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

 

LEGO, Kid Galaxy, Playmobil…it was a good day!

Today at Javits we started at LEGO.  Always fun.

Our LEGO STAR WARS fans will be thrilled with the impressive number of new builds for this year!

LEGO STAR WARS NEW MILLENIUM FALCON

The line also includes new GAMES  (they rocked the game market last year -taking a 12% share of the market in their first year).

LEGO GAMES new PIRATE PLANK

Kid Galaxy–has a promising new line of vehicles that demonstrated more innovation than just about anywhere we visited this year–especially in the vehicle realm for preschoolers.

New Preschool Vehicle from Kid Galaxy

Playmobil - Pretty sure the new Zoo kits, the Spy Line and the Castles will be frontrunners with our testers this year.

PLAYMOBIL'S New ZOO Setting

Flamingos at Toy Fair…

Playmobil's Flamingos

We had a neighbor when I was growing up who was most proud of her plastic flamingos.  Of course, some people (who shall remain nameless) had great fun  moving those flamingos from time to time throughout the neighborhood.  Hey, it’s more humane than tipping cows.

As a result, I’ve always had a fondness for the plastic flamingo. This pair is from Playmobil.

Toy Fair 2010 Preview: Playmobil – get ready to build!

Playmobil's Dragon

We stopped by Playmobil today and visited with  Michelle Winfrey.  Last year you’ll remember we gave the Playmobil Egyptian setting our Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award.  Each year we wonder what will be the big new theme. This year, there were several new sets that I think will be a hit with our testers.  The two biggest sets are the Dragons - complete with Castles that can connect by a bridge. It made me think of that portion of the original Shrek movie.  (Of course here the dragons are not  trying to court Eddie Murphy, but hey it’s pretend so I guess anything’s possible!). You can take a closer look by watching our video with Michelle.

Playmobil's Fire Fighter Sets

The next set that really caught our attention was the Fire Fighters. What we love about Playmobil is the attention to detail in planning a series. As you’ll notice in our video of the Fire Fighters series, there’s not only a really cool looking fire station (complete with pole), there are two different fire trucks, a fire chief’s truck and a fire boat.

toyportfolio.com: Top GREEN Toys for 2009

Green toys used to mean a recycling truck here or there…or a paper maker, but now there are many toys that are either manufactured with a green mandate or promote a positive green message to kids.  The biggest trend are dolls made from organic materials–not all created equal in our book.  Green shouldn’t have to mean scratchy or boring in design or color.  Happily we received many that found the right blend of green and whimsy!  The other big category — trucks…many made of recycled materials – were a real draw to our testers.  Then there are the throw back toys–my personal favorite, the wind-up FM Radio.

Here’s the list of our Top Green Toys for 2009. Complete reviews on our our site, www.toyportfolio.com. Click on the toy name to read our rating/review.

Trucks

Eco Trucks (Sprig Toys)

Dump Truck (Green Toys)

Playmobil Recycling Truck (Playmobil)

PushAlong Hybrid Car (ImagiPLAY)

Building Toys

Plan Toys Build ‘n Spin (Plan Toys)

Citiblocs (Citiblocs)

Dolls and Dollhouse

blabla Dolls (blablakids)

Organic Joobles (Fair Indigo)

Earth Mates (Mary Meyer)

Plan Toys Green Dollhouse (Plan Toys)

Other Green Toys of Interest

Crayola Crayon  Maker (Crayola)

Elia Mini Chair (eliafun.com)

Ecotronics Radio (International Playthings)

Ecotronics Mr. Robot Head (International Playthings)

Playmobil Underwater Adventure a Huge Hit

“Wow” was how the review started from one of our testing families.  Our tester parent sent us the following review after watching her kids enjoy this setting : “The complete set with the large boat, submarine, small  boat, diving cage, deep sea diving bell. etc. etc is just incredible.   Each set individually or all of them together provide innumerable  opportunities for pretend play.  The figurines and all of the  accessories provide EVERYTHING a child needs to act out nautical  stories.  I am amazed by the level of detail in each set.”

This set is right for the bathtub…this family also plays with it on “land”…

If you have a child that likes to pretend with miniature settings…this is one to consider!

