Are all licensed toys junk? and the Partridge Family

We don’t think so- yet this is a question we’re asked all the time by reporters.  The truth is many licensed toys are more like merchandise–not meant to have more than a fleeting time in your child’s life.  Having a piece of the hottest movie or tv show can be really satisfying even if the toy itself may not be amazing. (I would have defended my Partridge Family lunchbox and trading cards to the death).

Partridge Family Trading Cards

Partridge Family Lunch Box--I had this one!

That said, to reject all licensed products just because they are “licensed” would mean missing out on a lot of really great toys. Read Joanne’s article that features many of this year’s top picks in this category.

Pick of the Day: LeapFrog Tag Interactive United States Map

I was an absolute map and globe geek as a kid.  Thanks to my Dad’s love of maps, we each got our own atlas when we reached a certain age (I think I was nine).  As with his atlas, we were encouraged to keep a record of our travels in our atlas.  Yep–we got to add our “lines” as we called them directly onto our maps!  It was very exciting to see new lines on our state, USA, and world maps as I got older. I know that this new interactive map would have been brought home as something to explore together!  Read our complete review!

Pick of the Day: Calico Critters Country Tree House

Calico Critters Hedghogs- Amazing!

Even though I absolutely shunned my own colonial dollhouse (sorry Mom)…I really have always loved the Calico Critters (International Playthings)  and their houses over the years. The collections always feature what look like storybook animal families and miniature settings that fit them.  I am absolutely obsessed with the Hedgehog family (see pic). This year they have a new Country Tree House that has lots of levels and features. Read our complete review.

Calico Critters Country Tree House

Pick of the Day: I Spy Little Wheels and Little Animal Puzzles

Looking for a great way to build your child’s patience and ability to stick with a task?  Puzzles are a wonderful way to connect and talk about problem solving skills.  Give your child some strategies–“can we find all the flats?” “all the pieces that are green?”

The idea is to find puzzles that will build confidence. Save the 1,000 piece puzzles for you!  Some kids take to puzzles very easily–for others they are just pure frustrating…that usually means the puzzle is too hard.  This set from Briarpatch comes with four puzzles.  Our suggestion — take on the pieces out for one puzzle at a time and leave the rest in the box!  Read our complete review and shopping info on our site.

Also be sure to visit  Jean Marzollo’s website  (the author of the I Spy series). It’s chock full of activities for kids that are fun (and not a waste of their time or minds!).

Pick of the Day: Radio Flyer Bumper Car

Ride on toys for toddlers is always one of the hardest categories we review.  Over the past few years we’ve noticed that one of the ways companies have cut back is to do away with steering mechanisms.  Now this bumper car also doesn’t steer but because it’s on casters – it does move easily in any direction your child would like to go. What really annoys me are ride-ons where your child has to stand up and move the toy and then sit down again- where’s the fun in that?   To read our full review and for shopping info — click here!

Pick of the Day: Strobotop Light Animator

Most science toys we look at are duds. They’re typically really expensive and they don’t work.  So we were thrilled when we tried the new Strobotop Lightphase Animator from Eye Think. It rocks. If you have a child interested in science and/or the movies – here’s a beginning lesson from the world of Physics (my high school interns who had just finished AP Physics explained why changing the light frequency changes what we see). Here’s what you do: put of the printed rings on the toy-you can clearly see the images.  Then make it spin, it alters what you see–then put the strob light on the spinning image and the static images now move  like an animated cartoon.  Really!   (It’s been a long time since I took Physics.  A shout out to Mr. Stewart–my favorite science teacher from Monticello High School for being consistently thrilled with sharing science with his class.  I’m pretty sure he would love this toy.)

For a complete description of how it works and shopping info, read our complete review.

One aspect that we love is that you can create your own images to make move (it comes with blank disks).  The company has made a great video showing how this works-you have to stick with the video to see it–the demo comes towards the end.  You can watch their video by clicking here.