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...

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 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...

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;...

July 16, 2017

(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...

October 23, 2016

(Fisher-Price $9.99) 

Technically this is a shape-sorter, but the 10 blocks will be used to fill, spill and throw long before the baby can fit them into the shape-sorter lid of the container. Put the lid away for now. A no gimmick classic that is neither complicated nor expensive. We much preferred this toy, back in 1995 when it only had three shapes (circle, square and triangle)--the addition of the other shapes and more openi...

July 21, 2016

(Edushape $40.00)

If you ever doubted that “new is not always best” here’s solid proof that classics are classic for a reason. In the past few seasons we’ve tested ball runs in all conceivable shapes and sizes. Some are so simplistic they are boring; many are so frenetic they are overwhelming. In fact, the newest arrival takes four D batteries (an extra $10) and once you throw the switch, the motor drones, and the balls pop and...

July 19, 2016

(Crayola $5.00 and up)

These large washable crayons are basic gear for beginners. Kids love to try their hands early on and the appeal of scribbling with colored crayons often comes long before they can understand that coloring on paper is a “yes” but the walls, furniture and floor is not. We have found that Crayola’s washable crayons give a truer color than most washable crayons that are often waxy and faded looking on paper....

June 25, 2016

(Janod $69.99) 

A charming little wooden painted rocking horse. It’s low to the ground for the steady on their feet toddler set. It does require assembling and it is not super easy to put together. Although it's marked 12-24 months, a beginning walker will need an adult to put him on the horse and stay right there for some gentle rocking. A classic toy for older toddlers. We’d say the sweet spot for this is for steady-on-their-...

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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.