“Baby Tea Party” by Earlyears is a fuzzy 6 piece set for baby’s first exploratory tea party. Full of varied textures, colors and sounds, each piece has a friendly face to invite investigation. With a teapot that sings, “I’m A Little Teapot,” two cups with the tea bag string hanging out, a croissant and a cupcake, this set provides lots to talk about and feed important language learning. Clearly the cupcake was a favorite as kids opened and shut the Velcro top to reveal a mirror to play a little peek-a-boo with themselves. All the careful details provide things for Mom or Dad to describe for their baby–the satin pink frosting, sprinkles, cherry and a leaf on the top and brown corduroy cupcake liner. Don’t put this toy away when your baby gets older because this set is a load of fun for pretend play for the toddler set.
Recommended Age: 12 months and older
The above is solely the opinion of the author. Both products were provided for review by International Playthings
Take a little twist on the usual ring toss by adding some angles, movement and music and the family fun is multiplied. Kids engage in a little problem-solving as they can vary the the configurations of the sticks with many combinations. Although easy to assemble, it requires a parent’s strength to attach each stick assembly to the next one, when little ones are playing. Our three and four-year-old testers started by standing over the sticks and dropping the rings, but advanced to stepping back a bit to toss. Sticks swirl at two different speeds so you can up the challenge. Add the language to your game by talking about where your ring landed–next to the orange stick, past the yellow stick or around the red one. Kids learn language best in the context of their everyday experience.
Suggested Age: 3 and up
The above is solely the opinion of the author. The “Twist and Turn Ring Toss” was provided for review by International Playthings.
Kids love to giggle at silly situations, so add to that the challenge of solving a problem using three unrelated object cards to tell your story. What’s a person to do if his ice cream cone is melting all over the place, and doesn’t have any napkins?” or you’re on the top bunk and have finished reading but don’t want to climb down to turn off the light? or your boat has sprung a leak and is sinking in the pond? Look in your hand of five object cards and find three of the same color to play. If you are stuck ,you can trade, draw or pass until you can lay down your three cards and start the story-telling. How can a boot, hairdryer and pencil help matters? Clever kids love to link the random objects –the crazier the better. My toy testers begged to play more.
Recommended Age: 7 years and up
The above is solely the opinion of the author. “Silly Situations” was provided for review by Discovery Bay Games.
I knew “Buzz Blast” was a favorite when kids begged to go first to share their answers as soon as a new challenge card was presented. Kids delighted in the timed task of coming up with original answers to four challenges: describing the differences between two pictures in “Check and Double Check,” filling in the blanks on “Silly Sentences,” answering abstract questions in “Brain Play” or blurting out their “Tongue Twisters.” Kids fed on each other’s creativity as they gave an answer, passed the Buzz Blast timer to the next player, and continued generating original answers until the buzzer went off—oops, you have to talk fast so you’re not left holding that buzzing buzzer! “My perfect picnic would include____ but no____, called up favorite foods, games and people, and even “making a new friend” to be perfect. Kids need to think in categories, describe, “How is a window different than a mirror?” use abstract reasoning, “Name a way you are like a pencil” and compare. Fun for the whole family, Buzz Blast gets the conversation moving while building critical language skills.
Recommended age: 7 and up
The opinions above are solely those of the author. “Buzz Blast” was provided for review by Discovery Bay Games
Hang on to your conductor’s hat for another clever, multi-leveled, game of fun, strategy and learning from I Can Do That! Games. Drive your favorite Chuggington train into the depot to load up your boxcars, making sure your cargo is in the proper order. Spin to determine what boxcar to open and select tiny cargo pieces based on their color, shape or number. Faced with several options, players must decide what category to pursue to sequence their cargo pieces, matching a chosen Vee card. Ensuring that different ages can play together, the Vee cards are as simple as a sequence of five colors, or as difficult as ordering a combination of 5 numbers, shapes and colors. Kids loved opening the game board boxcars to retrieve their cargo, requiring an element of memory as players try to remember what car holds which cargo. All bets are off when a player spins “Move the Train,” and the circular board rotates to mix up the boxcars and their loot. Language is strengthened while kids learn early categories of color, shapes and numbers, as well as use the words to sequence their cargo–first, second, third, last–and pick up some emergent literacy skills while matching and ordering game pieces. This high quality game is enhanced by the packaging, providing a detailed town around the inside of the box.
Suggested Age: 3 years and up
The above is solely the opinion of the author. “Chuggington Traintastic Cargo” was provided for review by I Can Do That! Games.
