Hot Wheels are always fun. This year the big track of the season is the relaunch of a classic…the Hot Wheels Criss Cross Crash Track (Mattel). This closed, clover leaf track is an opportunity to crash your favorite Hot Wheels. Watch our video from Toy Fair. Now if you’re really old school, you’ll remember that the fun of Hot Wheels was making your track as long as possible…down the staircase was always the best. There were a few loops – but making your own system was the point. Closed tracks are a novelty – since there isn’t much to do besides watch the cars go. This track is a little better in this department since you are always feeding the system with new cars. Stay tuned. We’ll have a complete review at www.toyportfolio.com once we receive a set
The inital reaction to the kids that gave this raceway a test spin was “this is going to be awesome” “I’m sure this is going to be Platinum”. It is the latest in the one trick pony racing toys from Hot Wheels–closed tracks with a mechanism that sends cars speeding along. My experience with these sets is that they are novelty toys–once you see the cars speeding along again and again…most kids are done with them in short order. While some of them work really well and are fun…I grew up with more open ended Hot Wheels track sets…much like wooden train sets, they were open-ended puzzles that invited creativity through trial and error. The goal in our house was always to make a really long track that would include the stair case.
As much as our testers were initially hyped, the excitement turned to frustration. The car (it comes with one…but will work with any Hot Wheel car) would not stay on the track. I was also concerned that the pleasingly graphic cardboard city scape would not hold up. The instructions suggest you tape the cardboard together..but if you have to pack up the toy…you have to pull off the tape–that doesn’t usually end well. So sadly, we’ll have to pass on this one.
If you’re looking for a fun Hot Wheels set, we highly recommend the new Color Shifters Blaster set – featuring the color changing of the cars depending on what water (hot or cold) they are dipped in or sprayed with…either way LOTS of fun.
I really love that we’re heading into summer with longer days – which means more time to be outside with our kids. Here are some of our new favorites for the season…we’ll be continuing to update this list in the coming weeks.
Nature Station Playhouse (Step 2) I love this little playhouse that is designed for older toddlers and preschoolers – maybe because it looks like Pooh, Tigger and Piglet should be there too. Kids enjoy having small spaces that are designed just for them. This playhouse has a working periscope (really fun), a sink, a working shutter, and a fenced in area so if you’re invited in- there’s a bigger space for adults. This product is pricey at $249.99 but will be used for a long stretch. (This playhouse is marked 3 & up due to all the extra things that come with it–but the structure itself will be enjoyed by younger children. There are larger play sets from Step 2 that have more height–our recommendation is take your kids along when you’re shopping for this type of equipment. If you decide to bring this product home to older toddlers, put the goodies away until they’re older.)
Sandbox Vehicles Eco Trucks from Sprig Toys were a hit with our testers. These are very lightweight – making them easy for kids to use and to take along to the park or backyard sand box. Made from recycled materials. Our favorite is the Dump Truck.
Dump Truck (Green Toys) The new line of green trucks from Green Toys are heavier than the Sprig trucks. They feel more like a traditional plastic toy truck- with the upside here being that they are also made from recycled materials. Handsomely designed – they got high marks from our testers.
Hot Wheels Color Shifters Blaster (Mattel) I’ve already blogged about this toy and I think I’m a little sad that I gave our sample away! My mother doesn’t agree with my over the top enthusiasm for this play set–but I really think this is one of the best toys going. I’m suggesting that it’s even better if you play with it outside–because truth be told-it does get alittle wet if you’re really playing with it full tilt. The cars react to cold and hot water–and will turn a different color when put into either temperature (I KNOW!) Best yet, it comes with a squirt bottle so you can change the cars by squirting them. If you don’t want to buy the whole set–I’d suggest buying one of the cars–you can use any squirt bottle to have the same experience. If you want to be the super cool grown up, bring this toy home to any three year old you know. I do think the car that turns from blue to yellow is much more dramatic than some of the other color changes (yellow/orange).
Drive, Chip and Putt Golf Trainer (Little Tikes) There are two different”ts’ to hit the golf ball from…making this a little different from your average plastic golf set. Our testers really enjoyed the sport of this game and the sturdy design made it a solid choice for the 2-4 crowd.
Monster Badminton Set (International Playthings) This set will be ready next month but I had to show it to you now. These over-sized rackets and birdies are just what our family needed. They are fun for little kids–but truth be told, if you’re not the most athletic person–this is a set for you! You’d be hard pressed to miss this birdie! It does not come with a net–our toy testers just liked playing with it alone.
Maxi Scooter (Kickboard USA) Maybe because I’m not the most coordinated person, I loved the idea of this scooter. It comes with three wheels and a wider platform for added stability but still looks cool. As I hoped, our new scooter testers had no trouble with this scooter and really enjoyed it. It comes with two handles–a traditional T-handle and a joystick. We recommend the traditional handle as a starting point. It’s designed for kids 6-10. The company now also makes a Mini Kick Scooter (smaller in scale for younger kids 2-5)…also with three wheels. Helmets are a must!
Razor Spark Scooter (Razor) The granddaddy of scooters just got a very neat feature. When you break, it sparks out the back. Our testers thought this was pretty cool–although if you’re the one doing the braking, it is hard to see the spark–but your friends will!
