Mudpuppy Geography Puzzles

(Mudpuppy $16.99 each) There are three 70-piece puzzles in this new geography collection: A Map of the United States, A Map of Europe, and the Solar System. The pieces are small and challenging and the finished puzzle will be 23” x 16.5, so a good-sized work surface is needed where this can be solved over a few days and left to admire and explore after it’s done. Best of all, the pieces of the maps are shaped like the states, countries or planets and the shaped pieces are also labeled on the back. The States are labeled with their name and nickname and products of the states are pictured on the graphic side. On the map of Europe the countries are named in various languages and the planets ar

Mudpuppy Search & Find Rainforest Puzzle

(Mudpuppy $16.99) It’s a two-way puzzle. First you must put the 64 pieces together and it’s not so easy. The busy rainforest image is teaming with birds, butterflies, animals and even strange insects. The frame of the puzzle holds the clues for the second part of the fun. All the creatures found in the big puzzle are shown around the border of the puzzle. The object is to look at the frame and find each of the matching creatures in the big picture. There are forty things to find. We wish we knew the names of all of them. Maybe you can make that a third puzzle to solve by looking for the names of them in a rainforest book or online. The finished puzzle is 23 x 15.5, a good-sized puzzle that m

Learning Journey Match it! Counting Puzzles

(Learning Journey $10.95) For beginning counters you’ll want to start with just a few pairs of numeral and matching objects. There are thirty self-correcting puzzle sets and as the number of objects gets bigger the small objects get harder to count. But early school age kids love to count and matching numerals to the right set only works if they count the objects correctly. A fun game for solo play that is very satisfying for children who are mastering these basic concepts. Put the teens away until they are totally in control of the sets from 1-10. This is marked 3 and up, but the number concepts are way beyond threes. Ages: Preschoolers, Early School Years Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal

Mudpuppy Jumbo Puzzle Fairy Friends

(Mudpuppy 14.99) Clear a big space on the floor to work this jumbo size puzzle that will be a big 22-inch square when completed. With 25 big sturdy cardboard pieces, your preschooler will need help to get started. Give beginners strategies for solving puzzles; show him the pieces with smooth sides, the outside edges. Some puzzles have a frame, though this one does not. They will need to follow the illustration on the box and find the pieces that match the image. Younger kids will need help in discovering how to turn the pieces to find the right position. Keep in mind that doing the puzzle together does not diminish its appeal. Kids like to redo their puzzles multiple times as they gain a sen

Mudpuppy My Pop Up Dollhouse

(Mudpuppy $24.99) My Pop Up Dollhouse is ideal to take-along on a visit to Gram's or for Gram to keep in the closet for overnight visits. It doesn’t take the place of a real dollhouse, but it’s a small cardboard setting that opens and comes with a cast of storybook-like characters as well as very simple furnishings and stickers. There is no pre-made story except the ones that will come from your child's imagination. All the pieces fit back in the house shaped box when play is done. This is the kind of setting that encourages dramatic play, language, and story-telling—all important ingredients for reading. Marked 4-9. Ages: Preschooler, Early School Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Award 201

Mudpuppy Foil Puzzle — Robotics

(Mudpuppy $11.99) Enhanced with shiny foil, this 100-piece puzzle with a science fiction look of robotics will no doubt appeal to both boys and girls. The pieces are small and this is a challenging but satisfying puzzle. Giving beginners more complex puzzles is an important step in teaching them to find strategies for problem solving tasks. Puzzles like this also demand kids to stretch their stickability skills in the face of frustration—a life-skill that needs to be nurtured. Encourage them to use the visual clues on the box to find the top and bottom edges of the puzzle. Makes a well-priced and appealing gift for kids who go to multiple birthday parties. Also: A Foil Puzzle with Constructi

