How to drive your mother crazy…

I just tried the new Construction Claw from Matchbox. Part of the Construction Adventures line..this big yellow construction toy can be used for picking up pretend construction materials (action figures, blocks, your sister’s Barbie)….Anyway, it’s really, really loud…so I was sure when I showed it to my mother she would make a disapproving face.  Instead…she just started laughing.  You see, you just never know!  If you’re not big on noisy toys, this isn’t for you…but your five year old will love it.

It's Friday…time for Play-Doh!!!

6105076n1ol_sl500_aa280_I’ve discovered over the years – you either love or hate Play-Doh.  I just had a really good time trying out the new Spaghetti Factory ($9.99)…It’s similar to the “hair” makers of the past.  (If you haven’t played with Play Doh since you’re a kid–then you will have no idea what I’m talking about.)  In both cases you fill the toy with Play-Doh and you press down on the mechanism and the Play-Doh comes out in long “spaghetti-shaped” strands.  If you have a child with special needs and you’re working on building strength in your child’s hands–you may want to give this one a try.  You’ll want to attach the pasta machine to the table surface for added stability.

The base has molds for making other shapes…my mother made a lot of ravioli and bow ties–but for me it all about pushing down the plunger and making the spaghetti come out.

Pick of the Day: Fair Trade Joobles

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I just opened a box of Joobles…a really adorable collection of knit dolls (made of organic cotton) from Fair Indigo. Each doll is knitted (some with yarn hair)…and stitched features. This is now the third collection of fabric dolls we\’ve received this month that have such wit — a really good sign that there is still a great deal of talent and creativity out there in toy land.  (Apparently a lot coming from Peru! – the blabla collection is also made in Peru.) The Joobles are $29 each. They will appeal to both boys and girls- also a plus!  They will be  just right for toddlers that will love their squish factor and cheerful design. According to the company’s information, Joobles are made in a Peruvian co-op that also provides free breakfast to the children in their community.

Pick of the Day: I Spy Flip 5

If you’re fans of the I SPY series, you’ll want to take a look at Briarpatch’s new I SPY Flip 5.  The idea is to match similar images that appear on the play pieces (disks that have images on both sides).  The picture can be a photo or a silhouette of that image (a star fish, a horse, a panda, a ballerina, etc.)…At each turn, players take turns saying “1, 2, 3, 4, flip 5″—that player then flips five disks.  Players then look for matches –call them and collect them. The player with the greatest number of matches wins that round. The player to win five rounds wins. Our game players liked looking for the matching images–and the pace of the game. This is one you won’t mind playing again and again.  It’s a step above straight matching games–calling for a more developed sense of visual discrimination.  You can introduce the game to a younger child by using fewer disks–making it a bit less overwhelming. At $12.95, it’s a good price for a game that you can easily take along if you’re traveling–all of the pieces will fit easily in a big zip lock bag. There’s also a Dino Flip 5 that we’ve sent out for additional testing–we think dino-fans will love it…same idea but with images of dinosaurs.  Both games are marked 4 & up and will work with 2-4 players.

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Fun…Deglingos!

36502-pikos-the-hedgehogDeglingos are deliciously quirky   — and were a welcome treat at toy fair. The rows and rows of collectable dolls were gone this year…the dolls that look like real babies (in a seriously creepy kind of way)…we were just commenting on their absence when we hit the end of a row and found these decidedly off beat (funky meets folk art) dolls that will appeal to both boys and girls. Probably because I have two boys–I’m always sensitive to finding huggables that have that gender free appeal.  The Deglingos are a collection of animals – there’s a Cow (Milkos), a Wolf (Bigbos), a Bunny (Lapinos)…you get the idea. We’re looking forward to seeing the new line of Baby Deglingos and sharing them with our testers.

Pre-Toy Fair Buzz: Little Tikes Bumble Bee Buggy

little-tikes_bumble-bee-buggyThis cheerful looking Bumble Bee looks promising to us and at a suggested retail of $39.99 it’s a well-priced active toy for older toddlers and preschoolers.  One of our pet peeves at the moment is that most ride on/ride ins don’t really steer.  Kids have to literally pick up their ride on and change directions.  With four caster wheels, this one should respond well.  Stay tuned….

Monopoly Town

We thought this was such a clever preschool version of the classic game.  Mr. Monopoly is in a little car (very cute) and he travels around the board on a little track.  All very age appropriate and fun so far.  He tells you how many spaces to move–which is also fun and interactive.  You know there’s a but coming….right?

The problem is that when you move him, he sometimes gets stuck and/or moves too quickly and when he does either, the count is off.  The whole concept of having a concrete moving “counting” experience is lost since it’s not always accurate. Too bad.  We hope they can address this issue — the premise of the game is fun.

Trends in Toyland: K'NEX and Sesame Street

K’NEX is going to launch a new line of preschool sets that feature Sesame Street characters. Unlike traditional K’nex sets, these include more building “bricks” (you know like the other guys) – that will make the sets easier for young builders. They look like fun–we’ll look forward to trying them with our testers.

Trends from Toyland: Sprig Toys

sprig_group-lores.jpgWe got to meet with the folks from Sprig Toys, a new company that is scheduled to launch a line of action vehicles for the 4 & up crowd.  The vehicles will be chunky and rugged–nothing ground breaking in that department–but what is a huge departure is the method and technology that they will use.  The trucks will be made from re-purposed plastic and wood.  Literally made of saw dust–the vehicles have a strong green component, but not one the company feels is the key to their company–just their way of doing business.  Cool.

The action figures will plug into the vehicles via a USB port built into the vehicles and from there the vehicles can suggest “adventures” for the child to participate in.  From our point of view the directed play mode is not that important since we strongly believe that kids can generate their own adventures. It was clear that the folks from Sprig think so too–and therefore you can turn off the directed play mode.
The lights and sounds are generated by the motion of the vehicle (not batteries).  Also clever. The “electronic base” in each vehicle can also be removed for repair and perhaps, most importantly for smart recycling.  Much like a toner cartridge, you can take this component out of the vehicle and not just send it to the landfill.  All good.

We look forward to testing the vehicles out with kids.  The company is producing the products in Canada–no paint, no phthalates, no lead….They’re off to a very good start.