Three Great Games for Fun Summer Family Time

What do gelato cones, blue plate specials and elephant trunks have in common? All three are featured in a batch of fresh new games that are going to tickle players in your family. This season there are many clever and fresh game formats that work on important learning skills while players laugh as they play and learn. Here are a few of our testers' favorites. Blue Orange Tricky Trunks Game (Blue Orange Games $24.99) Using the playful elephant trunks to pick up colorful marbles shown on the playing cards, kids race to be the first to fill their trunks. Game play involves visual discrimination as well as dexterity. Noticing details as they look at the game cards must be followed with speed and

Corolle Mini Bath Dolls

(Corolle $17 each) For tub time choose one of these little eight-inch multicultural dolls. Dressed in a bathing suit that does not come off, these lightweight dolls are a nice handful for early pretend play in the water or out. The bald baby dolls have painted on faces and are filled with material that floats and dries quickly. Unlike jointed dolls these will not take on dirty bath water in their joints, water that stores unhealthy bacteria. Nice, too that these little dolls come in a variety of skin tones and facial features. Ages: Toddlers Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award 2017 Click here to purchase the product from Amazon.com

Vtech Go! Go! Smart Wheels Emergency Vehicles 3-pack

(Vtech $19.99) Bring home one little easy to activate Go, Go vehicle or a little fleet of emergency vehicles. This three-piece set includes a firetruck, police car and ambulance. Push down on the top or press the light up window and they talk, sing and make automotive sounds. Good news, there is a sounds-off button if you prefer. These are part of a collection that includes a raceway track set and other vehicles. But the vehicles run well off track. There is also a construction set as well as individual cars and trucks. Each vehicle takes two AAA batteries. Ages: Toddlers, Preschoolers Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Award 2017 Click here to purchase the product from Amazon.com

Kathe Kruse Waldorf Emelie Doll

(Kathe Kruse $ 89.99) Finding a red-headed doll just got easy — here’s 15-inch Emelie, a huggable fabric doll with a knit body, white knit socks, red and white knit pants and a blue and white blouse trimmed with rick-rack. Best of all her features are stitched on and her little round face is topped with bangs and curly bunches of red yarn hair, tied with polka dotted bows that match her blouse. She is a huggable keeper for toddlers. She is unusual but comes with a steep price tag for a fabric doll. Ages: Toddlers, Preschoolers Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Award 2017

Kathe Kruse, Mini Grabbing Dog, Lamb, or Cat

(Kathe Kruse $12.95 each) A perfect handful of a doll that toddlers will like carrying in their fists, take-along bags, and stuffed-in-a-pocket. Made of printed cotton fabric, these sweet animals have stitched features and will be added to miniature settings for early pretend play. Charming little creatures for stocking stuffers or party favors. Ages: Infants, Toddlers Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Award 2017

Build or Boom Game

(Proto.Toys $24.99) Our testers loved this two player block stacking construction game. Players build their structures at the same time, following the same blueprint card. It's a race to finish first because when you do, you can send your opponents construction toppling over. Players each have a platform that is attached to a hose. As players build, their hose and pump sits with their opponent. First one done gets to press the boomer that topples the other player's building and wins the round and one point. Winner is the one who gets ten points first. The game comes with lots of playing cards for variation and more can be found online at the company's site. It's marked 4 & up but we think th

Kid Made Modern Studio in a Box

(Kid Made Modern $40) What a gift! The Studio in a Box has everything needed for a bonanza of creative activities. A marvelous variety of supplies are packed inside a sturdy and handsome two-layered cardboard carrying case with a metal handle and latches to close securely. Best of all, with so many creative choices inside this will be used for school projects, crafting, The art supplies include 16 colored pencils, 3 drawing pencils, 10 washable markers, 10 acrylic paints, 12 watercolor paints, 3 crayon disks, a pencil sharpener, an eraser, five brushes, including a fan shaped one. And that's not all. There are 2 canvas boards, one water color paper pad with ten sheets, and one mixed paper p

