Polly Pockets Wild and Wacky Hotel

 

A Polly Pocket in the middle of ping pong match at the Spin 'N Surprise Hotel

 

 

 

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!

Hot Wheels Wall Trax Power Tower

Mattel's new Power Tower Wall Trax

You know we loved Hot Wheels Wall Trax line last year. It made our Platinum list. The line brilliantly combines 3M stripes to make one of my childhood dreams come true: putting Hot Wheels trax on the wall. A very cool use of a rather low-tech technology.  This year’s new entry is the Power Tower. It requires 2 D batteries to run the corkscrew tower that feeds the cars up to the top of the track. There’s also a car-chomping beast. We put our hands in the beast’s jaw…no harm done.  While this does more than most – it’s more about watching the car move than making something happen.  Of all the sets, not really our favorite.

 

Little Tikes Big Digger Sandbox

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.

I’ll admit it, I preferred Pierre

This morning’s news that Maurice Sendak has passed away feels like another little part of my childhood has fallen away.  But not in the way you might think. I was terrified of Where the Wild Things Are. I was so scared that I made my parents promise that the book would leave our house. How could they guarantee that the wild things wouldn’t come to visit us?  Much to the chagrin of my first grade teacher, Mrs. Bernstein, I told all of my friends at the Book Fair that they should not buy that book!

I was quite surprised as an adult to find our copy of Where the Wild Things Are tucked away in the back of my Dad’s closet.  My 6-year old self felt the sting of the moment.  A literary fib on their part?

On the other hand, I LOVED The Nutshell Library. Holding that little box in my hands is one of my first memories of connecting with books.  How could they make such little books with such deliciously fun stories?  Pierre was my guy.  I don’t think my folks ever pointed out that the author was the same person who wrote Where The Wild Things Are – in fear that this little gem would end up in the back of the closet!!

 

Behind the scenes at the Today Show

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.

Today's Ann Curry with some of toy testers before our segment.

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?

When we got into the studio, the older kids got busy with the science kit we brought from Kiwicrate.com and the building sets we had from Lego, Magformers, and LaserPegs.

Savannah Guthrie and Grace take a look at the games we brought along!

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

Lego tester Dante and his mom Jill

Brianna really loved the wooden mower from Manhattan Toy.

Spring showers bring…Spring Toys!

Seems like we’re getting all of “spring showers” today! New York City is chilly and wet.  Happy that our segment tomorrow on the Today Show will be indoors!  We have so many great new toys to share and there will be lots of kids on the set with me.  To get a sneak peek, read our article here on some of new favorite toys for spring 2012.  The focus tomorrow will be on active toys for older babies and toddlers, construction toys (for both girls and boys), games and science toys!

LEGO FRIENDS – Friends or Big Love?

LEGO FRIENDS Olivia's House

There’s been a lot of controversy about the new LEGO FRIENDS line.  And we’ll be writing a lot more about that soon.  So far, we have gotten nothing but positive reviews for both the building aspect and the pretend play potential of these sets.   (We have however stayed away from the more gender-stereotyped sets such as the hair salon.)    You can read our review by clicking here.

But I did need to share the following….

I was very  interested to note how our girl builders became quickly invested in the names of each of the friends.  They quickly knew their names and which sets included which figures.  With the exception of maybe the Harry Potter or Star Wars LEGO sets, I’ve never really had this kind of conversation about the regular LEGO figures.

Then I got confused. The man with the beard?  Who could that be?  Why was this bearded play figure living with two female figures in Olivia’s House?  My toy testers just assumed he was a boy and that they were all just friends. After all the line is called LEGO FRIENDS. That made a certain amount of sense.

So maybe this was LEGO’s version of NBC’s hit comedy Friends? Was the bearded guy meant to be Ross?  Chandler?  I can’t really remember that any of them had a beard.  Anyway…then I thought maybe this is like HBO’s BIG LOVE.  I mean the two female figures look as grown up as the bearded man.

I called the folks at LEGO…and in case you were wondering, here’s the relationships of the figures in Olivia’s house.

The guy with the beard is Peter. He is Olivia’s FATHER.  The other female figure in the house is actually Peter’s wife, and Olivia’s mother, Anna.

I don’t know about you, but I feel much better now.

Hail to President Barbie

I was just reading posts about how most four year old girls are obsessed with being princesses. The Disney machine is back at work, pulling in another generation into the fairy tale of being swept away by love that conveniently also comes with a castle and jewels.  I’m all for pretend play…but this incredibly gender specific PINK scenario makes me pause.

So, here’s a sentence I never thought I would write…  Barbie has come to our rescue. That’s right, this morning, Mattel announced that Barbie will be running for president this year. Is she wearing huge hair and a Legally Blonde inspired Chanel suit, you betcha. But at least she’s running.

London toys…

Probably an occupational habit, but I usually find myself in toy departments whenever I travel. Always hoping I may see something new or different.  Here are two that caught my attention…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And while these aren’t toys, I also really love the way the British do Easter candy!!

Barbie versions of William and Kate from their Wedding Day

Funny, that I’m actually in London this morning to write about the launch of the Barbie William and Kate dolls. The young couple (doll version that is) arrived in our New York City office a few weeks ago–but mums the word until April 4th. So here I am, only blocks away from the palace to preview the dolls!