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Toys that Hit this Year's Top Trends in Toyland

Pretend Play for Older Toddlers and Preschoolers

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 little side note. This requires assembly and a power tool, since our builder found that not all the holes were pre-made and he tells us it took considerable time. Marked for 2 and up, we'd say older 2s will like this very urban style setting for pretend, but the sweet spot is probably more like older 3s and 4s and even 5s. Kids can use this for a puppet stage, too.

Ages: Preschoolers

Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award 2017

An "ACTIVE" Screen TOY

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, Apple TV, most Android tablets, Android TV, Amazon Fire tablets, and Amazon FireTV. Although the cycle is labeled for a broad age group, the games are not one-size-fits all. That’s a good thing, but some families have noted that there are not a lot of games for each level. Marked for 36 months to 6 years, we’d say these games are more appropriate for older preschoolers and younger early school kids. There is an adjustable seat that will fit most 3’s and at the other end, it will work for 6s who are not very tall. One of our testers said she thought the age range 3-6 was right, although her seven-year old wanted to try it out, too.

Ages: Preschoolers, Early School

Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award 2017

When the BOX is the BEST present -- here's a way to make it better!

eeBoo Pretend Play Stickers: Car, Kitchen & Spaceship

eeboo $13.99 each set

Cardboard boxes have always been great props for pretend. Generations of kids (including mine) have made cars, robots, puppet stages and play houses with boxes of various sizes. Now, eeBoo has created four clever sets of giant reusable stickers that can turn a shoe box into a stove top and larger boxes into space ships with portholes or cars or kitchens. Each themed package includes four huge sheets of stickers.They are reusable stickers that look like dials, lights, grates, doors, and switch-boards, oven doors, and more. Each set is packaged in an oversized envelope loaded with fun ways to turn an empty box into an afternoon of fun. These stickers should not replace paint, crayons, and markers used by kids to decorate their creations. Rather, they augment kids original embellishments. Marked 3 & up, we think this will also be enjoyed by early school aged kids.

Ages: Preschoolers, Early School

Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award 2017

An Amazing TRACK SET that glows in the dark and won't break the bank!

Max Traxxx Max Flex RC

Skullduggery $39.99

This toy just arrived in time for our Platinum Award List! We have been big fans of Max Traxxx cars that light up on the special glow-in- the-dark tracks. But this year, it got better. The company has introduced a flex track system that lights up even more when your car drives on the track.

Comes with 200 pieces of track that click together and because they are flexible, it's easier to make interesting configurations. Car is controlled by a remote control that is easy to operate. We wish there was another car in the set but otherwise, this is just pure Platinum fun!

Ages: Preschoolers, Early School

Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award 2017

Crafts that Kids can enjoy and give as gifts

Creativity for Kids Calming Swirl Charms

(Creativity for Kids $14.99)

Girls can make five little charms with swirling glitter poured into the cork topped jars to wear as necklaces. Add stickers, beads, a fuzzy glow-in-the-dark charm and stardust, and hang them on the waxed cord necklaces. These will make pretty little gift to give to a friend, cousin, or teacher. The vials for the necklace are plastic, so no worry about breakage. Marked for 5 and up, but fives and most sixes and sevens will need a lot of help with the pouring and corking and tying.

Ages: Early School, Tweens

Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award 2017

Ann Williams Craft-tastic Make & Give Heart Bowls

(Ann Williams $17.99)

Making these little glittery bowls takes time and patience between each step as they must dry before you add a second and third layer. That said, the process is neat and clean and when they are done the tiny bowls will hold earrings or rings or grandma’s hearing aids. So they make lovely little gifts. There are enough molds in the kit to make many little bowls.

The kit comes with five different colors of glitter and two bottles of water-based glue to mix into the glitter. It includes seven heart shaped forms as well as a paint brush and clear step by step directions. There are word labels you can attach that say peace, love, joy, etc. But they are not really a must. The little bowls may need some trimming with scissors when you are done and you’ll need plastic wrap to keep your brush and glitter mix from drying out between layers. You’ll also need a toothpick or straw to mix up the batch and a ruler and marker to measure 1/2 half inch on the tiny mixing bowl. Kids can learn about giving as they make holiday gifts with this neat little kit!

