Now that I have come back down to earth after racing from one booth to another, and seeing all the fantastic new toys and games that amazingly creative people have produced, I want to share my top picks for the most exciting new products, that offer a language building, creative play value. Note, stay tuned for my full reviews when I have had a chance to get my littlest toy testers to weigh in on these toys and games too! This is the first in a series of blogs about what’s hot this season:


As I mentioned, I was privileged to be included in a preview of their new products the day before the Toy Fair, at their Bloggers’ Breakfast. Here are some toys to be on the lookout for:

FurReal Friends Furry Frenzies. Six furry animals that look like Littlest Pet Shop meets ZhuZhu pets scurried around so quickly that I had a hard time getting a picture of them! Add some accessories for flexible play, their “Scoot and Scurry City,” and watch the bunny, raccoon, puppy or hedgehog chase up the mountain, stop back in town at the Pet Boutique or visit the Ball Park. Playonwords value: Separate play vignettes offer opportunity for conversation by theme, and the many options to come and go through swinging doors and gates provides flexibility of play.

Play-doh Cake Makin’ Station. You know how I love Play-doh for open-ended creative play, building language and conversation. This toy has staying power celebrating its 50th anniversary of the Fun Factory. Take that fun into the bakery as you add toppings at three different “icing” stations. Kids can stamp out fun frosting patterns and add decorations and colorful toppings at subsequent stations. Playonwords value: The creative process invites lots of chat but take your finished creations and have a tea party. Extend the play using your newly made props!

Wheel Pals Mini-Critters. Kids love vehicles and animals so I think Playskool has a winning combination here. I especially liked the mini, squeezable pals, designed for toddlers’ little hands. Add the jungle, arctic or farm-theme playset tracks for fun and exploration. Playonwords value:  Big-eyed faces invite conversation and play, so kids can animate their animals.

Littlest Pet Shop Pet Sitters. Blithe and her friends are the first dolls to be introduced to “Littlest Pet Shop,” just in time to do some pet sitting. Much of what I do is teach parents how to select great toys to enhance language development and demonstrate how to maximize pretend play.  When I told a mother of a big fan of “Littlest Pet Shop” that the pet sitters had arrived, she said, “It’s about time they had some people!” Playonwords value: Add people to the mix and you have a new level of conversation and pretend play. Pets and people can teach and learn from each other.

I Can Do That Games:

I am constantly amazed at the creativity and ingenuity that is poured into each of this company’s games. They really get the concept of adding language value to their products.

What’s in the Cat’s Hat. Pick a series of cards with questions to ask to narrow down the solution. “Will it float in the bathtub?” Use some deductive reasoning to guess what object your opponent has hidden in the Cat’s Hat. It took me multiple clues to guess the tangerine (I even got to smell it!). Playonwords value: Look at all the language stretching you encourage as you ask questions, rule out solutions by categories (floats, smells) and make your best guess.

Konexi. Having successfully created games for the preschool set, this company introduced it’s new line for 8 years and up, called Zimbala. (Look it up, it’s a surfing word!) Konexi is a lively wooden set of letters that connect if balanced correctly. Score points by making connections for words. Playonwords value: Obviously this game promotes literacy, letter-sound recognition, and blending. It can be adapted to younger children. Stay tuned for my full review. Check out “Splotcha!” and “Thanks a Lot” too.

International Playthings:

Calico Critters Treehouse. Take your critters to a whole new height with this tree of fun than includes two Mango Monkeys, a hot tub, pagoda, water slide and lake for tons of pretend play fun. Enjoy the four spacious rooms, a hot tub, patio, and trap door to the water slide. Playonwords value: Imagination, imagination, talk, talk, talk. Need I say more?

Yookidoo. Giddy Up Gal and Pirate & Pal Play Sets. Yookidoo has become a favorite of kids and parents, with it’s inviting faces, bright colors and innovative activities. These gals and pirates are refreshingly new to the kids scene of clip along figures for baby to learn from. Playonwords value: Talk about all the sounds, textures, colors and faces to engage your newborn from the crinkly bandanas to the parrot and pony noises.

I Play. Shop ‘n Cart. This cart carries the whole food shopping experience in one basket on wheels. The set includes the play food, money, packages and cans with a removable grocery basket that fits into it’s own space on the bottom. Playonwords value: Great pretend play to encourage commentary and role playing during play.

I Play. My First Baby Doll. Pretend play comes wrapped up in a diaper bag for on the go fun. The soft, plushy baby doll comes with her teddy bear, bottle, bib, diaper, wipe case and changing pad/blankie. Playonwords value: Great pretend play potential for the younger set as they are just beginning to pretend. The items are soft and can be stored in the diaper bag.


This company carefully researches and introduces quality toys with a purpose.

If the Shape Fits eebee. eebee’s got some colorful shapes to share–slip them on his limbs or your own for some fun description and language learning. Playonwords value: vocabulary learning through flexible fun shapes that can be attached to most anything, extending the language concepts to be described. Also, check out eebee’s new baby cookbook coming out soon.


Organico Blocks. These light building blocks are made from bamboo and will be out this summer. I can’t wait to try them. Playonwords value: Kids can create anything with a good set of blocks. Add some little people or animal figures and you have a story starting.

Okay that’s it for part 1 of my Top Picks. Next installment is coming including Haba, Playmobil and Blue Orange.