One more thing about chalk…

Crayola Spira-Chalk Blaster

Crayola has a new Spira-Chalk BlasterYou can watch our video demonstration. It comes with five chunky pieces of sidewalk chalk and two spinner rings–that fit into the launcher. We loved the fact that the launcher does not require batteries and that it really does create a spiral design on the sidewalk. With the exception of one of our testers, we got positive feedback on this product.  (One tester found the release mechanism difficult to work–we think she got a dud.)   We wish that it came with two launchers so that two kids could use it as the same time…but for $15.99–it’s still a good add-on if sidewalk chalk is big in your neighborhood.

Pick of the Day: Push Along Cat or Dog from ImagiPlay

At $14.95 each, these cute  wood cat and dogs–are just right for a safe and green toy for toddlers.  To read the full review, click here.  We love the cat, dog and the Hybrid Car…all from ImagiPlay. Top GREEN Toys for 2009

Green toys used to mean a recycling truck here or there…or a paper maker, but now there are many toys that are either manufactured with a green mandate or promote a positive green message to kids.  The biggest trend are dolls made from organic materials–not all created equal in our book.  Green shouldn’t have to mean scratchy or boring in design or color.  Happily we received many that found the right blend of green and whimsy!  The other big category — trucks…many made of recycled materials – were a real draw to our testers.  Then there are the throw back toys–my personal favorite, the wind-up FM Radio.

Here’s the list of our Top Green Toys for 2009. Complete reviews on our our site, Click on the toy name to read our rating/review.


Eco Trucks (Sprig Toys)

Dump Truck (Green Toys)

Playmobil Recycling Truck (Playmobil)

PushAlong Hybrid Car (ImagiPLAY)

Building Toys

Plan Toys Build ‘n Spin (Plan Toys)

Citiblocs (Citiblocs)

Dolls and Dollhouse

blabla Dolls (blablakids)

Organic Joobles (Fair Indigo)

Earth Mates (Mary Meyer)

Plan Toys Green Dollhouse (Plan Toys)

Other Green Toys of Interest

Crayola Crayon  Maker (Crayola)

Elia Mini Chair (

Ecotronics Radio (International Playthings)

Ecotronics Mr. Robot Head (International Playthings)

Pick of the Day: Bejeweled Bead Chest from Bead Bazaar

beadsclose A truly special gift for school age girls who will love both the wood chest and the painted wooden beads that come with it. Read our review.  This company makes lovely sets that always appeal to our tween, teen and adult testers.


Bejeweled Bead Chest from Bead Bazaar

Ecotronics Mr. Robot Head….fun in the dark

ecophotoI’m always looking for toys that work in the dark.  Maybe because when I was little we would go to FAO in NYC and then on the way home in the car, my brothers and I were always disappointed that we couldn’t enjoy our new toys in the backseat.

As a professional toy reviewer, I’m also amazed by the number of toys that say they’ll work in the dark, but don’t.

So that brings me to the wonderfully novel and silly Ecotronic Mr. Robot Head from International Playthings.  First, it’s red–an attribute that always does well here. We love red…so this deliciously red cube already had us smiling.  CRANK up the back (no batteries required–hence the name Ecotronics) and then touch the stylus to the top….

Crank Up the action on Mr. Robot Head

Crank Up the action on Mr. Robot Head

Watch our  video with the lights on.

Watch our video in the dark.

Read our full review at  ecofront

Behind the Scenes at the TODAY SHOW

The whole gang during the segment

The whole gang during the segment

I actually love doing segments with lots of kids. I think it adds to the energy of the piece – but I do have to say last night I had this momentary thought “eight babies!, really?!…what were you thinking!”

The kids had a  long wait until it was time to go into the studio–and one thing I’ve learned over the years, never show kids toys long before they go on air – especially when you’re talking about babies and toddlers. To expect them to be engaged with toys for more than 10 minutes in any given setting, just isn’t reasonable in real life, much less in a tv studio with so many people, lights and cameras around. So we had some other related toys for them to play with in their separate “green room”…but at a certain point, they all started moving about the lower concourse — to say this particular group of kids were cute, is an understatement.  The kids were all in what I call that “cupcake” stage where they are just full of pure joy.  (At least at that moment!)

Once we got to the set, I was happy.  The kids and their parents were engaged with all the toys we had selected.  (You can hear them throughout!)  Doing segments with Natalie is also fun because she’s  in the middle of this zone with her two sons…so she gets it.

This is a picture of Matthew (4 months old)…enjoying  hanging out on the Infantino Twist & Fold mat. Picture 10

And here’s a pic with Natalie after the segment is over….To watch the segment, click here.

Natalie Morales and Stephanie Oppenheim

Natalie Morales and Stephanie Oppenheim

Best Green Toy of the Week: Citiblocs (Addictive on the coffee table)

Sometimes we get toys that are marketed to kids and yet we find that almost every grown-up that comes near them  just starts playing with them.  Since playing is good at any age, I feel it’s very important to write about these types of products.  You may remember that the magnetic building sets that burst onto the market several years ago had that appeal – making them a great choice to just have  on the coffee table for some open-ended play time for anyone so inclined. Research also indicates that type of activity for adults is great for keeping those brain neurons firing.

