Magicube Safari Park

(Geomag $29.99-$39.99 ) Here’s a brand-new take on classic puzzle/cubes. These plastic cubes have a rattle sound, that’s the sound of the magnets safely sealed inside. That makes them stick together without any worry of exposed magnets that could go in a mouth. For toddlers just discovering the magic of cubes that stick together will be interesting. But the 14- piece Safari Set ($39.99) and the eight-piece Polar Animal set ($29.99 ) are going to be a lot more interesting for preschoolers. The sides of the cubes have pictures that fit together to form four different safari or polar animals. This is like the old wooden cube puzzles done in a frame, in which you turn the cubes to find the image

Linkt Spinning Halos Jewelry Craft Kit

(Neat-Oh $21.99) With supplies to make five necklaces and earring sets, the links come in varying sizes and colors and there is a “tool” for laying out the design. The bendable metal rings are relatively easy to open and close and the directions are clear. We found watching the tutorials on You Tube helped answer some of our initial questions. Crafters will be using their fine motor and attention to detail as they follow the pattern, either their own or those provided in the kits. We also liked the more complex bracelet kits and the Athena Necklace Kit, the first to feature an Asian mom and daughter on the packaging. Ages: Tweens Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Award 2017 Click here to pur

Linkt Hoops and Loops

(Neat Oh! $19.99) Our 12-year old tester gave this a 10, the highest possible score in our rating system! It’s a new craft kit that will make 20 pairs of earrings by linking together the metal and silicone loops. The kit includes totally clear instructions as well as online videos if more visual instructions work best for your young jewelry maker. This kind of kit gives fine motor skills a workout along with visual-spatial skills. They are not difficult, but like all craft kits they require patience and stick-to-it-ive-ness— important skills for learning tasks that are not instantaneous. This is one of several kits from Linkt that end up with wearable finished products that tweens especially

Hasbro Play-Doh Touch AWARD PENDING

(Hasbro $24.99) Our initial test reports on this toy are diametrically opposed. One parent who uploaded the app to her phone found that the kids lost interest quickly and disliked having to do every step since it was not something the kids could do on their own. Though they continued to enjoy the play-doh, her preference is to skip the technology and just bring home the play-doh. On the flip side, another test family is now playing with play-doh more in order to see it come to life on their family i-pad. This parent is delighted with her kids' enthusiasm, though she noted that she has to be involved at every stage of the play. It could be her kids enjoyed it more because the bigger i-pad sc

Budsies, Making a Huggable World https://www.budsies.com

(Budsies $89 & up) Want to preserve your child’s art in a memorable three-dimensional form? Budsies.com does exactly that. They will transform your child’s drawing (or yours) into a plush doll. Or, maybe you’d like a “Petsie,” a doll that looks like your family pet? Or, how about a doll that’s based on your child’s photo? You simply take a photo of a drawing, painting, pet, child, or yourself, if you like, and send that from your phone or computer to Budsies.com and in a matter of weeks your child will be holding and hugging a unique fabric doll that will have special meaning to him or her…and likely one that will become a family treasure, as time goes by. Want to see some of the samples of

Hot Wheels Super Ultimate Garage Award Pending

(Mattel $199.99) We gave the Hot Wheels Ultimate Garage our Platinum Seal Award a few years ago. We thought that was as big as a garage could get…but what about this? This season there's the Super Ultimate Garage and it’s even bigger and more over more over the top than you might imagine. Mattel says it’s the biggest ever garage and it stands 3 feet high with storage room for as many as 140+ cars. Are there really kids that have that many Hot Wheels? This set includes four more cars to add to their collection plus a massive jet plane that can hold two cars and there's a landing pad on top of the garage. But, the biggest new feature is not the plane or the cars, but the motorized elevator tha

Fisher-Price Think and Learn Smart Cycle

(Fisher-Price $149.99) Fisher-Price has come up with a new way to combine games with active play. It’s like a child-size version of your stationary bike and the faster kids pedal, Fisher-Price claims—"the more they will learn." Well, maybe. But most so-called learning games are not teaching so much as reinforcing concepts that children have already learned. Of course, reinforcing has value, too. The Smart Cycle offers a variety of games for varying levels: letter recognition, phonics, rhyming words, matching words, and spelling. We had an earlier version of this stationary bike when it was hooked up to the TV. Now, for another generation, the updated Smart Cycle is compatible with Apple iPad

