Classic Pooh

This new line of Classic Pooh just came in from Kids Preferred. They are super soft. I love the large and small Pooh. I can’t ever remember seeing swirly designs in the plush of a teddy bear–so that’s kind of novel.  I’m not sure how kids are going to react..our interns (all in their teens) grew up on the Disney version of Pooh and his friends.  None of them considered these versions “real”….so we’ll have to see how our testers respond. They sure are soft! 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: Dressable Madeline from Kids Preferred

I’ve been playing with a lot of talking toys lately…they’re fun to videotape.  The whole “look what the toy can do thing” is pretty seductive.  Rocky the Talking Truck is  a conversation starter…even with the other toys, he knows how to get the games started.  He is really much like the cool, “it” kid from elementary school.  The one you wanted to pick you for his kickball team.  Ok, maybe that’s stretching it…but there is something that happens when these high tech toys are around.  I’m reminded of our own warning to bring home toys that do not dictate the play..your child should always be at the center of her play experiences.

Dressable Madeline

Dressable Madeline

Which brings me to Madeline…she’s back from Kids Preferred.  If you’re in the Madeline book zone…the doll makes  a lovely present.  She’s well-crafted and even though this particular doll doesn’t talk…just watch her with your child…she’ll have plenty to say.

For a full review, visit


If you have a toddler or preschooler, they probably have grown attached to one particular stuffed animal or blanket.  These often well-worn “lovies”  become such important touchstones, that we often recommend you have a backup.  With my younger son, we spent hours scouring toy and gift stores for exactly the same Simba doll that sadly went missing at the park.  Even at two, he knew the difference.

I’m always curious about how this relationship develops. With our older son Adam, we even have a photo of the first encounter. adamfirst065From the moment he hugged his first Gund Snuffles at his first birthday party, it was love.  Even though he couldn’t talk yet, this particular bear became his constant companion and eventually  would become the Mama bear to  a family of smaller Snuffles.  The original bear’s nose was so thread bare that we had to do a midnight exchange.  (My mother was afraid that he would literally bite off his nose! )  Even as he got much older and welcomed a new brother–who of course had to have his own family of bears–this lovey remained in an honored position.

One of the great pleasures of the evening was to eavesdrop on the elaborate stories both boys would weave about their polar bears. They each had silly names, their own language and as a nod to the world they live in, they had their own Polar Bear TV Network–with lots of different programs.

Of course I still highly recommend Gund’s Snuffles. He is an institution in our house.  A nearby children’s store always had a wonderful display of snuffles during the holidays..and since my kids rarely went to toy stores, it was extremely special for them to actually go buy a new bear to add to their growing family.

Here are some other choices that may invite such relationships:

1. North American Bear’s Collection of Flatsos.  Take your pick, there are pink Elephants, Blue Hippos, Green Frogs…each come in a variety of sizes and are fantastically floppy and deliciously huggable.


2. Kids Preferred Asthma Friendly Puppy Dog is also very sweet and huggable. 

3. Blabla dolls. I’m in love with this collection of dolls and animals. Pricey but very special.

4. Joobles. Deliciously soft and friendly…happily gender neutral. 

Dolls you draw on…Eric Carle's Very Hungry Caterpillar

Kids Preferred is introducing a new Very Hungry Caterpillar plush that comes with markers–so that kids can draw on the caterpillar. We asked one our testers to try it out this week.  Our preschool tester, a fan of the book, enjoyed decorating her caterpillar–and her mom was happy that the ink washed out completely in the wash.  The only downside, her daughter asked if she could draw on one of her bears. Many kids probably would not have asked!  The concept of draw here, but not there–can be rough for some kids. On the other hand, this is a fun color concept toy that makes a book connection.

Our tester trying out the new Eric Carle Very Hungry Caterpillar Doll

Our tester trying out the new Eric Carle Very Hungry Caterpillar Doll

For this age, I highly recommend (if you have the space) painting a wall in your house with chalkboard paint.  Growing up in our playroom my mom did this on two big cabinet doors.  I loved being in the middle of our family buzz–working on a new design, practicing my handwriting as I got older and even working on my early math skills (truthfully, there were a lot of flower designs!).  For my kids we painted an entire wall and left a basket full  of colorful chunky outdoor chalk at the ready. With kind of space you can use your whole arm to make big bold strokes…and work on your fine motor skills when your adding details to your creations.

If you can’t paint a wall, bring home an easel that has a chalk board side.  Such an easy access art opportunity puts the focus on the process, not the product.  As any experienced preschool teacher will tell you–find something to compliment  but don’t lavish too much praise on any one creation – doing so makes it really scary to try something new!

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?

Madeline Celebrates her 70th Birthday!

e4a64438ea1cb87528d9d2806b814a98While most of the attention this week has been about Barbie’s 50th–you may not know that the classic storybook character Madeline is celebrating her 70th birthday! Happily she is also coming back to toy land this year–the new 13 1/2″ doll will be available from Kids Preferred.  Not yet reviewed–but looks promising.

Top Pick of the Day: Kids Preferred Spot

27lGood news– Spot is back!  Toddlers will love the new oversized 16″ ($30)  friendly pup from Kid Preferred –just right for hugging and lugging about. Spot is not too heavy making him a fun companion.  Equally appealing is the 6″ bean bag version ($9.00)  (much squishier than the larger Spot).  A great take along choice.  Our recommendation is to bring Spot home with some books.  We’re giving both versions an Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Award.  Also notable from the Kids Preferred is their line of Eric Carle inspired plush.