The Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Awards
Educator, parent & kid testing goes into each product considered for an Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Award. We don't accept ads or charge "review fees" from manufacturers or publishers, so you know you're always getting independent opinions. We have awards for the best toys, books, videos, and audio for kids.
 
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Finding Books that Fit
Tags:
Posted: 2014-09-12 09:16:59

Choosing books for beginning readers is all about finding books they can read with ease. If they have to sound out or wait for help with every other word, save that book for later. Select books that build confidence and allow kids to develop fluidity and their desire to read. Here are three new titles that do exactly that.

Sharpen up those School Skills
Tags: school skills
Posted: 2014-08-23 09:32:49

As children return to the classroom they sometimes need a little time to reboot-- to wake up skills that have not been used for two months you may need a push of the restart button. Here are some entertaining ways to restore what was there.

Strategies for Holding onto Skills
Tags: Math, numbers, summer,
Posted: 2014-08-23 09:28:24

You don't need to bring home workbooks or flashcards to keep them nimble with numbers. In fact, either of those solutions are likely to be both dreaded and regretted. Giving kids comfort with math begins with everyday experience with numbers. Think of all the ways you use numbers; on the phone, prices in the grocery store, numbers on buildings. How about cooking together and using recipes that call for counting and measuring? Recipe too big, how abouot cutting it in half? Showing kids how math is needed in everyday life makes sense. Have your preschooler help with setting the table: how many forks do you need? How many napkins? Playing scrabble or monopoly with older kids? Give them the job of score keeper and banker. Along with classics like Dominos with young players and Yahtzee with school age kids Here are some more playful choices that will enhance their math skills.

The perfect gifts that won't break the bank
Tags: best birthday presents, Today Show
Posted: 2014-06-25 10:52:14 By: by Stephanie Oppenheim

When you add up birthday party presents for all of your child's classmates, friends, teammates and relatives - it can get overwhelming and expensive.  Add multiple kids to the equation and it can put a real strain on your budget. On the other hand, you want to give a memorable gift. Here are some of our favorites and several suggested by our testing families. The idea is to give a gift that matches the birthday child's interests without breaking the bank. Click here to see our best birthday present picks. Stephanie shared many of our picks on NBC's TODAY SHOW on June 25th.

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Blue Chip Choices
Tags:
Posted: 2014-06-08 13:06:52

Toy shopping is often a trip down memory lane. While looking for something new we often come upon something old that we loved as kids. In fact, toy store shelves are loaded with classics that have been loved by generations. We're not talking about Antique Roadshow toys, but the everyday playthings that you, your parents, and even your grandparents played with--back in the day.

Remember the smell of Play-doh? The thrill of building a ferris wheel with your Tinkertoys? Of getting both Boardwalk and Park Place in Monopoly? Ah, those were the days! But do you really know how old were you when you enjoyed these and other classics the most?

Classic toys are usually safe bets. After all, they have stood the test of time. But bringing them home at the right time is key. Here are some updated Blue Chip choices for kids with a guide to bringing them home at the right time.

Tags: games
Posted: 2014-04-30 14:24:59

Tired of the same old games you've been playing all winter? Good news! The new games for 2014 are arriving just in time for Spring.  Click here to see a list of our new favorites.

Tags:
Posted: 2014-03-27 14:16:03 By: by Stephanie Oppenheim

Normally we review other people's books. Today it's my turn to give a huge shout out for Joanne's latest picture book!  The Prince's Breakfast (Barefoot Books) focuses on a story that so many families can relate to - the prince doesn't like to eat anything! Joanne takes the Prince and his royal family on a fun globe-trotting adventure to find a solution. The book is beautifully illustrated by Miriam Latimer.  You may remember the Prince, he had a hard time getting to sleep in The Prince's Bedtime.  And to make things even better, the audio that comes with the book is narrated by Downton Abbey's Hugh Bonneville. To order your copy click here.

a game plan
Tags: math games, math books,
Posted: 2014-02-25 07:54:41 By: Joanne Oppenheim

Math and Science skills--or the lack of them--continue to make the news. While educators debate what to do about it, what can parents do? First things first, avoid turning your child into a math phobic worrier with dreaded flash card sessions and extra workbooks. Forget about pre-teaching kids in hopes of giving them a leg up. Your way of doing math may involve techniques that are very different from current classroom methods. Click here for positive ways to help your child become a math whiz: 

Creator of BrickStix
Tags: BrickStix, Greyson MacLean, Meet the Toymaker
Posted: 2014-01-26 22:35:23 By: by Stephanie Oppenheim

Meet Greyson MacLean, a toy industry veteran at the age of 14. Greyson is the creator of BrickStix.  If you have a child who plays with LEGO, you probably know about these removable cling stickers that allow kids to customize their creations.  The BrickStix also require and help develop fine motor skills while they're playing-  a huge plus.  Read my interview with Greyson.

 

Founder of A Girl for All Time
Tags: Meet the Toymakers, Dolls, Frances Cain, A Girl for All Time
Posted: 2014-01-23 16:28:10 By: by Stephanie Oppenheim

How'd you get into toys? The number one question I'm always asked once I tell people what I do for a living. For me, it's easy-- it's all about my mother.  She's been writing about kids and play since the 80's, while I was in law school. Then I became a parent and toys took on a new importance. But it does make you wonder? Something so obviously playful about toys. Of course, it's a business - but it does take a certain sparkle in the eye to leap into a world where your target consumer is a child. So we started the Meet the Toymaker series to find out how other people found their way to toyland.

It's no secret, I didn't play with too many dolls as a child. My brothers' Hot Wheels were much more appealing to me. That said, I think I would have really loved having any one of the very special dolls from A Girl For All Time.  This newcomer to the doll aisle is a British-based company founded by Frances Cain. Read our interview with Frances to learn about her journey!

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