A fun Summer Craft

I’m always on the look out for craft kits that are good for a rainy day like today (where isn’t it raining?)

The new Paper Bead Jewelry Set from Creativity for Kids is a very satisfying kit with lots of pretty paper to work with. Plenty for a play date or siblings to share.  Read our full review at www.toyportfolio.comIMG_0184 IMG_0185.

toyportfolio.com: James Bond would love these spy toys

There have been spy toys in the past, but this season’s batch will make you think that Q has quit his gig for MI5 and set up shop in toyland. With high-powered real audio and visual capturing capabilities, these “toys” pose real privacy issues. But just looking in terms of technology and design…they’re pretty amazing. (Of course, these are all prototypes and we have not tested any of them with kids yet.)

Spin Master has taken control of the Spy Gear line from Wild Planet and given it a real “spy like” make over.  We were intrigued by the Laser Defense Network ($19.99). Here you set up the devices to create a red beam of light.  If someone breaks the red line by passing through, an alarm will sound. Their Spike Mic Launcher includes an audio mic dart that you can shoot off onto a wall and grab 30 minutes of sound. (We don’t recommend projectile toys as a rule but we thought the design/function were worth a mention). The Panosphere 360 Spy Cam really got our attention.

Spin Master's Panosphere 360 Spy Camera

Spin Master’s Panosphere 360 Spy Camera

The small probe like device (close to the size of a tennis ball) can be rolled into any room and then allows you to capture video (and sound) with a full panoramic 360 degree view.  The software platform will enable users to access different perspectives each time they look at a video.  Amazing if it works.

Spy Net Let Detector from Jakks Pacific

Spy Net Let Detector from Jakks Pacific

Now once you’ve captured your spy…you’ll want to test whether the information he’s giving you is reliable.  To assist with your interrogation, you may want to consider Jakks Pacific’s new Spy Net Lie Detector.  (At first I thought this was the name of the evil company  in the Terminator movies–but that’s Sky Net). The three biometric sensors scan your body for temperature and brain activity – all meant to help determine the veracity of a statement. There is a free downloadable APP (of course there is) to help with the questions.

We will be testing these toys and posting our reviews to toyportfolio.com.

 

Top Ten Dumb Toys of 2012

As the toy season for 2012 comes to an end, we always like to share the toys that made us pause throughout the year…IMG_7626

1. Scum Drum Garbage Game. The game play here is to collect all the garbage. We couldn’t make this up if we tried. Pieces promise to “tumble through the sewer pipe!”

 

 

 

2.Scatter Brainz – Sticky brain-like darts. The game play is to collect them all. Play pieces include: Coma Toes, Stinkin’ Rich, Darting Death, Nano-Neurotic.IMG_7620 (Also good luck explaining neurotic to your 8 year old.)

 

 

 

 

3. Play-Doh Sweet Shoppe.  A candy-making machine, but you can’t eat the candy. Seems like a cruel joke.IMG_6613

 

 

 

 

 

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4. Little Mommy Doll with simulated poop in the potty. Some things should be left to your child’s imagination.

 

 

 

 

5. Create a Monster. Move over Dr. Frankenstein, fans of Monster High can now buy body parts and make their own creations. IMG_7609

 

 

 

 

 

6. Crazy Cubes. You’re buying cubes…not to build with, just to have. In fairness, they have marbles in them. IMG_7825

 

 

 

 

 

 

7. Zombie Burbz Avenue. A new APP/Toy concept. We had hoped new technology would bring something more lively than Zombies. IMG_7826

 

 

 

 

 

8.KISS a la K’NEX. A wholesome gift.IMG_7827

 

 

 

 

 

 

9. My Little Pony Princess Pony Bride. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any pinker or ponier. IMG_6848Winner of our rococo plastic toy award.

 

 

 

 

 

10. Mutant Ninja Turtle Secret Sewer Lair Playset.  A very big plastic sewer for your Ninja Turtles.IMG_7155 Part of an apparent trend, see (1) above.

 

 

 

 

 

and…the Breastfeeding Doll. Not new, but still pretty dumb and still getting lots of press. Kids don’t need literal props for everything.86cb30befd6849378823b4cb2e7aa7bc-fcba1ead7bf546f2aa234818895a2a89-0

 

 

 

 

For toys worth your child’s time, take a look at our list of 2012 Platinum, Gold, Blue Chip and SNAP (Special Needs Adaptable Product Awards) at www.toyportfolio.com.

toyportfolio.com Best Toys of 2012 on NBC’s TODAY Show

We had a fun segment on the Today Show talking about some of our Platinum Award winners. It’s always painful selecting the 10 toys to show (turns out we actually had 11!). As we pulled up to the show, Martin Freeman was already at the door – surrounded by photographers and people looking for autographs. I prayed that as my mother and I climbed out of the very high SUV we would not fall with all of those cameras so near by. We exited the car gracefully. You can watch the segment below.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Before hand….

