We’re always excited to share the news of the toyportfolio.com Best Toys of 2015! If you’re new to toyportfolio.com, here’s how we work. Joanne and I begin in February at the International Toy Fair in NYC where all of the toys for this holiday season are previewed. There are thousands of new toys that fill the Javits Center. From there we make our requests to see toys that look promising. The toys then start arriving to our office – slowly at first. By July it looks like we are in Santa’s Workshop – wall to wall toys. We put the toys to the first round of review – does the toy work, do the directions make any sense, is it fun? The sad truth, many toys never get beyond this stage. The number of toys that don’t do what they say they’ll do is always shocking to us.
The next stage of our testing is to send the toys to families all over the country from all walks of life to give us feedback. We found early on that this was the best way to get feedback from the ultimate testers, kids. Bringing kids into a large “play” setting almost always favors toys that are heavily promoted and big on novelty. But that’s not how kids play with their toys. So we always ask parents to give us their feedback about how the toy is played with in their own playrooms. This year we had families from all 50 states. Their feedback is always great!
Based on all of the feedback and our reviews, the awards emerge. The Platinum Awards are reserved for the truly outstanding toys of the year; the Gold Seal Awards are also highly rated products that engaged our kids; the Blue Chip Award is bestowed on toys that have been in the marketplace for at least five years and have stood the test of time (a rarity in toyland); and finally the SNAP (Special Needs Adaptable Product) Award is given to toys that are easily adaptable for children with special needs.
Click here to see the complete list.
We hope you find the reviews helpful. Our mission remains the same…to find toys that are both fun and engaging – and not a waste of your toy dollar!
Stephanie and Joanne
You probably know the best-selling Baby Alive doll from Hasbro. The play scenario is that you feed Baby Alive food and then she poops into diapers just like a real baby. This version has been around for years…what’s new this year, recycled food/poop.
Now you feed Snackin’ Sara food that looks like gummy worms. She eats them and they come out in her little diaper. We were then told and shown that the poop could then be recycled as new food. I’m all for recycling but this is just wrong. It sends a very confusing message to young children and the fact the “food” “poop” is candy also might make a preschooler wonder. The yuck factor here is huge.
Watch the video demo here.
The Force continues to be strong at Hasbro with their Star Wars line. The toy that will receive the most amount of buzz will certainly be FurBacca. This mashup of a toy brings back Furby (remember him?) to a whole new generation of kids that won’t think the technology is all that cutting-edge but will enjoy the Star Wars theme of this fun novelty furball.
Watch the video here toyportfolio-star-wars-furbacca-hasbro
Now what always gets my attention in the Star Wars section at the Hasbro Toy Fair showroom are the lightsabers. I never think they can out do the version from the year before, but I was really wrong. Imagine the biggest, baddest lightsaber you can think of– and that’s what’s coming for 2015. I need one.
Specifically, I want to play with the Bladebuilder Lightsaber where you can add several sabers to build your own super lightsaber. (I think they would have gone with Build a Blade if it wasn’t so close to Build a Bear). Anyway…it has all the great authentic lightsaber sound and it looks super cool.
New for the even younger Star Wars fans….there’s also Star Wars Mr. Potato Head (he’s been around before) and the new Star Wars Play Doh. Now I wouldn’t share the movies with a three year old, but Hasbro is counting on the trickle down from the cartoon series STAR WARS REBELS that older brothers and sisters are watching as well as sentimental buying from Star Wars fans that can’t wait to share the series with their kids.
It’s not really Toy Fair for me until we see the new Star Wars toys. Mattel unveiled their new collection under the Hot Wheels brand. There are miniature spaceships and we love the AT-AT Walker.
My favorite toys from this collection are those that truly marry the Star Wars and Hot Wheels Brands. Who wouldn’t want their own R2-D2 Car?
What an amazing two months we’ve had working with over 200 families in 24 states (with seven sets of twins) in order to conduct the first TODAY Show/toyportfolio.com Toy Review. Tomorrow I’ll be on to share the results for babies, toddlers and preschoolers. A special thank you to all the families that participated and gave us their feedback on the toys they reviewed! I hope you’ll tune! To read all the results, please visit www.toyportfolio.com.
We’re always on the look out for new puzzle makers. Duo Press has joined our short list of favorites! Their new 20 piece My San Francisco Puzzle and My New York Puzzle are both visually very pleasing, made on sturdy stock and are just right for the 3 & up crowd. Each puzzle comes in a well-designed box that will make storage easy and long-lasting. Read our reviews at www.toyportfolio.com.
The most troubling quote in today’s NYT’s article, “Today’s Girls Love Pink Bows as Playthings, but These Shoot” is “toys that stimulate aggression are healthy for children.” To suggest that literal props like weapons are something to be valued (regardless of what color they are) puts the conversation about the value of play experiences back a few decades. Yes, kids have aggression and need outlets for expressing it, but making it part of their play diet with plastic weapons is not beneficial. Most child development experts would suggest art supplies and puppets as appropriate outlets for expressing emotions.
We have nothing against archery – but here the game play (inspired by mega hit The Hunger Games) is targeting other children, not a bullseye. There is a disconnect between the teen/adult audience of the books and movies and the 7-year-olds that are the intended consumers of these toys. While we happily support “girl power” when it comes to STEM toys that encourage girls to be all that they can be, this kind of role play perverts the concept of empowerment. Even in the universe from which these toys have come from, we doubt very much that Katniss would approve arming children her sister’s age with weapons.
Last year the buzz was STEM toys with an emphasis on construction toys. Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award-winning Goldie Blox even made its way to a Super Bowl commercial.
Now ThinkFun is launching ROBOT Turtles, a board game that promises to introduce young children (preschoolers) to programming. We haven’t played the game–but I love the idea of kids learning how to program rather than just spending so much time sucked into video games. ROBOT Turtles started on Kickstarter by inventor Dan Shapiro. The game is scheduled for release in June (retail $24.99).
ROBOT Turtles from THINKFUN
You won’t find these animal-themed mittens or socks in the toy aisle, but they are wonderfully playful! We love the idea of kids having different animals on their feet that can speak to each other. We received a three pack of socks ($14.99) that included: Shark vs. Penguin, Lion vs. Tiger and T-Rex vs. Triceratops. There are also delicious booties for older babies and toddlers…Cat vs. Dog, Owl vs. Mouse, T-Rex vs. Triceratops. The booties are sooo soft – you’ll be jealous that they don’t come in your size!
The mittens (available in adult sizes), recently spotted on Anne Hathaway, are equally adorable. We wish they were lined with the same material as the booties. We received a pair with Frog vs. Fly. These do come in adult sizes – proving that you don’t have to be a child to be super playful!
A fun company. Check out their website at www.hoorayhoopla.com
Calico Critters were first launched in Japan way back in 1985. They arrived in North America in 1993 and are currently distributed by International Playthings. (They’re known in other countries as Sylvanian families). No matter the name, these small animal collections are enjoying a resurgence with the “iphone generation” of preschoolers and early school age kids.
Calico Critters Ice Cream Truck
Unless your heart is stone cold, you have to admit that Calico Critters are seriously cute. Even for a preschool generation that lives on fruit ninjas and can navigate youtube like pros, there’s something appealing to actually holding a Calico Critter in your hand. Our testers also love that they come in families. For kids that like to pretend in miniature (as opposed to whole body pretending) – Calico Critters will say whatever they want them to say. There are no bells and whistles here – which is why they’re probably still so popular.
Here’s a link to our most recent reviews of their Border Collie Family, Ice Cream Truck, and Treehouse.