Pick of the Day: Learning Curve’s Thomas and Friends New Talking Train Set

April 24, 2009

I’m pretty old school when it comes to wooden trains.  Having watch kids play with trains sets for a long time, they usually don’t need a lot of bells and whistles.  Several years ago (before all the lead issues), train makers were looking for ways to compete with all the electronic toys–so there were lots of  trains with lights and sounds.  They were ok, but truth be told if you have a child really in the train zone they provide their own scenarios and excitement.  So I was pretty skeptical when Learning Curve announced voice recognition technology for their new set, Thomas and Friends Wooden Railway-The Great Discovery Set.  I have to say–it is pretty amazing.  Sir Topham Hatt greets the trains by name as they go through the station…how does he know?  While one of our testers was amused (not amazed) with this aspect of the toy, what I loved was that he continued to play with the setting in a very traditional manner.  The technology did not take over the play experience–it enhanced the play possibilities.

Trains are a wonderful puzzle–which is why I do not recommend gluing down tracks or being wed to a train table.  Train tracks can take all different turns — I’ve also observed that 4 year olds are better at making train tracks work than most adults.  Watch your child as they work out how to make the tracks connect–it’s really one of those moments to enjoy.

This 35 piece set comes with enough for making a figure eight, the Great Waterton Station, Morgan’s Mine, Thomas and Stanley.  The trains and accessories are sold separately so you can them to your existing trains.  The sound levels are set very high when you demo them in the box–the good news, you can turn down the volume.   With BRIO all but gone from the US market–it’s nice to see Thomas the Tank back with all engines a go.

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If dinosaurs are big in your house…here’s a friendly puzzle

April 10, 2009

fp_dinosaur_park I really like this new Dinosaur Park puzzle too–all of the dinosaurs are friendly looking. Just right for young dino-holics.  Just like the Busy Bugs Puzzle, this is 2′ x 3′ and comes with 24 oversized pieces.


A perfect puzzle for Spring: Mudpuppy’s Busy Bugs

April 10, 2009

fp_busy_bugsThe actual Busy Bugs puzzle from Mudpuppy is really stunning…for some reason the artwork on the box doesn’t really convey how attractive this puzzle really is even though it’s the same image.  Kids will enjoy working on this oversized (2′ by 3′) floor puzzle that illustrates how busy all the bugs are in the garden. Comes with 24 large, sturdy pieces–lots’ to talk about as you work on this one.  Suggested retail $17 (3 & up–but of course 3s and 4s will need help to begin).


Pick of the Day: Creature Floor Puzzle (Andrew Zuckerman)

March 13, 2009

9780811867856_normStunning…there are two (double-sided) 16 piece puzzles–featuring bold photographs of an elephant, a chimpanzee, a lion and tigers…taken by New York based photographer and filmmaker, Andrew Zuckerman. The puzzle is made by Chronicle Books $24.95).

What I love about these puzzles is that they are so different from what’s on the market–they’re fun (and very challenging to work on)…and extremely satisfying when you put them together. Each puzzle is a pleasing 2′ x 2′. The pieces can fit together even when they’re not right graphically–adding a layer of difficulty and requiring great visual discrimination than most puzzles for kids.

The only drawback–the age label is 3 & up—most 3s will leave you to figure these out on your own–these are really a parent child puzzle for 5s & up.  This is a perfect example of where you will want to give your kids a game plan for putting them together.  Take out one set at a time–(the pieces come  packed separately) and then I always go for building the sides first…looking for the corner pieces.  And while many puzzle makers say I’m cheating…I always look at the box!   I just noticed that this won’t be released until June…but you can pre-order.  I hope this is the first of many!


Pick of the Day: Briarpatch’s Simms Taback Puzzles

March 4, 2009

One of the best parts of my job…checking out puzzles with my mother.

329_animal_parade_7_foot_floor_puzzle

Today we were both very quiet as we were working on this new Simms Taback 7 foot long Animal Puzzle.  We were so hard at work and enjoying putting the puzzle together before we just started laughing (another nice aspect of our work).

Briarpatch has really stepped back into the puzzle market with great flair!  We love the entire collection of Simms Taback puzzles. There’s the 7′ foot long Animal Parade with 48 pieces, the 4 Safari Puzzles (four safari animals with varying numbers of pieces for each making them increasingly challenging), and also great, Jumbo Floor Puzzle, that features farm animals.  My young friend Simon, fan of all things farm related, would love this one!   328_jumbo_floor_puzzle


This might be cool: Rubik’s Touch Cube

March 3, 2009

rubiks-cube-touch_mediumFor a new generation, the Rubik Cube will be electronic this holiday season. Rather than turning the cube, you’ll touch the grid to change the colors.  Do you think this will make it easier?  I doubt it–but you probably will think twice before you throw this one across the room in frustration!  The maker, Techno Source, plans on retailing the updated version for under $149.


Pre-Toy Fair Buzz: Great OBAMA puzzle

January 27, 2009

1456_200Looking for a great project for a cold winter day?  Try this 1,00o piece puzzle of our new President!  Yes We Can!!! We were delighted that this puzzle was in the press bag from Hasbro.  At $5.99–it’s a great value too.