At the Today Show

Right before we went on--I'm not sure what we were looking at!

Yesterday we did our last holiday piece of the season.  The assignment was to feature toys for every budget. With so many toys on our award list, making the selection for this one was really hard. We had just four minutes to highlight toys that we really love. If left to our toy-geek selves, my mother and I could talk about each of these toys for at least that! Since this was more of a gift segment than a piece focusing on the developmental advantages of each toys, we did more toys than usual.

Two best friends getting ready for the segment!

Can you say cutie-pie?

When we got there at 7:30 the green room was already very full. We always want the kids to be there early but it is a really long, long time to wait.  There are donuts — kids eat donuts–kids get a little hyper. It’s all part of the pre-segment experience!  (I on the other hand wait to eat my chocolate donut until after the segment is over). Dustin Hoffman was also there.  Unlike many stars that come through the green room…Dustin smiles at every one.  He’s beloved at the Today Show for being such a nice guy–and you can see it. He looks great–and I guess the word is…happy.  While the Meet the Fockers series just makes me uncomfortable (I guess it’s supposed to) I realize that he is one of those touchstone people that I have grown up with.  Remember Little Big Man?  I remember probably because my folks took us all to see it at the underground theater at Columbus Circle.  As a kid, I thought that was amazingly cool.

Before the segment actual airs there are often teases – which promote what will be coming up on the show in the next half hour.  So the girls did one tease with the dolls from Manhattan Toy and the Nursery Carriage from Corolle.  I then did one with Jay–we played with the 3-D Flash Art from Hasbro.

Jay and I are using the 3-D Flash Art

You can see what the camera is getting from the 3-D Flash Art

After the tease! We did it!

I love this toy–we didn’t do it justice since we couldn’t turn down the lights…but it’s the best spin art toy you’ll ever find.  The blue light changes the images as they spin on the black paper…and in the dark, it’s really special. I also like that you can wipe off the black papers and start over. The process of making the spin art is the thing here–not really the finished product.

The segment went well. The kids had a good time. Al and I were so worried about not getting through to the end that we rushed…and ended up with time to spare. I hate when that happens–but it’s worse not to finish.

The boys playing with the Citiblocs and Planimals

When the segment was over the set gets taken down super quickly to make room for the next segment that involves product. It’s a whirlwind…but definitely fun! (A special thanks to Donna for taking all the pics! Next time I’ll have a zoom!)

After the segment with Al and the boys!

Behind the Scenes at TODAY Show

Tree at Rockefeller Center 2010

Headed to the studio for set up today. It was brutally cold and yet everyone around Rockefeller Center seemed cheery. The tree is absolutely beautiful this year!  Last year’s tree seemed like a true recession  tree- a little skimpy and  a dose of sad. This tree is robust and just looks happy and hopeful. A good sign. Even though I’ve lived here for so long–it never fails to make me feel like I’m a little kid again.

My usual routine is walk around Saks and then get a cup of coffee.  Saks is all decked out and it was so crowded today–it’s hard to believe that the economy is not humming. You wouldn’t know it from the volume of people not only looking but walking out with shopping bags. Coffee was replaced today by hot chocolate (hey, it was really cold outside).

The studio was overflowing with products for all of the different holiday segments planned for the morning. I ran into Robyn Spizman who is doing a fun gift segment. Robyn was one of the first journalists to cover the toyportfolio when we started so it was particularly fun to see her and meet her daughter.

I have so many toys tomorrow– the idea is to show how many great choices there are without breaking the bank. We are scheduled to have lots of kids there to play.

The plaza on a cold day!

It really is amazing to watch the staff there transform a bunch of boxes, and products into the segments that are aired every morning.  Everyone works with good humor and it’s as if sugar plum fairies come in and make it all look so perfect when we go on.

After set up...the Rockefeller Christmas Tree!

