London 2012 Olympics: How to Engage Your Kids
Watch our segment from the TODAY SHOW
Tags: Today Show, Olympics, London Olympics 2012, toys, geography, APPS, Games
Posted: 2012-08-13 14:31:13 By: by Stephanie and Joanne Oppenheim


Yes, Geography Can Be Fun!

Throw a map up in your kitchen or family room. When your kids see athletes from different countries have them find that country on the map. The Olympics provide an opportunity to introduce your kids to maps and geography in a fun and engaging way.

Here are three geography products to consider:



2011 Award
eeBoo World Map
(eeBoo $19.95 Score: )

With all of the events happening in the world, it's a great idea to keep a map up in your family room or child's bedroom so that they can get a sense of places in the news or in their studies. The company also makes a lovely USA Map as well.  Both maps comes with stickers to highlight locations.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2011. Click here to purchase the product on




2012 Award
LeapFrog Tag Interactive World Map
(LeapFrog $19.99 Score: )

An update to the original Platinum Award winning World Map of 2011. Now LeapFrog has redone the sturdy cardboard map into a two-sided interactive puzzle. It has a Political Map on one side with each of the country's names and borders. Kids can play a quiz game that help them learn the names of the countries and oceans. The reverse side shows a Physical Map of the world that shows the seven continents, oceans, major mountain ranges, deserts, rivers and major landmarks. Putting the puzzle together gives kids some hands-on experience with learning to map the world. As with the USA Map, this is an add-on to the TAG Reading System (the TAG pen is not included in this package). With the TAG, your child can explore the map on several levels. We love the ability to explore and hear the name of place touched on the map. If you ever wished your atlas could talk to you (or was that just us?)...this is really what happens with this mode. There is also a lot of built-in trivia...another passion with school-aged kids who love to amass facts! Our favorite is the travel time mode so that you can find out how long it would take you to travel from New York to Sydney!

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on




2012 Award
Seedling Color the Earth Ball
(Kid O $30 Score: )

A globe/ball for all ages. How kids use it will depend on their age. Some will like boucing it and simply playing with it. Others will love the fun of labeling the countires or color coding them. Inflate this jumbo 16-inch ball that comes with a set of permanent fabric markers. A word of warning, this has a strong odor when it comes out of the box that disappears in time. It's the size of a big beachball, though not intended for the water. It does bounce well. This ball is marked 3 & up, but will be of more interest to school aged kids.



Age: Preschool, Early School Years, Later School Years, Tweens. Award Year: 2012.


Books, Magazines, Internet and APPS

Kids tend to read less during the summer. You can use a new interest in a particular sport to get them back to reading whether it’s reading magazines (e.g., Sports Illustrated for Kids), books about particular athletes or even going on-line and finding articles or profiles about the games.

Activity ideas:

• Keep a medal count of your own. Put up a chart and add to the USA count with each day's results.

• Create your own multi-national fantasy teams and track their medal count.

• Twitter Feeds: Many atheletes invite twitter followers. You can find their twitter handles on the site.

• Cheer on Your Local Olympians: You can find out if there's a competiting Olympian from your area by checking the site. Knowing that someone trained and is representing your home town or state makes the games that much more real for your kids! You'll also find lots of trivia on the TEAMUSA APP (it's free).

Books to Consider:



2012 Awards
Magic Tree House, Hour of the Olympics
(by Mary Pope Osborne, Random House $4.99 Score: )

No girls are allowed at the Olympics! That was the rule in ancient times and in this time travel book the rules apply....or do they. Another one of those suspenseful adventures for Jack and Annie. If your new to chapter book reader has not discovered this series, this is a good summer read that will give them a bit of history, a meeting with heroes and heroines of the Greek myths and perhaps a lively taste for time travel and more Magic Tree House mysteries.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on




2012 Award
A Passion for Victory
(by Bensom Bobrick, Knopf $19.99 Score: )

"I know if you were there in the stadium, you wouldn’t be able to stop applauding." Those words are from a second-century account of the Olympics. From the footraces of ancient Greece to the present, this well researched book chronicles the Olympic Games through history. Using direct quotes, photographs, etchings, sculpture, and anecdotes of previous games, this slim volume brings the history to life. 9-12.

Age: Later School Years, Tweens. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on




2012 Award
Rush for the Gold: Mystery at the Olympics
(by John Feinstein, Knopf $16.99 Score: )

Susan Carol not only wins her place on the U.S. Olympic Swim Team, she has become the "It Girl" of the London games with an agent cooking up deals that could make her family financially secure. Her father, a minister, falls into line with the demands of the agents, but Susan Carol is disappointed that he is pressing her to go along. Her long time friend Stevie Thomas is on her side and does some investigative reporting that adds to the suspense. Written by sportswriter, John Feinstein, this is a well-paced fictional account of what it’s like to be in Susan's place with so much pressure to swim and still keep one's head as she appears on the Today Show, Good Morning America, USA Today and she is drawn into the world of TV, sponsors, and marketing. Feinstein has peppered the script with fictional cameo appearances by familiar names like Michael Phelps, Matt Lauer, Ann Curry and Bob Costas. He's also diced in some gossipy stories about other well known athletes who for better and worse, made deals for big bucks. A good read for the Summer Olympics 2012.

