kids react to it.  Our first round of testers thought it was a lot like bouncing a tennis ball on a racquet – except here there is a very loud voice keeping score.  Some of our more sly testers realized that they could “cheat” the machine by bouncing their hand on it a bunch of times.  This only came into play when thoughts of beating a sibling’s score came into play. Here’s the demo from toy fair so that you can see the action. Our first round of testers didn’t like the fact you couldn’t turn the voice off or down.