Making Things Happen
Toys That Empower Your Baby and Toddler
Tags: Making things happen, cause and effect, babies, toddlers
Posted: 2012-09-27 13:45:21 By: Joanne Oppenheim




2012 Award
Chicco Aquarium Spinner
(Chicco $19.99 Score: )

A new version of a classic spinning toy that is easy for baby to activate. Press down on the big green knob to make the colorful fish spin in the see-through dome. The centerpost is silvery and reflects the moving fish. There's a musical feature that may be too intrusive, but the good news is, you can turn off the sound and still get the action. This is one of those toys that give sitting up babies a sense of power by being able to make things happen. 6 months and up.

Age: Infants. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on




2012 Awards
Hape Little School Bus
(HaPe $10 Score: )

Beep, beep! A little wooden yellow school bus with finger holes for easy grasping. It has no sounds, except the sounds you and your little one provide. Scaled for early games of pretend, this is a good choice for crawling babies 10 months & up.

SNAP: The finger holes on this little vehicle makes it easier for grasping than others. 

Age: Infants, Toddlers. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on




2012 Awards
Little Tikes Discover Sounds Activity Garden
(Little Tikes $79.99 Score: )

Here's a little setting that will be enjoyed as a baby grows from crawling to toddling and even beyond. A soon-to-be three spent a happy time testing all the bells and whistles of the Activity Garden. It is not so much about gardening as it is about making things happen. There are doors to open and close and window with built-in ball run and shutters for games of peek-a-boo. The doorbell has a three buttons that activate three pleasing sounds. A crawl through archway will be fun for active play. There is a mailbox shape, movable bugs to slide, pictures to click, and a detachable three-language phone with buttons that say the numerals baby presses in English, French or Spanish. This is a wonderfully inviting play setting with a terrific variety of activities for fine and gross motor skills. You can convert the four-walled setting into an open one, but we found it is less stabile in the opened positions. This does require assembly, but it went together with relative ease.  It is a big toy, almost 34 by 25 inches.  If you have the room it will be used for a reasonably long time.

SNAP: A good choice for active play that can be enjoyed by children with physical challenges, even if they can not stand. A variety of play modes here that empower kids to make things move and sound.

Age: Infants, Toddlers. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on




2012 Awards
ELC Stacking Faces
(International Playthings $14.99 Score: )

A wonderfully designed set of four stacking cups with amusing faces clipped to the side. Use them for nesting, stacking, pouring and sprinkling. Each of the cups has sprinkling holes that make them ideal for experimenting with in the bathtub. They are wider than most stacking cups and easier to grasp by the rims or faces. Also, thanks to the holes in the bottom they are safe and will not pose a hazard that solid cups can do. They are also of unusual sizes; the tallest being the inside one and almost transparent for looking through. The bottom cup is 4 inches wide and the set stacks to 6 inches high.  These will also make good beach toys for sifting sand or water. 6 months-2years. 

SNAP: Big and easy to handle cups that empower kids to stack, nest and best of all use for fun in the tub.

Age: Infants, Toddlers. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on




2012 Awards
Cruise and Groove Ballapalooza
(Fisher-Price $60 Score: )

Finding toys that are just right for sitting up babies and toddlers can be difficult. The Cruise and Groove Ballapalooza fills the bill.  You'll need space for this large "making something happen" toy that both older babies and toddlers will enjoy exploring.  There are two different ways for the big balls to go from the top of the structure to the base. Of course at first, you'll be making it happen--but soon enough your toddler will enjoy making the balls drop again and again.  The small green "gate" will be another aspect of the toy your child will enjoy pushing back and forth.  There is also an arch for babies to go under.  There is music that happily you can turn off and still enjoy the toy. A definite plus in our book. The tripod design of the base makes the toy steady but of course a cruising baby will still need a watchful hand. Our older toddler twin testers loved how the ball could be placed at the top so that it bounces off a platform onto the ramp: "high marks for innovative design." Comes with 8 oversized balls so if two end up under the sofa, you're not out of business. 

SNAP: This is big enough to satisfy slightly older kids who may not have the dexterity for more complex ball runs and tracks. Though our testers found this pretty steady, you may want to stabilize it with some tape to the floor. This is not just a good social toy that two or more can use, it is a great hands on setting for dexterity, tracking, color concepts and language.

Age: Infants, Toddlers. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on




2012 Awards
Fisher Price, Thomas The Train: Steam 'n Speed R/C Thomas
(Fisher-Price $44.99 Score: )

Imagine a train engine that sends up blue steam! Really! Kids control the motion with a child-friendly radio controller that lets them activate the steam and send Thomas rolling backwards or forward. Thomas also chugs and whistles and says a few phrases. The steam is created with cold water - like a cold-water vaporizer; so there is no danger. It needs 4 AA batteries to run.  2 & up.

SNAP: As remote vehicles go, this is less complex than most. Yet, there is a sense of power to be gained as children gradually come to master and recall the buttons to push that make this little engine go. The magic of the blue smoke make this a toy that will wow a wider age range of players...probably even the  grown ups in the room.

Age: Toddlers, Preschool. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on




2012 Awards
ELT Click-Clack Caterpillar
(International Playthings $59.95 Score: )

A two-sided toy with fast click-clack segmented car that runs down the track on one side and a ball run on the other side. The ball run moved slower for tracking, while the little segmented car whizzes on down. Toddlers love the repetition of this kind of toy. They can play this with sound effects, music, or with the sound switch off. Just the motion of the car or balls produces sounds. There is also a most welcome volume control switch. A great 1st birthday gift! 12 months-2.

SNAP: A good choice for visual tracking, since the ball run moves slower than most. This is one of those toys that develops dexterity as well as hands on experience with cause and effect.

Age: Toddlers. 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.