Stephanie Oppenheim is the co-founder of the independent consumer organization, Oppenheim Toy Portfolio (www.toyportfolio.com), along with her mother, noted child development expert Joanne Oppenheim. Together the Oppenheims have been reviewing children’s media since 1989. Their organization also started the Read It! Play It! Literacy Initiative – a series of books that encourage parents to both read and play with their children as a way of fostering a love of reading and developing language skills. The original title, Read It! Play it!, focuses on books every 3-8 should know and activities that relate to the 50 books reviewed and recommended. Read It! Play It! for Babies and Toddlers is now also available in Spanish. Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) uses the Read It! Play It! series in their literacy programs.
Stephanie is also a Contributor to NBC’s TODAY Show and has appeared on Oprah, CNN, MSNBC, CBS Nightly News and Fox News. Prior to starting the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio, she practiced corporate law in NYC. (Can you guess which job is more fun?) She also holds a Masters in Psychology from NYU with a specialization in parenting. She lives with her husband and two sons in NYC.
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How we work at the toyportfolio.com. We’ve been reviewing children’s media since 1989. So we’ve been doing this for a while! During the course of the year, we both receive products to review that we have requested…and products that come unsolicited to us. The products are screened based on their quality, age-appropriateness and value to the intended audience. Most products don’t make it passed this point. You may be surprised to know that many toys don’t do what they say they’ll do, the quality isn’t what it should be or the toy has limited play value. The same is true with books, music and dvds. If a product passes this initial threshold, it is then sent to one of testing families (we have dozens of families all over the USA that test for us). We ask those families to observe their kids playing with the product for two weeks. At the end of that period they are asked to fill out a questionnaire — one of the most telling questions we ask is whether they would buy the product for a friend. We want to know if they agree with the age label…what did they (and their kids) like or dislike about the product. In all cases the family that tests the toy is allowed to keep the toy or donate it if they don’t like it. We never take toys away from our testers. We also give lots of toys, books, dvds and cds away to charities here in New York City.
We are never paid to look at a product. In fact we started the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio with the mission to provide objective reviews (good and bad) about the products we receive. The concept of accepting entry fees seems to us to run counter to that mission. We also do not take ads directly from manufacturers. In this new on-line age, we have considered running google ads. We may start doing that soon–but there is no direct advertising available to the companies we review. At the request of our readers, we have added a click through to Amazon. As a member of their affiliates program we do get referral fees.
Awards. You can’t buy an award from us. Our awards are respected by consumers, manufacturers, and the media–because they know it’s the real deal. We see thousands of products throughout the year…and very few actually make their way to our award lists. If a company wins an award, they are not required to buy anything from us. If they decide to promote their award by using our trademarks, we do require that they purchase the seals from us or a license. When we first started, we had no awards — but everyone asked that we not only review, but rate. So we started giving awards and within weeks we were having products arrive in stores that had our “seal” on them–even on products that we had not reviewed. As a result we are pretty strict about the use of our award seals and how they may be used.
In the end, it is our name on the line. We take it seriously.
We started with the mission that we would take the hassle out of finding quality products for your kids. We would write about the good, bad and ugly in toyland…and we still do.