My favorite toy…so far/ sing-a-majigs

Fisher-Price's Sing-a-majigs!

We saw the Sing-a-majigs at toy fair preview last month and we weren’t allowed to talk about them. It’s like being told what your best friend is getting for their birthday — and not being able to tell for weeks.  So we were really excited today to see them again.

I thought maybe we had romanticized them…yes, at this point you can say–it’s a toy, get over it. But hey, this is what we do for a living. So when a really fun and innovative toy comes along–we get excited.

I’m happy to report that these cute little dolls (that will retail for a reasonable $12.99 each) are just about the best thing going. They babble to each other, they sing together and perhaps most remarkably they harmonize!  AND they’re easy to make work.

Watch the video.

ELMO…feeling a little left out

In seasons past, ELMO is the toy we get all the calls for -someone in desperate need for the latest version of the original Tickle Me Elmo Doll.  We have particular fondness for the original – Joanne brought Elmo on the TODAY Show – Bryant Gumbel loved it–and played with it for the entire show.

This season, ELMO is being completely ignored.  A smaller, perhaps cuter critter has grabbed the imagination of children and media outlets everywhere -even though ELMO  tells jokes this year as well as any Borscht Belt comedian. Oh and yes,  he’s  still throwing kisses…it could break your heart.  Watch our video.

Heavily Promoted: Fisher-Price's Trio Building Set

I got to catch a lot of tv this holiday weekend–and started to see the waves of toy tv commercials. Some reminded me of toys that did not win awards from us…and that we needed to post more reviews!!

When we first saw TRIO at toy fair we were all excited.  We love open-ended building sets and really get psyched when a large toy company gets behind a new system–making the access to it more affordable.  Unfortunately TRIO did not fare well with our testers.  The product is marked for kids 3 and up – so we enlisted one of our hard core DUPLO builders–thinking this would be the most likely audience.  He had the same trouble we did manipulating the pieces. Unlike DUPLO, it’s hard to pull the pieces apart.  We then tried them with a four year old builder–and had the same reaction.  We hope the folks at Fisher-Price work on the “pull” factor.  The pieces are pleasing–but too frustrating for the intended audience. Our recommendation is to stick with a basic DUPLO bucket at this age.

Five Perfect Toys for Toddlers

Finding toys for toddlers can be super challenging! They’ve outgrown their baby toys–but not quite ready yet for more complex toys geared to preschoolers.  The toys need to match their new found mobility and desire to do things again and again!

Here are just five of my favorites:

Little People Load ‘n Go Wagon (Fisher-Price)

Step 2 Basic Rhythms Piano (Step 2)

Playskool Clipo Creativity Table (Playskool)

Schylling Color Roller (Schylling)

Rollipop Toddler Starter and Advanced Sets (Edushape)

The full reviews are on our site, Top Ten Toys for Babies and Toddlers Under $20


Sassy Crib & Floor Mirror

With budgets tight, it’s important to bring home things that really count – and there is no reason to break the bank!  Here are some of our top picks for 2009 — all under $20.  Read the full reviews on our site.

Sassy Crib & Floor Mirror (Sassy)

Infantino Wall Mounted  Mobile Mirror (Step 2)

Stack ‘n Surprise Blocks Blockity-Pop Caterpillar (Fisher-Price)

Baby Deglingos Dog, Rabbit, Hedgehog or Cow (All New Materials)

Satin Ears Bear Security Cozy (North American Bear Co.)

Infantino Spiral Spin Top (Step 2)

Kids Preferred Nutbrown Hare or Peter Rabbit Hand Puppet (Kids Preferred)

Bright Starts Bees & Blooms Balls (Kids II)

Earlyears Zippy Zoomer (International Playthings)

Leapfrog Counting Candles (Leapfrog)

Pick of the Day: Stack 'n Surprise Count 'n Build Snail Pail

41viaooCcKL._SL500_AA280_If you’re looking for a game that will be fun to play with your older baby (8 months) and younger toddler…bring home the new Stack’ n Surprise Count ‘n Build Snail Pail.  It’s just right for fill and spill games.  In the beginning you’ll be doing most of the stacking…but filling is a great deal of fun for sitting up babies.  The pieces are just the right size…and the clear container makes is fun to see where they go! For a full review, visit This set won an Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award.

