June 11, 2019

(Edushape $48.79)

One of our Blue Chip and Basic Gear choices for toddlers’ early block play. These lightweight cardboard blocks have the size and heft that toddlers love and will be used for years to come by preschoolers and beyond. They make great stacks to knock over, giving toddlers a great sense of power. They make long roadways for cars to roll over, bridges to go under, and countless other inventions your kids will give...

June 9, 2019

(Manhattan Toy  $14.99 and up)

Meet the newest Groovy Girls: Who wouldn’t love Special Edition Willow with her long brown hair trimmed with tiny felt flowers and big brown eyes. She’s wearing a peasant style tunic in white and blue with puffed long sleeves. Her denim cut offs have an elastic waist and her outfit is finished off with sandals that match her stylish blouse. And April is ready for showers with her yellow slick...

July 25, 2018

(LEGO $28.99)

Many Duplo sets are packaged with one project to build. That can be fun, but for beginners, we prefer a more open-ended set of bricks. This 65-piece box has the makings for buildings, a vehicle base, a dog and character figure, not to mention a variety of colors and sizes of bricks that can be put together and knocked over in endless ways. Try not to get too engaged with replicating the pictures on the box. Explor...

July 24, 2018

(Quercetti $30.99)

Talk about action, this marvelous 55 piece set of gears includes six giant gears with kaleidoscopic action! Our three-year old tester did this with his mom and aunt, who probably enjoyed it as much as he did. The kit comes with 16 base pieces that fit together like a jig saw puzzle in many different conformations. It also has a crank handle that can be used to set the gears in motion. However, they found the...

July 3, 2018

(Fisher-Price $39.99)

A classic miniature setting for beginning pretend play. The house opens for play time and then packs away easily with all the furniture and Little People inside. A good choice for Grandma's house when little visitors come to visit. It's not an elaborate house, but simple enough for youngest pretenders. It does have some electronic features—a flushing toilet sound, fireplace crackles, and a light. A lot of...

July 3, 2018

(Fisher-Price $21.99)

For toddlers and preschoolers this bag of 80 colorful pegged blocks is a basic.

Toddlers will need some learning time to figure out how to fit the pegs together and take them apart. They are marked for ones and up, but one-year-olds do not have the dexterity to make these blocks fit together. This calls for eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills. However, toddlers will like the sheer number of pieces...

July 3, 2018

(Lakeshore $299)

These are the kind of quality wooden unit blocks that you'll find in a good nursery school. The hardwood is smooth and splinter free and the Starter Set with 108 pieces in 14 shapes offer children years of playful learning. Unit blocks are scaled to each other, so, for example, two squares will equal a rectangle, two triangles will equal a square or rectangle. (A little built-in math that they gain as they lear...

April 25, 2018

(Leap Frog $35)

Magnetic letters will get a lot of play on the refrigerator door. A classic game for preschoolers. This set of letters come with a big red apple that names the letters and the sounds they say and also sings songs to reinforce the letter names and sounds. There are three levels of play here, some more appropriate for older preschoolers and young early grade students. Playing around with the letters and learning t...

October 29, 2017

(Small World Toys $62)

Neurosmith Music Blocks won our Platinum Award seal years ago. We're glad to note that it is still available and at this point a Blue Chip winner. It has five colored plastic blocks, each side making a different sound. Match the shapes on the blocks or play them in random order—there’s no right or wrong way. The “composer” allows you to record and play back your composition. Comes with one jazz cartridge;...

October 11, 2017

(Play Monster $24)

We’ve told you about Platinum winners, Automoblox many times, toy vehicles that come apart and can be reassembled like a puzzle. This year’s choices are as good as ever. The wooden and plastic pieces fit together with relative ease and not a million pieces, so that work for beginning builders who will like using them for pretend play. Testers love the three piece Minis Set ($24) with 4” police car, 4” fire ch...

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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.