Not sure we really talked about Playmobil’s Cargo setting sufficiently. The plane is super big and the cargo ship is amazing, but it’s the actual shipping containers and crane that deliver the complete experience. The sets are not inexpensive, but they really do combine to make a wonderful pretend setting. For more details on the specific sets, visit www.toyportfolio.com.
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…
There have been spy toys in the past, but this season’s batch will make you think that Q has quit his gig for MI5 and set up shop in toyland. With high-powered real audio and visual capturing capabilities, these “toys” pose real privacy issues. But just looking in terms of technology and design…they’re pretty amazing. (Of course, these are all prototypes and we have not tested any of them with kids yet.)
Spin Master has taken control of the Spy Gear line from Wild Planet and given it a real “spy like” make over. We were intrigued by the Laser Defense Network ($19.99). Here you set up the devices to create a red beam of light. If someone breaks the red line by passing through, an alarm will sound. Their Spike Mic Launcher includes an audio mic dart that you can shoot off onto a wall and grab 30 minutes of sound. (We don’t recommend projectile toys as a rule but we thought the design/function were worth a mention). The Panosphere 360 Spy Cam really got our attention.
The small probe like device (close to the size of a tennis ball) can be rolled into any room and then allows you to capture video (and sound) with a full panoramic 360 degree view. The software platform will enable users to access different perspectives each time they look at a video. Amazing if it works.
Now once you’ve captured your spy…you’ll want to test whether the information he’s giving you is reliable. To assist with your interrogation, you may want to consider Jakks Pacific’s new Spy Net Lie Detector. (At first I thought this was the name of the evil company in the Terminator movies–but that’s Sky Net). The three biometric sensors scan your body for temperature and brain activity – all meant to help determine the veracity of a statement. There is a free downloadable APP (of course there is) to help with the questions.
We will be testing these toys and posting our reviews to toyportfolio.com.
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.
Fans of Polly Pockets (Mattel) will love this new Spin ‘N Surprise Hotel. Our favorite part is the elevator that spins the Polly Pockets as the travel up and down the three story structure. It’s just silly- in a good way. The two top floors also have a FLIP side–giving the dolls twice as many settings to play. Our testers loved the ping pong table, the big slide into a pool (that you can fill with water), and the Polly Pocket shoes that make it possible for them to stand up. We also like that there’s lots of action but no batteries required. A plus!
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
While this morning’s news is about LEGO’s Peter (from their new Friends line) and his 5 o’clock shadow, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that Barbie’s Ken (Mattel) also went through his “I’m sexy and I don’t feel like shaving” period.
Peter, the new and only male member of the new LEGO “Friends” line directed at girls, seems to be taking styling advice from George Clooney and Brad Pitt.
Or maybe he’s going for the younger Ryan Reynolds. In any case, feels like we need a new tag “toys with facial hair.”