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.
Last year we’d have to say that Mattel’s Matchbox Rocky pretty much ran over Hasbro’s Tonka’s Talkin’ Chuck. Rocky just did so much more. (Watch the video of these two head to head.) This year we’ll have to see how the new Tonka Rumblin’ Chuck- who promises to do many more tricks (including moving side to side as if he’s ready to line dance)…will compare to the farting Stinky Garbage Truck from Mattel. We’ll be interested to test both of these interactive trucks when they arrive..for now you can check out their prototypes from Toy Fair. Click here to watch Rumblin’ Chuck.
Here’s Stinky…to watch him in action, click here to view our video.
Imagine a piece of paper that you can play like a guitar, a drum set…sounds pretty cool. WowWee, always on the cutting edge of fun tech toys, is bringing out a new line call Paper Jamz. The line will include paper thin instruments (six guitars, six drums and an amplifier) that uses what they call Active Graphic Technology. We didn’t get to play with the prototypes at toy fair, but we hope to have samples to try by early Spring. The products will retail from $14.99 for the amp and $24.99 for the drums and guitars.
What some parents may really love..there is volume control AND you can plug in earphones so that your rock-musician-in-training can rock out without driving you crazy!
When they first brought us around the corner at the Mattel showroom to look at Barbie Video Camera, I looked around thinking perhaps we were being punked. No, it’s real. Barbie is a Video Camera.
Barbie’s video camera is in her chest. Maybe this was inspired by Ironman?
Now you don’t have to be a teenage boy to see the humor of this placement. While we had just been taken through all of Barbie’s careers-it seemed to be balanced by the location of this camera. While we tell men to look at a woman’s eyes, not her chest…here you really do want to look at the chest to get the best video.
Barbie has a LCD screen in her back and will plug into both PCs and MACs. I do think watching the world from Barbie’s point of view could be fun and kids will probably enjoy the $50 video camera interacting with their other dolls. I just wish I could have been a fly on the wall when they came up with this one and the Glitterizer. It does almost seem as if it’s an episode of Seinfeld…where one of them would suggest an outrageous idea – and some unsuspecting executive would say “yes!!”
We saw the Sing-a-majigs at toy fair preview last month and we weren’t allowed to talk about them. It’s like being told what your best friend is getting for their birthday — and not being able to tell for weeks. So we were really excited today to see them again.
I thought maybe we had romanticized them…yes, at this point you can say–it’s a toy, get over it. But hey, this is what we do for a living. So when a really fun and innovative toy comes along–we get excited.
I’m happy to report that these cute little dolls (that will retail for a reasonable $12.99 each) are just about the best thing going. They babble to each other, they sing together and perhaps most remarkably they harmonize! AND they’re easy to make work.
Last year we had two talking trucks, Chuck and Matchbox Rocky. Take a look at this updated version of Chuck–he’s bigger and has more tricks. Look forward to trying this one with our testers. Watch our video.
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:
I’m not sure why this product captured my interest so much, but as soon as I saw it at toy fair, I really wanted to try it. While I was particularly tom-boyish during my middle school years, I did have one set of nail decals–they were of an apple that progressively gets closer to the core as you go from your thumb to your pinky. Very old school. So maybe that’s where my interest comes from. I’m also oddly fascinated by the elaborate nail designs that many women sport in new york–they really are like moving pieces of art.
Usually when we get a toy, we have lots of time to try it with various kids and families and we don’t have to return it. For this machine, we agreed to try it quickly and return it since there are limited samples. Sadly when the toy arrived, I discovered that the toy is only PC compatible. I’m a MAC person living in a predominately MAC world — so I needed to enlist my son Matthew (and his PC) to help me install the software and test the nail design studio. His friend Daniel–who usually builds all of the advanced LEGO and K’NEX sets for us–was also part of our team. We also decided to tape our trial runs–with the agreement that none of us would be shown on the video tape…it seemed like a fair deal. Who could blame two teenage boys for not wanting to be taped with a Barbie nail salon…and I wasn’t have a great hair day…so we were all happy.
I can’t tell you how much fun we had. We had several failed attempts…you really do need to read the directions to make sure that you have all the steps in order. There was so much laughing – interrupting our video attempts several times. Our failures really inspired them to help me get it right…and then we all got excited about the possibilities…there are over 1,000 plus possibilities with this machine. Like Jorge Posada* of the New York Yankees, I kept adding more and more white nail polish so that we could try it again!
Ultimately-do I think anyone needs an expensive digital nail printer? Not really. But if you’re techy and looking for something different and fun, this machine is fun and it does work.
