Best New Infant Toy: Mary Meyer's Sweet Chocolate Chime Ball

show_image_in_imgtag This 8″ soft fabric ball makes that lovely chime sound when it’s rolled back and forth.  Just right for encouraging babies to crawl–and fun for back and forth games on the floor with older babies and toddlers.  It also comes in pink and part of a larger line that also includes a very cuddly Sweet Chocolate Pillow Bear that opens up to become a flat pillow.  When you connect the Velcro underneath the Bear, it looks like a regular stuffed bear. The ball retails for $19 and the bear is $49. show_image_in_imgtag-1

Trends From ToyFair 2009: SpinMasters Air Hogs Switchblade

airhogsswitchblade2Last year we spent way too much time flying Spin Master’s little Havoc Helis around our office. We got pretty good at it too–so we’re pretty psyched that they have new flying machines!  The Switchblade promises to take off like a UFO and transform in the air–into a hig powered aircraft.   We’ll have to go outside for this one…field trip!

Top Trends from ToyFair 2009: Jakks Pacific Star Wars 3D Kites

I have to confess–we’re huge Star Wars fans here so we were really psyched to see Jakks Pacific’s new line of 3D kites that feature Luke’s X-Wing, Darth Vader’s Tie Fighter and Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon.  So cool!  We can’t wait to test them–each include a 15′ tail.   Suggested retail wil be $24.00.  And if you can think warm weather (the temp is dropping rapidly here in nyc)…there also promises to be Star Wars inflatables for the pool. If you’re a SW fan, these will have great appeal ($39.99).  Jakks Pacific also has a new line of collectable marbles (they’re making a come back…apparently)…they look neat. They come with little stands–at $3.99 each, not sure how these will appeal to parents.  They may find a great audience in the SW’s collectors – of course they’ll never never take them out their packaging.

Pre-Toy Fair Buzz: Little Tikes Bumble Bee Buggy

little-tikes_bumble-bee-buggyThis cheerful looking Bumble Bee looks promising to us and at a suggested retail of $39.99 it’s a well-priced active toy for older toddlers and preschoolers.  One of our pet peeves at the moment is that most ride on/ride ins don’t really steer.  Kids have to literally pick up their ride on and change directions.  With four caster wheels, this one should respond well.  Stay tuned….

Pre-Toy Fair Buzz: Green Toys Ecosaucer Flying Disk

ecosaucerminiMaybe because it’s refreshingly not 10 degrees outside, but just the image of this saucer makes me think that Spring is really going to come….eventually.  We’ve requested samples to try with our testers. The Ecosaucer from Green Toys is made from recycled plastic milk containers.  Not sure why it’s green…other than the obvious green statement. We have given this company’s Indoor Gardening Kit an Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Award.

Notable Birthday: Fisher-Price Little People Hit 50!

41ztrqmn7xl_sl160_aa160_Move over baby boomers, the iconic Fisher-Price Little People are turning 50 this year. The Little People Farm that seems like it’s been around forever, first hit the shelves in 1968…and the School House arrived in 1971.

This year we tried the updated (there is always a new version!) of the school bus and airplane.  These classic toys got rave reviews from new parents. If you’re looking for vehicles for toddlers, this line is really a consistently strong choice. The vehicles make some sound, but not overpowering and you can use the vehicles without the sound (a plus). The openings, handles and weight also make these appropriate choices for toddlers that love moving their toys about.

We put the School Bus on our SNAP Award list (Special Needs Adaptable Product Award)– a long time ago when the company added a play figure with a wheelchair. We’re delighted that feature has continued.  The farm has been a focal point for us over the years–especially when they made the “barn” talk — so if you put the cow where the pig is supposed to go — your cow will oink…not moo.  We love technology but here’s an example of missing the way kids play with toys.   There shouldn’t be only one right place to fit an animal.  Or here’s a novel concept…your child can provide their own sounds!

Pre-Toy Fair Buzz: Sprig Toys New Eco-Trucks

eco-trucksexcavatorlrI’m often asked for good truck recommendations–so I’m eager to see this new line of  trucks from Sprig Toys.  Their products are made from repurposed plastic milk cartons and saw dust–so there is a very nice green component to this line.  We should have samples soon.   Each of the three trucks (Dump Truck, Excavator and Loader) retail for $14.99 – making them competitive with the big guys in this category.

Pre-Toy Fair Buzz: Leapfrog's Zippity System

image00212 Move over Wii.  LeapFrog is vying for that active plug in play experience for kids 3-5.  Zippity is co-developed with Disney.  While we haven’t tested it yet, we like the idea that kids are up and moving while playing games that require them to run, jump and hop on the play mat.  Of course the big question will be the content.  The price is $79.95 (comes with eight pre-loaded games)–additional games will be $24.99.  Scheduled for a summer release.

Pre-Toy Fair Buzz: Trends

The folks at Mattel see four major trends for the new season…As we go through toy fair–we’ll be adding to the list and putting their trends to the test to see if they apply across the board.

1. Customization- Kids have the ability to use self-expression through their toys. We do see this with more and more on-line/product based tie ins where kids are able to customize their play experiences.

2. Simply Social- With the economy in turmoil, board games and other products for the home are now part of a clever marketing campaign that encourages nesting and entertaining closer to home. Makes sense–and from our point of view any opportunity to connect with family and friends is a plus.

3. Active Play- this trend continues from last year with toys that encourage kids to get up and move–often with an electronic plug in component of course.  This is the Wii generation after all.

4. High Value Toys- I love this spin….in other words inexpensive toys–classics that are still a great value.  Lets face it, the industry knows that your toy dollars are more restricted — and the price points of many products are being brought down to get under that magic $20 bar.  All good news for consumers.

Pick of the Day: Schylling's Color Roller

colorrollerWhen this push toy first came into the office this summer we were really thrilled. Finding fun toys that are right on target for toddlers is one of toughest tasks we have each year.  Much like the Blue Chip Corn Popper from Fisher-Price, the Color Roller doesn’t require batteries to make something happen. It makes a clicking noise when it’s pushed (one of our testers that lives in an apartment thought the noise was annoying after a while…so you do have judge your tolerance for “toy” noise). When you look at the roller part of the toy when it’s not in motion you can see many smaller cylinders of  blue, yellow, and red–but when you push the roller – amazingly the colors of the rainbow appear. High marks to this elegantly designed toy.

I recently took the Color Roller on the Today Show and one of the little sister that came to the green room with her big brother and sister loved pushing the toy. Always fun to see kids enjoy our picks–but here’s the thing I really loved. The older boys (5-7) started pushing the toy all over the place and then they started using the roller in their dramatic play. Not sure why boys (without making sweeping generalizations here) can find a way to turn almost any toy into combative accessories. Having grown up with two boys, having two sons of my own, and having observing so many kids over the years …there is a difference in the way they approach the play experience.

At $20, this is a really well-priced  choice  that encourages active play for toddlers who have tons of energy and will be pleased that they can make something happen.
For other top picks of the season for toddlers, visit