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.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

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

 

Loving the Carnival Glitter Glue!

eeBoo Carnival Glitter Glue

Next to glow-in-the-dark toys, glitter glue is on my personal top hit parade of great playthings. There’s just something so satisfying about glitter glue.  We just got in the new line of Carnival Glitter Glue from eeBoo.  Each of the 4 tubes look like peppermint sticks with two tones. At $5 a pop, this is a fun activity craft that won’t break the bank.

For reviews/ratings of Carnival Glitter Glue, visit us at www.toyportfolio.com

My glitter glue masterpiece.

Classic Toys tomorrow on the Today Show: Take a Toy Inventory

While there is certainly room for novelty this time of year, it’s also important to bring home toys that have lasting play value. The toys that make the cut tend to be the classics–and often more open-ended. These toys place your child at the center of the play experience. So instead of dolls that do all the talking, dolls that say nothing will be enjoyed for a longer period of time because they will say whatever your child wants them to say!  (The doll to the left is from Corolle Doll’s Calin line). We’ll be talking balls,  blocks, trains, art supplies and games!

Take a toy inventory:

1. Does your child have a variety of playthings? Having a lot of one type of toy (whether it’s dolls or trucks) will often lead to a chorus of “I have nothing to play with.”

2. Gender Free- Is your child’s play experience only pink? only blue?  We want boys to know how to be nurturing parents–so dolls are an important part of role playing “dad”.  On the flip side, we want our daughters to excel in math– so blocks and construction toys should be part of their play world as well.

3. Art supplies - Encourage their creative side. With budgets being cut in many schools, kids have fewer opportunities for painting, using clay, and drawing. Whether it’s a juicy box of new Crayola crayons or an interesting set of watercolor pencils from Faber Castell or eeBoo– find a way to bring them back to the arts.

4. Games- One of the best ways to unplug your family is to play a game together. We have dozens of great suggestions on our list. Find a couple that become part of your family’s entertainment.  I’m personally really a fan of Connect Four Launchers and Joanne’s favorite is almost anything with letters. She’s a beast at Upwords.  (Never quite referred to my mother that way–but you know what I mean).

Best Toys for Kids with ADHD 2011

Buying toys for the kids in your life should be fun.  Yet, we often hear that toys purchased for kids with ADHD don’t always go over very well–games are too frustrating, construction sets have too many pieces and directions…all leading to frustration for everyone.

We have updated our tips for buying toys for kids with ADHD– what to look for and, perhaps more importantly, what to stay clear of when you’re shopping.  This handy list is on our website at www.toyportfolio.com along with a specific list of toys we’d recommend. The list is meant as a starting point–you’ll see that there is a theme in each category for what is more likely to be hit. If you find certainly toys that work–we’d love to hear from you.

And to help well-meaning grandparents and other family members make wise choices–we’d suggest sharing the tips and list with them as well.

 

Getting Ready!

Halloween is fast approaching which for many means decorating, candy & costumes. For us, it signals that our season will soon be in full swing. Folks that usually think what we do is kind of silly–are now interested in what we found from our testing during the course of the year. We have a really full list of award winners this year that we look forward to talking about. We’ll be looking at the topic in all different kinds of ways –age, budget, high tech, low tech, green…you get the idea.  If you have particular question or list you’d love to have, let us know!

I’ve been spending more time on twitter lately–finding the format both challenging and interesting. You can join the discussion with me, my twitter name is toyportfolio.

 

 

Behind the scenes at the Today Show

A quiet moment before the segment...

So I have to say that I didn’t realize I was in the Green Room with the stars of the Boston Bruins when we first arrived. They had a separate camera crew shadowing them as well–so in fairness I was trying to stay out of the way. It’s a very small room. I’m pretty up-to-speed with most sports…just not hockey, sorry.

It wasn’t until I was coming up the stairs from getting my hair and make-up done and saw the Stanley Cup (it’s kind of hard to miss)…that I got it.   When I went back to the Green Room and asked my son Adam if he knew they had been in the same room with the Bruins…I realized almost immediately that I had set myself up for one of those “really, Mom?” looks.

While we were waiting outside the Green Room (to avoid the above-mentioned Bruins and crew), Ann Curry was great to stop, give me a hug.  I will miss doing segments with her but so happy that she is now co-anchor! People always ask me if she is as nice as she appears on tv. I think the answer is really more so.   She has that special gift of connecting with people and has done such an important job to spotlight the less fortunate all over the globe.

Everyone at play!

This is the first segment I did with Tamron Hall.  I love Tamron…I watch her all the time on MSNBC. I think she was a little daunted by the ten kids running around the set–but we got through the segment without incident!  To read the article about the toys featured, visit our site, www.toyportfolio.com.

You can also watch the segment below.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Sing-a-ma-jigs go Symbiotic

The new Sing-a-ma-jigs from Fisher-Price

I loved Sing-a-ma-jigs when I first saw them last year at Toy Fair. To me they look like claymation characters with their little round mouths and big eyes.

Wallace and Gromit

I love that they are able to sing (and even harmonize) together.  This year– the new versions come with a little mini-me attached the larger doll. They sing together. The upside, you don’t need to buy two dolls to have them harmonize.  I’m not sure I love the mini-me aspect.  The smaller doll cannot be removed and somehow the smaller animal looks slighter meaner than the bigger doe-eyed larger being. Kind of reminds me of the character Masterblaster from Mad Max.

To watch a video of the new dolls, click here.

For video of past videos, click here.

Masterblaster from Mad Max

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.

VTECH InnoPad

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

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.

Watch your creations being built at TEGU

One of my new favorite construction sets comes from TEGU.  These are beautifully crafted wooden magnetic blocks. If I were going to buy a toy that I know everyone would play with if I put it out on the coffee table for the holidays–it would be these blocks.  (Except of course if you have very small kids in the house).

Starting today, you can challenge their builder to build something specific. Right now I’m watching them put together a Chilean Miner! Take a look and tweet in your own requests at TEGU.com

Read our review.