Mudpuppy My Very Long Puzzles, Animals of the World

(Mudpuppy $16.99 each) Clear the floor and let the fun begin. Thirty good sized pieces fit together in a three-foot long scene that features four animals in their unique habitats. There’s a two-piece penguin, a three-piece fox, a four-piece lion and a five-piece elephant. Kids can put the animals together separately as stand-alone puzzles, or fit the scenes together that will create the telling space for each animal (as shown). Give kids strategies for fitting the sky together on top and looking at the habitat details on the base pieces. Animals of the world is just one of the four My Very Long Puzzle line. Others feature Outer Space, Under the Sea, and Transportation, the latter features a

Mudpuppy Glitter Puzzle — Princess

(Mudpuppy $11.99) You’ve probably heard...“All that glitter is not gold.” In this case, that is totally true but the silvery glitter on this castle with princesses in every tower is likely be an added attraction. With 100-pieces this is not a simple puzzle. In fact, it’s a pretty challenging one with small pieces. The designs on the castle towers and the sky with flags will offer visual clues. Giving beginners more complex puzzles is an important step in teaching them to find strategies for problem solving tasks. Puzzles like this also demand that kids stretch their stickability skills in the face of frustration—a lifeskill that needs to be nurtured. The price is right for great birthday par

Little People Animal Rescue Playset

(Fisher-Price $39.99) This miniature setting is part of a “village” of sorts that can be connected to other settings or enjoyed as a stand-alone. Of all the settings in the new line we find this one the most interesting. There’s a firehouse with a firetruck and a firefighter, who gets the kitty down from a tree. On top of the firehouse there’s a light and a rescue helicopter ready to be activated when kids crank the wheel on the side of the building. A button activates lights, songs and phrases. At the shelter there is an upstairs and downstairs with a door that opens and a place for puppy to get clean in a tub upstairs. The set comes with two figures and two animals and limited sound effect

Knex Tinkertoy Deluxe

(K’nex $49.99) For a long time these classic building toys with rounds and rods were changed from the original wood to plastic. Talk about things going full circle, this year’s Tinkertoys have returned to real wood. The rods are color coded by length and kids can follow the designs or create their own. Choose the big 100 piece set or a smaller 65 pice set. Comes with suggested building ideas but also fun to use in an open ended way. Marked for 3 and up, but we think 3s will have trouble getting the rods into the rounds and following the building ideas will be far beyond them. The constructions are quite abstract and require a kind of symbolic thinking, something that comes as they get older.

Mindware Unbored Time Capsule

(Mindware $29.99) The abundant contents of this kit are well-chosen and include containers from tubes to bags, boxes, envelopes, tags, and labels. But the best part of the kit is the big idea of learning to think like a historian. The kit includes a time capsule questionnaire and a clipboard (for an official look) so kids can interview family and friends and include their thoughts in the time capsule. There is an adjustable date stamp to record every item accurately as well as photo protectors, so images of those interviewed can be included. We suggest you read though the suggestions with the younger historian. There’s a lot of good information in the booklet, but it is in fine print and mig

Gamewright Gonuts for Donuts

(Gamewright $14.99) On the surface this looks like a game of chance where players get to bid on the donut of their choice and hope they will be the only one calling out their bid. If two people shout out the same number neither gets the donut. Okay, that sounds easy enough. However, once you get into the game a little further you discover that there is strategy involved and choosing certain donuts can be more or less rewarding in the final scoring process. Be forewarned, scoring does take a bit of time and math. The object is to end with the highest score, but that is not just a matter of having the most cards. Gonuts for Donuts is a game that makes you think as you get to know the highs and

Hasbro Simon Star Wars Darth Vader

(Hasbro $24.99) Just push the silver button and any Star Wars fan will grin and want this, if just for the sound effects! A Darth Vader mask that not only challenges a single player to a game of Simon, but plays the Imperial March and the Star War Main Theme with each push of the light buttons. As the package says, “Where Darth Vader leads, you must follow.” No doubt about that. You have probably just found the perfect gift for any number of people on your list from 8 to 80+. Ages: Tweens Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award 2017 Click here to purchase the product from Amazon.com

Mindware E-I-E-I-Go!

