Pick of the Day: Thomas & Friends Jumbo Floor Puzzles

If you have a Thomas & Friends fan at home, chances are they will love the new jumbo floor puzzles from Briarpatch.  Working on a puzzle with your preschooler is a great way to build their problem solving skills and ability to stick with a task. Click here to read our complete review.

Pick of the Day: Calico Critters Country Tree House

Calico Critters Hedghogs- Amazing!

Even though I absolutely shunned my own colonial dollhouse (sorry Mom)…I really have always loved the Calico Critters (International Playthings)  and their houses over the years. The collections always feature what look like storybook animal families and miniature settings that fit them.  I am absolutely obsessed with the Hedgehog family (see pic). This year they have a new Country Tree House that has lots of levels and features. Read our complete review.

Calico Critters Country Tree House

Pick of the Day: Radio Flyer Bumper Car

Ride on toys for toddlers is always one of the hardest categories we review.  Over the past few years we’ve noticed that one of the ways companies have cut back is to do away with steering mechanisms.  Now this bumper car also doesn’t steer but because it’s on casters – it does move easily in any direction your child would like to go. What really annoys me are ride-ons where your child has to stand up and move the toy and then sit down again- where’s the fun in that?   To read our full review and for shopping info — click here!

Pick of the Day: Strobotop Light Animator

Most science toys we look at are duds. They’re typically really expensive and they don’t work.  So we were thrilled when we tried the new Strobotop Lightphase Animator from Eye Think. It rocks. If you have a child interested in science and/or the movies – here’s a beginning lesson from the world of Physics (my high school interns who had just finished AP Physics explained why changing the light frequency changes what we see). Here’s what you do: put of the printed rings on the toy-you can clearly see the images.  Then make it spin, it alters what you see–then put the strob light on the spinning image and the static images now move  like an animated cartoon.  Really!   (It’s been a long time since I took Physics.  A shout out to Mr. Stewart–my favorite science teacher from Monticello High School for being consistently thrilled with sharing science with his class.  I’m pretty sure he would love this toy.)

For a complete description of how it works and shopping info, read our complete review.

One aspect that we love is that you can create your own images to make move (it comes with blank disks).  The company has made a great video showing how this works-you have to stick with the video to see it–the demo comes towards the end.  You can watch their video by clicking here.

Pick of the day: blabla kids Elephants

Blabla Kids Elephants

Delicious!  These blabla kids elephants just make you smile.  We love the whole collection of animals and girl/boy dolls- just right for toddlers and preschoolers (and their parents!). For a complete review and shopping info visit our site by clicking here.

Pick of the Day: Ugly Dolls

Ugly Dolls 2010

Ugly Dolls have been around for a while but we thought that they deserved a special shout out this  year. The new cast of 2010 Ugly Dolls arrived on a day this summer when were swamped with toys that we just didn’t think kids would play with for very long. As soon as the Ugly Dolls got unpacked, everyone wanted one.  They appeal to both young and old (and we count ourselves on the older part of that spectrum!).  In fact when we have kids in for testing days–they all want to go home with an Ugly Doll.  I think that says something about the inviting whimsy of these soft, huggable zany creatures. If you’re shopping for a hard to buy for tween or teen, Ugly Dolls are usually a welcomed gift. For a review of this year’s dolls and shopping info, visit www.toyportfolio.com.

TODAY Show today…active and fun

Natalie and Stephanie discussing ride-on toysI headed up to the studio this morning with my intern Daniel — after putting toys together for us all semester, I thought it would be fun for him to see the studio and the end result of so many packages, emails and testing. I tried doing my hair this morning–and emerged from the building looking like a bad 1970s “before” picture.  Happily, the hair and make-up people at the show are so terrific, that I knew it was going to be ok.  I think they were even a little shocked by the sheer volume of hair.  Thanks to high def tv, I also think make up takes longer (not to mention that I’m a little older!) than it used to.  It really is amazing what professionals can do.  Everyone emerges from the hair and makeup area a better, more polished version of themselves.

This morning we had about ten kids.  One family has tested for us since their son was born five years ago.  They moved to Hong Kong in between and as I traveled up to the studio I realized that we had never met–so that was fun!  They now have two kids and I’m so happy they’re back from their adventure and can resume testing for us! Other kids were on with me about a year ago–so to see them now as full preschoolers was fun.  A new group joined us – I have to say this was the most well-behaved group of kids in the green room.  Their parents were really careful to hold off on the delicious donuts and cookies until after the segment. Smart move.

The challenge was to show toys and equipment for active play –indoors!  The YBIKES were a hit and disappeared when we went to talk about them–but I think they got camera time later on. The Kazam Balance Bike – also great was on the pedestal–and may have been blocked a little by the fire truck. You really couldn’t see how amazingly high the Sky Balls bounce in the air–or the 3D bubbles…but trust me – there are fun choices this season.

A very polite "excuse me" in the middle of the segment

Half way through the segment one of our testers very politely asked if she could go play in the playhouse…one of those great real live moments…priceless.

Natalie, Finley and Stephanie...at the end of the segment

Segment over, chocolate donut enjoyed on the car ride home…a good day!

Taking a look at the indoor Hopscotch Rug from Alex

To read the full article about the toys featured, visit www.toyportfolio.com.

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, www.toyportfolio.com.

toyportfolio.com: Six Great Games to Play with Your Kids

Here are six  great games to think about for the holidays. The complete reviews of these award winners are on our site, www.toyportfolio.com

Active Fun Games

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

Boochie (Gamewright)

Pure silly fun

Feeding Frenzy (International Playthings)

Ring-0 Flamingo (Gamewright)

Concepts and Strategy Games

eeBoo Color Dominoes (eeBoo)

Double Shutter (Blue Orange)