Toy Fair 2010: Crayola’s new Spira-Chalk Blaster

February 18, 2010

Crayola Spira Chalk Blaster

Check out our video of Crayola’s new spinning chalk top…looks like fun and even more fun  to say if you pretend you are Tina Turner in Mad Max…Spira-Chalk Blaster!!!   Click here to watch our video.  Our review will be posted on our website, http://www.toyportfolio.com.  If you’re not in cold weather like we are here in New York City–and looking for a fun chalk set, we’d recommend their current 3D Chalk Sets.  With all of the cold weather we’ve had recently, the thought of being in a warm enough climate for chalk…sounds really good!

Thanks to Susan and Stacy for demonstrating the spinning top!

Advertisements

Toy Fair 2010: Crayola = Fun

February 18, 2010

Crayola's Model Magic!

Based on our visit at Crayola, there’s a lot of promisingly fun  products rolling out this year. Happily these toys will start arriving soon. For reviews, check our website www.toyportfolio.com.

Chalk News. You know I’m all a huge fan of their chalk. This year there are new super sets of 3D Chalk (one features Toy Story 3). I love this stuff. But what’s really new is a chalk making set.  Looks like our kind of craft kit- we’ll have to see how it works.  They also have a spiral top for chalk. My brothers will tell you, I really stink at the spining top thing but even I think I can make this one work. Watch the next post for a demo of the spiral chalk top.New Chalk Sets from Crayola

Model Magic. How cute is this new set where you can make little pieces to add to forms.

New Model Magic Sets

Also big, things that Glow in the Dark. During our visit to their showroom, the lights were being turned off repeatedly to show off more glow-in-the-dark sets.  I have a sense some will be more successful than others -but we’ll put them all to the test as they come out.  We gave their Glow Station an Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award.

Glow Station...larger glow-in-dark toy!

New Crafts for Tweens. They have a new line called Pop Art Pixies,  featuring  four tweens (that look like they’re related to the Fashion Angels) – each has a theme.  One likes to recycle, one likes to decorate…you get the idea. Some of the kits looked like they would be great fun for 9-12 year old crafters. Stay tuned. I particularly liked the look of the recycle kits – and will be interested to see how our testers react.

Tween Craft Sets

Amazing On-line Program. You send in a picture of your child, they create a cartoon image based on that photo, you then customize your own coloring book adventure featuring your now “cartoon” child.  LOVE this.  You get the code for this site when you buy a certain size box of crayons (hey, who doesn’t need a new box of Crayola?).  This new platform will launch officially in the fall–but we’re working out details for making it available to our readers soon.



Toy Wars and George Costanza’s shrinkage factor

October 8, 2009

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.

3. Shrinkage…

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! Rec_kota

This year, the same manufacturer is offering Kota & Pals  Stompers – TriceratopsRec_tristompHe 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!


Monster Badminton…gone

July 22, 2009

Sad to report that the Monster Badminton set from International Playthings that I demonstrated with Al on the Today Show is not going forward. We loved the super large birdie…and equally large racquets.  Oh well.


Spinmaster RC Air Hog Switchblade

July 20, 2009

The Spinmaster RC Air Hog Switchblade — has gotten a lot of buzz lately.  It was  featured on Letterman–where happily for the company and our friend Shannon…it worked on air–much to the delight of the audience (and Dave).

So we were eager to give this one a try.  The results were decidedly mixed.  If the Switchblade is fully charged, there is no wind–and you’re relatively skilled with these types of toys–it goes up and will fly–and it  is extremely cool.   Now here’s the down side–we could only get it to do what it’s supposed to do two or three times in the course of a full afternoon of testing.   This is not a load it up, charge it, take out and fly it kind of toy — it requires much more finesse.

After having several teens try it with limited success — (they all really wanted it to work)…in come my two adult engineering friends  (one  designs drone helicopters and the other has a degree in nuclear engineering).  Nothing like watching grown men get very excited about these types of toys.  I shared the reports of the day—and they both were not satisfied. They were sure that they could get it to work.  After about a half-hour of consulting  –they both gave in and concurred with their younger counterparts.  “Great idea, poor execution.”  They then offered a much more detailed report about why it wasn’t working.  (I love these guys.  I remember when we first started  toyportfolio.com, one dad (he worked for Dupont) sent back a ten page review of an Erector set with design modifications!)

One of my go to teen testers told me that he often reinforces the very lightweight material with some duck tape–so that crashes are less likely to do permanent damage to the toys. I thought  that info was worth passing on–of course, he warned that if you don’t put it on the right way you can blow the whole aerodynamics of the toy.  Of course!

So even though this toy can be fantastic…in the end, it can not sustain the wow factor.


Pick of the Day: Prime Time’s Max Liquidator

July 17, 2009

The Max Liquidator from Prime Time Toys is great fun for the pool. Unlike many other water shooting type toys, the spray in this one is not as harsh–making it a safer choice.  It also looks more like a water toy -rather than a plastic assault gun. I personally love the kickboard that has the mechanism built in…allowing you to surprise your kids when they think you’re just just floating around.


Best Bubble Toys

July 15, 2009

As we’re wading through all of the new toys that will be vying for your toy dollar come December, I was just thinking how much fun blowing bubbles can be.  I’m not sure why I keep focusing on bubbles, but for the past few days, I’ve really wanted to play with some bubbles.

When you’re really little there’s the excitement of watching bubbles being blown by others and chasing them down–and as you get a bit older there’s the ultimate satisfaction of making your own bubbles. Now I find it really pleasing because it is such a pure play experience-no batteries, no instructions…you’re good to go.   Come to think of it, that’s probably why it’s on my mind so much–many of the toys we’ve been looking at this week are very high tech. Not that there’s anything wrong with high tech toys–but none of them deliver what bubbles do.  You make something so beautiful and then, in a matter of moments, watch it as it floats away….lovely really.

I loved the pink and blue plastic jars of bubbles –with the wand. Remember those?   The way the bubble solution always found it’s way to my hands…it was just fun- unless of course I knocked it over…and then there were tears! The picture below is from one of my birthday parties (my brother James is on the left). That is not me in the background, but I do remember that ride-on.

bubbles063

For this new generation, bubbles are a whole new experience–thanks in large part to the folks at Little Kids–the inventors of the No Spill Bubble Tumbler…no more tears from an accidential spill.  No more sticky fingers from trying to get the wand out of the solution.71PYT3BV15L._SL160_They have them now in all sizes–the little ones make  great party favors!

Now for super big bubbles–I’m a huge fan of the BeeBoo Big Bubble Mix Kit from Extreme Bubbles, Inc. You can watch my demo on the TODAY SHOW last year.  I’ve also noticed that it doesn’t matter how old people are–they love trying this toy out. Even my most reserved teen age (and mostly retired) toy testers love this product.

newmikephotosmaller