(Mindware $19.95) E-I-E-I-Go! is a dice game with lots of quick rounds—so there are multiple opportunities to win. The dice have animal faces rather than dots. At the start of the game one die is placed in the red plastic silo. One player shakes the silo to see which animal’s face everyone will need to match to win the round. Now all players roll their own three dice, trying to be the first to roll a match to the one in the silo. Each time they make a match that die is removed. Players race to be the first to roll all three die to match the silo animal and then make the animal’s sound and collect a cardboard animal token. The first player to collect four tokens gets a ribbon and wins the gam

Smart Games Jump'IN

(Smart Games $21.99) A brainteaser game with rabbits that need to jump into the five rabbit holes without getting caught by the fox. But it’s tricky. Rabbits can only move by jumping over a mushroom or fox. And the fox can slide forward and back to block the way. Played solo, this is a good travel game or one for a waiting room. It comes with 60 increasingly challenging images in a booklet that has solutions in back if you get stuck. The game board has a snap on lid that holds all the pieces in one place. 7 & up. Ages: Early school, Tweens Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award 2017 Click here to purchase the product from Amazon.com

Mindware Unbored Carnival Kit

(Mindware $29.95) Having run a number of backyard carnivals for birthdays and other fun occasions, we have to say this box would have come in handy. True, your kids can probably dream up most of the suggested activities in the box, but this is a good starter set. Whether they are going to run a small charity event to raise money for a good cause or entertain friends or family at a party or reunion, this kit comes with an idea booklet, a festive carnival sign, tickets, coupons for rewards (that might be traded for candy or other treats.) It also has a bean bag and the box itself contains a cut out target to set up for the game. There are rings for a bottle toss (you’ll have to fill soda bottl

Wonder Forge Linked Up Game Despicable ME3

(Wonder Forge $15.55) Our testers are fans of the Minions, so they enjoyed linking them on the playing board with color-coded links of differing sizes. This takes some strategy as players draw cards and must select the right size link to connect the images shown. To play with skill requires visual skills to connect the images and to block your opponent. It’s easy to learn and entertaining, especially for fans of the Minions. They say 5-8. We think the upper range of early school years will like it best. Ages: Early School Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Award 2017 Click here to purchase the product from Amazon.com

Horizon Just My Style Emoticon Scrapbook

(Horizon $19.99) For the young scrapbooker, this beginner's kit comes with a 30-page scrap book that's just waiting to be filled with colorful memories. It comes with 1,200 trendy scrapbooking accessories — stickers, letters, frames, full page images, scissors, tape, and lots of creative ideas. It's a good summer choice for keeping school skills in gear as they write entries and design pages. Makes a great birthday party gift for under $20. Ages: Early School, Tweens Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award 2017 Click here to purchase the product from Amazon.com

Hape Trail Rider

(Hape $99.99) Finding a ride-on that’s low to the ground and not tippy can be challenging. Hape’s Trail Rider has a broad enough wooden seat and double wheels – both back and front - to make it a fine first ride-on for toddlers. Unlike most foot-to-the-floor ride-ons that only go forward or back, the Trail Rider can be steered with ease. The front wheels respond to the motion of the handle bars, making it possible to turn and steer where the driver wants to go. It has plastic wheels with treads so it may not move as smoothly as rubber treads would, but it’s better than most in that respect. Ages: Toddlers Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award 2017 Click here to purchase the product from Am

Gamewright Think ‘n Sync

(Gamewright $15) Subtitled the “Great Minds Think Alike Game” because the only way to win points is to have the same answer as your opponent. You need at least three players: one player reads a question card and counts 1-2-3; then players both answer at the same time. If they have the same answer they both get a point. There are four questions on each card and then a new reader takes a turn while the old reader and one other person respond to the questions. Players need to think quickly. In part, this is a trivia game, although many of the questions are more about opinion or preferences, for example: Name an ice cream flavor or name a fast animal. Good fun for 3-8 players, ages 12 & up. Ages

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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.