We were really blown away by the Hasbro Play-Doh 3-D Flash Art. It wasn’t until I tested it with two high school students (both having just finished AP Physics) that I fully appreciated how cool this toy is and how useful it would be in any science class. Watch the video and you’ll see how art is a beautiful display of science! Read our complete review.
We stopped by Playmobil today and visited with Michelle Winfrey. Last year you’ll remember we gave the Playmobil Egyptian setting our Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award. Each year we wonder what will be the big new theme. This year, there were several new sets that I think will be a hit with our testers. The two biggest sets are the Dragons - complete with Castles that can connect by a bridge. It made me think of that portion of the original Shrek movie. (Of course here the dragons are not trying to court Eddie Murphy, but hey it’s pretend so I guess anything’s possible!). You can take a closer look by watching our video with Michelle.
The next set that really caught our attention was the Fire Fighters. What we love about Playmobil is the attention to detail in planning a series. As you’ll notice in our video of the Fire Fighters series, there’s not only a really cool looking fire station (complete with pole), there are two different fire trucks, a fire chief’s truck and a fire boat.
If you are a big Star Wars LEGO fan, you’ll be really excited to see the new sets scheduled for 2010. We asked LEGO’s Julie Stern to take us through the new sets so that you could take a look. Watch the video. You’ll hear both my mother Joanne and brother James (noted Tech expert and founder of jamesgames.com) on this video. We’re a noisy bunch.
On this second video you can see James’ reenactment of Hans Solo being taken away after being frozen in carbonite. It’s this attention to detail that we really appreciate. If you watch this video, you will have a glimpse into my childhood! You can also hear my mother in the background laughing.
Some pics from just before our segment about Toys with Lasting Play Value…trying to keep the kids engaged and not too noisy while Ann, Al, Natalie, Lester and Jenna talk. One of our toy testers Josie was about to take the stroller off the set–but came back after we strategically placed her mom right near Natalie ( just off camera).
During the segment…everyone is fully engaged with the toys!
Hooray! Segment complete!
Here are our some of favorites of the season– click on the name of the product to read our complete review at www.toyportfolio.com
For younger children:
Two great cameras for 3s and up to enjoy:
If you have a child totally into cars, you need to look at:
For kids 8 & up:
For really advanced builders:
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.
Hilary Stout’s article in The New York Times, With New Toys, More Assembly Required , correctly points out what we’ve been observing and writing about for years. You need to be ready to roll up your sleeves, arm yourself with a screwdriver, sometimes a power drill — all to put a toy together. If you’re not particularly handy, we recommend that you enlist the assistance of the store or a relative that doesn’t break out in a cold sweat when confronted with complicated assembly instructions. And whatever you do, don’t start at midnight on Christmas Eve–it’s almost a surefire recipe for tears and spousal strife.
That said…the article then goes on to talk about LEGO sets with too many pieces. Here, we have to disagree. The beauty of LEGO sets is that there are sets for all builders…beginners to the most advanced. Most hard core LEGO fans will tell you that the company has made it too easy for builders with the new bagging technique. Rather than open the box and find several hundred pieces — the company now pre-sorts the builds. For LEGO builders of the past– this new approach has been labeled strictly for whimps! You can hear many a parent say “in my day, we had to go through each and every piece” after we walked five long miles from school.
One of the big messages we try to get out each year is to start at the beginning. If you are doing all of the building and your child is just watching you–you’ve brought home the wrong set. The idea of these sets and why they appeal to kids — is that they build a child’s sense of what they can accomplish. Learning how to read and follow step-by-step instructions is huge. Having the patience to stick with a project – that not everything is instantaneous – is an important life lesson.
It is no surprise to us that LEGO has continued to do well in these tough times and has maintained a strong presence in an otherwise shrinking and battered toy industry. They have maintained their core mission by giving kids fun kits to build, they’ve improved their directions and they have stayed current by bring in themes and licenses that are attractive to their target audience. The most sought after LEGO kits from our testers are in fact the smaller sets where kids can build a car or Star Wars vehicle and then play with it. It is that sense of accomplishment that makes them ask for more. The focus is on building self-esteem and confidence and having fun–not how many pieces you can handle.
We also know that building develops the following skills: visual discrimination, fine-motor, spatial relations, math, reading, ability to follow directions in sequence and problem solving skills. We want both our sons and daughters to be competitive in math and engineering – it begins with these hands-on experiences. So start small. It’s like my grandmother always used to say, don’t worry about the size, buy what fits.
For reviews of our top-rated construction toys–visit www.toyportfolio.com.