Kid Made Modern Winter Wonderland

(Kid Made Modern $20.29) An interesting craft kit with 15 paintable animal and tree forms of wood. Science it's not. They have penguins and polar bears in the same package and the penguins are as big as the bears. I suppose you could make a point of teaching the difference between the Arctic and Antarctica with this mixed-up set of creatures. What we like a lot is that the pieces all come with stands and once they are painted, they can be moved around for dramatic play or simply displayed on a tabletop. The kit includes pairs of large and small polar bear, wolves, and penguins, plus a snowman, many tree forms and stands that they fit on. It comes in a sturdy storage box with 12 small pots of

Kid Made Modern Wooden Robot Kit

(Kid Made Modern $40) Open the sturdy gift box and imagine your child's thrill in finding three articulated wooden robots that are ready to be painted and decorated with assorted stickers. The kit includes three sheets of colorful stickers, 12 pots pf paint in assorted colors, and two brushes-on small round and one medium. There's no right or wrong way to decorate these robots, indeed each will be a unique creation. Once done, the fun has just begun. These very posable figures will become treasured play characters for pretend scenarios. 6 & up. Ages: Early School Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award 2017 Click here to purchase the product from Amazon.com

Toys to Make Bath Time Less of a Battle

Bath time doesn't need to be a battle. Having some entertaining toys can make getting into the tub fun. Getting clean is the least of the possibilities from your toddlers point of view. As they splash, sprinkle and pour, water play can sooth the reluctant bather and lead to interesting “scientific” discoveries about the nature of water and things that float or sink. Here are a few new choices: Hape Little Splashers Happy Buckets Set (Hape $15.50) For bath time, beach or pool, this set of three colorful buckets is ideal for watery experiments. The red and white polka-dotted bucket has a built-in ball and sprinkler system; the orange and white striped one has a simpler sprinkler, and the green

Playmobil Cruise Ship

(Playmobil $99.99) Forget about pirate ships and doll houses. For 21st century sophisticates-kids who vacation on the high seas, here's the top of the line--a cruise ship with guest room and bathroom on the lower deck that opens for playable ease. There's a staircase for getting to the upper deck and a refillable swimming pool with a slide. Grab a deckchair and relax or have a snack in the restaurant. For kids who have done the cruise scene, this is the way to recreate the event. We're not sure how much it will appeal to kids who are not living the la dolce vita. That said, putting the ship together will be a good parent-child project. It includes three adult figures, two child figures, a li

Playmobil Summer Fun Surfer Pick up with Speedboat

(Playmobil $24.99) Play figures can hang ten with the surfboard or race through the waves in the slick little speedboat. The boat rides securely on a trailer until it gets to the boat launch. To add to the fun, the speedboat has an underwater motor that runs on battery (not included). This set includes two figures, a pickup truck, speedboat, underwater motor, boat trailer, surfboard, beach bags, and other accessories. Requires 1 x AA battery By the way, you can add an underwater motor which is sold separately. Marked 4-10, we think the sweet spot is in between, say 5-8. Ages: preschoolers, early school years Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Award 2017 Click here to purchase the product from

Playmobil City Life Ice Cream Truck

(Playmobil $19.99) It wouldn’t be summer without the merry sounds of the ice cream truck and all the goodies kids everywhere look forward to enjoying. This 64-piece set features a creamy colored truck with pink and blue graphics. It has a yummy looking ice cream cone on top and a side window that opens for sales. For dramatic play, there's an ice cream vendor and two kids plus a table, and lots of accessories for making thick shakes, cones and ice cream sundaes. 4+ Ages: preschoolers, early school years Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Award 2017 Click here to purchase the product from Amazon.com

Playmobil Family Fun Island Juice Bar

(Playmobil $54) For families who vacation in the tropics this 120-piece Island Juice Bar will be a familiar setting. Kids can extend their tropical memories or dreams of a warm beach with this pretend setting--no blue sky and water included There’s a bit of plastic beach, a water slide, and a plastic platform with a juice bar where drinks are served with a bit of shade. The set comes with palm trees, two adults and two kids, a cockatoo, sea turtle, flamingo, and accessories for the bar. Like others in the collection the figures are multicultural. Ages: preschoolers, early school Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Award 2017 Click here to purchase the product from Amazon.com

