GROSS TOYS of 2013

One of the BIG  trends of 2013 is the return of gross in toyland. These toys are purposefully full of snot, gas, and overflowing toilets.  Here are the notable winners  in this dubious category.

Gooey Louie (Goliath Games) – He’s back.  The game play remains the same -  to “pick” a winner. If you pick the wrong piece out of his nose, his brain will pop out.

He's back - Gooey Louie

He’s back – Gooey Louie

 

2.  Doctor Dreadful Organ Grinder (Umagine/Spin Master)game play is to make zombie organs, infuse them with goop and bugs — and then eat them. Yum.

Doctor Dreadful Organ Grinder

Doctor Dreadful Organ Grinder

 

3. The Ugglys Electronic Pup Pet (Moose Toys) – A toy that lives up to its name. Purposefully ugly and even though this toy is mainly a head, this pup sounds like he swallowed a whoopee cushion.

The Ugglys Electronic Pup Pet has a serious gas problem

The Ugglys Electronic Pup Pet has a serious gas problem

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Gross Science Lab (SmartLab) -Among the activities- create a mixture to make the included toy toilet (with flushing sound) overflow. Just hope it doesn’t spark an idea to do it for real!

Gross Science from SmartLab

Gross Science from SmartLab

For reviews of other (less gross) toys, visit www.toyportfolio.com.

Does anyone still need a teddy bear or baby doll?

The short answer is: of course they do.

So yesterday before our Today Show segment I went to say hi to the 20 plus kids that agreed to be “elves” in our toy test on the plaza. They were all really well behaved…and many totally tuned into their phones and ipads. If you have kids you know the drill and

Wobbly Carmel by Bunnies by the Bay

Wobbly Carmel by Bunnies by the Bay

even if you don’t…if you go out to a restaurant and look around…you see kids engaged with their screens. Makes you wonder about more traditional types of play and the toys that will engage this digital generation. While everyone is totally abuzz about today’s kids monopolizing their parents’ smartphones and tablets, the last generation was equally sucked into their handheld players. The notable difference is that while most kids did not get their first Gameboy until they hit the early school years, infants are now part of the swipe-generation.

From a developmental point of view, the answer to my question is a resounding yes. Especially for younger children, we know that they learn best from real life interactions. Language development comes from talking (not just swiping or zapping a fruit ninja). When kids play with their stuffed animals, dolls, castles, dollhouses and other pretend settings – they are at

Calin Naima by Corolle

Calin Naima by Corolle

the center of their play experience. Things happen at their command and as a result of their own imagination not something created or dictated by a toy designer.  Elmo and his friends are fine for novelty appeal…but they do not offer the same open-ended type of pretend play.

Mon Premier Calin by Corolle

Here’s what else you should know about yesterday. The teddy bears and dolls that we brought to the show (but sadly ran out of time to talk about) were loved by the kids. We planned on talking about the wonderful collection of multicultural Calin baby dolls from Corolle (there is also a boy in the collection), the delicious Teddy Bear and Dog from Bunnies by the Bay and the always popular Calico Critters from International Playthings.

Calico Critters by International Playthings

Calico Critters by International Playthings

These toys may seem old-fashioned or boring compared to their high-tech counterparts, but to kids all of these toys are new and able props to their pretend world. And we certainly need our kids to pretend, to dream, to imagine and not just watch a screen.

To read reviews about all  of these wonderful toys, please visit our site.

TODAY Show Toy Test with toyportfolio.com winners

Today Show Toy Test "Elves" with Natalie Morales and Stephanie Oppenheim

Today Show Toy Test “Elves” with Natalie Morales and Stephanie Oppenheim

We had a blast yesterday at the Today Show. The show asked that we put many of our Platinum Award winners of 2013 to the test with “elves” on the plaza. With huge candy canes and the Rockefeller Christmas Tree in the background (not to mention the North Pole like temperature!), it was the perfect backdrop for this holiday tradition.P1010476To read about all the toys featured, click here. To see all of our award winners in all categories visit www.toyportfolio.com.

To see the segment, click here.

 

 

 

toyportfolio.com: Trends in Toyland for 2013

2013 has been a much better year in toyland.  We’re finally emerging from the effects of the economic downturn of the last several years when the industry played it safe in terms of what they were willing to bring to market. Many of our favorite toys were downsized to get to a magic price point (which keeps rising by the way). And, If there was a toy that was doing well before the recession, chances are there would be countless iterations of the same toy or concept. As a reviewer, this was more than depressing.

This year we were greeted by a new generation of toy inventors.  This new band of smart (many from MIT and Stanford) merry toy makers are seeking to change the industry and how we engage kids in play. This makes us extremely happy.   Not everything will work or be a big hit, but it shows a renewed interest and brain trust that can only benefit our kids in the long run. We’re also delighted with the explosion of new construction toys – everything from robotics, marble mazes (both wood and plastic), sets geared to engaging girls, to toys that you build and then demolish. Games and crafts continue to be a strong category and remains a great way to get everyone to disconnect from their technology for 30 minutes.

Tomorrow I’ll be on the Today Show to share just a few of our award winners. Trust me it’s so hard to talk only about 8 products when we have so many favorites!

As always, we thank our network of family testers all over the country. Without their feedback our list wouldn’t be the same. We love hearing from kids and their folks about what works and equally important- what doesn’t deliver.

As we now enter holiday toy season, we’ll be posting lots of videos and features about products we think you should know about.

So be sure to visit our website www.toyportfolio.com for daily features.

 

 

 

Play-Doh Sweets to Make…but not to eat.

