A cleaner TOYLAND

A few years ago toy land got really dirty.  I’m not talking about toys that are in poor taste, but real dirt.  Gone were all the classic clean-up toys. Our favorite – the vacuum cleaner was from Fisher-Price that had a light (friction activated) and little tiny balls (dirt).   I can go on at great length as to why this was the perfect toy vacuum cleaner…no batteries required, cause and effect, pleasing without being too noisy, etc….but someone, somewhere decided to do away with this little marvel.  This year we saw a renewed commitment to housekeeping!  Interestingly, we saw many a toy iron.  This one is a new setting from Step 2.

New Cleaning Station from Step 2

Feeling like Spring

Razor USA's new Graffiti Action Scooter

The rain this morning made me hopeful that Spring can’t be that far away.  And for some reason…when I think Spring…I think scooters.  As I’m writing this I realize that many people probably don’t go directly to scooters…but hey, I play with toys.

I’m looking forward to testing the newest scooter from Razor USA…this one has a piece of chalk in the back. Wondering how it will work…without the chalk breaking. Last year they had a “spark” off the back end…something our testers enjoyed as a novelty.  Even though this has been given an edgy name, it’s called the Graffiti Action Scooter, this is a kinder and gentler scooter that  will probably appeal to a different audience.  Stay tuned.

David Pogue and iPad addiction…

Thanks everyone for the heads up on David’s Pogue piece yesterday.  I missed it. Kind of feels like I wrote a great paper…a day late.

He speaks to whether his 6 year old is addicted to his iPad.  Here’s the link.  I’d be interested to hear your experiences. The other day I counted four  kids (in strollers) at Whole Foods on their parents iPhones!  I was happy I didn’t have to share mine!

Is your toddler addicted to your iPad & iPhone?

Today’s toddlers and preschoolers have a new addiction. Forget the boob tube and those pesky videos – now we’re talking about little fingers that are incredibly adept at navigating  APPS  on your pricey iPad and/or  iPhone.

What’s a toy maker to do? How can they compete with such amazing graphics?

Wasn’t it bad enough that video games have rob them of the tween market?

Here’s the industry response to date…

1. The “Can’t beat them, join them” approach.  It seems like everyone has an APP  for your child. Barbie, Leapfrog, Hot Wheels, Thinkfun….everywhere we went at Toy Fair…there was an APP we needed to “let our readers know about.” (Except of course for the dizzying number of embargo dates). And yes, we will have to start taking a closer look at all of these toy related APPs.  I haven’t gotten to play with it yet, but I do have to say that the Barbie Fashionista APP–looked really appealing (this coming from someone who really didn’t play with Barbies).

Barbie's Fashionista APP

2. “This is not your father’s iPad” – really. Toy makers are rolling out there own versions of iPad inspired tablets for your child.  LeapFrog and VTech will  go head to head with their platforms.  Are they cheaper? Yes.  Will your child be satisfied? Maybe.  As with any of these toys, they just don’t have the sizzle of the real thing (which is why toy companies are hedging their bets with approach #1.)  We will have to take a look at each of these products to review the content (remember that?) and whether the interface is pleasing.  I have a sense that if your toddler or preschooler is already schooled in your gadgets, this is going to be a hard transition.  On the other hand, if you start here–you may get to play with your gadget without the constant refrain of  “my turn!”

Vying for attention (all to be released later this year):

LeapFrog Explorer Tablet

LeapPad Explorer Tablet (LeapFrog)- Promises to come with a 5″ screen and leverages the library of games and content from this educational toy company.  It will also come with a built in camera. Suggested retail will be $99.99.


InnoPad (VTech) -Also features a 5″ touch screen, promises educational games, ebooks,  USB port, a headphone jack.  Suggested retail will be $79.99.

We’ll have to take a look. Sadly, both companies have moved away from partnerships with traditional publishers –leaving the ebook experience to the domain of mostly licensed materials. On this point alone, you may want to invest in a Color Nook–if you don’t want to go the bigger bucks on an iPad.  Technology only goes so far.  The CONTENT is still what should rule the day. We want our kids enjoy reading quality picture books no matter the format.  Disney Princesses and Scooby Doo are fun–but they shouldn’t replace children’s books as part of your child’s daily experience.

3. The “Ok, you can play,  but please don’t break it” approach. Handing  off  your  expensive toys to a toddler or preschooler is a balancing act between achieving calm (at the grocery store, at the restaurant, in the car, etc.) and the possible damage that came come to such gadgets from liquids (those pesky sippy cups) or a plain old “oops” moments. For those parents, Fisher-Price hopes to be of assistance with their new Laugh & Learn I Can Play Case that puts your smart phone into a bigger case with easy-to-grab handles. We look forward to trying this case–will little fingers find the case too intrusive? Of course your 3 year old will find this way too babyish.

Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn I Can Play Case

Bubbles, Bubbles…

I probably love two categories of toys the best…bubbles and things that glow in the dark.  Good news for me, since toy fair was chock full of toys that promised to glow in the dark (sadly, many don’t really glow the way you think they should).

But today, the topic is bubbles.

A little back story.  A little more than twenty years ago when I decided that corporate litigation was not going to be my life’s work…I came up with two ideas. One, was a company called “Earth Bubbles”.  I sat at my desk at White & Case sketching designs for the globe-shaped container.  But I also knew that a product as classic as bubbles needed something unique to grab market share.  So I decided that colored bubbles would be amazing!  Armed with various forms of tints– I went outside with my nieces (happy to play in their brand- spanking new white sneakers and spring clothes)….and you can probably write the rest.

After completely staining everything, being in a far amount of trouble with my brother and sister-in-law…I convinced my mother, who had already written two books on the topic of play, toys and child development…to start another business with me…and that is how the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio came to be.

So, you can now understand my interest in the new Crayola Washable Colored Bubbles.  How did they do it?  I was a little wary of the extensive warning instructions about quality and staining.  (Of course, as someone who used to draft and review such warnings for a linoleum flooring company, I understand the conversation that probably went into this extensive list of disclaimers).

As much as I wanted to really love these colored bubbles, they just don’t do it.

What you really need to know…

They’re not kidding when they say they are strictly an outdoor toy. The bubbles can stain a whole host of surfaces (basically anything inside your house is fair game).

Now for me that doesn’t really take them out of the running. Some things are messy and are still great fun outside.  But the bubbles here don’t really have that same “bubble-ish” lightness.

When you blow these bubbles, you get a lot of color. That’s satisfying,  but they don’t really float the same way. It’s kind of like the difference between floaters and sinkers when it comes to matzo balls. It feels as if the color weighs them down too much.  Sadly, this makes this product a disappointment.

Crayola Washable Colored Bubbles

You can take a look at our video.  We tried it again on a  wind filled day–but they still didn’t act like bubbles.  You’ll see in the video that the  bubbles stayed well-formed on the snow for a very long time and the color remained for days.  It did wash off the concrete step but the warning label indicates that you should stay clear of wood (a la your deck!).  I assume this also would mean to keep it away from outdoor furniture, stones, etc.

We were told at Crayola that it will come out clothes, but I wonder from my own experience how to get it off sneakers!

Crayola’s Color Wonder Metallics!

Crayola's New Color Wonder Metallics

I love Crayola’s Color Wonder. It’s really magical.  You take a clear pointed special marker on the special paper–and voila, color emerges. The markers also don’t stain.  All in all–a great product.  So we were really excited to get the new metallics –and they deliver.  (Some metallics are dull–these are really pretty and vibrant). Watch our video.

The Metallic set comes with five markers, 18 sheets of paper and stencils.

TIME picks 100 Greatest Toys…do you agree?

Gumby named to TIME Magazine's list of 100 Greatest Toys

TIME magazine has just released their 100 GREATEST TOYS from 1923 to the present. Not sure I’d put fake vomit, Wrestling Buddy, or Bratz on any list of “Greats”.  The list reads more like a “notable” list.

Flying Fish at Toy Fair

We were so  “toyed” out by the end of our travels through Toy Fair that we almost didn’t notice that there were flying fish above our heads.  We are looking forward to testing these from the William Mark Co.

Watch our Video. The demo courtesy of  Mark Forti, the founder of the company!  Hats off to anyone willing to wear a scuba suit and fins to toy fair!

Mark of the William Mark Co. demonstrating his new flying FISH

Move over bugs, the rodents are taking over toyland.

Last year, I’ll admit– I was pretty bug crazy. Spiders, little bugs, remote controlled bugs…couldn’t get enough of them. They’re all over our Platinum List.

During one of my segments with Al Roker on the Today Show–I was showing a remote controlled spider…he said he would like a rat.  Well Al, watch out what you wish for!  Right after I finished the segment, I heard from the company, Fantasma Toys, that they were indeed working on a RAT.  I really thought they were kidding until I got to Toy Fair this week…and sure enough…a remote controlled RAT.

Fantasma Toys new Remote Controlled RAT

Now,  if RATS aren’t your thing, not to worry.  Could I interest you in a mouse? Less creepy?  New from Wild Creations.

Wild Creations New Remote Controlled Mouse

Ok, now as much as I LOVE bugs…I really, really hate rats and mice!

Happily, there is a new bug, one that makes me smile. New from Wild Creations.

A much less creepy alternative, the ladybug!