I’m a sucker for toys that work in the dark which is why I was super excited to try Creativity for Kids new Color Changing Flower Lights. The kit comes with three plastic globes that have three different light settings. One is a disco ball effect that seems perfect for the fairies in your realm. Read our full review at toyportfolio.com. Watch our video http://bit.ly/WPdOcI.
Our first focus of the season: Best Educational Toys.
The school year is in full swing and you may already be aware of where your kids are having trouble.
Our mission: Find games and toys that your children will enjoy…while at the same time reinforce skills they’ll need in school. If the product is boring, they do not make our list. After all, if a product is touted as being soooo good for you but no one wants to play it, what’s the point?
Tips to Keep in Mind:
Playful Math. Playing with numbers goes a long way to making kids feel comfortable with math. We found games that deliver big time without making anyone break out in a sweat.
I Can’t Do That! Learning how to work through frustration is also an important key of becoming a great student. When kids work on a construction set or craft kit with step-by-step instructions, it gives them a “fun” way to build on this all important skill. The trick is to find projects that are not too overwhelming. Our advice: start small, build their sense of confidence. Bringing home the BIG kit may seem like you’re being the best parent, but it’s not necessarily the way to start.
Reading, Reading, Everywhere – We know that reading at the end of day with your kids is terrific, but don’t stop there. You can also “read” together when you play games or work on a kit together. Rather than speed through all the instructions, give your new reader the opportunity to read the next step. It may take some extra time, but it’s worth it.
Cooperation – Learning how to work in a group is also an important school skill (and life skill). There are many new games on our list that promote cooperative play. While we had some parents resist these games at first, their kids loved them! (Maybe we should send some of these games to Congress.)
So tune in on Tuesday!
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
The smile on our tester’s face, pretty much says it all. We love this new sandbox from Little Tikes. It comes with the excavator, the dump truck and tools–all ready for lots of pretend possibilities. The ramp also adds to the fun! The removable cover is also a plus for keeping the sand clean and neighborhood animals out! You’ll note that it’s not super big–so it can fit on a deck as our testers are using it.
We arrived to find an extremely busy and crowded green room. The boy band, The Wanted, was there getting ready. I was told that Colton from American Idol was also there. Rosie was upstairs getting ready for The Professionals segment. (Hey, I’m a former lawyer-doesn’t that count?) And yes, there was the 40 pound cat – that was unfortunately sharing the curtained off area where our toy testers were gathered. Only problem, I’m super allergic. So I stayed clear of the cat– who was really, really big!
Our testers started arriving. We had many today including twins (I got to hold Grace throughout most of the segment), sisters, brothers and best friends…all testers for the toyportfolio.
We headed upstairs to the studio for a “tease”–the part where they say “and coming up”….and you see the guest. We were waiting in the hallway outside of the studio when Ann Curry came by and was really wonderful with the kids. I’m not sure they really took in all that she was saying to them–but it was great advice about being proud of who you are, standing tall. After she left we played some games to make the time fly. Remember how hard waiting was when you were 9?
Many of our older toddlers and preschoolers found the Little Tikes Garden Discovery Center very interesting–each climbed in at one point! Leaving the babies on the outside. One of the babies got away–and found her way under the science toys. I looked down while Savannah was asking me a question and lo and behold there was baby Grace with a piece of paper in her mouth. I removed the paper and scooped her up– and thankfully she was happy doing the rest of the segment with us! It was the first time I did a segment with Savannah– two former lawyers having fun with toys! She was great and handled the controlled chaos with good humor! I’m also happy I had on my relatively high Jimmy Choo shoes.
After the segment, there’s always a mad dash to get out of the studio quickly! Here are two of our happy testers right after we were done.
To read our reviews and ratings, visit, www.toyportfolio.com
Seems like we’re getting all of “spring showers” today! New York City is chilly and wet. Happy that our segment tomorrow on the Today Show will be indoors! We have so many great new toys to share and there will be lots of kids on the set with me. To get a sneak peek, read our article here on some of new favorite toys for spring 2012. The focus tomorrow will be on active toys for older babies and toddlers, construction toys (for both girls and boys), games and science toys!
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).
This morning we headed back up to the studio to take another shot at talking about Hot Toys of the season. The segment had been bumped on Tuesday. This time we got into the right car. On Tuesday we had gotten into a car that was headed to the airport -which should have been a signal to us that the rest of the morning was probably not going to go smoothly.
We arrive at the Today Show. All was unusually quiet in the green room. The Duggars had been there on Tuesday–making for a very crowded room! This time Robert Pattinson was upstairs
…we never got to see him but he certainly draws a crowd outside the studio. I always wonder about the fans that wait overnight to catch a glimpse. I thought it was fitting that we were there with Mattel’s Monster High Dolls that are really part of the Twilightization of America. Our tween testers, many of whom have not read the books or seen the movies really still love these dolls.
