Feeling like Spring

Razor USA's new Graffiti Action Scooter

The rain this morning made me hopeful that Spring can’t be that far away.  And for some reason…when I think Spring…I think scooters.  As I’m writing this I realize that many people probably don’t go directly to scooters…but hey, I play with toys.

I’m looking forward to testing the newest scooter from Razor USA…this one has a piece of chalk in the back. Wondering how it will work…without the chalk breaking. Last year they had a “spark” off the back end…something our testers enjoyed as a novelty.  Even though this has been given an edgy name, it’s called the Graffiti Action Scooter, this is a kinder and gentler scooter that  will probably appeal to a different audience.  Stay tuned.

Toy Fair 2010: Crayola's new Spira-Chalk Blaster

Crayola Spira Chalk Blaster

Check out our video of Crayola’s new spinning chalk top…looks like fun and even more fun  to say if you pretend you are Tina Turner in Mad Max…Spira-Chalk Blaster!!!   Click here to watch our video.  Our review will be posted on our website, www.toyportfolio.com.  If you’re not in cold weather like we are here in New York City–and looking for a fun chalk set, we’d recommend their current 3D Chalk Sets.  With all of the cold weather we’ve had recently, the thought of being in a warm enough climate for chalk…sounds really good!

Thanks to Susan and Stacy for demonstrating the spinning top!

Spinmaster RC Air Hog Switchblade

The Spinmaster RC Air Hog Switchblade — has gotten a lot of buzz lately.  It was  featured on Letterman–where happily for the company and our friend Shannon…it worked on air–much to the delight of the audience (and Dave).

So we were eager to give this one a try.  The results were decidedly mixed.  If the Switchblade is fully charged, there is no wind–and you’re relatively skilled with these types of toys–it goes up and will fly–and it  is extremely cool.   Now here’s the down side–we could only get it to do what it’s supposed to do two or three times in the course of a full afternoon of testing.   This is not a load it up, charge it, take out and fly it kind of toy — it requires much more finesse.

After having several teens try it with limited success — (they all really wanted it to work)…in come my two adult engineering friends  (one  designs drone helicopters and the other has a degree in nuclear engineering).  Nothing like watching grown men get very excited about these types of toys.  I shared the reports of the day—and they both were not satisfied. They were sure that they could get it to work.  After about a half-hour of consulting  –they both gave in and concurred with their younger counterparts.  “Great idea, poor execution.”  They then offered a much more detailed report about why it wasn’t working.  (I love these guys.  I remember when we first started  toyportfolio.com, one dad (he worked for Dupont) sent back a ten page review of an Erector set with design modifications!)

One of my go to teen testers told me that he often reinforces the very lightweight material with some duck tape–so that crashes are less likely to do permanent damage to the toys. I thought  that info was worth passing on–of course, he warned that if you don’t put it on the right way you can blow the whole aerodynamics of the toy.  Of course!

So even though this toy can be fantastic…in the end, it can not sustain the wow factor.

Pick of the Day: Prime Time's Max Liquidator

The Max Liquidator from Prime Time Toys is great fun for the pool. Unlike many other water shooting type toys, the spray in this one is not as harsh–making it a safer choice.  It also looks more like a water toy -rather than a plastic assault gun. I personally love the kickboard that has the mechanism built in…allowing you to surprise your kids when they think you’re just just floating around.

Best Bubble Toys

As we’re wading through all of the new toys that will be vying for your toy dollar come December, I was just thinking how much fun blowing bubbles can be.  I’m not sure why I keep focusing on bubbles, but for the past few days, I’ve really wanted to play with some bubbles.

When you’re really little there’s the excitement of watching bubbles being blown by others and chasing them down–and as you get a bit older there’s the ultimate satisfaction of making your own bubbles. Now I find it really pleasing because it is such a pure play experience-no batteries, no instructions…you’re good to go.   Come to think of it, that’s probably why it’s on my mind so much–many of the toys we’ve been looking at this week are very high tech. Not that there’s anything wrong with high tech toys–but none of them deliver what bubbles do.  You make something so beautiful and then, in a matter of moments, watch it as it floats away….lovely really.

I loved the pink and blue plastic jars of bubbles –with the wand. Remember those?   The way the bubble solution always found it’s way to my hands…it was just fun- unless of course I knocked it over…and then there were tears! The picture below is from one of my birthday parties (my brother James is on the left). That is not me in the background, but I do remember that ride-on.


For this new generation, bubbles are a whole new experience–thanks in large part to the folks at Little Kids–the inventors of the No Spill Bubble Tumbler…no more tears from an accidential spill.  No more sticky fingers from trying to get the wand out of the solution.71PYT3BV15L._SL160_They have them now in all sizes–the little ones make  great party favors!

Now for super big bubbles–I’m a huge fan of the BeeBoo Big Bubble Mix Kit from Extreme Bubbles, Inc. You can watch my demo on the TODAY SHOW last year.  I’ve also noticed that it doesn’t matter how old people are–they love trying this toy out. Even my most reserved teen age (and mostly retired) toy testers love this product.


Step 2's Water Quarry

I grew up playing in a sandbox–it was right next to the hose which meant that floods were a great part of the fun. My two older brothers  always seemed to tell the best stories–that required swift action that often resulted in mud!  My mother’s only complaint about our adventures was that a good number of her good spoons ended up in the mix.

So when we both saw Step 2 ‘s new Water Quarry – that included vehicles, water and sand…we were very excited. (Of course there is a self-aware moment that most people probably don’t get as excited as we do when we see a new toy–but that’s part of the job description.)

One of our testers is here with the toy set up–but not yet in use.


You can see that there are lots of play possibilities here–the roadway, the ramps, the digger…all seem good.  Both families that took a whirl with this toy had almost the same reaction.  It’s wonderfully messy and right on target in terms of play for the 2-4 year old crowd.  If you don’t like mess-this toy is not for you. (No judgement here…but if you’re not happy with a lot of water, mud, etc….you know certain toys are not going to be a good choice to bring home.)

Both families wanted this toy to work–the kids initially loved the concept and enjoyed exploring both portions of the toy. They liked pouring water down the ramps. One parent also commented that she liked that the red piece fits like a lid so you could close up the toy from the elements.

However….they both reported the same problems with the design…the green roadways do not stay flush with the red road–so the cars get stuck at each point. The bigger ramp also fell off from time to time.They also wish the lower section was higher up so the kids could get to the sand without kneeling…(I would have just sat in the container).

At $99, both families felt that while this was fun–it needed some tweaking before they would recommend it to others. We agree–the concept is fresh, fun and right on target for the age group…we hope the company will address these design issues for their next sand toy!

Today Show tomorrow

I’ll be on in the 9:30 half hour talking about some of my favorite outdoor toys.  I’m now interested to hear from toy testers on a new batch of toys that went out for review last week.   After I’m done with the segment, we will start on the huge pile of craft kits that have come in as well as the games, construction toys, books, audio, videos…you get the idea!

Star Wars Kites…the force is not with them

Sadly the new Star Wars kites from Jakks Pacific did not test well with any of our families. All reports agreed that the instructions were poor and that it took way too long to put the kites together (one group had difficulty with pieces breaking).  The family that got their kite in the air  commented that the age range of 6 & up was unrealistic for participating in putting the kite together.  (That didn’t surprise me–most 6s will need help with even the most basic kite). I’m really sad–since these kites looked stunning. We hope there is a re-design…since the concept was great.