If you’re planning on using this for a group, I suggest you really know how it works ahead of time so that you’re up and running and in the groove…it’s fun as long as it works!
Here’s how it works (or watch the video). Follow the instructions for setting up the printer ( just like an ordinary printer, you must install the software on your computer, load the ink, etc.). You can either use your own nail polish as a base or use their white polish. Let that dry and then add a layer of Pre-print polish–it’s clear. You then put your finger in the machine and take a picture of your nail. This is where the alignment issues arose. (I was sticking my finger too far into the machine, so it was printing on my finger, not my nail.) Once you get that step down, you remove your finger from the machine and then you can play around with the software to design your own nail design. This part is lots of fun — there are seasonal designs, classic Barbie motifs, fruits, sweets, cupcakes and you can even import your own designs. You then re-insert your finger and then push print…the design is printed on your finger! They provide top coat to seal the design.
Given the current climate, it feels off suggesting that anyone spend this much on this type of product. In the past, this machine would have definitely made our Big Ticket Item List for those over-the-top kind of gifts. The machine is marked 8 & up…and while most girls are aging out of Barbie earlier, I’m sure this will be a hit with tween, teens and their moms. In fact, I suspect that many 20 somethings would LOVE being invited to try this machine out.
To see the finished product…one nail with Barbie’s Head, one with an “S” and one with a pineapple….
*Major league catchers often put white nail polish on so that their pitchers can see their signals better.
Oh by the way, the band-aid on my finger is not from this toy. In fact one of the reasons I insisted on trying this myself is that you do have to stick your finger in a machine…so I wanted to do it before I suggested that any child do the same. It doesn’t hurt at all and, in fact it’s very cool.
Even though most of us haven’t even contemplated buying our Halloween candy yet (ok, I’ve contemplated but I haven’t bought any yet), the major box retailers want you to think holiday toy shopping TODAY! Walmart has expanded its offer of toys for $10 to 100 items…KB Toys saw that and raised it to 200, and Target is trying to match prices. There’s free shipping to be had…and if you’re really sharp, you can find certain Barbie dolls for as little as $5.
So what’s a toy consumer to think?
1. Toy prices are getting a much needed adjustment. All of that toy safety testing costs a lot –and if you’ve bought a toy recently you’ll know that the added expense has been passed on to consumers. While we don’t rate toys based on price, we have had sticker shock here as we’ve watched the prices just continue to climb for the past two years. So from this point of view toy wars are good, very good.
2. Less Inventory. If there’s something your child wants for the holidays, buy it early. Tight inventories is another way retailers have protected themselves this year.
One of the trends we’ve watched this season is shrinkage…which always makes me thing of Seinfeld’s infamous shrinkage episode with George in the Hamptons.
Toy makers are making many of the same type of toys they used to…but smaller…much smaller…and much less expensive.
For example, last year we featured Playskool’s $300 Kota My Triceratops Dinosaur. This high tech dino-wonder was big enough for your child to sit on!
This year, the same manufacturer is offering Kota & Pals Stompers – Triceratops. He walks on my desk. Watch the video. He’s very cute and he actually walks (something the big guy can’t do)…but still, this is what the price wars mean.
So does this mean you should buy only $10 toys this holiday season?
There are in fact lots of toys for $10 and under that are really great. We have many award winners that fit the bill, but buying lots of “stuff” seems like a mistake in the long run. Keep in mind that 60% of our toy dollars are spent this time of year…so bringing home toys that will have lasting play value makes more sense in terms of having toys your kids will play with after the holidays are over.
Open-ended toys and supplies are a better bet. I love novelty toys as much as the next guy…and there are some on our list this year. The holidays are about making dreams come true, but if you’re looking to make your dollar stretch…buying more open-ended toys is the way to go. Art supplies, games (that are played again and again), blocks, pretend props (toy kitchens, dollhouses), and toys for active play (ride-ons, sporting equipment)…all will be enjoyed for a long time and played with differently as your child grows.
Pool your resources. If there’s a toy that your child really wants that costs a little more, have your family chip in. Much more fun to get the present you wanted, then lots of little token gifts from aunts and uncles.
The olden days. There was a time when we didn’t go to the toy store with a shopping cart. We got fewer toys…not necessarily a bad thing.
Get Your Screwdriver Ready. One way to keep prices down…toy makers leave more for parents to do. Many toys don’t even come with the pre-drilled holes. If you’re handy with a power drill/screwdriver, you’ll be fine. If you’re not, we warned you.
Make it count. We started the toyportfolio with the tag..we test all the toys so that “you don’t waste your money or your child’s time.” So no matter what your budget, we’ve tried to take the mystery of finding a great toy. So take a look at our Platinum List!