Okay, I was sharing some highs and lows of my trip through the Javits Center at the International Toy Fair:

High: Step 2 makes wonderful kitchen sets that children enjoy with their realistic features, and lots of opportunities for creativity and role-playing. Put on your chef’s hat and you have a choice of a “Custom Kitchen” with all the features of home, or a larger “Lifestyle Deluxe Kitchen” that includes 38 accessory pieces and plenty of storage when you are whipping up that yummy dinner. The “Life Style Walk in Kitchen” accommodates more children and would hold the interest of older preschoolers with a stool to pull up to the counter, the attached dining area, a microwave and a grill!

One of their new products is a 50’s diner with one side a short order cook area complete with the basket of french fries to dip in the oil, while the other side has a pretend jute box and two seats so the cook can pass your order through to your table! Kids are really going to enjoy this two sided play area and parents are going to be taken back to the 50’s.

Low: I saw too many American Girl wanna-bes with a surly edge and their “life story” books that were less than interesting.

High: I was introduced to line of toys based on a new children’s show on PBS called “WordWorld.” I was less impressed with the bucket toy sets for a barn and house because I didn’t think they had enough interesting pieces for extended pretend play, but the TV show, partly funded by the U.S. Department of Education, is definitely worth watching. The darling figures of a dog, ant, pig and frog have bodies made up of the letters that spell their animal. They have to solve life’s problems by building words that then “morph” into the object. Many emergent literacy skills are taught in a lively format as the dog has to make a cake in time for the party but only has “ake” to work with. He tries several different beginning sounds until the”c” completes “cake” and a cake appears. The pace is nice for a preschooler and I highly recommend you check out your local listings and watch WordWorld on with your child.

Low: I saw too many one-time, one-use toys where the child was to build a model or puzzle, and “educational materials” were included to read about what they made. Whether it was a puzzle that gets glued to cardboard after it is made or planets in the solar system, let’s give the kids something to have extended play. How about creating toys around that theme that become interactive with the child so learning can occur through experience, not reading a note-card on each item?

High: The “Amazing Baby Series” by Silver Dolphin has introduced an excellent book on baby sign language: Amazing Baby A First Guide to Baby Signing. The author, Katie Mayne, is a teacher of the deaf and founder of Tiny Talk UK. She has included all the essential information for teaching your baby to sign–when to start, how to do it and where to begin. The large simple photographs show both parent and child signing which adds to the wonder and fun. As a speech-language pathologist, I particularly appreciate the author’s categories of signs beginning with a few simple but essential signs like “more” and progressing to further categories of signs. This is obviously written by a therapist who know and works with moms and babies. I think I will end on a “high” today!

More tomorrow.