Lottie Dolls 2017

(Lottie Dolls $24.99 each) Once again Lottie dolls have arrived and we've already received happy reviews from one of our 7-year old testers. As we’ve said before, Lottie is one of those special collectables, only 7.5 inches tall, available with different hair color, styles and interests. Best of all the Lottie collection conveys positive messages about the many roles girls can play. While her clothing choices are vast, she is more than another fashion plate. Like girls today, she has interests as varied as karate, soccer, riding and the solar system. For 2017, look for two new dolls of color, Mia, a wildlife photographer with her camera and wearing rugged boots and clothes for her expedition

K’nex Lunar Launch Roller Coaster Set AWARD PENDING

(K’nex 59.99) With over 600 rods, connectors and track to assemble, this all new rollercoaster is powered by air rather than batteries. Step on the stomp pad to launch the rocket car through the galaxy. This is one of those construction sets that will challenge fine motor skills, patience and problem solving skills as builders follow the complex directions. This is not for kids who need instant gratification. Like Rome, it will not be built in a day. Not for beginners, this is marked for 9-14 year olds. Ages: Tweens Click here to purchase the product from Amazon.com

K'NEX Thrill Rides Web Weaver Roller Coaster Building Set AWARD PENDING

(K’nex $62.99) Dedicated K'nex Builders will get caught up in weaving this web of 430 rods, connectors and rails to assemble an amazing turning and twisting thrill ride. Once the building is done the rewards come when they turn off the lights and send the air-powered coaster car twirling on the glow-in-the-dark track that can be built vertically or horizontally. Designed for advanced builders, this is not a kit for younger kids. Like all K’nex kits it does challenge fine motor skills, patience, and problem solving skills. This is not for kids who need instant gratification. Like Rome, it will not be built in a day. Recommended for builders who are 9-14. Ages: Tweens Click here to purchase th

Nanea Mitchell, American Girl Be Forever 2017 Doll & Book

(American Girl $115) Here she is —the 16th American Girl historical doll. Nanea is a Hawaiian girl of the 1940s. According to her backstory, she’s growing up in Honolulu just after Japan attacks Pearl Harbor and WWII begins. The folks at American Girl hoped that in telling her story they could convey to girls of today the courage and aloha spirit of islanders and the home-front experiences they shared during World War Two. In honoring Nanea and the islanders of her day, they are supporting the American Red Cross's services to the Armed Forces by matching funds of donations made at any American Girl store. They are also providing $575,000 worth of signature dolls for children in time of crisi

LEGO Creator Mighty Dinosaurs 3 in 1

(LEGO $14.99) Build a T-Rex with mighty claws and toothy jaw and then take it apart and make a Triceratops or a Pterodactyl. This 3 in 1 set means you cannot build all three at one time. You build one and then take it apart and rebuild. Dinosaurs are always a favorite and the price tag on this set make it an excellent choice for the many birthday parties kids attend or small gifts when you have lots of nieces and nephews on your list. With 174 pieces, this is the right scale build for 7-12 Ages: Early School, Tweens Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Award 2017 Click here to purchase the product from Amazon.com

LEGO Creator 3 in 1 Park Street Townhouse

(LEGO $49.99) Our testers really like the modular build with rooms they can assemble and then move around in various ways. This very urban townhouse is the largest set in the collection. And like other 3 in 1 builds it comes with ideas for making it three different ways. It can be a two-story house with greenhouse on the side, One story with a garage and attic floor with enough windows for an artist’s studio, or a three-story town house with stoop, fire escape on the side and plenty of rooms inside. It comes with many detailed accessories that make it a true mini setting for dramatic play after the build. With 566 pieces, this is not for beginners. There is also a Modular Modern Home ($41) i

LEGO Boost

(LEGO $159.99) Coding is the big trend in toyland this season and introducing the power of coding begins earlier and earlier. This season, LEGO has created Boost, a five-model kit for kids of 7 & up. It’s designed to get younger kids into building, coding and playing with their models. You might call this the prequel to LEGO Mindstorms, an award-winning kit with challenges appropriate for older tweens and teens. Boost is similar, but also less complex. They can build Vernie the Robot—a moving and talking robot; the M.T.R.4 (Multi-Tooled Rover 4)—a rover with 4 tool attachments including a spring-loaded shooter; the Guitar4000—a musical instrument with pitch bend and sound effects; Frankie th

