Chickyboom from Blue Orange Games is a fun balancing game that appealed to our school age testers (and their parents). Most balancing toys like this ask players to add pieces – here you take away chicks, bales of hay and wagon wheels…they all have different weights and will affect the balance of the perch. Points are assigned for each of the play pieces–the players with the greatest point value (when the rail finally falls over) wins. Easy to learn –and fun to play. The company says that each round takes about 1o minutes. Our parent testers gave this one a thumbs up. We’re giving this one an Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Award. A solid gender free choice for kids 4 & up.
I’m pretty old school when it comes to wooden trains. Having watch kids play with trains sets for a long time, they usually don’t need a lot of bells and whistles. Several years ago (before all the lead issues), train makers were looking for ways to compete with all the electronic toys–so there were lots of trains with lights and sounds. They were ok, but truth be told if you have a child really in the train zone they provide their own scenarios and excitement. So I was pretty skeptical when Learning Curve announced voice recognition technology for their new set, Thomas and Friends Wooden Railway-The Great Discovery Set. I have to say–it is pretty amazing. Sir Topham Hatt greets the trains by name as they go through the station…how does he know? While one of our testers was amused (not amazed) with this aspect of the toy, what I loved was that he continued to play with the setting in a very traditional manner. The technology did not take over the play experience–it enhanced the play possibilities.
Trains are a wonderful puzzle–which is why I do not recommend gluing down tracks or being wed to a train table. Train tracks can take all different turns — I’ve also observed that 4 year olds are better at making train tracks work than most adults. Watch your child as they work out how to make the tracks connect–it’s really one of those moments to enjoy.
This 35 piece set comes with enough for making a figure eight, the Great Waterton Station, Morgan’s Mine, Thomas and Stanley. The trains and accessories are sold separately so you can them to your existing trains. The sound levels are set very high when you demo them in the box–the good news, you can turn down the volume. With BRIO all but gone from the US market–it’s nice to see Thomas the Tank back with all engines a go.
We’re in countdown mode here for the new STAR TREK movie (yes I already have my tix for the IMAX) — so I was happy to see these new dolls cross my email (I haven’t seen them in person yet). I really hope the movie is good.
With Green Day hours away, we are certainly pleased with the trend in the toy industry to go green. It seems like every week there are new organic doll collections, toys made of recycled materials, and toys/games that have an empowering (but not obnoxiously heavy-handed) green agenda. More good news-the packaging also seems to be more friendly to the environment-with fewer toys trapped in a sea of plastic.
Here is our current list of top ten green favorites–happily the list keeps growing!
My Natural Collection (Hosung NY)
It’s a beautiful Spring day here in NYC–finally! I’m cheered by the weather but completely bummed out that my mother tripped yesterday. Nothing is broken – also good. So shouts out to her to feel better quickly. Yesterday (before lunch) we had just congratulated ourselves on getting the office cleared from the last massive batch of toys we’ve received this past month. We are busy notifying award winners for spring..humming along…
So today’s UPS delivery brought many, many new boxes…and the first one I opened contained new Ugly Doll Action Figures from Ugly Dolls. These little plastic versions of their plush counterparts made me smile instantly….They twist at their middle…I planted mine in my container of grass (no mowing required here.).
Your kids will want them (and truth be told they make great office toy too!). There are 12 action figures in the first collection. The boxes don’t tell you which figure you’re getting -so there is that element of surprise as well (depending on your child this will either be fun or tear producing).
At toy fair this year there was a booth that caught my attention…while most booths are chockful of game/ dolls/toys/electronics/candy…this booth had a chair. I was at the very end of toy fair–I’m pretty “toyed” out by then, but I stopped.
The cardboard chair from eliafun.com had a very modern appeal. It comes undecorated (left) with big bold stickers (a la Marimekko)…that also looked like fun (and something a parent wouldn’t mind having around). Our testers really enjoyed working on the chair….the directions were easy to follow and one of our testers was delighted that the chair is reversible giving her more options about decorating! She and her mom are thinking about decoupage. Their site has lots of creative ideas for decorating. The chair holds up to 200 lbs. – impressive. Michael Gross, the President (and an architect/engineer), also points out that the chair is completely recyclable. Michael’s background is evident in the construction and design of the chair. We’ve seen many cardboard products in the past – many with extensive pre-printing on them – making them more like 3D coloring books. What I really liked about this chair besides the design–was the open-endedness of the project. The chair retails for $34.99. The site also indicates that a table is in the works.
If you’re looking for a birthday present for a girl totally into the whole pedicure/spa scene, look no further than Creativity for Kids Pretty Pedicure Salon. This set comes with a blow up tub for soaking, three nail polish colors, toe separators, slippers, a heart shaped file, heart shaped confetti soap, a towel (that comes in the shape of a heart–that unfolds when you wet it), decals, liners for making perfect French nail tips and a bag for keeping it all in. Ok, so if this isn’t your thing, it seems pretty silly but if you’re in this zone–it’s a memorable gift (and clean feet).
Now that Bo has happily arrived at the White House…here are some of favorite toy dogs just in case bringing home the real thing isn’t in the cards…
New for Spring, from the same Furreal line is a smaller and much more affordable Lil’ Patter Pup. If the Gabor sisters were going to have a toy dog, this would be it…of course that dates me…so if you’re Paris Hilton…you get the idea. There is a Shih-Tsu and a Pomeranian…both bark and unlike Biscuit, they do walk! At $29.99 they are a good buy.
And if a low tech pup will do the trick, we love the new Spot from Kids Preferred. This oversized delicious doll is $29.99.
And if you’re looking for a great book on dogs…I’m biased but I highly recommend my mom’s Have You Seen Dogs?
- We’ve loved the other dinos (T Rex and Triceratops) from Kid Galaxy. Both won Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Awards last year. This line is just right for preschoolers because the controller has an easy to use single button. This Brontosaurus is friendly and will not scare your three year old. Also new and fun, My First RC Animal Pal series–we love the Penguin the best!
Spring time always meant new bubbles in my house. I’m a big fan of the Little Kids No-Spill line—probably because I can still remember crying over those plastic bottles of pink or blue bubbles–remember those? You had to put your finger in the bottle to pull out your wand? This Bubble Blitzer with a Dora the Explorer theme makes lots of little bubbles when you blow…Our testers had no problems making this one work. The Bubble Blitzer Glitter Critters are very cute looking but required more air than our testers could muster. If you’re worried about your child running with the Bubble Blitzer in their mouth (not a good idea)…stick with the original.