Age: Later School Years, Tweens, Teens. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on




Pop-Up London
(by Jennie Maizels/ paper engineering by Richard Fe, Candlewick $19.99 Score: )

Just in time for the Olympics, here's a way to share more details about this great city. Most text is hidden under the flaps, but the wonder here is having some of London's landmarks, including London Bridge pop-up off of the page in 3D. 

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: . Click here to purchase the product on





2012 Award
Bananagrams 2012 London Edition
(Bananagrams $14.95 Score: )

To celebrate the upcoming Summer Olympics this version of Banangrams has five extra colorful joker tiles with pictograms of various Olympic sports. It is otherwise the same game in a convenient banana shaped zip up pouch. Players divvy up the tiles and play side by side creating their own connected words. It's different from Scrabble since you do not take turns, although you must take extra tiles when your opponent uses up her tiles and is ready to take more. A great take along for vacation time. Quick and easy to learn. 7 & up.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years, Tweens, Teens, Adult. Award Year: 2012.




2012 Award
American Girl McKenna, 2012 Girl of the Year Doll & Book
(American Girl $105 Score: )

Dressed for gymnastics practice, 18-inch McKenna is determined to master the challenges of the balance beam and more. She arrives with her long caramel-colored hair is tied up for her active life style. In this Summer Olympic season, you can be sure, the young athletes, in London, will inspire girls all over the world, as they go through their routines. McKenna is not an Olympian; though one day she may be one! American Girl has created a whole line of accessories for McKenna. There is an accessory bag ($26) with mini water bottle, trail mix, school papers, exercise booklet and more. We love her team gear with jacket, trousers, medal, and slippers($28.)  There is also a beam and bar set ($85) for McKenna to practice on, two outfits in a practice wardrobe ($35) and just in case, a cast and crutches ($30) should she stumble when she does a daring double backflip!

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2012.




2012 Award
Loop De Doo
(Loopdedoo $34.99 Score: )

Make your own friendship bracelets with this crafty kit that includes a special spinning tool and plenty of supplies that can be stored in the built-in drawer. It comes with 18 different colored skeins of embroidery threads. You wrap the threads around the device and turn the knob while you guide the threads through. You can make bracelets, belts, zipper pulls necklaces and anklets in a variety of thicknesses and colors. No two need be alike.  This is a kid-powered toy--no batteries needed. This takes some learning time, but the results were most satisfying to our 9-year old tester and her friends.

New for 2013: Three add-on kits to use with our Platinum Award Winner of 2012: Loop De Doo Spinning Tool: See reviews of Loop De Doo Headband Kit, Loop De Doo Bracelet Kit, and Loop De Doo Necklace Kit. All three made a huge hit with our original tester.

Age: Later School Years, Tweens, Teens. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on


Family Games:

Pick a sport that your family can have as their own Olympic competition. Keep it friendly. The idea is finding your own traditions that will last beyond the games. Learning as a family how to use good sportsmanship is also important. If competitive games are too intense, make teams that change all the time or play something cooperatively.



2012 Award
Franklin Intermediate 90mm Bocce Ball Set
(Franklin $17.99 Score: )

Good family fun for the backyard with this inexpensive Bocce Ball set. It comes with 8 large bocce balls, two in each of four colors and a small white pollino ball that you will be aiming to hit. This comes with its own storage bag so you can bring it along to family parties. It might become part of your family party tradition. 2-4 players can join the fun. There are pricier sets, but this set sold at Target is a good way to find out if your family loves it. Great for multi-generational crowds. 6 & up

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2012.




2012 Award
Franklin Badminton/Volleyball Combo Set
(Franklin  $41.69 Score: )

How about a family tournament for your own home grown Olympics? Play badminton or volleyball with this set; a surefire crowd pleaser for backyard summer fun, especially if you have a multi-generational crowd. This set includes the net (poles), 4 racquets, 2 birdies, a volleyball, pump, rules (always good!) and it all zips up into a carrying case. There are pricier sets that may be sturdier, but for a short season of fun, this will probably be quite sufficient. We reviewed this Franklin set from Target. All Ages.

Age: Later School Years, Tweens, Teens, Adult. Award Year: 2012.




2012 Award
Rainbow Ribbons
(University Games $7.77 Score: )

Your aspiring athlete can try a hand at a skill that was recently added to the Olympics. All they need is this rainbow colored ribbon that is 6 feet long and attached to a ribbon wrapped wand. In the "olden days" when this reviewer was growing up they were made of crepe paper and sold in the candy store along with penny candy. They never lasted long, but they were as much a part of summer as jump ropes and rollerskates. These are made of fabric and probably will not have a long life, either, but they are good fun. the company does make a larger ribbon that is a foot longer and twice as expensive.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years, Tweens. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on


Products for Infants
Products for Toddlers
Products for Preschoolers
Products for Early School Years
Products for Later School Years
Twitter   Facebook     YouTube 

Oppenheim Toy Portfolio - All Rights Reserved. Oppenheim Toy Portfolio, Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award, and Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Blue Chip Award are Registered Trademarks of the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio.

Instructions for submitting product to the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio for review.



Contact the Toyportfolio by phone at (212) 598-0502 or by email at

Copyright 1995-2015


Products reviewed by the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio are provided by the manufacturer at their cost. The Oppenheim Toy Portfolio does not require or accept fees for reviewing products.