Fisher-Price Railway Pals Destination Discovery Train Set AWARD PENDING

(Fisher-Price $49.99) Designed for toddlers, this colorful plastic Thomas and Friends train set has sounds, songs, and phrases that are activated at various spots along the track. Interactive Percy has a light-up bumper that toddlers press to activate his sounds. There's a windmill that turns, a turntable to move Percy in another direction, cargo to load and unload, a crossing gate, and rollers on the Tidmouth Shed that turn on the lights. Set includes 40 track pieces that can be set up in multiple ways and it's loaded with 50 railway sounds, little songs and many phrases. Additional characters that can interact with the sound system are sold separately. Marked for 1-7 years, we’d say the sw

Hasbro furReal Roarin’ Tyler, the Playful Tiger

(Hasbro $129.99) Wait until you take Tyler, the tiger cub, out of the box and touch his silky tiger’s fur. Like so many furReal animals, Tyler is an animatronic pet that responds to sound and touch. Unlike most tigers, he is anything but scary. When kids roar at him he roars back while he bows. He responds when kids give him the little yellow bird toy he arrives with in the package. Tyler comes to life as he can move his back legs, eyes, ears, head, mouth and tail. He’s been programmed to respond with over 100 sound and motion combinations that make him totally interactive but still friendly and quite huggable. A good choice for older preschoolers and young early school age kids. Takes 4 C b

Fisher-Price Zoom ‘n Crawl Monster

(Fisher-Price $34.99) Here’s one playful monster with a big mouth that doesn’t close and two ways of playing. For starters your sitting up baby can drop balls into the bright orange monster’s head and watch how they spin around and pop out. It’s one of those set-ups for a favorite game of put and take or fill and dump that babies like to play again and again. Repetition is a way of gaining mastery of small motor skills and their budding notion of cause and effect. If I do this…that will happen. So this is a fun toy for babies who are sitting up but not yet on the move. Once baby is on the move, it will be even more fun to chase the monster, which can zoom, spin and spit out balls while it si

Just Play Disney Doc McStuffins All-In-One- Nursery AWARD PENDING

(Just Play $79.99) Doc McStuffins fans are likely to want the centerpiece of the McStuffins collection this season, an all in one nursery that has all sorts of accessories for checking their dolls’ health. It has a light and sound stethoscope to listen to baby’s heart. A scale to check weight, an otoscope to look into baby’s ears, a thermometer, a bandage for cuts, and a sticker dispenser when the check-up is done. Doc can record her findings on the portable computer that has a light-up screen, sounds and music (lullabies, of course.)This large piece of plastic will take up a fair amount of room, but it has a dual function as cradle that rocks with a mobile, designed for dolly’s naps. Requir

eeBoo Age of the Dinosaur Puzzles

(eeBoo ) Recognizing the typical dino-haulic’s love of all things dino, eeBoo has created something for every stage and age. For the preschooler, there’s 20-piece puzzle with big pieces that finish in an 11” X 15” picture with ten different dinos in the scene. This one comes packed in a box the size of your old animal crackers and even has a cloth handle.($5.99) 3 & up. For the next level up there a 64-piece dino image ($9.99) with a volcano in the background. The pieces are not as large, and the finished image will be a 15-inch square. For early school age kids who are ready to graduate to 100 piece puzzles, bring home the big box that finishes as an 18 X 27” image ($13.99) as pictured abov

eeBoo Alphabet Ball

(eeBoo $24.99) There’s no toy more basic than a ball and this one is designed for the youngest player. It’s made in bright multi-colored plush with embroidered letters. Don’t worry about teaching baby the alphabet…they are there just for decoration. Right now, baby will like the jingle bell inside that you’ll hear as the ball is rolled. Since the patches are faceted, it also does not roll as fast and far as a plain ball—that’s a good thing for beginning games of roly-poly, when you simply pass the ball back and forth while sitting face to face with baby. It’s also good for beginning crawlers since it will not go very far. Ages: Infants Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Award 2017

