Read Joanne’s article on buying dollhouses–front page of our site today….www.toyportfolio.com.
Zhu Zhu Hamsters are getting all the media coverage (yes, I participated in some of it), but they are certainly not the only really special novelty toys of the season. Here’s a list of other toys that may just do the trick!
Other cute animals that have a little extra something.
Yakety Yaks (Mary Meyer) Each of these animals make a noise. There is a pig, a monkey, an owl, a lamb, a bear and dogs. They don’t run around like Zhu Zhus but they are pretty cute on their own. Read our review.
FurReal Friends Newborn Puppy (Hasbro)- This a very sweet little puppy that wags his tail and makes little barking sounds. This is one of many in this line–there are dogs, cats, a panda, a bear. We like the dogs the best. (In interest of full disclosure -we’re not big cat people.) We also have not received safety verification forms on these little guys–so there is no official review on our site.
Two other really cool novelty toys that should not be missed:
Hexbug Nanos (Innovation First) -Each of these small robotic bugs come in a test-tube like container. We see that the price has come down since we first reviewed them–they are now $7.99. Turn them on and they really are like little bugs! They come in lots of colors and are fun to pull out of a pocket or bagpack. Read our full review.
Watch our videos:
Doodle Car (Day Dream Toys)- We love these super cool cars that follow lines you draw with a washable marker. Pretty cool. Company also has seasonal downloads of roadways you can print and use with their cars. Read our full review. Watch our video.
The weather is a little zany here in nyc…windy, oddly warm, sun, then no sun…in any case it made me think of the really playful collection of Les Deglingos. Everyone that comes into our office reaches for them…they have a folk art feel–but are edgy all at the same time. The mixture of textures are fun for little fingers to explore. Read our full review.
There’s so much written about Barbie’s body…and the impact it has on girls. I thought it would be useful to compare her body (from the Barbie and the Three Musketeers theme) to that of the new Liv dolls (Spinmaster) and the Moxie Girlz (MGA Entertainment).
First we took a look at their feet.
As you can see Moxie has pretty big flat feet. Good for standing on but pretty clumsy looking. Liv also has flat feet and can actually stand in her sneakers (our testers loved this aspect). Liv also has articulated toes–a very nice touch. Barbie has….Barbie feet–she can’t stand in her bare feet–but then again she gets to wear purple boots. I acknowledge my obsession with these particular boots.
Dolls sans Clothing
If you’ve every played with these fashion dolls and little kids, you know they usually end up without their clothes. In part, kids are curious about what’s underneath –and because preschoolers now play with these dolls–they don’t have the fine-motor skills to put the clothes back on. In fact, the dolls often end up without heads. I didn’t feel the need to do that here, but it happens.
Size: You’ll note that Moxie (in the middle) is far smaller than either Barbie or Liv.
Age: Moxie Girlz clearly looks more like a middle schooler -rather than an older teen. She is, as they named her much more girl like.
Limberness: Liv is the most limber– she has arms and legs that are jointed at the elbows and the knees. Her head, hands, hips and feet also move. Barbie has one arm permanently at an angle. Only her arms, legs and head move (but not at the knees or elbows). Barbie’s feet are in a frozen in a “yes, you may try the glass slipper pose”). Moxie Girlz– has both arms in a permanent straight position–they only move from her arm pits. Her legs from the hip — and you can move her head and big feet.
Realistic…not really unless you model for J.Crew. Our testers liked the underwear on the Moxie Girlz. Looking at this now–Barbie looks a little hippy…amazing.
Just so there are no surprise, Liv’s hair piece comes off and you’re left with a doll that has sculpted short hair. We were a little taken aback by it, but our testers loved putting the hair on and off–she has a hole at the crown of her head.
I’ve spent a lot of time this season defending Barbie and her friends. Odd since I would never be caught dead playing with a Barbie as a kid. But with my professional toy reviewer hat on…I dug really deep…so here are the results of our testing this season.
1. Princess & The Frog Princess Tiana- As the first African-American Disney Princess she is notable just by her existence, but we really like the Just One Kiss Doll…and the silliness of her gown lighting up. Watch our video.
2. Liv Dolls- Spinmaster’s new line of fashion dolls. At first I was a little freaked out by their heads (you can take off their wigs and replace with new ones!). Underneath they have painted heads-very short. Think Annie Lenox–and then a little post chemo therapy. Yes, it’s a little odd–but let me tell you the girls that played with these dolls loved the hairplay action of popping new hair on. That’s right– the dolls’ have a hole in the top of their heads so the wigs really stay on. They look like teenagers -something our early school year girls loved! They don’t look like street walkers (a la Bratz). Read our full review.
3. Moxie Girlz Best Friends- New from MGA, the makers of Bratz. Hats off to the toned down new collect of Moxie Girlz. They look somewhat related to the originals–think of the sixth grader who wants to look like the 11th grader but can’t pull it off exactly.
They are sweeter looking–but they still wear a little fishnet (worked into their shirts instead of on their legs). Our testers enjoyed this collection as well. They come with ridiculously fun and silly big wigs that you strap on to the dolls head. Our testers preferred the snap in feature of the Liv dolls on this point. Read our full review.
4. Barbies of Note. We’re always big on Barbies that take an active role beyond going to the mall. This year we have given awards to
Personally, I love the Three Musketters because of her wickedly great purple boots…but our testers really loved playing vet and TV Chef!
In seasons past, ELMO is the toy we get all the calls for -someone in desperate need for the latest version of the original Tickle Me Elmo Doll. We have particular fondness for the original – Joanne brought Elmo on the TODAY Show – Bryant Gumbel loved it–and played with it for the entire show.
This season, ELMO is being completely ignored. A smaller, perhaps cuter critter has grabbed the imagination of children and media outlets everywhere -even though ELMO tells jokes this year as well as any Borscht Belt comedian. Oh and yes, he’s still throwing kisses…it could break your heart. Watch our video.
Last week I talked about this doll as one of the top five hottest toys in toyland on the TODAY Show. But because I only had two minutes to discuss five toys, I didn’t have time to demonstrate why this particular Princess Doll is so much fun. Watch our toyportfolio.com video and you’ll see the interactive/light up features of this talking doll.
Right after my segment, I got an email from Disney–reminding me that there were less expensive Princess Tiana dolls…so true. You can get your Princess fix for under $16. The Just One Kiss doll retails for $24.99–and I already see lots of price gauging. There are plainer Princess Dolls–but we have not personally seen or tested them–I do see some complaints on line about the quality of the least expensive version–but we can’t confirm. We’re thrilled that Disney is featuring the first African-American Princess. If you’d also like a book, we’d recommend Princess and the Royal Ball by Natasha A. Tarpley/illustrated by James Finch)–a full review is on our site.
Green toys used to mean a recycling truck here or there…or a paper maker, but now there are many toys that are either manufactured with a green mandate or promote a positive green message to kids. The biggest trend are dolls made from organic materials–not all created equal in our book. Green shouldn’t have to mean scratchy or boring in design or color. Happily we received many that found the right blend of green and whimsy! The other big category — trucks…many made of recycled materials – were a real draw to our testers. Then there are the throw back toys–my personal favorite, the wind-up FM Radio.
Here’s the list of our Top Green Toys for 2009. Complete reviews on our our site, www.toyportfolio.com. Click on the toy name to read our rating/review.
Dolls and Dollhouse
Other Green Toys of Interest
Here are three from our Platinum List that will appeal to everyone!
Love this activity table just right for toddlers! Read our full review.