Move over bugs, the rodents are taking over toyland.

Last year, I’ll admit– I was pretty bug crazy. Spiders, little bugs, remote controlled bugs…couldn’t get enough of them. They’re all over our Platinum List.

During one of my segments with Al Roker on the Today Show–I was showing a remote controlled spider…he said he would like a rat.  Well Al, watch out what you wish for!  Right after I finished the segment, I heard from the company, Fantasma Toys, that they were indeed working on a RAT.  I really thought they were kidding until I got to Toy Fair this week…and sure enough…a remote controlled RAT.

Fantasma Toys new Remote Controlled RAT

Now,  if RATS aren’t your thing, not to worry.  Could I interest you in a mouse? Less creepy?  New from Wild Creations.

Wild Creations New Remote Controlled Mouse

Ok, now as much as I LOVE bugs…I really, really hate rats and mice!

Happily, there is a new bug, one that makes me smile. New from Wild Creations.

A much less creepy alternative, the ladybug!

Stephanie behind the scenes at the TODAY Show

Stephanie Oppenheim, Al Roker and Natalie Morales

This morning’s segment was about the’s BEST HIGH TECH TOYS for 2010, the complete list of products is on our site.   If you missed the segment from this morning you can watch it by clicking here.

This morning Joanne and I  were in the upstairs green room. Usually we have so many kids with us that we are in the larger downstairs green room.  As much as upstairs is very dignified, there’s usually a lot more action downstairs. I was down there for hair and make up. Rascal Flatts was getting ready.  I got to see Peter Krause out of the corner of one eye while getting mascara put on. Love his  show Parenthood!

The set seemed strange without my usual ten or twelve kids milling about but since I had a lot of high tech toys we decided to go without kids in the studio. We turned on all the bugs and many of the Hexbug Nanos jumped from their Battle Bridge and ended up on the floor. We had a fun collection of games, bugs, spiders,  a motion activated snake, Crayola Color Studio, and an assortment of video cameras include Barbie Video Girl that seemed to really disturb Al!  I see his point about the placement of Barbie’s camera (on a necklace–on her chest) but our kid testers really liked using this high tech version of Barbie.

Al taking a look at Barbie Video Camera

At the end we did a demo of the hot new KINECT for XBOX 360 from Microsoft.  I was planning on wearing a dress but I was told last night that the sensors might not read my legs in a dress.  There’s nothing like having to pick out an outfit where you know the camera is going to shoot you from behind (every woman’s dream).  So I decided to go Matrix-y – all in black with the highest heeled boots I own!  For the live tease Whitney (from Microsoft PR team) did a demo with me–she did great!  And thankfully Tim (my tech hero this morning) was making sure that the KINECT game was up and running.  Hard to play a game and talk about it as you’re playing I’ve discovered.

Al Roker and Stephanie Oppenheim playing KINECT

Usually after I do one of these segments I remember all the things I didn’t say.  This morning the list includes:  I didn’t mention that you need alot of space to play KINECT so it’s not great for really tiny apartments or dorm rooms.  You need to be about 8 feet back and you also need room to move side to side (or run the risk of really hitting your opponent!).  Als0 – most of the games that have come out for the holiday season are family and action oriented.  So if you’re more of a point/shoot XBOX 360 fan, there aren’t titles for you yet…but suspect they’ll be on their way.  I love playing Rallyball – it’s like Dodgeball but no one gets hurt!  While it’s true that you don’t need to use a controller to play KINECT you will need to know how to use one to set it up initially…(in otherwords, if you’re not comfortable with controllers…you’ll want to get someone who know what they’re doing).  The last thing I forgot to mention is that KINECT has facial recognition so that if you make your own Avatar and you turn it on–it will recognize you. How cool is that?  Also there is voice recognition as well (also pretty Jetson like if you ask me!).  That said…there is a learning curve for selecting games that can seem slow which seems kind of odd since the whole concept is so cutting edge.  Ok…now I’ve said it all!

Pick of the Day: Leap Frog Cook & Play Potsy

Leap Frog Cook & Play Potsy

I told Al Roker yesterday that I had a little crush on this toy, to which Al expressed some concern for me – but I really do love this pretend toy! Most concept toys are so boring or they have that same sweet woman’s voice (I think she’s related to the annoyingly perky GPS woman).  The folks at Leap Frog have a male actor saying “open” “shut” or “off” “on” -every time you take the lid off the pot or put it back on. But instead of just saying it the same way…you know the guy has some theater background…the tenor of his voice changes.  It’s just funny and very welcomed.  I do wish that when you put the pieces of food in the pot that the pot recognized them–that would have been very cool, but probably would have made the toy super expensive.  Fill and spill toys are always a hit with sitting up babies and young toddlers–so this toy is right on target without the sound effects.  I’m not in love with the songs it sings…but the open/shut gets me every time. Watch our video. Read our complete review at

