For a full review and shopping info, visit our site.
For a full review and shopping info, visit our site.
Just received FurReal Friends Cuddles My Giggly Monkey from Hasbro…
Kind of reminds me of someone…
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.
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.
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.
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
This is the 6 BILLION dollar question this year. If toy makers have their way, the answer will be a resounding yes. In fact, it seems that many are betting the farm on it. With APP sales exceeding $6 billion in 2010 and estimated to reach $25 billion by 2015, you can’t really blame them for wanting a piece of this mega pie.
The big take away trend of TOY FAIR 2012, that officially begins tomorrow at the Javits Center in New York City, is the arrival of digital “enhancing” toys. There’s even a whole new vocabulary: you’ll hear that your child needs toys that help “blend” their reality and digital play experiences. Clever new brand lines such as Apptivity (Mattel) or AppGear (WowWee) or AppMates (Disney).
But at the end of the day, does your 18 month old baby really need a bear with an iPhone for a belly? Does your four year old who loves Hot Wheels really need to have a special car to race on the surface of your iPad? Does your child need a plastic fishing rod so that he or she can “virtually” fish with an attached smartphone?
I was pretty cranky this week as I started previewing this new category. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why and then yesterday, after having visited both Mattel and Hasbro’s showrooms, it became clearer to me. I wasn’t exactly cranky, just a little bit sad. I love toys. I’m always excited to see what those clever toy makers are going to wow us with. What innovative uses of technology would we be able to share with our readers? Unfortunately, this new category feels like the toy industry is desperately trying to remain relevant in a world where even the youngest children (who are not even talking yet), can navigate their parents smartphones and tablets.
The question for us always comes back to whether the technology enhances the play experience. In other words, do you need a toy to have the same or greater amount of pleasure when playing Fruit Ninjas or Angry Birds? Is the APP experience lacking or less than optimal if you don’t have these 3D action figures? Does having an iPhone APP at the center of your game board really make playing a round of LIFE or Monopoly better? As with most new categories we review, the ultimate answer will be made on a case by case basis.
In the swirl of wow-look-what-we-can-do-now in toyland, it’s almost easy to miss the next important question. Is this toy developmentally appropriate? We know that handing off iPhones and iPads to very young children has become part of our culture. Parents often marvel at how well their kids navigate such experiences, and we all know that such a hand off can be particularly useful when you travel or on a tedious line at the grocery store. (I can barely make it through the Whole Foods line without my phone.) But now ask yourself whether it’s beneficial to extend that time by adding toys to the experience. What other real world play experiences are being missed by adding more screen time? While the technology is far too new for studies that research the impact on small children, at this point we see no reason why this screen time will be vastly different from television, baby videos, or video games and their negative impact on children. In other words, less will probably be more. And when you’re talking about very young children, none may be even better. Not a popular suggestion we know. As with most things, we have a sense that moderation is probably the most realistic goal.
One more thing. It also seems somewhat tone deaf to be suggesting in these difficult financial times that expensive technology must be acquired for playtime. I know we all have phones and according to the folks at Mattel, one in every five house holds owns an iPad – but still. From a consumer point of view, board games have always offered great value. Most games cost under $20. Now, that’s $20 plus the cost of your iPad or iPhone.
I feel much better now. And while I understand that toy companies want in on this booming business, I hope that all of those creative toy makers will remember that playing in the real world with wonderfully crafted playthings is still something to be valued.
The previews for Toy Fair 2012 ( that officially kicks off on February 12th) , which is a preview of the toys that will be available for the coming year, have begun. Are you with me?
So far, we haven’t been too blown away with what we’ve seen, but I have already found my toy crush…his name is Flying Super Grover 2.0.
We have only seen a prototype of Flying Super Grover (he’ll be available from Hasbro in the fall). So this isn’t an official review, but just look at him. The cap, the eyes peeking through, the splash of his yellow lightning bolt on his fury blue chest…and don’t even get me started on his pink nose. He promises to make appropriate sound effects when he’s flown. He will know when he’s going up and down. He had me at “helloooo every bud-deeeeee!” In any case, he clearly is going to give Elmo a run for his money.
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.