Today at the TODAY Show

Alex and Mr. Robot in the Today Show Green Room

My wonderful toy tester Alex and I arrived just as Susan Boyle was arriving.  We hurried in — ahead of her entourage.  I heard her — what a distinct voice!  We then went to the Green Room which was pretty crowded today.  Senator Chuck Schumer was there as was “That Girl” Marlo Thomas.  (Or as other people know her- Rachel Green’s mother on Friends.)   As I was getting hair and make-up done (the best folks on the planet!) , Susan Boyle was rehearsing.  Every time she sings, people just stop talking and listen.  It’s pretty incredible. I kept thinking where she was two years ago–and now all of this fame around the world.  She joked with the audience that was already there–she seems to be in the moment and enjoying herself.

My segment today was part of a whip–where they have several experts talk on the same subject.  One of the toys we had was the Mindflex Game which Alex demo’ed on air–no small feat when you have a room full of cameras, stage managers and oh yes, millions of people watching at home–but he did it!!  I was really so proud of him.  As we were leaving –Susan Boyle was about to sing.  I asked if he wanted to stay and listen—but he’s 11 — and he had no interest.  Not really her demographic!

Alex outside at the Today Show as Susan Boyle is getting ready to sing.

Our morning at ABC Radio with Richard Davies


ABC's Richard Davies trying MindFlex

When we first started the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio, one of the first major media placements we got was with ABC’s Richard Davies.  For that first interview, Richard traveled down to our office (a corner of my apartment) and did the interview at my dining room table with a cassette player and microphone.  Our interview was peppered with my son Adam (a toddler at the time) breaking out of the other room and running up to Richard.  He was fascinated with the microphone and Richard is the kind of guy kids relate to right away.  Ever since that first interview, the holidays don’t happen without going to talk to Richard (we now go to his studio).

Richard knows toys and kids–so our conversations are always fun and informed.  He doesn’t look at us the way many adults do when we say we play with toys for a living.  He gets what we do. Each interview session  always starts with a catch up on our respective kids (a conversation that has moved from their favorite toys and video games to what high schools, what colleges, and first jobs, oh my!).

Today there were many more people there–so as everyone was getting the technical aspects of the webcast going, I had Richard try out the new MindFlex– a very futurist toy.  Regrettably we didn’t put this on video–because it was really fun to watch Richard try his hand, or should I say mind, with this new toy. To see our demo, click here.

During the interview, I started talking about having several of the interactive toys play together and that I’ve had a good time filming them interact.  Richard thought I was crazy…and my mother sort of agreed that my new fascination with filming these toys together is a little out of control.

After any interview, you always have regrets about what you didn’t say.  And as much as I do like mixing it up and experimenting with different platforms for discussing toys, I do take toys and play seriously.

What I didn’t say today–is that I think what we do has more meaning than ever before.  Dollars are tight and as much as we all want to delight our kids with toys, the days of filling up the cart without care are over.  We started the toyportfolio during the recession of the early 90s…and our mission remains the same.  We do try all the new toys so that we can save parents time and money.  Our reviews are informed by our backgrounds in child development–so not only do we recommend products that work and that are engaging–but we give the underpinnings about why this particular type of play is important to your child’s development.  OK, there I said it.

Richard commented “you used to be so serious.”  During the past few years with all of the safety issues surrounding toyland, I was extremely serious.   This year, things are almost back to normal in toyland.  So maybe that reflects some of my silliness today–although I was completely vindicated once I shared my videos with Richard and his gang — after all toys dancing together is pretty funny stuff.  My favorite youtube video so far is   Rocky the Talking Truck Makes Friends.


Joanne in the ABC Studio

So we were delighted to be Richard’s first “webcast” guests for his new show, Shopping for Kids,  that will air on-line  (more details to come).  Of course this meant that we needed to be “camera” ready and that we could bring toys that did not make noise.  In the past, we only brought things that made “good radio”–the more noise  the better. We wish Richard the best with his new show!

Pick of the Day: Mattel's MindFlex


Mattel's MindFlex Game

The first time we saw this game was at toy fair.  Now in all fairness, when we go to toy fair, we’re a pretty silly group.  So when the demonstrator for MindFlex at the Mattel showroom was trying his best to show us this super cool toy, we kept distracting him.  At one point, he even seemed a little anxious about not being able to perform his toy demonstrator duties.

He wore a headgear that had two clips that he attached to his earlobes.  From there he told us that he could control the little blue ball with his mind-making it go up and down and through the obstacle course.  To be absolutely honest here, I was sure we were being punked.  I kept looking around to see if this was a joke.  They assured me that it was for real–and that normally when people allow the guy to do his thing it really works.

Ok, ok…sometimes we don’t behave well.  I wrote down the toy as  something we’d love to see but then I stopped thinking about it.  Last month while I was at the Today Show, Dave– one of the best stage managers ever– showed me a clip of his son working the MindFlex. ( What would we all do without our iphone video clips?)  Anyway…he could not say enough great things about this toy.  How it appealed to both of his boys and that it  helped with working on concentration as a skill.

With that great recommendation, we asked for one to be sent right away.  Sure enough this is one of the coolest toys we’ve tested, period. We’ve added it to this year’s Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award List.

The other amazing aspect of the toy is that it appeals to tweens, teens and adults.  My dad, a spry guy in his late 70s, also took a run at the toy.  He was surprised , as was every adult that has tried it, that he could make it work.  It really is so futuristic — makes me wonder what kind of toys I’ll be reviewing down the road.

So if you’ve seen an ad or a commercial – know that this is for real and loads of fun.  The platform has interchangeable parts so that you can challenge yourself and others to different obstacle courses.  Such a great design aspect–making this a more open-ended play experience. And if you’re looking for something to buy a video game addicted teen, here you go.
Click here to read our full review…and watch the video.