If you can't find Zhu Zhu Hamsters…Don't Panic

Alternatives to Zhu Zhu Hamsters

Zhu Zhu Hamsters are getting all the media coverage (yes, I participated in some of it), but they are certainly not the only really special novelty toys of the season.  Here’s a list of other toys that may just do the trick!

Other cute animals that have a little extra something.

Yakety Yaks (Mary Meyer)  Each of these animals make a noise.  There is a pig, a monkey, an owl, a lamb, a bear and dogs.  They don’t run around like Zhu Zhus but they are pretty cute on their own. Read our review.

Kota & Pals Stompers (Hasbro) –   These little dinos are seriously fun–they not only roar they walk.  Read our Review. Watch our video.

FurReal Friends Newborn Puppy (Hasbro)- This a very sweet little puppy that wags his tail and makes little barking sounds. This is one of many in this line–there are dogs, cats, a panda, a bear.  We like the dogs the best. (In interest of full disclosure -we’re not big cat people.) We also have not received safety verification forms on these little guys–so there is no official review on our site.

Two other really cool novelty toys that should not be missed:

Hexbug Nanos (Innovation First) -Each of these small robotic bugs come in a test-tube like container.  We see that the price has come down since we first reviewed them–they are now $7.99.  Turn them on and they really are like little bugs!  They come in lots of colors and are fun to pull out of a pocket or bagpack.  Read our full review.
Watch our videos:

Zhu Zhu Hamster play with Hexbug NANOS

Mr. Robot Dances with Hexbug NANOS

Doodle Car (Day Dream Toys)- We love these super cool cars that follow lines you draw with a washable marker.  Pretty cool. Company also has seasonal downloads of roadways you can print and use with their cars. Read our full review Watch our video.

In honor of the day…13 Great Games (all under $20!)

Rec_ABCBeautyWhile we usually like lists of five or a dozen, we realized today’s list of 13 Top Games Under $20 was meant to be!  Happy Friday the 13th.  Read our reviews at www.toyportfolio.com.

The games included are:

Richard Scarry’s Busytown Eye Found It Game (I Can Do That Games)

Rainbow Race (International Playthings)

Scrabble Slam Card Game (Parker Brothers)

Appletters (Bananagrams)

Yamslam (Blue Orange Games)

Pairs in Pears (Bananagrams)

eeBoo Fairytale Game (eeBoo)

Ring-0 Flamingo (Gamewright)

Uno Moo! (Mattel)

Too Many Monkeys (Gamewright)

I Spy Flip 5 Games (Briarpatch)

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

Curious George Discovery Beach Game (I Can Do That Games)

Pick of the Day: Jenga Max

jengamaxpicI used to play Jenga all the time. It’s my kind of game–you have to be decisive and you’ll know within moments if you win or lose.  So I was pretty psyched when I saw the new Jenga Max (Parker Brothers/Hasbro)  at Toy Fair…it looked great.  I then stopped thinking about it.  My mind was quickly full of Barbie Nail Printers and toys that read your brain waves.  Then about two weeks ago–I realized that we hadn’t received Jenga Max.  Oh no!    So we just got to try it out.  Read our review and you can watch our demo.

Cir*kis vs. Blokus

We just tried out the new Cir*kis from Hasbro.  Much like the strategy game Blokus (originally with Educational Insights but now distributed by Mattel), Cir*kis has a grid platform and you play with plastic pieces.  Blokus is much more straightforward and fun to play.  See our full review.  Cir*kis is more complicated–you’re not blocking your opponent but making your own circles and stars and keeping track with pegs.  It’s just not as elegant a game.

Are you looking at me? My Little Pony is Back!

mylittleponyHasbro is re-introducing the “iconic” (their word) My Little Pony Collection…there’s Pinkie Pie (The Leader and Everyone’s Best Friend), Rainbow Dash (Glamour Girl), Cheerilee (Storyteller and Hairstylist), Scootaloo (The Playful Little Sister), Sweetie Belle (The Fun Loving Unicorn), Toola-Roola (Artist) and Starsong (Multi-talented Singer and Dancer).  And all along I thought they were plastic little pony figures with outrageously colorful mane and tails!

 

Pick of the Day: Kota & Pals Stompers from Hasbro

Kota & Pals Stompers: Triceratops

Kota & Pals Stompers: Triceratops

I’ve been playing with this fun little dino all summer.  Unlike the BIG Kota from last season, this little guy actually walks!   For a demo and full review, visit the website today www.toyportfolio.com.

G.I. JOE: The Rise of Cobra

gijoe If the toys are any indication, G.I. JOE has some seriously bad ass opponents in the upcoming movie. Snake Eyes Ninja Commando scares me –even in his packaging.  By my count he comes complete with seven weapons.  Wait! …According to the box he trains the G.I. Joe team…that’s a relief, he’s on our side? His preferred weapon is the “Hand-Forged Steel Heirloom Katana Sword”…do you think the elves from Lord of the Rings helped him out with the forging?

Oh yes–according to the packaging this toy is not recommended for kids under 3. For more G.I. Joe vs. Cobra games and items, you can visit GIJOE.com.

Can you smell it? : Strawberry Shortcake

strawberryshortcakeOne of my assistant toy testers this summer commented that the box he was opening really smelled…there was pink tissue paper…I didn’t even need to cross the room to know what the box contained.  For a generation of moms that grew up with Strawberry Shortcake, they can now share the smelly play experience with their kids. The new line from Hasbro offers a wide variety of large play settings like the Berry Cafe…to miniature dolls (move over Polly Pockets)…all with that strawberriest of smells.

I missed the Strawberry Shortcake scene–and truth be told even if I had been of that generation, I wasn’t big on doll play.

Let me know your thoughts–and memories….

Our favorite dogs…

Now that Bo has happily arrived at the White House…here are some of favorite toy dogs just in case bringing home the real thing isn’t in the cards…

Biscuit was on our Platinum List last year and still keeps us company in the office.  He’s extremely sweet but still pretty pricey.

New for Spring, from the same Furreal line is a smaller and much more affordable Lil’ Patter Pup.  If  the Gabor sisters were going to have a  toy dog, this would be it…of course that dates me…so if you’re Paris Hilton…you get the idea. There is a Shih-Tsu and a Pomeranian…both bark and unlike Biscuit, they do walk!  At $29.99 they are  a good buy.

We also still love Lucky–who is bigger than Lil’ Patter Pup and does many of the same tricks as Biscuit. Lucky is from Zizzle.

And if a low tech pup will do the trick, we love the new Spot from Kids Preferred. This oversized delicious doll is $29.99.

And if you’re looking for a great book on dogs…I’m biased but I highly recommend my mom’s Have You Seen Dogs?

Pick of the Day: Tonka Wheel Pals Round-About Railway

099941418512_main200One of the hardest categories to fill each year are small vehicles that are safe for the 3 and under crowd.  Many parents just hope for the best and give their kids small Hot Wheels, Matchbox and wooden trains–the problem with them of course is that they do have small parts that are potentially dangerous.  Playskool’s new Wheel Pals line is meant to answer that issue.  The cars are  small in scale – with everything safely anchored.  Our testers loved the new Round About Railway. If you’re looking for a setting that your toddler will enjoy (and not sit on)…look no further.  You put the train at the top of the setting and then your child can either hit the plunger (which activates the train sound)…or just push the train down the track. The vehicle moves slowly enough so that your toddler can track the vehicle, a plus. We thought the Railway works much better than the Fold ‘n Go Garage (we found that some of the ramps did not lock in sufficiently well).