Playmobil Family Fun Camping Lodge

(Playmobil $59.99) Calling all campers! Assemble this A-frame camping lodge as a parent-child project. When it’s completed the fun just begins. It becomes a miniature setting for dramatic play as the multicultural play figures, an adult and three campers get to cook-out over the BBQ pit. They can rig a zip-line for true adventure, play archery, soccer, eat, sleep and be merry. The lodge that has a shower, johns, and sinks as well as beds, table, seats, dishes, pots, pans, food and even a guitar for campfire music. This is just one part of the Family Fun collection, with smaller sets, sold separately: tents or an SUV with canoe on the rooftop. It has 136 pieces and is marked for kids 4+. Ages

Hape Automatic Train Bell Signal

(Hape $9.99) Add-ons for your child's wooden train set will spark new interest in putting the tracks together again. Hape’s Automatic Train Bell Signal will fit right in between any two tracks and as trains roll by the bell will ring. Place it before the car crossing to warn approaching vehicles or walkers. Makes a nice birthday gift to refresh your investment in railroading. Ages: Preschoolers Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Award 2017 Click here to purchase the product from Amazon.com

Starpath Dolls & Acessories

(Starpath $79 each) Finding multi-ethnic dolls used to be a challenge. Now there are many wonderful choices with this Starpath collection among the newest. Choose Morning Star with blonde hair, Shining Star with dark hair, Wishing Star, a girl of color, or Wandering Star with an Asian look. You can personalize a story book which is then produced for your child and will be delivered on an e-reader or a paperback. Their website includes a nice variety of outfits for the dolls—from party dresses to pj’s, all sold separately $24-26 each. These are 18 ½ inches tall with soft huggable bodies and brush-able hair. There’s even an Indian Sari for special occasions. These are marked 3 & up, but are re

Smartmax My First Animal Train

(Smartmax $32.99) Kids can assemble this plastic train with magnetic rods that connect the front and backend of the bright green engine, and three cars. Then the cars click together with the large magnetic balls that fit between them. Similarly, the animals, two elephants, and a lion are fitted together with stout magnetic rods and the engineer stands in the locomotive on a marked foot pad. Smartmax has created a versatile train set that needs no tracks. However, we found that kids have difficulty pulling the train cars apart, once they are built. The powerful magnetic rods require a lot more hand strength to separate than to put together. Also, the blue cage car (for the lion, no doubt) nee

Smartmax My First Safari Animals

(Smartmax $21.99) A set of six safari animals— a hippo, lion, giraffe, crocodile, elephant and rhino, that do not come out of the box ready for action. Each creature comes in two parts that are joined by a cylinder with magnets embedded at both ends. Push them together and use them for dramatic play. They will make colorful props for blocks. Kids will no doubt like creating their own crazy critters, putting a lion head with a crocodile tail. These are big enough for toddlers to use safely and colorful enough to have visual appeal. They do stand up when assembled properly. Marked 1-5, we’d say the sweet spot for these is closer to two and a half and up. We doubt they will be of interest for l

The Kind Dolls: Hope, Fair, and Grace

(The Doll Kind $59.00 each) Can a doll teach kindness? Maybe not, but we like the big kind thought that fosters the idea. There are three dolls in the collection: Fair, Hope, and Grace. Each 18” doll comes with a packet of cardboard coins to be given away to spread kindness to a friend, your mom or dad, someone who is sitting alone at lunch or for someone who is ill. The dolls are brightly done up with yarn hair and patterned fabric bodies and clothes. They look a lot like dolls that you would have seen at a craft show in years past. For each doll sold the company plans to spread the kindness and give a doll to a child less fortunate. We think preschoolers would like the dolls, but the conce

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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.