Does anyone still need a teddy bear or baby doll?

The short answer is: of course they do.

So yesterday before our Today Show segment I went to say hi to the 20 plus kids that agreed to be “elves” in our toy test on the plaza. They were all really well behaved…and many totally tuned into their phones and ipads. If you have kids you know the drill and

Wobbly Carmel by Bunnies by the Bay

Wobbly Carmel by Bunnies by the Bay

even if you don’t…if you go out to a restaurant and look around…you see kids engaged with their screens. Makes you wonder about more traditional types of play and the toys that will engage this digital generation. While everyone is totally abuzz about today’s kids monopolizing their parents’ smartphones and tablets, the last generation was equally sucked into their handheld players. The notable difference is that while most kids did not get their first Gameboy until they hit the early school years, infants are now part of the swipe-generation.

From a developmental point of view, the answer to my question is a resounding yes. Especially for younger children, we know that they learn best from real life interactions. Language development comes from talking (not just swiping or zapping a fruit ninja). When kids play with their stuffed animals, dolls, castles, dollhouses and other pretend settings – they are at

Calin Naima by Corolle

Calin Naima by Corolle

the center of their play experience. Things happen at their command and as a result of their own imagination not something created or dictated by a toy designer.  Elmo and his friends are fine for novelty appeal…but they do not offer the same open-ended type of pretend play.

Mon Premier Calin by Corolle

Here’s what else you should know about yesterday. The teddy bears and dolls that we brought to the show (but sadly ran out of time to talk about) were loved by the kids. We planned on talking about the wonderful collection of multicultural Calin baby dolls from Corolle (there is also a boy in the collection), the delicious Teddy Bear and Dog from Bunnies by the Bay and the always popular Calico Critters from International Playthings.

Calico Critters by International Playthings

Calico Critters by International Playthings

These toys may seem old-fashioned or boring compared to their high-tech counterparts, but to kids all of these toys are new and able props to their pretend world. And we certainly need our kids to pretend, to dream, to imagine and not just watch a screen.

To read reviews about all  of these wonderful toys, please visit our site.

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…

Teddy Bears – Still a good gift?

We’re asked this question every year — mostly by grandparents and aunt/uncles that want to do the right thing. A soft huggable bear that can say whatever your child wants it to say is a great gift! For kids under three you need to be sure that the bear in question is age graded for all ages. Eyes need to be anchored and ribbons need to be absolutely secure. Fuzzy bears are not great for kids that still mouth their toys – you don’t want your child to get a hairball of bear fuzz. We’re not big on “teaching bears” that are meant for practicing zipping, buttoning and tying –these skills are better learned with real clothes and shoes!

Each year we have a Bear of the Year…this year it is Mary Meyer’s Big Ben Bear. Last year’s over-sized Creamy Bear (also from Mary Meyer) is the first thing every child goes to and hugs when they visit our office!

At our house we are huge fans of Gund’s Blue Chip Snuffles (technically a polar bear). My older son received his first Snuffles on his first birthday–over the years we had an entire family of polar bears that had their own language and own tv show. The dramatic play of the polar bears became a nightly ritual for my boys.