Birthday season is about to begin and that means finding gifts that are just right for that birthday girl or boy. In celebration, we are going to be posting award-winning toys over the next few weeks. This week we are featuring some nominees for the Toy of the Year Awards (TOTY), as presented by the Toy Industry Association. You will notice that most of the ones they have chosen are plastic and can be bought at the big box stores and online. We will be sure to counter that with next week’s feature of “The Dr. Toy Green Awards” for green toys. However, all of the ones we show you will be award winners, so at the very least, you know you got a “winning gift.”
Playskool Alphie by Hasbro, was among a handful of toys nominated for ” Educational Toy of the Year”. Some of us may remember the original Alphie from the 1980s, but this little Alphie robot is new and very much improved. Alphie encourages preschoolers to learn the alphabet and helps kids with rhyming, counting, color and shape recognition, animal names and much more. The only complaint among parents is that the lesson cards are not durable and may wear out so you’ll have to watch your little ones with them.
Age: Ages 3 years and over.
Price: Playskool Alphie can be ordered for $31.99 at Amazon. Alphie can also be found at other large retailers, including Target, and online.
“Game of the Year” was presented to Hasbro for its Scrabble Flash Cubes. If you know and love Scrabble, don’t be alarmed; this updated version is actually really cool. I loved it and the chunky new electronic cubes are just right for little hands too. It’s a lightweight, compact version of the old Scrabble that lets you keep track of your words and points electronically. You can play Scrabble solo too; how satisfying for those of us who can’t find Scrabble opponents! It’s ideal for family travel.
Age: 8 years and up.
The winner for “Educational Toy of the Year” was the LeapFrog Leapster Explorer Learning Game System. Priced at around $69.95, this is a pretty pricey device, and gets more expensive if you invest in all the extra downloadable learnings apps. However, the Leapster Explorer is considered to be a great learning system for kids. My earthiest girlfriend who has a MFA in poetry and is a stickler about anything electronic, has one for each of her children. She swears by its and thinks it is a great educational toy. You can download e-books, videos, flash cards and the games included cover school skills, creativity and life skills.
Age: For ages 4-9.
Price: Order LeapFrog Leapster Explorer Learning Game System for $69.95 on amazon or check it out at several large retailers including Toys R Us and Target.
Here’s a nominee for “Outdoor Toy of the Year” which is a fun upgrade to those water and sand tables. Little Tikes Mudpie Kitchen is a very clever outdoor kitchen set that lets kids really dig into the dirt. The set includes a hand-crank mud mixer that pivots up and down, a working sink that uses a water reservoir and a pump button that releases water. This is all hand work- no batteries are required.
Age: 2 – 7 years
Price: Priced at $39.99.
The winner for “Outdoor Toy of the Year” went to Supersoaker Wars Shotblast Water Blaster. This is the biggest blaster of them all as it shoots water up to 25 feet. Try that on a NYC playground! It has a pump handle for quick release and a large capacity tank. When we go to our relatives in the suburbs, both adults and kids pull out their Nerf water blasters and I have to admit- engage in a totally fun soaking game.
Age: 5- ? years
Price: Priced at $29.99.
The Sing-a-ma-jigs by Mattel won the coveted “Toy of the Year” award and were also awarded Preschool Toy of the Year and Innovative Toy of the Year. These funny little creatures chatter, sing and harmonize with each other. Here’ a secret about these little troll-like plushies: adults really groove on them. They are actually a bit addictive for us: we like to push their tummies and hear their various pitches. However, I don’t understand how to get them to harmonize or what button does what. And, if I don’t get it, you can believe my kids don’t. I just wish there was some kind of class on how to work these Sing-a-ma-jigs somewhere. I really, really want them to harmonize and I want to believe in the jigs, I really do.
Age: 2 – 7 years
Price: Priced at $12.99. You can buy these locally at Neerguard Pharmacy in Park Slope on 9th Street and 5th Avenue.