I find it confusing to have toys for preschoolers where you make “food” but you can’t eat them – especially when they look so pretty. I get the whole pretend aspect of this toy and that many kids (including some of our testers) enjoy this product, but maybe because I was the kid that would have tasted it for sure,  it makes me wonder about the wisdom of such a toy. While I do have a soft spot for Play-Doh extruder accessories,  I generally prefer Play-Doh as an open-ended experience – after all, what’s better than making Play-Doh snakes?!

Play-Doh Sweet Shoppe from Hasbro

Play-Doh Sweet Shoppe from Hasbro

What do you think?

Behind the scenes at The Today Show

At the Today Show talking toys with Willie Geist and Steve Harvey

At the Today Show talking toys with Willie Geist and Steve Harvey

Last night I had odd dreams that were both a combination of Downton Abbey (I still feel so upset about the season’s ending)  and worrying that some of the prototypes (especially the last flying toy) wouldn’t work. By three in the morning I had Maggie Smith commenting on the series of spy toys we had on. Not the best night’s sleep.

Right before the segment with the Hot Wheel Car Maker

Right before the segment with the Hot Wheel Car Maker

This morning seemed very, very quiet. Maybe because it was soooo cold outside–it just seemed more laid back than usual. Since we were showing prototypes, there were no kids scheduled to be on the segment with me. That also made the green room less lively.  (Everyone did perk up when the Jeopardy teen champ came in.)  My mom, fresh back from her adventure through South America, was with me–which is always great. There was a guest there speaking about a 21 day cleanse. The whole idea made me hungry.

The segment was fun. You can watch it here. Willie Geist is fantastic and as a Dad with two young children, he’s totally in the toy zone. Steve Harvey was guest co-hosting today and was a total sport–trying out the Spy Net Lie Detector Toy from Jakks Pacific and flying one of the Atmospheres from Spin Master. Special thanks to Cara from LEGO and Rachel from Spin Master for coming in to make sure that they’re prototypes worked on camera. All the toys we showed today are featured on my blog posts from last week.

Love this picture because Steve is still playing with the toy!!

Love this picture because Steve is still playing with the toy!!

 

 

toyportfolio.com: Hasbro’s Monopoly News

Hasbro has a lot of Monopoly news this season. First they retired the iron play piece which feels right to me. I’ve never known anyone hollering to be the iron. So here’s the replacement…a cat. If you’re a cat person, I suppose, this will be a great addition. For me, I’ll stick with the doggie.

The new play piece for Monopoly...the cat.

The new play piece for Monopoly…the cat.

Also new for 2013, the Despicable Me 2 (click thru to watch the trailer-it’s really fun) version to coincide with the launch of the movie this July. Comes with off-the-chart cute minion pieces (they had to glue them down at toy fair so that they wouldn’t walk out of the showroom. In the good old days, they would have given us a sample, but I digress). Personally, I’d take any one of the minions over the cat! I like that both versions are classic Monopoly sets where a person, rather than a electronic device, is the banker.

Monopoly Despicable Me2 Version from Hasbro

Monopoly Despicable Me2 Version from Hasbro

 

 

Calling George Jetson and Luke Skywalker: We have your toys

When I found out that Think Fun’s new Laser Maze comes with a real laser, I felt as if we were now truly in a new century of toys. There are many “laser-like” toys on the market.

Laser Maze from Think Fun

Laser Maze from Think Fun

Spin Master’s new super-cool looking Laser Defense System, for example, features a high intensity LED light, not a laser.  Laser Maze is similar to other classic brain teasers from Think Fun where the challenges become increasingly more complex (the game comes with 60). The game play is to move the pieces so that the laser bends off the mirrors and splitters on the game pieces to hit the target. We look forward to testing it.

My other futuristic favorite toy so far is the grapefruit-sized AtmoSPHERE from Spin Master. The orb-like flying toy promises to respond to motion. So once you activate it, you will be able to control where it goes by moving your hands around it. While not quite Luke Skywalker’s first lesson with his lightsaber, it is pretty amazing. We look forward to trying this one too.

Atmosphere from Spin Master

Atmosphere from Spin Master

Marbles and Bugs…just my kind of toys

I’m delighted to find that Hape has expanded the Quadrilla marble run line (a Platinum award winner from 2006). Here’s the new Xcellerator. These are pricey sets but the type of toy that will be handed down.

Xcellerator by Hape Toys

Xcellerator by Hape Toys will retail for $149

The design is so appealing. It looks like the track will provide for lots of speedy runs. We haven’t tested this particular set yet.

On the flip side of old-fashioned marble runs– take a look at Hexbugs Nano V2 from Innovation First. My mother thinks I’m obsessed with Hexbugs. I used to love capturing bugs as a kid–so that’s probably where the interest comes from. Now, instead of just having bugs on regular flat tracks, the new versions are designed so that they can move around tubed tracks that can be put in a vertical positions. How cool is that?  Hope it works!!  (As with most of my blog posting during Toy Fair, we are previewing the toys rather than reporting on toys we’ve tested yet.)

HEXBUG Nano V2 Set by Innovation First

HEXBUG Nano V2 Set by Innovation First

GoldieBlox’s Debra Sterling on a Mission

images-2Sometimes it feels like the toy industry has been overrun by less than highbrow ideas. For example, this year we received trash toys (where the play pattern is to collect simulated trash cans), fart producers (more on that later) and simulated animal dung. Which is why when I heard that a female Stanford engineering graduate started a toy company with the mission to encourage girls  to consider engineering and other math related careers,  I got very excited.  Read my interview at  toyportfolio.com with Debra Sterling of GoldieBlox.