Today Show: Behind the Scenes

This morning we kicked off our 2012 toyportfolio.com Award List on the Today Show.  To read about the products featured today, visit toyportfolio.com. Because the segment was geared to older kids, the green room (recently spiffed up) was quieter than our usual segment with babies and toddlers. Above Gabriella uses some of the eeBoo art supplies featured in the segment.

Three school friends also hanging out in the green room.

Sophie, Dehlina and Kena – can you say “girl power”!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before our segment, the girls went to the studio. They got to see all the people involved in making the show happen.  It really takes a village!

Quietly watching as Savannah, Natalie and Al talk before our segment.

Here’s a glimpse of what happens right before we go on.

All the kids are getting ready to play on air.

Talking with Al. Always fun!

After the segment with Al and the girls.

To watch the segment visit, Toys that Teach.

toyportfolio.com announces 2012 Best Toys on Today Show

I’ll be on the Today Show tomorrow morning, October 2nd, in the 9 o’clock hour to launch the toyportfolio.com’s 2012 list of best toys. Tomorrow’s focus will be on educational toys…but the entire list will appear on toyportfolio.com.

Always exciting to share another year’s results!   We will announce not only our Platinum Awards, but our Gold Seal, Blue Chip and SNAP (Special Needs Adaptable Product) Awards as well.

Surprises of the year:

1. Pink Bricks. We never thought we’d recommend anything as gender specific as pink bricks…but our testers made us really consider our position. If the only way to get certain girls to build is with pink bricks, then do it. The benefits of building (fine motor skills, spatial and visual skills, math skills, following directions)  outweigh any gender stereotypes.

2. Apps in toyland – Most apps toys did not capture the attention of our testers. With some notable exceptions, our testers really just like their apps. Our parent testers also did not see the need to bring an ipad into the realm of boardgames. We agree. This may change with time, but our families liked that board game time was separate and apart from screen time.

3. Pirates and Princesses. Two traditional themes for pretend play are in full force this holiday season.

4. Move Over Elmo.  Grover 2.0 is poised to take over as the novelty doll of the year. Furby, you remember him, is also lurking and looking for a come back.

 

 

 

 

Educational Toys: boring?

I’ll be on the Today Show  next Tuesday, October 2nd, to kick off the  toyportfolio.com Awards for 2012. We have a very full list this year with great choices for every age and every budget.

Our first focus of the season: Best Educational Toys.

The school year is in full swing and you may already be aware of where your kids are having trouble.

Our  mission:  Find games and toys that your children will enjoy…while at the same time reinforce skills they’ll need in school. If the product is boring, they do not make our list. After all, if a product is touted as being soooo good for you but no one wants to play it, what’s the point?

Tips to Keep in Mind:

Playful Math.  Playing with numbers goes a long way to making kids feel comfortable with math.  We found games that deliver big time without making anyone break out in a sweat.

I Can’t Do That! Learning how to work through frustration is also an important key of becoming a great student. When kids work on a construction set or craft kit with step-by-step instructions, it gives them a “fun” way to build on this all important skill. The trick is to find projects that are not too overwhelming.  Our advice: start small, build their sense of confidence. Bringing home the BIG kit may seem like you’re being the best parent, but it’s not necessarily the way to start.

Reading, Reading, Everywhere – We know that reading at the end of day with your kids is terrific, but don’t stop there. You can also “read” together when you play games or work on a kit together. Rather than speed through all the instructions, give your new reader the opportunity to read the next step. It may take some extra time, but it’s worth it.

Cooperation – Learning how to work in a group is also an important school skill (and life skill).  There are many new games on our list that promote cooperative play.  While we had some parents resist these games at first, their kids loved them!  (Maybe we should send some of these games to Congress.)

So tune in on Tuesday!

Loving the Carnival Glitter Glue!

eeBoo Carnival Glitter Glue

Next to glow-in-the-dark toys, glitter glue is on my personal top hit parade of great playthings. There’s just something so satisfying about glitter glue.  We just got in the new line of Carnival Glitter Glue from eeBoo.  Each of the 4 tubes look like peppermint sticks with two tones. At $5 a pop, this is a fun activity craft that won’t break the bank.

For reviews/ratings of Carnival Glitter Glue, visit us at www.toyportfolio.com

My glitter glue masterpiece.

Print Making– an introduction from Eye Can Art

We are fans of the Eye Can Art line. They are well-thought out and executed craft kits that introduce kids to different art experiences. The latest…Sketch Foam Art Print Kit provides a great way to experience print making.  For reviews of this and other award-winning craft kits, visit www.toyportfolio.com.  You can see our video on our youtube channel.

Sample of what you can create

Olympics…what are your memories?

For most of us, the Olympics are a positive introduction to the world. Sure, as a kid you may hear about places in the news–but it’s rarely a happy story.  In contrast, the Olympics are generally  a feel good event that celebrates our global community. For the days of the games, we hear human interest stories from all over the world.  To me this is the best of reality tv– watching dedicated young men and women compete.  For many, qualifying for the games is their prize.

 

Growing up, geography was always made fun in our family. We played the game of geography to make car rides go by faster.  A definite rite of passage was getting your own atlas so that you could mark your “travel” lines.  My Dad remains big on gathering those lines!  I slept under a world map. I had pen pals in India and Sri Lanka. Even in a pre-internet world, my parents made an effort to pull us in to a bigger world view.

Like most families, we watched the games together. And while we were enjoying the events, we were also asked questions that prompted some “look it up” time.  For example, when Nadia took the world by storm with her perfect 10, the question was: can you find Romania on the map?

Each Olympics has its own story and flavor.  Please take a look at our article on how to engage your kids at www.toyportfolio.com.  I’ll be on the Today Show on June 13th.

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!!