While I was getting hair and makeup done, I tweeted that there was a hobbit in the building. Just as I finished, Martin Freeman walked out of his dressing room behind me. I smiled. He returned my smile.  My grandmother always used to tell me “it doesn’t cost anything to smile” – he got the same lesson along the way. He was very friendly to everyone. Until I see The Hobbit next week, to me he is still Watson from the BBC Sherlock series. I’m a huge fan.

Martin Freeman visits the Today Show

We had lots of kids for this particular segment. They all were terrific while they waited for our time in the studio. In fact, we were brought upstairs and then the schedule got moved around a bit. They were amazingly well-behaved and calm as they waited even longer out in the hallway.  Here are some of their pics.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was the first time I was doing a segment with Willie Geist, the new host of the 9 o’clock hour. He’s great…and with two young kids, he’s in the toy zone.

Happily we got to talk about some of our favorite toys of the year from Fisher-Price, Wonderworld, Hasbro, North American Bear Co., LEGO, Playmobil, Marbles, The Brain Store, LeapFrog, Silverlit and Mattel. All of our Platinum Award winners are broken down by age with full reviews at www.toyportfolio.com.

After the segment, Willie took a picture with Joanne (who has been part of the WG fan club from his Morning Joe days).

It was a very good day…and I am forever grateful to my mother for taking a risk and starting the toyportfolio with me. She is the most generous mentor and business partner. Our adventure through toyland together is one of the great gifts of my life.

Willie Geist and Joanne Oppenheim at the TODAY Show

 

The Alien Mothership has arrived…

LEGO Alien Conquest Mothership

LEGO Systems has a brand new Alien Mothership that offers builders a really unusual build. The addition of a new gear at the middle allows the center of the spaceship to spin. LEGO has also added an alien sound piece to the mix. Great fun! Watch our video.

Why is the sky blue?

Remember asking this question as a kid?  Or hearing it from the backseat of your car now that you’re a parent?  Wonderopolis.org is a wonderful new site that poses such questions (and answers) every day.  The site (the brainchild of the National Center for Family Literacy)  is geared for parents and kids to explore together.  Educator and Today Show Correspondent Jenna Bush Hager is  getting  the word out about the site and their programs for the summer. Read my interview with Jenna at www.toyportfolio.com.

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.

Feeling like Spring

Razor USA's new Graffiti Action Scooter

The rain this morning made me hopeful that Spring can’t be that far away.  And for some reason…when I think Spring…I think scooters.  As I’m writing this I realize that many people probably don’t go directly to scooters…but hey, I play with toys.

I’m looking forward to testing the newest scooter from Razor USA…this one has a piece of chalk in the back. Wondering how it will work…without the chalk breaking. Last year they had a “spark” off the back end…something our testers enjoyed as a novelty.  Even though this has been given an edgy name, it’s called the Graffiti Action Scooter, this is a kinder and gentler scooter that  will probably appeal to a different audience.  Stay tuned.

Emerging Themes: Banana Splits, Taxis and Toilets

Each year there are certain concepts that just seem to be in the air at toy fair. This year we are already seeing certain themes emerging for 2011.

Banana Splits, Taxis and Toilets…

From Learning Resources

Banana Split from Earlyears (International Playthings)

Step 2's New Taxi Ride In

Viking Toys Taxi (from International Playthings)

All wood...from Maxim

Even the new Disney Princess Castle comes with a royal throne

Faux Wooden Toilet Seat from Calico Critters

Behind the Scenes at TODAY Show

Tree at Rockefeller Center 2010

Headed to the studio for set up today. It was brutally cold and yet everyone around Rockefeller Center seemed cheery. The tree is absolutely beautiful this year!  Last year’s tree seemed like a true recession  tree- a little skimpy and  a dose of sad. This tree is robust and just looks happy and hopeful. A good sign. Even though I’ve lived here for so long–it never fails to make me feel like I’m a little kid again.

My usual routine is walk around Saks and then get a cup of coffee.  Saks is all decked out and it was so crowded today–it’s hard to believe that the economy is not humming. You wouldn’t know it from the volume of people not only looking but walking out with shopping bags. Coffee was replaced today by hot chocolate (hey, it was really cold outside).

The studio was overflowing with products for all of the different holiday segments planned for the morning. I ran into Robyn Spizman who is doing a fun gift segment. Robyn was one of the first journalists to cover the toyportfolio when we started so it was particularly fun to see her and meet her daughter.

I have so many toys tomorrow– the idea is to show how many great choices there are without breaking the bank. We are scheduled to have lots of kids there to play.

The plaza on a cold day!

It really is amazing to watch the staff there transform a bunch of boxes, and products into the segments that are aired every morning.  Everyone works with good humor and it’s as if sugar plum fairies come in and make it all look so perfect when we go on.

After set up...the Rockefeller Christmas Tree!