At first I wasn’t sure how I felt about them. They’re so over the top–but I’ve come around. Their focus is on character traits of each monster and how they navigate high school. It’s less about their body image. I also like that there are boys in the line, and that Mattel participated in an anti-bullying campaign this year with the collection. I certainly wouldn’t characterize them as beautiful dolls–but they do have a sense of humor that appeals to the 7 & up crowd.
Many of the kids who were scheduled to be on the segment on Tuesday came back today. We were very grateful to their parents! We were also joined by some other families who quickly got into the swing of the segment. I’d always rather do a segment with kids there–it just adds more energy and I think it’s useful to see kids actually playing with the toys we’re talking about.
This morning my mother and I headed uptown to do a segment on the Today Show about the season’s hot toys. Let’s Rock Elmo is one of the toys we’re going to talk about. My overriding concern going uptown was the massive zit on my face. Don’t you think at a certain age that you should get a pass on acne? My hitting the Halloween candy hard last week probably didn’t help the situation…but still, I do believe that there should be a time limit on the whole adult acne thing.
The good news is that the AMAZING makeup artist Christine waved her magic brushes over my face (in other words spackle was used) and the zit was gone. Seriously–it’s pretty magical. My hair is done–all is good. The kids started arriving for the segment.
The Duggars graciously agreed to let two of their daughters join us. The Duggars were on the Today Show to announce that they were expecting baby #20! Michelle Duggar and I had a conversation about our respective cravings during pregnancy. I wondered if they changed over time. I take my hat off to her–I can’t imagine twenty trips down that road. She has a very calm core– also necessary to run a household with that many kids!
Our segment was bumped so we were scheduled to post-tape. So we had the kids in the studio, turning the toys on…but then it was decided to have us back live on Thursday instead-so off we go.
So before we left, I went to the ladies room. And then Lisa VanderPump joined me as I was waiting my turn. She was very friendly.
I’ll own up to it, I am a RHWBH watcher. I don’t want to – but then I can’t stop myself. It’s the sheer genius of Bravo programming. That’s probably a whole other blog posting. Anyway, I marveled at the seriously high Brian Atwood leopard print pumps she was wearing. I’ve tried them on (not in the leopard print) –and while I think I look pretty silly in them, they looked great on her. They make my Jimmy Choo’s look like they’re from the children’s department. For the record, most of these shoes are not in keeping with my feminist roots or my desire not to be crippled, but I also do enjoy being taller. So maybe I’m more a height-ist than a feminist. I just always wonder whether anyone finds these shoes comfortable? In any case, Lisa looked terrific and was on the show to discuss her new book about entertaining.
We then went to visit the wonderful Richard Davies at ABC Radio to talk toys!
So even though I didn’t get to discuss the hot toys of the season on the Today Show yet, it was still a fun day. The nexus of Michelle Duggar and Lisa Vanderpump–now that’s pretty intense. Tune in Thursday morning in the 9 o’clock hour to see our segment!
Tomorrow morning I’ll be sharing some of our award winners that are what the media calls “hot toys.” These toys are often the ones your kids see again and again on tv commercials. Hot toys tend to be more about novelty than anything else, and while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with some novelty, it shouldn’t be the only type of toy your child receives for the holiday. A playroom full of novelty toys will invariably result in a chorus of “I have nothing to play with” before the Christmas tree is removed from your house.
That said, we always look at the toys that we know will get a great deal of hype. Do they work as well as they do on the commercials? I remember one year a doll that was supposed to flip and flip — but only really did one flip and that was with a great deal of assistance. Not exactly what the commercial promised. The toys on our “hot” list are products that our toy testers really enjoyed.
Hot toys can take on a life of their own during the holiday season. Many lists are generated by toy retailers – this tends to be more about marketing than full reviews about the toys themselves. Hot toys provide the perfect “toy story” and is often the first question we’re asked this time of year, “so what’s the hot toy of the season?”
This type of toy frenzy doesn’t always mean the toy is right for your child. Furby, for example, got so much buzz from a Wired Magazine piece even before it hit a single toy store in this country. And while it was the toy to get, it certainly wasn’t the ideal toy for toddlers who would have been a little frightened by the gremlin-like nature of the toy. Grown-up collectors can also fan the fire of a toy- this can also lead to ridiculous prices on-line.
While no one toy seems to have taken on the mantel of the “it” toy of the season, there are several that are getting lots of buzz – from the latest Elmo (he now wants to be a rock star) to amazing Star Wars LEGO builds or a remote control flying Shark. If any of these toys are on your child’s wish list, our suggestion is to buy them early. As was the case last year, inventories are not particularly deep.
For full reviews of those we recommend, please visit our website at www.toyportfolio.com.
And be sure to check out our full list of Platinum, Gold, Blue Chip and SNAP (Special Needs Adaptable Product) Award winners.