Freeze Pop Factory (Little Kids) According to the company, more than 7 billion freeze pops are sold each year (makes you think we should all go into the freeze pop business!) ….in any case, this do-it-yourself kit is really fun. Comes with those pop sleeves (which magically close up and don’t leak) and plastic molds for making bigger pops. You can experiment with making your own family recipes and limit the amount of sugar your kids use. Every grown-up I’ve mentioned this kit to has asked the same question, “Could you make grown up freeze pop for a party?” and then they say…don’t say that out loud….but it’s true. Just don’t get them mixed up. It comes with 36 sleeves for making the pops…and the good news is that you can also order more ($4.95 for 50 including shipping) from the company’s site or by calling (800) 545-5437.
If you have ever loved playing with Hot Wheels and/or you know a child that loves Hot Wheels, you have to go buy this toy! I’ve put off testing the Hot Wheels Color Blaster–in part because I didn’t want to be disappointed. I’m happy to report that this toy is as much fun as it promised to be when we saw it at toy fair. You fill the containers with some ice water and then one with warm water — it has a built in track but that’s the least of it. The really fun part is spraying the “warm” car with the spray bottle filled with ice water. The car CHANGES color just as it said it would. You then dunk the car back in the warm water and you’re good to go! It’s that’s fast and magical. Of course it’s really very wet when you get done and there’s a likelihood that the spray bottle will be used on other things (like siblings)…but still so cool! You can buy more cars–frankly I would do that right away…one car just isn’t enough. (We are awaiting the safety verification form for this one.)
One of the hardest categories to fill each year are small vehicles that are safe for the 3 and under crowd. Many parents just hope for the best and give their kids small Hot Wheels, Matchbox and wooden trains–the problem with them of course is that they do have small parts that are potentially dangerous. Playskool’s new Wheel Pals line is meant to answer that issue. The cars are small in scale – with everything safely anchored. Our testers loved the new Round About Railway. If you’re looking for a setting that your toddler will enjoy (and not sit on)…look no further. You put the train at the top of the setting and then your child can either hit the plunger (which activates the train sound)…or just push the train down the track. The vehicle moves slowly enough so that your toddler can track the vehicle, a plus. We thought the Railway works much better than the Fold ‘n Go Garage (we found that some of the ramps did not lock in sufficiently well).
One of the coolest looking toys hands down at toy fair was the new Color Blaster Hot Wheels set–the cars change COLOR when they get wet. If it works this will be so much fun. Stay tuned!
Truth be told, I didn’t play with too many toys as a kid. I loved my sandbox, and as much as my mother wanted me to love the elaborate (and now I realize) beautiful dollhouse that was given to me, I was really much more into playing with Hot Wheels. Looking back now, I know that my love of Hot Wheels had much more to do with my brothers. The youngest of three, I had to work hard to find things I could do with them without being so annoying that I got thrown out of the equation. I was a great assistant to the elaborate tracks they would put together.
We would go to Davco (the local toy store in Monticello, New York)…I would look at the Barbies — admire the fashions…and then buy another car. Cars meant entry into the great adventures that went on in our house. It’s probably an exaggeration to say that we had enough track to go throughout the house–but we certainly had enough to make the cars down the staircase! My brothers were pros at making ramps and there was great excitement when the first loops came out. This year Mattel has new Trick Tracks which has lots of the action we worked so hard to get with pillow and books beneath the tracks. Somehow, the new tracks seem like a cheat (to a Hot Wheels purist). We’ll have to see what kids today think! What’s missing from the current line is a track that has lots of length and maybe one or two loops. The recent batch of closed tracks seem more like one trick ponies– they’re cool to watch but they don’t offer the problem solving that most of us remember from our Hot Wheels days.
This year is the 40th anniversary of Hot Wheels–there’s an anniversary that will make many of us pause. Even more amazing–this year Mattel reports that they will produce the 4 billionth car!
Last year everyone was talking about magnets. Everything from toddler toys to construction toys used magnets in some creative way. This year the buzz is all about “USB” capability.
Traditional toys like Hot Wheels, Barbies, Groovy Girls–now all will have an on-line component where play is just a USB cord away. Borrowing from the amazing successful Webkinz model, more and more companies are offering a toy that also “unlocks” a unique play experience on line. From the response of our toy testers, this seems like a smart move. School aged kids love collecting toys (stuff animals, cars, action figures) and this generation is tech savvy — so it’s a perfect combination. We will be testing these new products with kids in the coming weeks.
Leapfrog also offers the USB cord as a way of uploading/downloading info to their new platforms. Sprig Toys, a new line of vehicles will also work with action figures that hook up to a USB plug on board the vehicles. VTech’s new promising art platform, KiddiArt Studio, also uses a USB connection.
Several years back there were toys (mostly dolls) that required parents to “download” information to the toy (your child’s name, birthday, favorite color,etc.) …and we received many complaints that this took too much time and frankly was too complicated for less than tech savvy parents. Two things have changed–the iTunes interface has made the whole “download” thing much less overwhelming for parents. Things have changed: the toy/computer interface works better, parents are younger and more techy themselves, and for slightly older kids, they’ll be doing the plugging in–and let’s face it, they’re really good at it.
The toys we played with as kids also help define which generation we belong to– they become cultural touchstones. (I knew I was getting a little bit older when the several pr folks told me about their own Cabbage Patch Dolls and My First Ponys.)You may be interested to know that some of the toys many of us enjoyed as kids, are hitting significant milestones:Lego – 50 yearsCabbage Patch- 25 yearsMy Little Pony – 25 yearsHot Wheels- 40 yearsEasy-Bake Oven- 45 yearsScrabble – 60 yearsTrivial Pursuit- 25 yearsHard to imagine a time when there wasn’t Scrabble!