This year’s winner in this category is Citiblocs by Citiblocs.  At first you might think a box of equally- sized precision cut wooden pieces wouldn’t be that enthralling – at any age…but once you get building, it’s just fun to see how many different variations you can make.  The pieces are very smooth and are made of Radiata Pine from certified renewable forests in New Zealand – making them not only fun, but onto our Green Toy list as well.

Each set comes with ideas for building…they are marked 3 & up, we’d say more like 5 & up and & up and & up!

One of our tester moms (an architect) — LOVED this product.  Somehow we knew she would.

Best Outdoor Toys

I really love that we’re heading into summer with longer days – which means more time to be outside with our kids. Here are some of our new favorites for the season…we’ll be continuing to update this list in the coming weeks.


Nature Station Playhouse (Step 2)  I love this little playhouse that is designed for older toddlers and preschoolers – maybe because it looks like Pooh, Tigger and Piglet should be there too. Kids enjoy having small spaces that are designed just for them. This playhouse has a working periscope (really fun), a sink, a working shutter,  and a fenced in area so if you’re invited in- there’s a bigger space for adults. This product is pricey at $249.99 but will be used for a long stretch. (This playhouse  is marked 3 & up  due to all the extra things that come with it–but the structure itself will be enjoyed by younger children. There are larger play sets from Step 2 that have more height–our recommendation is take your kids along when you’re shopping for this type of equipment. If you decide to bring this product  home to older toddlers, put the goodies away until they’re older.)

Sandbox Vehicles Eco Trucks from Sprig Toys were a hit with our testers.  These are very lightweight – making them easy for kids to use and to take along to the park or backyard sand box. Made from recycled materials. Our favorite is the Dump Truck.

Dump Truck (Green Toys)  The new line of green trucks from Green Toys are heavier than the Sprig trucks. They feel more like a traditional plastic toy truck- with the upside here being that they are also made from recycled materials.   Handsomely designed – they got high marks from our testers.

Hot Wheels Color Shifters Blaster (Mattel) I’ve already blogged about this toy and I think I’m a little sad that I gave our sample away!  My mother doesn’t agree with my over the top enthusiasm for this play set–but I really think this is one of the best toys going.  I’m suggesting that it’s even better if you play with it outside–because truth be told-it does get alittle wet if you’re really playing with it full tilt.  The cars react to cold and hot water–and will turn a different color when put into either temperature (I KNOW!)  Best yet, it comes with a squirt bottle so you can change the cars by squirting them.  If you don’t want to buy the whole set–I’d suggest buying one of the cars–you can use any squirt bottle to have the same experience.  If you want to be the super cool grown up, bring this toy home to any three year old you know. I do think the car that turns from blue to yellow is much more dramatic than some of the other color changes (yellow/orange).


Drive, Chip and Putt Golf Trainer (Little Tikes) There are two different”ts’ to hit the golf ball from…making this a little different from your average plastic golf set.  Our testers really enjoyed the sport of this game and the sturdy design made it a solid choice for the 2-4 crowd.

d431ae4ea2e0258e5b58795242af18f9 Monster Badminton Set (International Playthings)  This set will be ready next month but I had to show it to you now.  These over-sized rackets and birdies are just what our family needed. They are fun for little kids–but truth be told, if you’re not the most athletic person–this is a set for you!  You’d be hard pressed to miss this birdie!  It does not come with a net–our toy testers just liked playing with it alone.


Maxi Scooter (Kickboard USA) Maybe because I’m not the most coordinated person, I loved the idea of this scooter.  It comes with three wheels and a wider platform for added stability but still  looks cool.  As I hoped, our new scooter testers had no trouble with this scooter and really enjoyed it. It comes with two handles–a traditional T-handle and a joystick.  We recommend the traditional handle as a starting point. It’s designed for kids 6-10.  The company now also makes a Mini Kick Scooter (smaller in scale for younger kids 2-5)…also with three wheels.  Helmets are a must!

Razor Spark Scooter (Razor) The granddaddy of scooters just got a very neat feature. When you break, it sparks out the back. Our testers thought this was pretty cool–although if you’re the one doing the braking, it is hard to see the spark–but your friends will!

Outdoor Treats

Freeze Pop Factory (Little Kids)  According to the company, more than 7 billion freeze pops are sold each year (makes you think we should all go into the freeze pop business!) ….in any case, this do-it-yourself kit is really fun. Comes with those pop sleeves (which magically close up and don’t leak) and plastic molds for making bigger pops.  You can experiment with making your own family recipes and limit the amount of sugar your kids use. Every grown-up I’ve mentioned this kit  to has asked the same question, “Could you make grown up freeze pop for a party?” and then they say…don’t say that out loud….but it’s true. Just don’t get them mixed up. It comes with 36 sleeves for making the pops…and the good news is that you can also order more ($4.95 for 50 including shipping) from the company’s site or by calling (800) 545-5437.

Pick of the Day: Chickyboom from Blue Orange Games

Chickyboom from Blue Orange Games is a fun balancing game that appealed to our school age testers (and their parents). Most balancing toys like this ask players to add pieces – here you take away chicks, bales of hay and wagon wheels…they all have different weights and will affect the balance of the perch. Points are assigned for each of the play pieces–the players with the greatest point value (when the rail finally falls over) wins.  Easy to learn –and fun to play. The company says that each round takes about 1o minutes.  Our parent testers gave this one a thumbs up.  We’re giving this one an Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Award. A solid gender free choice for kids 4 & up.