Playmobil Pharaoh’s Pyramid

(Playmobil $69.99) With cutaway sides, this 120-piece set holds all the treasures needed for Pharaoh’s life in the afterworld. Talk about realism, the embalmer is even included with four canopic jars that held the royal organs, that were buried with the mummy. Nothing has been left out—including a golden sarcophagus that holds a mummy in the tomb chamber. There are five chambers with spaces to hide treasures. Play figures can go through a revolving door, a trap door, and a tricky rock trap that will open and land them in a some mysterious chamber. The box warns that this is a 90-minute build. Marked for 6 and up, but we think the subject matter and details are more appropriate for older scho

Cuddle +Kind Charlotte the Dog & Noah the Dog

(Cuddle +Kind $68 each ) Dressed in a pink dress with a scalloped hem, Charlotte looks like a flower girl pup with the dainty flowered wreath on her head. Her little ears hang down on either side of her sweet face with pink cheeks, tan muzzle and black stitched features. Her clothes are sewn on and cannot be removed, so she’s safe enough for a baby to handle. However, we think she's a better choice for toddlers who will like having a light but big armful to put their arms around. She’s a 20” huggable, hand-made in Peru. Also a charmer, Noah the Dog, a lovable grey pooch with white muzzle, and paws. He’s wearing tan non-removable shorts with suspenders and a green and white bow tie. He’s a 20

eeBoo Things I Know Game

(eeBoo $15.99) An update of the classic concentration game played by turning two cards at a time to find matched pairs. This kind of game gives memory a workout and you will soon discover that children are often better at this game than the adults. Monika Forsberg’s charming illustrations feature animals, familiar objects, and treats. It's the kind of game that builds not just memory, but vocabulary as players name the images they match. SNAP: Start using fewer cards as you introduce the game. Introduce the cards, by looking at them together and naming the images. Aside from the usual game of matching, these cards are excellent for sorting by attributes. Play a game of Spot It! Put a numb

Barbie Dream Horse & Doll

(Mattel $99.99) Barbie is dressed for riding in her pink plaid shirt with pink vest, she has high English riding boots, which are removable, a pink helmet, a currying brush, and carrots to feed her beautiful white Dream Horse. Put Barbie up in the saddle and get ready for action. Dream Horse is a little like the last puppy we tried to train; she doesn't always listen. She's touch sensitive and will turn right, left, walk forward and dance, depending on where you touch her leg, rump or face. Although she doesn't always do just as you command, that is a small issue. For kids she is going to be totally awesome. Sort of a magical novelty toy that won't last for decades, but is sure to make a hug

Craft-tastic Design-Your-Own Stuffies Decorate and Stuff 2 Pre-Sewn Creatures

(Ann Williams $17.99) Two pre-sewn creatures come in this design kit—a 6“ one and an 8” one. There’s batting to stuff them with, too. But designing comes first. Use markers, colored pencils or paint (none of these are included on the theory that you have plenty of these without adding them to the cost of the craft kit.) Kids draw the face, body and decorative elements to make each Stuffie unique. There is no right or wrong way—only the young artist’s way. Once the art work is done let the stuffing begin. One side has a slit where the batting goes. The next step is for an adult only. The closure on the Stuffie gets ironed shut with a heart-shaped patch. Once it’s done kids can move on to the

American Girl Gabriela Girl of the Year 2017—Doll & Book

(American Girl $115) Gabriela, Girl of the Year 2017, has a cause that she fights for --to save her community center. She uses her poetry and art to serve her cause. We know girls will love this doll of color and her sporty in-style fashion look. Her velcro strap shoes are the same color as her shirt with the logo that says aa lot about the girl and her passion to dream big dreams. Ages:Early School, Tweens Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award 2017 Click here to purchase

