Top Ten Dumb Toys of 2012

As the toy season for 2012 comes to an end, we always like to share the toys that made us pause throughout the year…IMG_7626

1. Scum Drum Garbage Game. The game play here is to collect all the garbage. We couldn’t make this up if we tried. Pieces promise to “tumble through the sewer pipe!”

 

 

 

2.Scatter Brainz – Sticky brain-like darts. The game play is to collect them all. Play pieces include: Coma Toes, Stinkin’ Rich, Darting Death, Nano-Neurotic.IMG_7620 (Also good luck explaining neurotic to your 8 year old.)

 

 

 

 

3. Play-Doh Sweet Shoppe.  A candy-making machine, but you can’t eat the candy. Seems like a cruel joke.IMG_6613

 

 

 

 

 

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4. Little Mommy Doll with simulated poop in the potty. Some things should be left to your child’s imagination.

 

 

 

 

5. Create a Monster. Move over Dr. Frankenstein, fans of Monster High can now buy body parts and make their own creations. IMG_7609

 

 

 

 

 

6. Crazy Cubes. You’re buying cubes…not to build with, just to have. In fairness, they have marbles in them. IMG_7825

 

 

 

 

 

 

7. Zombie Burbz Avenue. A new APP/Toy concept. We had hoped new technology would bring something more lively than Zombies. IMG_7826

 

 

 

 

 

8.KISS a la K’NEX. A wholesome gift.IMG_7827

 

 

 

 

 

 

9. My Little Pony Princess Pony Bride. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any pinker or ponier. IMG_6848Winner of our rococo plastic toy award.

 

 

 

 

 

10. Mutant Ninja Turtle Secret Sewer Lair Playset.  A very big plastic sewer for your Ninja Turtles.IMG_7155 Part of an apparent trend, see (1) above.

 

 

 

 

 

and…the Breastfeeding Doll. Not new, but still pretty dumb and still getting lots of press. Kids don’t need literal props for everything.86cb30befd6849378823b4cb2e7aa7bc-fcba1ead7bf546f2aa234818895a2a89-0

 

 

 

 

For toys worth your child’s time, take a look at our list of 2012 Platinum, Gold, Blue Chip and SNAP (Special Needs Adaptable Product Awards) at www.toyportfolio.com.

Optimal Building Conditions? The LEGO solution

The NYT’s article Has Lego Sold Out?seems to start from a hazy memory of the authors’ own Lego building experiences. Yes, there have and continue to be LEGO buckets for open-ended building, but the company’s mainstay for the last two decades has been themed, instruction-based sets. What has changed are the themes.

LEGO made a decision that their own castles and space sets were not enough to keep media-savvy children coming to the construction aisle. They took their engineering talents to the world of Harry Potter, Star Wars and most recently, The Lord of the Rings. As someone who has reviewed and covered Lego Systems since the early 90s, I remember feeling sad when the announcement was made that LEGO would enter the world of licensed properties. In the end, it was a move that probably saved the company from the fate of way too many toy companies — but it did not change the building experience.  The key to a good licensed product, is to look beneath the license. Our testers continue to love building these sets and the instructions that come with each set are without equal in the industry.

While we also are avid proponents of open-ended play, we know that school-aged children learn a great deal from following step-by-step directions – not the least of which is the ability to stay with a task. In a culture where everything is instantaneous, this alone is worth the price of the toy. To discount this experience because of a license or a set of directions, ignores the significant benefit of engaging kids in fun activities that do not involve electronics. (Of our school-aged testers, LEGO sets remain the number one request by our families that review products for us.)

It’s also not true that building a model from instructions means the toy is void of imaginative play potential. Our LEGO testers not only use their models for pretend play (some even have epic battles between their Star Wars and LOTR characters) — but they use their LEGO pieces for builds of their own.  LEGO’s own City and Creators lines are popular with our testers.

As most toy companies continue to scramble to find a way to remain relevant in the age of APPs – LEGO has uniquely found a way to retain their appeal to children.  Have they sold out?  If they did, it happened decades ago. But from our point of view, they have adapted to their audience without giving up their core building experience that is both fun and educational.

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Three Biggest Toy Buying Mistakes

This holiday…try not to fall into these traps
Big Box Theory – Big isn’t necessarily better. Especially with building sets, if you have a beginning builder – start small. The idea is for them to enjoy the project, not watch an adult do it.
I Remember When Gifts.Yes, I’m sure you loved play an epic game of Risk or Monopoly…but chances are you were more than five years old. The same is true of your beloved Chemistry Set.  Toys should be age appropriate for right now not only for safety reasons, but because you want kids to build their sense of confidence through play. Toys that require your child to grow into them can lead to frustration.

Only Novelty.   Buying only novelty toys or all of the same type of toy will likely result in an early chorus of “I’ve got nothing to play with!”  Be sure to bring home a variety of playthings that will be enjoyed all year long. With 60% of toy dollars spent this time of year, it’s important to bring home toys that have staying power.

Visit our site at www.toyportfolio.com for reviews of this year’s Platinum and Gold Winners. We also review toys for kids with special needs.  They receive our SNAP Award.

toyportfolio.com Best Toys of 2012 on NBC’s TODAY Show

We had a fun segment on the Today Show talking about some of our Platinum Award winners. It’s always painful selecting the 10 toys to show (turns out we actually had 11!). As we pulled up to the show, Martin Freeman was already at the door – surrounded by photographers and people looking for autographs. I prayed that as my mother and I climbed out of the very high SUV we would not fall with all of those cameras so near by. We exited the car gracefully. You can watch the segment below.

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Before hand….

While I was getting hair and makeup done, I tweeted that there was a hobbit in the building. Just as I finished, Martin Freeman walked out of his dressing room behind me. I smiled. He returned my smile.  My grandmother always used to tell me “it doesn’t cost anything to smile” – he got the same lesson along the way. He was very friendly to everyone. Until I see The Hobbit next week, to me he is still Watson from the BBC Sherlock series. I’m a huge fan.

Martin Freeman visits the Today Show

We had lots of kids for this particular segment. They all were terrific while they waited for our time in the studio. In fact, we were brought upstairs and then the schedule got moved around a bit. They were amazingly well-behaved and calm as they waited even longer out in the hallway.  Here are some of their pics.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was the first time I was doing a segment with Willie Geist, the new host of the 9 o’clock hour. He’s great…and with two young kids, he’s in the toy zone.

Happily we got to talk about some of our favorite toys of the year from Fisher-Price, Wonderworld, Hasbro, North American Bear Co., LEGO, Playmobil, Marbles, The Brain Store, LeapFrog, Silverlit and Mattel. All of our Platinum Award winners are broken down by age with full reviews at www.toyportfolio.com.

After the segment, Willie took a picture with Joanne (who has been part of the WG fan club from his Morning Joe days).

It was a very good day…and I am forever grateful to my mother for taking a risk and starting the toyportfolio with me. She is the most generous mentor and business partner. Our adventure through toyland together is one of the great gifts of my life.

Willie Geist and Joanne Oppenheim at the TODAY Show