Day One: Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers
Posted: 2015-11-23 10:58:49
By: by Stephanie and Joanne Oppenheim
We teamed up with the TODAY Show this year to conduct a nationwide toy review. And when we say nationwide, we mean it. Families from all 50 states participated in the search for the best toys. We sent out 12 toys for each age category (babies-preschoolers, school-age kids and tweens). Each of the toys was tested by five families for a total of 180 play experiences with siblings, several sets of twins, and their parents all engaged in our mission to find products that were worth their time and toy dollars. We looked at toys from both small and large toy companies, including those that are being heavily promoted for this holiday season. Stephanie shared the findings for babies- preschoolers on the TODAY Show this morning. And be sure to tune in tomorrow when they cover toys for school-age kids! Click here to read the reviews. (And for even more gift ideas, be sure to check out our Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Awards for 2015).
A Few of Our Special Needs Adaptable Products (S.N.A.P. Award Winners)
Posted: 2015-11-21 17:46:18
Shopping for kids with special needs can be challenging, but it need not be daunting. To simplify your job, we look for ordinary toys that build skills but are also entertaining, engrossing, and not didactic. We know that kids like toys that are like their siblings. You may need to adapt some of these toys, but whatever you do, choose toys that play to their strengths. Check all of our lists. Go to Search at the top of the Home Page and check the SNAP box and enter the year. We have dozens of SNAP items for 2015, but check out 2014 as well. Many of our SNAP reviews have games and adaptations suggestions. Here are just a handful of our favorites.
From Tots to Tweens
Posted: 2015-11-21 17:49:22
Readers often ask us if an old fashioned doll is still a good gift for kids who start playing with their parents cellphones before they can talk and moving the pages of ipads as if they were born with computer smarts. Let us reassure you, a doll is still a well-loved gift, even for the hi-tech kids on your list. The trick is finding a doll that fits. Click to find dolls for each age and stage.
For Christmas Stockings and the many nights of Hanukkah and Kwanzaa
Posted: 2015-11-21 17:51:05
Experienced shoppers have probably been putting aside the small gems that will make gift-giving simpler when Christmas stockings need filling and the many nights of Hanukkah and Kwanzaa are upon us. We've grouped these by age groups. Read More....
Bargain Hunters Alert!
Posted: 2014-12-21 10:39:32
Send in the Grandparents!
Posted: 2014-12-21 08:18:14
Every holiday season we find some expensive but exciting gifts. Some are pure novelty items while others are toys that will go the miles to be enjoyed for years to come. If you're still shopping and not finding a significant enough gift for the grandchild, niece or nephew, son or daughter, here, in age order (from infants to tweens) are some top-of-the-line choices for 2014.
The Magic Number $19.99 & under
Posted: 2014-12-09 12:48:47
For several seasons now toymakers have created an impressive selection of interesting toys for $19.99 and less. Good news if you are shopping for multiple gifts for all those nieces and nephews. We found a number of our top picks of the year in this price range. You can use our search engine at the top of our home page; just enter the year 2014 and 19.99 to find dozens of winning choices, including many picture books as well as toys. Here are some of our favorites that won't break the bank for each age group :
Huggable Dolls in a Digital Age
Posted: 2014-12-08 09:28:00
By: Joanne and Stephanie Oppenheim
Shoppers often ask us if a teddy bear or soft huggable doll is just too old fashioned to please kids of the digital age. Our answer is easy. Kids of every age, from tots to 'tween continue to enjoy the comfort of soft huggable dolls. In fact, there are so many more huggable-lovable choices for boys and girls. While many toys vie for their attention by walking, talking and putting on a show, the best dolls and soft animals follow the child's lead. Such non-tech toys say only what a child imagines and do only what the child has in mind, whether it's attending a tea party, going to the doctor, or taking a nap. See good choices....
Top Toys for Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers
Posted: 2014-12-02 09:02:58
By: by Stephanie and Joanne Oppenheim
Basic Tools of Play & Learning
Posted: 2015-02-02 06:46:17
By: Joanne Oppenheim
Every so often we get a note from a parent saying they bought a toy that's a total dud--"very disappointing--my child didn't know what to do with it. The toy just sat there and did nothing." But, a set of building blocks, a ball, a rattle, a doll; all of these basic toys do nothing and that is a good thing. In stacking the blocks, shaking the rattle, rolling the ball or chasing it, or talking to a doll, the child is the active player. At every age, play is a two way street. The toy is the tool--the child is the player.
For starters, parents have an important role beyond buying and unpacking the toys they bring home; they need to introduce a new plaything. For a sitting up baby, a soft fabric ball is basic gear that needs two players to connect in the very social give and take of games like roly poly: "Mommy is rolling the ball to you--oh, you got it! Now, roll the ball to Mommy!" These little back and forth games are a kind of social conversation that you share.
Similarly, a set of building bricks for toddlers needs modeling to start. "Let's make a long long road. How long can we make it? How high can we make a tower before it goes ka-boom?" Please, forget about the picture on the box. Reproducing models comes later. Building with your child gets them started. But taking over and building for you child diminishes important learning possibilities. Building develops children's dexterity, mathematical thinking, their problem solving skills, language and imagination. But first kids needs to explore how things go together. Making things that look like the picture on the box diminishes the learning possibilities that are built into construction play.
Wooden train sets with tracks are another kind of construction toy. Trying to make a roadbed of wooden tracks that connects is both the challenge and the fun. Play around together with the many ways to make a roadbed, modeling and discovering the multiple possibilities and then watch them go. Before long, you will be delighted with the kinds of flexible thinking kids are capable of using in creative ways. Forget about making a display table like the one in the store with tracks glued down. If you do that, you've lost most of the play values and learning involved in trial and error. Indeed that train will soon lose its interest.
Unfortunately, too many of the playthings made for kids do just the opposite of nothing--they do way too much with a push of a button while kids watch and the kinds of real learning that come from play are lost!