What could be better than a Folkmanis puppet? One they design that you can construct! Grab a frog, cat or bunny kit that includes the incredibly soft, plush body, fabric puppet parts and cut-outs, glue, easy instructions and ideas for your puppet show. The sturdy packaging opens up to re-use as your puppet stage, complete with a hole to pop your puppet out, and a background scene to color. Younger kids needed some help cutting out the parts and stuffing the mini-pillows into the bulging eyeballs but that makes for a fun family project. The sturdy mouth opens and shuts for a chatty puppet who has the stage to himself at puppet show time. Kids loved putting the bug on the frog’s tongue so he could talk with it wagging on the end or stick it on his hand to tempt you! Puppets provide wonderful opportunities for conversation, story-telling and make believe. Some children will talk more taking on the role of the puppet or get engrossed in dialoguing with a puppet character. These furry friends are a great addition to any family’s theatrical troupe. Let the show begin.
Recommended Age: 4 years and up
Suggested Retail Price: $14.49
The opinions expressed above are solely those of the author. The Frog “Puppet Kit” was provided for review by Folkmanis.
Who am I? An astronaut? Rain boots? Or a fried egg? Ask the right questions and you’ll discover the answer. The “Guesser” straps on the headband, while the rest of the players select a picture card and attach it to his forehead with a cute question magnet. Through a series of yes and no questions, the child determines what picture is on his forehead. Guess your picture card before you use up your 10 tokens from “no” answers. Asking and answering questions, thinking in categories and deductive reasoning all play into a great language building experience which is a load of fun. All the pieces fit into a small cartooned tin which makes this game ideal for travel.
Recommended Age: 5 years and up
Suggested Retail Price: $14.00
Available at Amazon: Click here
Say hello to Arc-a-teks, the newest members in the popular Superstrucks family. Pairs of friendly characters from the earth, sea and sky arrive in handy buckets, ready to construct. Rods, wheels, connectors and foam pieces combine to make your little characters who live in a pretend world of building and architecture. Bluper, Googie, Moonsail, Dread, Jeter and Strut drop in to help us build and create, with a back-story about famous buildings and architecture around the world. Kids assemble the characters, and receive a calling card on each robot, giving his residence–from Yankee Stadium to the Empire State Building. Simple directions, sturdy construction and lifelike futuristic characteristics, all contribute to fun creative play as children easily assemble the characters or invent their own with the 41-42 pieces in each bucket. Secret arc-a-codes unlock new characters revealed on their website. Learn the language of building on earth, sea or sky as you investigate their names–I discovered Jeter was a jet–read about their favorite wonder of the world, structures and personality on their cards. Kids easily integrated these figures into pretend play. One little tester decided to send his pal to Hawaii to surf, so he got paper and pencil to draw an airplane and cut out a surfboard to throw over his shoulder. Anything is possible with a little imagination.
Recommended Age: 3 years and up
Suggested Retail Price: $12.95
Available at Amazon: Click here
The above is solely the opinion of the author. Arc-a-teks were provided for review by WABA Fun LLC.
The newest baby toy to receive a PAL Award is “Rub-A-Cub Peek-A-Boo Blanket by Taggies. How can a blanket possibly be this soft? Here is my review:
The best baby toys teach through play and provide many opportunities for parents to describe features and actions of the toy while their baby explores it. Rub a Cub Peek-A-Boo Blanket has just the right ingredients for language learning, bonding and realizing that people exist, even when out of sight. Our bear cub blanket can play a game of peek-a-boo in several ways, varying the play and keeping baby interested. Cover your face in the traditional game and uncover with a surprise “I’m still here” exclamation of peek-a-boo, flop the bear’s head down and pop it up for surprise, or show your baby the bear’s back and turn the blanket around to reveal his face with a joyful peek-a-boo. Teaching that Mom or Dad is coming back, even if out of sight, is an important lesson for your baby. As your baby explores the textures, colorful images and varied taggies, describe what she is looking at–three yellow ducks swimming in a row, bees flying over a honey pot. or a giraffe and hippo on a yellow checkerboard. Your descriptions and use of a variety of vocabulary words helps build your child’s language. Kids found this incredibly soft blanket just plain fun for cuddling and taking a taste.
The above is solely the opinion of the author. “Rub-A-Cub Peek-A-Boo Blanket” was provided for review by Taggies.
Toddler toys are sometimes the hardest to recommend. Often we put adult features or themes on kids’ toys that they don’t even relate to but entices parents to buy them. One feature that I always look for is if there are separate people, animals or animated figures for your child to talk to. Vroomin’ Vehicles has just that. Here is my review:
Since toddlers want to be in charge of their play, Vroomin’ Vehicles are just the right venue for independent, exploratory play. The rounded, chunky vehicles are easy for little hands to grip, and send on a drive across the floor, providing realistic sound effects and lights. Kids figured out fast that if they press the steering wheel, headlights flash and “beep beep” warns the police are coming. Unlike so many toddler vehicles, this police car has a removable man with plenty of detail, including a tie, belt buckle and face to converse with. The ability to remove the policeman from his car allows for more open-ended play as a child can use the man independently to work on foot or as the driver. People drive conversation so get ready for some chat when they finally park their cars.
Recommended Age: 12 months and up
The above is solely the opinion of the author. Vroomin’ Vehicles was provided for review by International Playthings.