toyportfolio.com: Six Great Games to Play with Your Kids

Here are six  great games to think about for the holidays. The complete reviews of these award winners are on our site, www.toyportfolio.com

Active Fun Games

Dr. Seuss Super Stretchy ABC Game (I Can Do That Games)

Boochie (Gamewright)

Pure silly fun

Feeding Frenzy (International Playthings)

Ring-0 Flamingo (Gamewright)

Concepts and Strategy Games

eeBoo Color Dominoes (eeBoo)

Double Shutter (Blue Orange)

Pick of the Day: I Spy Flip 5

If you’re fans of the I SPY series, you’ll want to take a look at Briarpatch’s new I SPY Flip 5.  The idea is to match similar images that appear on the play pieces (disks that have images on both sides).  The picture can be a photo or a silhouette of that image (a star fish, a horse, a panda, a ballerina, etc.)…At each turn, players take turns saying “1, 2, 3, 4, flip 5″—that player then flips five disks.  Players then look for matches –call them and collect them. The player with the greatest number of matches wins that round. The player to win five rounds wins. Our game players liked looking for the matching images–and the pace of the game. This is one you won’t mind playing again and again.  It’s a step above straight matching games–calling for a more developed sense of visual discrimination.  You can introduce the game to a younger child by using fewer disks–making it a bit less overwhelming. At $12.95, it’s a good price for a game that you can easily take along if you’re traveling–all of the pieces will fit easily in a big zip lock bag. There’s also a Dino Flip 5 that we’ve sent out for additional testing–we think dino-fans will love it…same idea but with images of dinosaurs.  Both games are marked 4 & up and will work with 2-4 players.

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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.

Oops…On the way to being green

My mother is laughing at me. I just opened a new Matching Game from Little Tikes. The game is part of their new “green” line…the pieces are made out of bamboo. Each has a little animal on them (cute enough although I’m not sure why they needed to add the Little Tikes logo under each animal.)
My mother is showing me how the game works– “better if you use the enclosed carton as the holder for the tiles while you play”—rather than putting them face down on the table. She’s forcing me to play (really).

So why is she laughing? I ripped the box open only to discover that the box is meant to be re-useable with it’s groovy bamboo handle. I feel green challenged…perhaps this will remind me to take my cloth bags to the grocery store today…

In all fairness shouldn’t the box say “don’t rip me”…

Cranium Games: Say goodbye to so many

It was bound to happen. Hasbro acquired Cranium this year—and as with most acquisitions the remaining slate of products gets smaller and smaller. (Zooreka, Balloon Lagoon, Conga and Family Fun Game among the causalities.) Many of our favorite games for the past few years designed specifically for preschoolers and early school age kids came from Cranium. The games were graphically pleasing, the game play was fun and decidedly age appropriate. The overall feeling of the company was so positive it was hard not to “catch” their enthusiasm for board games. Our yearly meeting with one of the founders often felt like we were with the Willy Wonka of toys. We’ll miss that whole team and hope that Hasbro supports the remaining Cranium games. They were truly a bright spot in the toy industry.

On the bright side there are two new Cranium games that have been introduced this year, Cranium Duck Duck 123 and Polar Bear ABC — both games we liked very much.

Do you kids like cooperative board games?

We’ve gotten several new cooperative board games. So far our testers aren’t too interested.  Older game players really like the “winner” “loser” thing…and let’s face it, your average 3 1/2 – 4 year old expects that you will bend the rules to assure him a victory.  One of our testers said “what do you mean, we all win?”  I’m all for cooperative play–treasure hunts where everyone works on a team is a great experience for kids.  One of the most humbling experience I ever had in life was when my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Goldsmith, put all of the so called leaders in one group.  We lost terribly–because we couldn’t agree on a plan. It has always stuck with me – of course that was the point. Playing games with your kids is a great way to model good behavior but I’m not sure that means there can’t be a winner.

So let me know if any of these new games are hit in your house.

Monopoly Town

We thought this was such a clever preschool version of the classic game.  Mr. Monopoly is in a little car (very cute) and he travels around the board on a little track.  All very age appropriate and fun so far.  He tells you how many spaces to move–which is also fun and interactive.  You know there’s a but coming….right?

The problem is that when you move him, he sometimes gets stuck and/or moves too quickly and when he does either, the count is off.  The whole concept of having a concrete moving “counting” experience is lost since it’s not always accurate. Too bad.  We hope they can address this issue — the premise of the game is fun.