This morning on the Today Show

It takes a village--right before we went on

I got there at 7:30 even though our segment isn’t until 9:38. There are a few teases that happen before the actual segment, but I like to be there so there’s plenty of time for hair and make-up! This morning was a great day to be in the Green Room.  I assumed that George Clooney and Hillary Swank would be in the upstairs Green Room–but much to the delight of the entire room they were both downstairs. When you hear George speak about humanitarian issues, you just get that he’s more than a great actor. He’s smart and uses his platform and celebrity in a way that should inspire all celebrities.  It’s just real.  Ok, so that’s my take on the thoughts and works of George Clooney …and now I can also say that the man is just incredibly handsome.   To top off the George Clooney experience–he was then hugged by Hillary Swank.  Stunning!  I don’t know either of these people, but they are polite and friendly to everyone that comes through the green room and the hallway.  Sam Rockwell was there as well to promote Conviction (Swank also stars)For trailer, click here. (I’m sure he was nice too–just didn’t get to see him but for a second).  It was a busy Green Room!

Cosmo's Bachelors getting ready to go on

Oh and I almost forget the Cosmo Bachelors! My niece (and assistant extraordinaire) Ali pointed out that they were there last year when we launched our list.  They all look so young to me!

We had so many kids this morning!

Two of my favorite testers (sister Kena & Dehlina) with their Dollie & Me dolls

Matthew and his mom Jessica

Lots of little boys running around the lower concourse before it was time to go up to the studio.  Some of our kids have been on the show before “when they were truly babies” as opposed to just active three and four year olds.

Harper, who did a good part of the my last segment with me, was joined by her little brother  Hannes today!  Alex (pictured with Al and me) was a pro on all things technical and did a great job demonstrating the Tron Zero Gravity RC.  A special thank you to Victor (Matthew’s Dad) for taking all the pictures during the segment!) and to James from Spinmaster –for expertly flying the Air Hogs RC Video Camera Helicopter (something that I would never try in a studio full of high-wattage lighting!).  All in all a good day!

Afterwards: Al Roker, Stephanie Oppenheim and toy tester Alex!

Hannes enjoying the Radio Flyer after we were done

What were you doing when you were 13?

Stephanie Oppenheim, Natalie Morales, Deidra Shores, Al Roker

Can you imagine winning a contest as the reporter for the Today Show? Flying to NYC to cover Toy Fair? Interviewing the head of Fisher-Price and Hasbro–and then appearing on the Today Show with Al and Natalie?  That’s exactly what happened to Deidra Shore- a lovely 13 year old from Tennessee.

We meet in the green room this morning…talked about which toys she would demo. Which toys she really loved from toy fair–her favorite, the updated 50th anniversary edition of the Mega Play-Doh Fun Factory.

Stephanie Oppenheim and Deidra Shores before the segment

She did a great job with the remote control Millenium Falcon — which was a huge relief since my track record with flying things in the studio isn’t great.   She handled not only the taped piece–but reading the teleprompter and the live interview like a pro!  Congrats Deidra!!

During the segment

Today at the TODAY Show

Alex and Mr. Robot in the Today Show Green Room

My wonderful toy tester Alex and I arrived just as Susan Boyle was arriving.  We hurried in — ahead of her entourage.  I heard her — what a distinct voice!  We then went to the Green Room which was pretty crowded today.  Senator Chuck Schumer was there as was “That Girl” Marlo Thomas.  (Or as other people know her- Rachel Green’s mother on Friends.)   As I was getting hair and make-up done (the best folks on the planet!) , Susan Boyle was rehearsing.  Every time she sings, people just stop talking and listen.  It’s pretty incredible. I kept thinking where she was two years ago–and now all of this fame around the world.  She joked with the audience that was already there–she seems to be in the moment and enjoying herself.

My segment today was part of a whip–where they have several experts talk on the same subject.  One of the toys we had was the Mindflex Game which Alex demo’ed on air–no small feat when you have a room full of cameras, stage managers and oh yes, millions of people watching at home–but he did it!!  I was really so proud of him.  As we were leaving –Susan Boyle was about to sing.  I asked if he wanted to stay and listen—but he’s 11 — and he had no interest.  Not really her demographic!

Alex outside at the Today Show as Susan Boyle is getting ready to sing.

New date for Today Show segment is June 9th

The new date for the Best Outdoor Toy segment is June 9th in the 9:30 to 10am half hour. Let’s hope the third date is the charm. Some segments just seem plagued–but happily all the toys worked today and the kids were very cute. Al and I successfully played badmitton in the studio without hitting any lights. My childhood friends should be impressed that I hit the birdie repeatedly until I didn’t!  One of the two year olds has trouble with the word..”truck”…luckily he wasn’t wearing a mic.