The Knish War On Rivington Street -- Order Now

Joanne's new book THE KNISH WAR ON RIVINGTON STREET - available now! (Alfred Whitman) official pub date is August 1st but you can order now. Selected by PJ Library , it's based on a true event that happened here in New York. Here's the first great review from Kirkus: “It's war to the last crumb of potato, cheese, and kasha on New York City's Lower East Side. The first knishery has opened in the early years of the 20th century on Rivington Street amid Manhattan's largely Eastern European Jewish immigrant community. The delicious, oversized dumplings are baked with a filling of potatoes, cheese, or kasha (buckwheat groats) and fill one's tummy with warmed-up heavenly heaviness. Benny's family

Hasbro Tickle Me Elmo

(Hasbro $30) Look who’s back in town? It‘s the original Tickle Me Elmo, the guy we introduced on the Today Show in 1996, so many years ago. I remember waiting in the Green Room to go on air and Bryant Gumbel kept teasing our holiday toy segment by squeezing Elmo’s foot or pressing Elmo’s belly. He had everyone in the studio laughing along. By the time I got down to the set Elmo was already the hottest toy of the year. Wherever Stephanie and I appeared on TV that year the producers would make sure we were bringing Elmo and leaving him behind, too. (Yes, back in the day, Stephanie was on the set, but I was doing the segments....happily she has taken over that job!) So, how do we feel about ha

Mindware Q-BA-Maze 2.0 Stunts

(Mindware $69.99) Marble mazes are always challenging construction sets that call for logical thinking, spatial reasoning, planning ahead, creative thinking, and eye-hand skills and this mega set is no exception. The set includes 108 cubes, 2 coaster tubes, 2 cascade stilts, 1 pivot trampoline, 1 marble vortex, 2 universal connectors and 30 marbles. (the latter means this is not a toy for a home with small children who still mouth their toys.) Kids can design a marble run with bounces, zig-zag turns, spiral swirls and other amazing pathways. It’s an open-ended toy that can be used in different ways each time kids begin. It’s hand on fun for engineers and architects of the future. Marked for

Lego Friends Heartlake Hospital

(LEGO $131.99) Our testers loved all the details, the big and little things that came with this miniature hospital setting. It’s a three-story module-build with see through walls; sections make it easier to assemble and rearrange. Ready for every kind of emergency, there’s a helicopter, stretcher, wheelchair and x-ray machine. Testers loved the baby nursery, the x-ray room with revolving scanner and lightbox and skeleton. Seems like the designer left nothing out—casts for fractures, sliding doors, vending machine, water cooler, fish tank…you name it. There are three figures plus a baby for the nursery. It comes with a bunch of stickers that kids can apply (with some help form guess who?) The

The Crazy Scientists Lab Optical Illusions

(The Purple Cow $21.99) One of an excellent series of S.T.E.M. kits designed with materials and experiments for parent and child to explore together. Optical Illusions challenges the way you will see things at first glance and encourage looking again. A well written booklet gives clear directions and follow-up explanations for many experiments. However, the print is fine (beyond solo reading by most 6s and 7s ) and the ideas are big and best shared as you work together. Also, keep in mind, these are not meant to be done all in a one day. Think of this as a good go-to for a rainy weekend or the answer to “I have nothing to do!” and “I’m bored” afternoon project. Almost everything you need co

Ann Williams I Love Unicorns Kit

(Ann Williams $24.25) Unicorns are hot right now, so this kit will be appealing to kids who like being trendy. The kit comes with six different projects that are totally do-able even by young crafters. A precut felt unicorn is ready to be stuffed and stitched together. Next comes the fun of making the unicorn a tail with a rainbow of colored yarns. There's a headband unicorn horns and ears that can be assembled into a headband and tiny pom-poms that are transformed into a key ring decoration for the backpack. There are dozens of colorful circles with patterns and glitter that get glued to a string for a delightful garland to decorate a room. And finally, there is a teeny tiny bottle of “unic

Outside the Box Creation: Texture Box

(Outside the Box $37) Using Lois Ehlert’s book Nuts to You, this activity kit is all about introducing the idea of using textures to make collage creations. The paperback book follows the adventure of a squirrel as it moves about. Ehlert’s art is done with collage materials—excellent examples for young artists. The kit includes some rubbing textures to use with the enclosed set of pastels. The activity brochure suggests looking for other rubbings to try with paper from the enclosed thick sketch pad or the four 9 X 12 heavy watercolor paper. There is a glue marker and a pair of scissors to cut out original rubbings and create unique collages. Such a nice way to combine books and art. This is

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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.