Groovy Girl Fans…get ready!

Groovy Girl Kitchen....

...and plates

Manhattan Toy’s award-winning line of Groovy Girls has been expanding into other realms of pretend play. Last year they introduced costumes (on our Platinum List). We look forward to testing their first kitchen and dishes.

A room of their own…Step 2′s Naturally Playful Countryside Cottage

Step 2 Naturally Playful Countryside Cottage

Toddlers and preschoolers love having spaces that are scaled for them! It’s cozy and has such grown up features as a doorbell, a phone and a kitchen. If you’re shopping for such a cottage (that you can use indoors or out)–take a look at the new Step 2′s Naturally Playful Countryside Cottage. What I love about these types of spaces is how kids play with them differently as they grow.  For twos , the act of going in and out of the cottage is a huge part of the play- it’s much more about exploring the space and enjoying their new mobility–and ability to go move about a space independently.  Older toddlers and preschoolers – armed with more language and ability to pretend–will enjoy spinning their own stories about what they’re cooking, who they’re talking to on the phone, etc.

Our family toy tester pointed out two drawbacks. The photo on the box shows the cottage with flowers in the window box. The product does not come with flowers and there is no drainage hole in the window box for real flowers.  My recommendation – you can add a drainage hole if you’re going to use this outside–or use potted plants. The other comment was that there was no place to sit inside.  While this cottage does not come with a bench or chair, our tester noted that there was space for a child-size chair inside.  The cottage went together well (while the directions say a drill is optional–our tester felt the use of a drill made it much easier.)

One of our testers hard at work!

Trends From Toyland: Step 2's Gender Free Kitchens & Retro Diner

Step 2 is continuing their wonderful line of gender free kitchens.  To their credit these kitchens also have some sound effects–but not overly intrusive bossy instructions (an unfortunate trend in this category).  For the holidays, Step 2 will also have a new Retro Diner, complete with a cooking side and a two person “booth” side.  Both boys and girls will love this pretend setting.  The retro diner styling (complete with licks of red–our favorite) looks fresh and fun.  On the upside, the company is also phthalates free. The company is also working to address the issue with the Infantino toy line– a company they recently purchased.We were also delighted to report that the company took our concern over their small plastic hot dogs and french fries to heart. The hot dog is now in a bun (much larger) and the french fries are being combined so that they are also larger.  All good!