Dora…she really did it!

If you have a child that’s a fan of Dora, this doll may be of interest. Dora dances and sings.  She’s the original Dora–not the older Dora that was rolled out last year.  Dancing dolls like this one (and there are many of them this year) are pure novelty.  They’re not soft so they do not double as a huggable — they are a push the button and see what I can do kind of toy.  These types of toys have there place if your budget allows…and your child is completely into a character.  That said–when I brought home an Elmo doll long ago (even before he was Tickle Me Elmo)…my then toddler went to the tv with his Elmo doll and started to swing it at the set. Elmo, as far as he was concerned, needed to get back in the tv.  So — even though many of these toys are highly promoted and many kids will LOVE them…don’t be surprised if some run in the opposite direction.

For the record, I much prefer Dora as a doll–than Dora as a kitchen…Dora the talking kitchen was too out there for me.  To watch the video, click here.

Classic Pooh

This new line of Classic Pooh just came in from Kids Preferred. They are super soft. I love the large and small Pooh. I can’t ever remember seeing swirly designs in the plush of a teddy bear–so that’s kind of novel.  I’m not sure how kids are going to react..our interns (all in their teens) grew up on the Disney version of Pooh and his friends.  None of them considered these versions “real”….so we’ll have to see how our testers respond. They sure are soft!

Back to work…

It’s quiet…my mother and I are both busy writing reviews and discussing our year-end Platinum List of top award winners.  No interns today or toy testers…just the hum of the a/c on what has turned out to be another hot day in the city. When we started, we used to have only 20 toys on the list and some huge disputes about those 20 spots.  The years have passed, we’ve both mellowed…the list is now usually closer to 45 (with ties).  Family harmony trumps having a shorter list.   I feel really fortunate to have such a great partner.

And I almost forgot…

to mention that right before I went on the air today–something happened that I’ve always been worried about.  First my lens moved off my eye. Ann was great and assured me I had enough time to go and fix it. So I went behind the set to the production area…I then touched my eye and the lens dropped out.  Great.  Now I’m all alone and I have to find my lens with my one good eye….I find it, hooray…it’s on a super duper dirty floor…and now I’m laughing – do I shove it back in?  Or do the segment with partial vision?  What about the segment they just did recently about the five second rule and basically that I’m putting Penn Station into my eye.  I spot the sink, wash it off — and jam it back in.  Of course now I can’t get it onto my eyeball.  One of the great production guys shows up just at the moment and then takes me further in the back where there is a mirror…I keep leaning in, trying not to burn myself on the big light bulbs that surround the mirror.  Happily I get the lens back in…but now I need to get back to my spot for the segment…but the door that I came through is locked. No way back.  Happily I could get back into the studio through the other side.

My other greatest nightmare…there used to be amazing Christopher Radko decorated Christmas trees in the studio – each with literally hundreds of his amazingly detailed ornaments. I used to have  recurring nightmare that I could not fight the temptation to touch one of the ornaments..and as soon as I do one  tree starts to fall over…and then the next tree fell over…. until every last tree in the studio has crashed and all of the ornaments make that sick sound glass ornaments make when they are dropped.  Thankfully they have since changed the decorations in the studio.

Did you see Harper?

Toy testers Henry and Harper playing with the Water Table

This morning at the Today Show was great fun. You can watch the segment by clicking here. I was worried that I only had two kids coming on the show with me. I usually have between eight and ten kids demonstrating our picks on the set.  I always like the energy of having kids there–their reactions  say volumes more than my talking about the details!  So this morning I had 3 year old Henry and 3 year old Harper.  Both were enjoying the water table on the set–sharing well and doing what kids do at water tables–they explored all the buckets (many with holes) and they got a little wet while they spilled and filled the center post of the toy.

Harper with me, being very quiet while Ann did the news on the otherside of the wall!

Right as the segment started, Harper wanted to see the bug things I was showing to Ann.  And from that moment on — it was really Harper’s segment.  I loved it.  She was really into seeing the bugs and I’m not sure it came through but she wanted everyone to know about a grasshopper she had seen recently.  She then decided to play a little bit with the water table–and then she needed to visit her Dad, the wonderful Art/Set Director for the show…she got a hug and then came back to the set.  Henry continued to play at the water table with his Dad even when Ann crashed the big Titan Airplane right into the table!  No tears–he just kept on playing!

Harper checking out the bugs and magnifiers

While we didn’t get to all of the products I had brought, it was a fun segment thanks to Ann and two really cute three year olds!

For all of the details about the products from this morning, visit

Teeter Ball

When I saw this toy at Toy Fair, I was psyched. Little Tikes made a teeter toy years ago so I was happy to see it back in the line. I used to love teeter toys as a kid — it is a   toy that involved having a good friend. Someone that would not give you too rough a ride, calm it down if it was going too fast (clearly you can see that I had issues).  Rollercoasters were never my thing – a good teeter ball ride was as adventuresome as I got.  Lame, probably–but just how I’m wired.

I sent a sample of the new Teeter Ball to one of our go to tester families…they have two  boys, 6 and 3, and they like active play.  Last year they were big on water/sand toys–not afraid of water, dirt, mud, etc. either– my kind of family!

While the boys enjoyed the toy, their dad gave the toy low marks when it came to putting it together.  While he said you didn’t need a power drill, he had one and used it where screws were required.  The most challenging part was “attaching the yellow ring and the inflatable purple ball.”  He warned that this could pose a problem for people not comfortable putting things together.  I’m certainly in that category.  While I know that lots of people do have power drills and are far more handy than I am with putting things together, I really question from a consumer point of view why such effort and skill should be necessary for a toy.   I appreciate the cost-cutting opportunity that  at-home assembly provides, but I can’t imagine that such assembly engenders a great deal of good will.  For $69 it seems to me the toy should either come good to go or without a huge amount of effort.

Our family also noted that the toy did not hold the boys interest for long stretches of time. I think that’s true of most teeter toys–they’re the type of toy you run to on the playground…take a turn and then go onto the next activity.

So be forewarned, almost all of the big plastic toys we have received this year required a power drill and a certain comfort zone in reading complicated directions (and making inferences from the picture on the box).

I was happy to read that the older brother waited for his little brother to get back on his seat when he fell off …that’s a very good sign that while the toy may not be a home run, these boys already have a lovely relationship.

Our testers trying out Little Tikes new Teeter Ball

Too Hot

What is it about extreme heat that seems to give me license to eat potato chips? Truth be told I have a long list of situations where potato chips (and I mean real potato chips-none of those baked things) seem appropriate and down right required.  When the big blackout hit NYC, my husband called to see what we needed before he made the trek up the 13 flights of stairs.  “Besides potato chips, what else do we need?”… He’s a very good man.

So we’re out of the office, feeling blessed not to be in the city–but still the heat is so intense that we are enjoying the World Cup (and the ac). Appropriate summer activities will follow later.