Neat-oh Zipes Speed Pipes, Performance Pack

(Neat-Oh $64.99) First you build and then you play. Building involves connecting the pipes and there are choices. Kids can build a single loop, many loops, leave them flat on the floor or have them climb the walls – it’s an open-ended build. Since the vehicles have lights, they are extra fun when played in a darkened room. The vehicle is RC and a strobe "cosmic" ball flashes in brilliant colors making for extra drama as they race through the tubes. This big set comes with 1 Zipes racer, remote control, cosmic strobe ball, 1 usb charging cable, 8 curved pipes, 3 straight pipes, 1 starter pipe with opening, 12 connectors for multiple ways to fit the pipes together. Also: Neat-oh Zipes Speed Pi

Ann Williams You Do Game

(Ann Williams $ 19.99) A fun game for a family gathering or party with school-aged kids who can read. A picker puts up five of the "You Do" cards that have silly actions written on them. Players compete to be the first to do all five actions as quickly as possible. Hopping on your left foot, balancing something on your nose, twirling, and mooing like a cow all at the same time is sure to produce a lot of giggles from all. The game comes with 500 different tasks so it’s not likely that any game will be at all like the last one. Can be played by 3-8 players. 6 & up. Ages: Early School Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award 2017 Click here to purchase the product from Amazon.com

Bananagrams Word-A-Melon Game

(Bananagrams $19.99) We love the watermelon shape of the playing board with letter chip “seeds” that players turn to find words. This is a game for 2-4 players and can be played in various ways. The basic game is played by placing all the letters into the frame and rolling a die that says how many seeds you can turn. The player takes the letters off the board that he was bale to use to spell a word. Unused letters are turned down again—out of sight. It then becomes something like a game of concentration when remembering the position of unused letters can help the next player. The winner is the player with the most seeds. Truth be told, we like the second game even better than the first. In t

Little Tikes 2-in-1 Food Truck

(Little Tikes $159.99) What a great setting for dramatic play as kids step behind the counter of their big red food truck! It has a complete kitchen back there, with play sink, microwave oven, fridge and soda fountain. There's a cash register, note pads for taking orders, a chalkboard for writing the menus (or flavors) of the day, a flip out counter, order bell, and steering wheel with a working horn. As if that wasn't enough, the sign on top can be turned to make this a food truck with hot dogs or reverse it and sell ice cream. There's a trash can that comes loaded with 40 play food accessories that will surely add to the fun of running a business. Okay, that's the good news. Now here's a

Mattel Barbie Builder Doll + 50 Building pieces

(Mattel $19.99) Newest of the career Barbie collection, meet Builder Barbie, a construction worker with hard hat, tool belt, and fifty pastel colored blocks to build a beach house, treehouse or whatever their imagination allows. Note, the building part of this is not scaled to Barbie, but a miniature setting. This Barbie comes as Caucasian with golden hair and African American with black hair. We like this kind of combo play set with a doll that gives expands on doll play with new twist. Marked for 3 & up, but this is a better choice for 5-8s who will be able to both dress and undress the doll and have the dexterity to build with the small Mega Construx bricks. Ages: Early school Oppenheim

Simply Fun Dinosaur Challenge

(Simply Fun $24) Players each get three dinosaurs and read their cards noting their dinosaurs' most important traits. Are they flexible, tough, speedy, and are they large or small? Your dinosaur card tells you all that. Now a challenge card is turned over and read; it might be climate change, lava flow, a flash flood or worse. Each player must find the dinosaur in his hand that would most likely survive. Turn the card over and see what trait was most important. Is it flexibility? The dinosaur with the most flexibility wins that round. Player who has won the most challenge cards is the winner. This is a game that requires strategy as well as critical thinking and logic. It's a nice blend of g

Simply Fun Kilter

(Simply Fun $36) A fun way to learn about levers and predicting outcomes. Players take turns getting rid of their blocks on the four-way see-saw. The object is to put as many of your blocks out on each turn without tipping the see-saw. If you make blocks fall you have to take those. The first player to get rid of all her blocks is the winner. There was a lot of giggling and silliness as this was played by a multigenerational group and enjoyed by all. 8 & up. SNAP: Simply Fun has fine suggestions for how to modify this game."For children with cognitive delays, use one color at a time, starting with red. When this color is depleted, move to blue, etc. This reduces the choices players need to m

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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.