Dora the Explorer Pinched Me!

dorapicThe new Dora the Explorer Dance Around Dora (from Fisher-Price) dances, twirls, dances on her toes and sings. She even encourages kids to dance with her–also fun.  I’m usually not a huge fan of Dora dolls…a bit too plastic  for us–but she’s such a huge hit with the preschool crowd, we always take a look. When Dora goes up on her toes–her body expands underneath.  Now part of my job is to stick my finger where most kids might…so as her body returned to its original size, I put my finger in the space and sure enough, she pinched me!  Not horribly–but something to be aware of. Watch the video.

Handmade Toy Alliance reacts to Testing Exemptions for Mattel

We are waiting to hear back on the status of our safety forms from Mattel. In the meantime, I thought this was worth sharing.


“The Handmade Toy Alliance reacts to Testing Exemptions for Mattel”

St. Paul, MN – September 1, 2009 – The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) continues to

issue important guidance on several key areas of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act

(CPSIA), which was passed by Congress in August 2008 and requires all children’s products to be

tested for safety by third party laboratories. Except, it turns out, for toys made by Mattel, the world’s

largest toymaker, who has recalled 12.7 million toys for safety hazards or lead paint since 2007.

The CPSC granted Mattel permission to operate “firewalled” in-house testing facilities instead of

paying third party laboratories for performing required toy safety testing. Although such in-house

testing facilities are allowed under the CPSIA (due to Mattel’s heavy lobbying in 2008), only very

large manufacturers can meet the requirements set forth in the law.  Smaller manufacturers, including

the members of the Handmade Toy Alliance (HTA), must pay third party labs for testing services

ranging from several hundred to several thousand dollars per item.

“We are concerned that this is just another example of the fox guarding the hen house,” wrote

Consumer Reports.  Members of the Handmade Toy Alliance couldn’t agree more.  “Mattel is one of

just a few companies that caused all the panic over toy recalls back in 2007,” said Dan Marshall, Vice

President of the HTA and co-owner of Peapods Natural Toys (MN). “While the provisions of the

CPSIA are causing hardship for hundreds of smaller companies with impeccable safety records, Mattel

has been allowed to bring their testing back in house with only a promise that they will not have

continued lapses in product safety.”

“This really makes me crazy,” said Jill Chuckas, Secretary of the HTA and owner of Crafty Baby

(CT). “This law is nearly impossible for small businesses like mine, but Mattel gets let off the hook.

How is that fair?” Mattel’s stock has risen 33% in the first six months since major provisions of the

CPSIA came into effect on February 10, 2009.

The Handmade Toy Alliance again calls to Congress to amend the CPSIA to make it fairer for small

businesses by allowing the CPSC to apply risk analysis to mediate the costs of compliance without

sacrificing safety.  Small businesses should not be punished for Mattel’s mistakes.

Although the CPSC has recently defined a list of materials that are not expected to be contaminated by

lead, many materials still require testing.  “It’s fine to exempt wood, fabric, and paper from testing,”

said Cecilia Leibovitz, President of the HTA and owner of Craftsbury Kids (VT).  “But as soon as you

attach a nail, zipper, button, hinge, or a coat of paint, we’re back to having to pay for testing. Most of

our members are still very much struggling with this law.”

The Handmade Toy Alliance is a grassroots alliance of 382 retail stores, toymakers and children’s

product manufacturers from across the country who want to preserve consumer access to unique

handmade toys, clothes and all manner of small batch children’s goods in the USA.  Formed in

November of 2008 in response to the CPSIA, HTA members are parents, grandparents and consumers

who are passionate about their businesses as well as the safety of the children in their lives.  While in

support of the spirit of the law, the unintended consequences of the CPSIA have motivated members of

the HTA to work to enact change at a federal level.  More information at