Top Ten Green Toys

With Green Day hours away, we are certainly pleased with the trend in the toy industry to go green.  It seems like every week there are new organic doll collections, toys made of recycled materials, and toys/games that have an empowering (but not obnoxiously heavy-handed) green agenda.  More good news-the packaging also seems to be more friendly to the environment-with fewer toys trapped in a sea of plastic.

Here is our current list of top ten green favorites–happily the list keeps growing!

blabla dolls (blabla)

Earth Mates (Mary Meyer)

My Natural Collection (Hosung NY)

Organic Joobles (Fair Indigo)
Recycling Truck (Green Toys

Recycling Truck (Playmobil) ptru1-4866605reg1

Eco-Trucks (Sprig Toys)
Busy Bugs (Mudpuppy) fp_busy_bugs1
Green Dollhouse (Plan Toysimages-1
Elia Mini Chair (eliafun.com) eliaminichair11

Top Rated Green Toys

We’ve been bombarded with green marketing this year…some products are well meaning but have really heavy handed messages. With that in mind we looked for toys that represent a more planet friendly agenda in how they are manufactured, as well as toys that do deliver a message but in a child friendly way…Here are our favorites:

1. Parking Garage (Plan Toys)

2. Tonka Lil Gas Pump (Hasbro) – it shows how ethanol is made on the back of the pump.

3. Sprig Vehicles (Sprig)- new line of vehicles made from recycled materials.

4. Gator Golf (Hasbro)- The classic game is now made without batteries.

5. Indoor Gardening Kit (Green Toys)- made from repurposed materials.

6. Think Green Barbie – love that she’s joined this important cause…her motto…”Think Pink, Live Green”

7. National Geographic Kids Animals (International Playthings)- polar bears and snakes–oh my!

8. Cheekeyes Animals (Cheekeyes)- handsomely crafted line of wooden animals – perfect as props for blocks.

9. Recycling Truck (Playmobil)- a fun prop for pretend that reinforces what we all should be doing.

10. Eric Carle Brown Bear Floor Puzzle (Mudpuppy)- a friendly low key way of introducing kids to the creatures we share this planet with…without a heavy message.

Can you say Spartacus?

One of the most innovative pretend settings of the season is Playmobil’s Arena. Complete with lions, trap doors and the original “stadium seating” this is a large setting that also comes with a play mat to extend the area of play. As with most Playmobil sets, the Arena will require an adult involved in the building. There are lots of pieces and no one expects your five year old to be able to do the building independently. One parent we spoke with plans on having the whole thing built and under the tree ready to go for Christmas morning. That’s one approach (if you haven’t left everything else to be wrapped)…but I much prefer making the building project a parent/child event. Depending on the age of your child, you may be doing more of the building–but putting it together is part of the experience. It also reinforces that not everything is instantaneous…projects can take some time. Not a bad concept to share with your kids.

If a more modern pretend setting is more your thing, we also liked the new Playmobil Hospital (but it was not tested for lead content). This multi-level hospital has all of the wonderful attention to detail that Playmobil is well known for including wheelchairs, gurneys and a baby nursery.

Today Show/ toyportfolio.com Platinum Award Toy Segment

Right before we went on air, our 4 minute segment became 3.5 minutes–that’s right–to talk about over 15 great Platinum Award winning products! We also had kids on the plaza (bundled up) that were really into playing with the Castle of Courage from Step 2, the Arena from Playmobil, and the Candy Land Castle Game from Hasbro. Al Roker is always fun to do segments with – and I usually like doing segments outdoors because the crowds are there – giving that extra energy that you don’t get if you’re in the studio. The downside? The wind today was kicking up. So right before we were about to go on live, I turned sideways and all of my hair got caught in my lip gloss. Not the best look. But more important than my hair was that the Havoc Heli RC helicopters from Spinmaster couldn’t fly – too much wind for these really cool tiny helicopters that are meant for indoor use or a very calm day. Thankfully the big K’nex Double Ferris wheel did not fall over! It looked iffy there for a moment too. Of course I could really talk about any one of these products for 3.5 minutes–so it’s always hard to decide what the sound bite will be for each–and I didn’t want to skip any–so it was full steam ahead. If you want more info about these award winning products, you’ll find a lot more on our website at www.toyportfolio.com and we also have posted a calmer discussion of some of our award winners on www.youtube.com. The best sign of a successful segment, the kids didn’t want to stop playing with the toys after the segment was over!