TODAY Show tomorrow morning

Looking over the list of toys for tomorrow’s segment. I have so many favorites-it’s hard to pick….so tomorrow I’ll need to move quickly!  We’re having lots of kids…always fun and very much what I like about live tv. You just never know what’s going to happen!  All of the toys are on our the front page of our website…but know that these are just a sampling of great toys for every budget!

What’s IN and What’s OUT in toyland 2010

Our list of What’s In and What’s Out in Toyland for 2010.  Every year there are trends that emerge in toyland. Last year there were dinosaurs everywhere…this year they have been replaced by bugs. Elmo is no where to be found (he’ll be relaunched next holiday season by Hasbro), and like everything else in our world these days, toys have also gone 3-D. We’re not sorry to see some the OUT toys go bye-bye and the same is true of many of the IN toys. This is more our observation from a year of testing rather than an thumbs up to either list.

Toys that Are Out for 2o1o                   Toys that Are IN for 2010

Cute Hamsters                                                 Hamster Ready for Battle

Barbie al natural                                             Barbie with an (video) implant

Hannah Montana Doll                                  Justin Bieber Doll

Wireless Controllers                                      No Controllers

Elmo                                                                 Dance Star Mickey

Scrabble                                                           Scrabble Flash

Avatar Toys                                                     Anything Iron Man

Hand Held Electronic Toys                         Your Smartphone

Remote Controlled Dinosaurs                    Remote Controlled Bugs

Friendship Bracelets                                     Toy Handcuffs

Dolls that Wet                                                Dolls with simulate

Rococo Plastic Toys                                      Wooden Toys

Bubbles and Chalk                                         3-D Bubbles and Chalk

Polly Pockets                                                    Zoobles

Zhu Zhu Pets

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For a list of the toys we do recommend–visit where you’ll find all of our Platinum, Gold, SNAP (special needs adaptable products) and Blue Chip Award winners.

Celebrity Toys 2010

For the celebrity that has everything, I started thinking about what toys would be appropriate. Now for some they already have their own dolls. Like the Justin Bieber Singing Doll or the Taylor Swift Performance Doll.

Product Details

But for the less fortunate celeb there are certainly fun choices.

For Courtney Cox,  the Webkinz Endangered Signature Cougar

For Denzel Washington, the Zip, Zoom and Logging Adventure from the Thomas & Friends Collection.

Mandy Moore (the voice of Rapunzel in the new movie Tangled) The Barbie Cut and Style Rapunzel

and in case Robert Downey Jr. misses his Iron Man role, there’s always the portable Iron Man Arc Chest Light.

Wharton School to Teddy Bears!

As someone who walked away from a legal career to play with toys (and not regretted it for a moment) – I’m always curious about how other people land in the toy industry.  Of course the toy business is a business–but there is something special about it.  The continued connection to the magic of childhood–sounds sappy but it’s true for anyone really committed to making quality playthings for kids.

Mary Beth Minton

I especially love start up stories and Mary Beth Minton, of Arete LLC, has all of my favorite ingredients…a strong business education (she went to Wharton), a strong business background (she worked at Bankers Trust) and a desire to fill a niche she saw in the toy industry by observing her own kids. The result, The Adventures of Zylie Bear and Shen the Panda…both Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Award winners this season.  These high styled bears can travel the world in great fashion.  Read our interview.

RIF still needs your support

From RIF….

As early as December 15, the fight for RIF’s funding moves back to the U.S. Senate. Senators will vote next week on the FY11 budget bill called the Omnibus, which does include funding for Reading Is Fundamental. It is critical that the Senate pass the Omnibus in order for RIF to secure its funding and continue serving the 4.4 million children in our programs. As you have before, please take a moment and click below to send a message to your two senators asking them to pass the FY11 Senate Omnibus bill that includes RIF’s grant.

Your voice is the strongest and most important weapon we have to fight this battle. Your action helps millions of vulnerable children. Please send your message NOW!