It’s marked six and up and we’d say the up is more like 8, although six can do it, they will need some supervision to get the layers done evenly and they will no doubt need more help trimming the edges and getting it off the mold. Don’t get nervous with the un-molding; the material is quite flexible and strong once it is really dried. This is a fun kit!

Ages: Early School, Tweens

Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award 2017

Budsies, Making A Huggable World

(Budsies $89 & up)

Want to preserve your child’s art in a memorable three-dimensional form? 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 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 art and dolls? Click here to see the gallery. They will send you updates as the process goes along. We have seen samples of their work and think this is a very special kind of gift surprise!

Ages: Preschool, Early School, Tweens & Teens

Toys that are truly STEM Learning and Fun!

Strictly Briks Brik Buster Toppling Tower Game

(Strictly Briks $29.99)

We had good fun stacking this the Briks and floors into a five story tower of Briks. Now, the best part begins. Using the lightweight toy hammer players take turns knocking out a stack of Briks without making the whole structure fall. Choosing the stack to tap takes some strategy and players soon discover the best way to stay in the game. A god choice for mixed age players with lots of rounds of play. Rebuilding takes thinking skills as well as cooperation. Aside from playing this game, kids can use the Briks for constructions. Game comes with 133 stackable pieces. The bricks are compatible with larger pegged bricks such as DUPLO and Megabloks. Marked 3-93. We’d say 3s will like using the hammer, but to build a tower and decide how to knock it down, it’s a better choice for older 4s and up.

Ages: Preschool, Early School

Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award 2017

A game that is hands-on engineering

Roller Coaster Challenge

(Think Fun $29.95)

Our testers loved this latest brainteaser from ThinkFun where you are challenged to build a working rollercoaster to get the little red car from the starting point to the finish. A hands-on engineering experience that makes for a great parent-child game. Each challenge card tells you which pieces you'll need to complete the task -- and with all ThinkFun games -- the challenges go from easy to hard. Our game testers breezed through the easy cards but then were super challenged when they got to the higher levels but were thrilled each time they successfully built the rollercoaster.


Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award 2017

LittleBits Star Wars Droid Inventor Kit

(LittleBits $99.99)

An exciting build for Star Wars fans. From the moment you and your kids turn on the app and the Star Wars-like music comes on, the smiles begin. The kit includes everything needed (including the battery) to make the most popular droid ever to land in our galaxy. No, the phone pictured in this beauty shot is not included. You do need your own phone or i-pad to build and use the the droid. But, with this kit, R2D2 comes to life in the young inventor’s hands!

As always, littleBits’ step-by-step directions are clear and beautifully executed on phone or i-pad. The big clear parts of R2D2 come together with ease and the magnetic electronic blocks stay in place better than in earlier kits and without need for soldering. Included in the kit are plenty of stickers to make R2D2 or any other droid they can imagine. Once it’s built, the droid can be activated with controllers on the same phone or i-pad app. Kids can also set up the droid with an intruder alarm, and record and deliver messages. They can also teach their personal droid to detect obstacles in its path. R2D2 has a variety of endearing sounds. Although its head does not move as out tester wished it would, this is one of the best building sets of the season.

Ages: Tweens

Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award 2017

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 the Cat—an interactive pet that plays, purrs and expresses its mood; and the AutoBuilder, that builds miniature LEGO models. We could have done without the farting sound effect on several of the models, but we know a lot of 7-9 year olds will not agree. Kids will need access to a tablet to make this work and they’ll need to download the free app, as well. The kit includes over 840 LEGO® pieces, a LEGO Move Hub, Interactive Motor and a Color & Distance Sensor. We know Boost is marked 7-12 and we’d say it is going to be best for the upper range of that age label.

Age: Tweens and Teens

Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award 2017

Another notable trend: Lots of boy dolls

– including Logan from the American Girl (the first full sized American Girl Boy doll)!

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