Little Tikes Big Digger Sandbox

The smile on our tester’s face, pretty much says it all.  We love this new sandbox from Little Tikes. It comes with the excavator, the dump truck and tools–all ready for lots of pretend possibilities.  The ramp also adds to the fun! The removable cover is also a plus for keeping the sand clean and neighborhood animals out! You’ll note that it’s not super big–so it can fit on a deck as our testers are using it.

Etch A Sketch more like Smith-Corona and VHS

One of the most challenging toys of my childhood took center stage yesterday with a gaff by one of Mitt Romney’s advisors.

I used to marvel at my older brother’s ability to really draw things with Etch A Sketch. He  could make those curves work for him. I was pretty good at….boxes.

The New York Times today tried to spin the Etch A Sketch moment in to one of second chances.

Even as someone who played with the Etch A Sketch in the backseat of our car (long before there were Gameboys and DVD players), I can’t see this characterization as anything but a stretch.

The Etch A Sketch is not a toy that has kept up with the times. Over the last two decades of covering toys, I’ve visited the showroom in hopes that there would be some radical new innovation that would give this beloved toy a true second chance.  There have been mini versions, glow-in-the-dark frames (sadly, the actual drawing part never glowed) and glitter versions….but no big breakthrough. My kids were willing to play with the keychain version I carried for years…but with all of the high tech hand held toys to play with, the little red frame just didn’t do it.


Here’s a retro toy: Michael Jackson Dress-Up Set

Michael Jackson Dress-Up Set from Colorforms

We just received a re-issue of the Michael Jackson Dress-Up Set from Colorforms. The set was originally issued in 1984. Have to say, it makes me  a little sad.  Comes with four outfits.  Colorforms (now owned by University Games) is celebrating its 60th Anniversary this year. They have also issued a limited number of Anniversary Sets…now this makes me very happy!

Gotta love me some blabla…

After two very intensive weeks of looking at what seemed like a boat load of plastic toys…I finally decided we were ready for a treat. We opened the box from blabla kids.  Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against plastic toys per se – many are on our top list this year- but there’s something really special about this collection of dolls. They’re both deliciously retro and fresh in design and spirit.

Take a look at just two of the new dolls that we’re reviewing this morning.

Remember Steiff?

While I was shopping yesterday… the store was playing the theme from Knots Landing. I started laughing.  The young woman offering to help me asked me if I knew what the song was from…”Yes, but you’re not old enough to!”…. She laughed…I gave the whole background…Knots Landing…spin off…Dallas…

There are more moments like this as we get older—generational markers– where you realize that you’re in a business meeting and that no one knows the reference to the original Batman tv show. Of course we get this with our kids.  My boys only knew Paul Newman from salad dressing (sad–and prompted a Paul Newman mini-movie marathon).

In any case, Steiff, best known for producing the first “Teddy” bear…after President Roosevelt – has missed a few generations of kids.  As a very young child, I had a Steiff pony…really one of my all time favorite toys.  I’ve written about him before–but he was really magical. He had wheels so I would have great adventures with him in our playroom…zooming around.  Here he is on the day I got him…(with my brother).


Since we’ve started the toyportfolio–my mother and I would pass the Steiff booth at toy fair.  We would always discuss my pony and the little teddy bear that sat near the kitchen window.  Sadly –both were destroyed by the fire that took our family home. We would stop and look but not go in–knowing that Steiff was really more about collectors and not something for our testers.

So we were pretty excited to receive a decidedly soft teddy bear from Steiff…it came in a lovely box – complete with the signature metal button in his ear.  The company has a renewed commitment to making dolls that are affordable ($28 and up)…so we’re looking forward to seeing the new products.  Of course there are still going to be deliciously over the top little treasures like this bunny …complete with a cashmere sweater (yes, she’s pretty price..over $100)…steiffbunnybut still…

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.


Crissy Dolls

crissy Thank you to Susan for reminding me that the name of the doll that I enjoyed so much was the Crissy Doll. Of course, just like Strawberry Shortcake, the dolls we play with date us and give us a collective play experience.   Most of the pr folks I’ve been in touch with this year are from the Strawberry Shortcake camp–which means they grew up in the 80s.  The Crissy doll was from Ideal –and I’m happy to report it was a multi-cultural collection long before it was expected.  Here’s a great site with a complete  history of the doll.  As I discussed yesterday–when you pushed the button in the back, her hair GROWS….I thought this meant it really grew.  So I kept cutting….you get the idea.