Needed to share this face with you right away! So cute and amazingly soft. More to follow on this classic handmade line of huggables from Steiff.
Remember the old middle aged man from Operation. The big red nose. Kind of strange if you think about it too long. In any case, this year’s versions…Shrek and Ironman. Apparently if you have a multi-million dollar movie coming out you can get your own version of Operation. Sorry…no Brad or Angelina versions.
To appeal to a poker obsessed nation, Trivial Pursuit will have a gambling/betting component for 2010. You can bet on whether someone will know the answer. Seems like an unnecessary complication–but may really make this classic more appealing to some.
If you get the movie reference, then chances are you probably remember the original learning toy, Alfie. For a generation that grew up with the Robot on Lost in Space, it was a pretty cool concept for a toy. Hasbro is reintroducing Alfie at this year’s International Toy Fair in New York, and his reappearance I’m afraid pretty much sums up the feeling of an industry that faces a shrinking audience, a global recession and, oh yes, and still recovering from a little pr problem over safety issues.
I don’t know why but as soon as I saw Alfie, I kept thinking of the Godfather quote “go to the mattresses”… In addition to Alfie, there were lots of other familiar faces at both Hasbro and Mattel. Strawberry Shortcake, now a sophisticated 30 years old, has been up-sized, and is positioned to appeal to moms who played with the original. Monopoly, Battleship, Twister, Sorry, Life have all been reworked (often cleverly–sometimes tortured) into new variations–once again to appeal to that sentimental place in our toy-buying hearts.
If technology worked last year, chances are you’ll see it again with a slightly new look. Talking trucks, motion-activated rodents, RC cars that flip, virtual pets…they’re all back.
So while this may not be a breakthrough year of innovation (do you blame anyone for not betting the farm this past year on something untried?) — you will find lots of solid choices that may give you a strong sense of deja vu.
A couple of years ago we tried the latest version of the Easy Bake Oven. I tried it with two 9 year olds (a boy and a girl). After thirty minutes of making mac and cheese that didn’t taste very good, one of them said “we could have done this in the microwave in about two minutes and it would have tasted better!” That was pretty much when I was over Easy Bake Ovens. I do have disclaim that I LOVED my Easy Bake Oven…it was so empowering to be able to make something all on my own. I looked forward to using my Easy Bake Oven or my friend Jeannie Parker–it was on our list of things to do in between playing super heroes (where we would often end up fighting over who would be Wonder Woman).
So I wasn’t surprised that the new rollout for Easy Bake are things you can make in the microwave. (They still have the oven.) Picking up on the current craze for decorating food (there were at least eight different kits last year from various toy companies)…these new kits are meant to focus the activity on the decorating rather than creating the actual cake.
Sign of the times.
Celebrating her 30th birthday this year, the little strawberry smelling doll is hoping to capture the attention of another generation. The pr person taking us through the new line shared that she had a Strawberry Shortcake doll when she was little. One of those generational markers when you realize that you’re a bunch older than most of the pr people in the room. In fact, I was distracted thinking about how old all the pr people were when we started the toyportfolio!
In any case, Hasbro is hoping that if you played with Strawberry Shortcake as a child, you’ll want to bring it home to your own kids.
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
Construction toys should be part of every* child’s toy experience. You’ll find that kids develop preferences to building materials–go with it. Our advice is always to start with smaller sets –building your child’s confidence about what they can do rather than frustrating them with a bigger set.
Here are five of our favorites. Click on the toy name to read our full review from www.toyportfolio.com
*Here’s my daily plug about bringing home building sets to girls…it’s important for their math skills down the road. We want them to excel in math and engineering…it starts with building with construction toys.
I actually love doing segments with lots of kids. I think it adds to the energy of the piece – but I do have to say last night I had this momentary thought “eight babies!, really?!…what were you thinking!”
The kids had a long wait until it was time to go into the studio–and one thing I’ve learned over the years, never show kids toys long before they go on air – especially when you’re talking about babies and toddlers. To expect them to be engaged with toys for more than 10 minutes in any given setting, just isn’t reasonable in real life, much less in a tv studio with so many people, lights and cameras around. So we had some other related toys for them to play with in their separate “green room”…but at a certain point, they all started moving about the lower concourse — to say this particular group of kids were cute, is an understatement. The kids were all in what I call that “cupcake” stage where they are just full of pure joy. (At least at that moment!)
Once we got to the set, I was happy. The kids and their parents were engaged with all the toys we had selected. (You can hear them throughout!) Doing segments with Natalie is also fun because she’s in the middle of this zone with her two sons…so she gets it.
And here’s a pic with Natalie after the segment is over….To watch the segment, click here.
While I was shopping yesterday… the store was playing the theme from Knots Landing. I started laughing. The young woman offering to help me asked me if I knew what the song was from…”Yes, but you’re not old enough to!”…. She laughed…I gave the whole background…Knots Landing…spin off…Dallas…
There are more moments like this as we get older—generational markers– where you realize that you’re in a business meeting and that no one knows the reference to the original Batman tv show. Of course we get this with our kids. My boys only knew Paul Newman from salad dressing (sad–and prompted a Paul Newman mini-movie marathon).
In any case, Steiff, best known for producing the first “Teddy” bear…after President Roosevelt – has missed a few generations of kids. As a very young child, I had a Steiff pony…really one of my all time favorite toys. I’ve written about him before–but he was really magical. He had wheels so I would have great adventures with him in our playroom…zooming around. Here he is on the day I got him…(with my brother).
Since we’ve started the toyportfolio–my mother and I would pass the Steiff booth at toy fair. We would always discuss my pony and the little teddy bear that sat near the kitchen window. Sadly –both were destroyed by the fire that took our family home. We would stop and look but not go in–knowing that Steiff was really more about collectors and not something for our testers.
So we were pretty excited to receive a decidedly soft teddy bear from Steiff…it came in a lovely box – complete with the signature metal button in his ear. The company has a renewed commitment to making dolls that are affordable ($28 and up)…so we’re looking forward to seeing the new products. Of course there are still going to be deliciously over the top little treasures like this bunny …complete with a cashmere sweater (yes, she’s pretty price..over $100)…but still…