I started my blogging journey in the toy realm 4 years ago, prior to the birth of my son. During my work as a pediatric occupational therapist, over the course of my 13 year practice, I have seen first-hand how much children love specific toys and activities. I have also been a witness to how much parents have enjoyed teaching their children developmental skills in a fun, playful way, with my guidance, using these very same toys. Somehow, this experience helped me develop an eye for toys, a respected knack for picking out the best gifts for children of all age ranges and abilities, and an ever-growing knowledge of toys on the market.
It was a pleasure and an honor to share my opinions here, and be an expert at About.com for the past 2 years. Though I will be moving on from my role here, I will still be working in the toy industry posting coverage on my personal website and I hope to work more specifically with companies as both a social media community manager and a toy consultant with regard to product development.
If you have enjoyed my perspective here, please feel free to read my current reviews and experiences on my personal website ToyQueen.com, which was started in 2009. Please feel free to keep in touch by connecting with me on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
The past several years educational learning tablets for kids are tremendously popular with kids ages 3-9. These devices are similar to that of an iPad as they use touch-screen technology. However, content loaded on them is developed strictly for this age group and downloaded from a secure on-line connection. Games vary in skill, but also aim to teach children about science, math, reading and vocabulary development using familiar characters in a video-game type format. The LeapPad and LeapPad2 from LeapFrog have been awarded top honors from the Toy Industry Association for Best Educational Toy of the Year, and one of the most recognized tablets and e-readers for children.
New this year is LeapFrog's newest tablet, The LeapPad Ultra. This tablet is recommended for children ages 4-9. It includes many of the same features as the LeapPad, but has one major addition. Children will now be able to view kid-friendly websites through a secure browser, LeapSearch powered by Zui. This allows children to access content pre-approved by LeapFrog's educational experts, which includes over 800 apps, video's e-books, and music. Here is more specific information about the LeapFrog LeapPad Ultra learning tablet.
With summer here and children on school vacation, whether you are a parent who as at home with your children or not, entertaining them daily without having to rely solely on the television and video games as your primary babysitter, can be a challenge.
We purchased a family summer membership to the YMCA, as well as a parking pass for the local beach for the season, so we could have options of fun activities for the both of us, without having to constantly expend money on a daily basis. My son made a bucket list of places he wanted to visit on our days off together, and I quickly reserved a few discounted passes to the local zoo, the children's museum and an indoor play area from our public library.
However, if you are at home with your children and the weather is not cooperating, you may need to consider creating a stockpile of summer activities for kids that include toys, craft kits, travel games, bubbles, arts and crafts activities and simple cooking supplies.
For children who like technology toys and tablets, but are hard to engage in their summer reading lists, you may want to consider toys like the TAG Reader and LeapReader from LeapFrog that promote literacy using recognizable childhood heroes such as Lightning McQueen, Cinderella and Monsters University characters.
What are your "go-to" summer activities for your kids?
Many young girls enjoy visiting American Girl Place, and purchasing their first collectible 18-inch doll, such as an American Girl Doll. Some of these dolls can be customized to look just like their owner, using individualized hair styles, eye color, and hair color. However at $110, for many young girls the cost is a major prohibitive factor in owning one.
Adora is another company that designs diverse 18-inch dolls that come in various ethnic backgrounds. They include similar features of American Girl dolls, and additional clothing and accessories can be purchased to enhance play with these dolls. However, retailing at $59.95, these dolls are a much more affordable alternative.
If you are looking for more information here is an article that compares and contrasts the differences between Adora Friends dolls and American Girl Dolls.
Today, VTech toys revealed that their newest educational tablet toy, the InnoTab3 will be ready for pre-order. This is the 3rd generation of the popular touch tablet for kids from VTech that includes educational e-books, games and art activities.
The new InnoTab3 includes a D-Pad controller for expanded game play, and the same 180 degree rotating camera as the InnoTab2. However, the InnoTab3 includes content designed for children ages 3-9, which can be purchased as game cartridges or downloaded online through the Learning Lodge Navigator. The InnoTab3 includes 15 on-board apps and is less expensive then it's predecessors at $69.99.
Here's a list of retailers where gift givers can pre-order the InnoTab3.
Preschool aged boys and girls are crazy for one of the newest Disney Junior animated television stars, Doc McStuffins. The premise of the show features, Doc, a little girl who fixes her broken toys in her backyard hospital "clinic." Doc has a magic stethoscope that brings her toy assistants Lambie, Stuffie, Chilly, and Hallie to life. Aside from being a cable television show for young preschool aged children (3-5), there are lot of songs and episode themes that teach about being washing their hands, eating healthy, while promoting a positive perception of doctors office visits.
For children who are fans of this television show or who even love to nurture and care for their toys, like Doc, there are several Doc McStuffins toys and games that include a doctor's bag, dolls, dress up sets, as well as a new clinic dollhouse style play set and a full size check-up center.
There are several activities that girls enjoy doing. Many enjoy collecting, dressing and engaging in nurturing play with baby dolls. Another favorite activity of girls includes using their imagination to color, draw and illustrate.
American Girl dolls are quite popular amongst young girls. Aside from either collecting dolls from the historical collection, like Caroline Abbott, or designing a doll that looks just like them, many young girls look forward to shopping at one of the flagship stores located throughout the United States, such as American Girl Place in New York. American Girl and Crayola have teamed up to offer a sweepstakes for one young girl to win a fun family trip.
The grand prize will include two trips. The first trip is to American Girl Place in New York City for a complimentary 18 inch doll, outfit, and a meal in the Cafe. The second trip is to Easton, PA where the winner will have a VIP tour of the Crayola Experience, and receive lunch for 4 in Cafe Crayola. This contest began on June 3, 2013 and ends on August 22, 2013, at 8:59:59 p.m. Central Time.
Participants can enter on the American Girl Facebook Page. Mobile entry is not allowed.
The summer season is in full swing, school is out and in a matter of just a few weeks, families everywhere will embark on all sorts of vacations. Whether you might be traveling by air, car, or rail, here's a round-up of some of my favorite travel toys, tablets and games.
Family Travel Games - this is a in-depth list of several new family travel games, recommended for ages 8 and up, that are both portable and fun.
Tablet Toys - Would you prefer to not allow your children to use the family iPad? There are a variety of tablet toys for kids of varying ages with parental controls that children to access the internet and popular apps that are the fraction of the price of an iPad.
LeapFrog LeapPad2 - This tablet device (compare prices) is recommended for young children, ages 4-9. In the LeapFrog AppCenter, parents can download educational games, interactive e-books and popular episodes of children's television programming.
Artsee Art Studio (compare prices)- this is an outer case for an iPad, that includes a free app. Using different tools and a stylus children can play games, color, and place themed "stamps" (like transportation vehicles and animals) that can be animated.
Crayola Color Wonder Travel Tube - If you children like traditional markers, but as a parent you are worried about a mess, Crayola Color Wonder markers only give color to special paper. A few Color Wonder markers are stored inside the container.
Sky Bouncer - For active families who enjoy outdoor games, the Sky Bouncer from Maui Toys can be used like a traditional frisbee, but also has the capabilities of being bounced up to 25 feet in the air.
Until 9/27/2013, Barbie fans can enter in the Barbie Dreamhouse sweepstakes at the http://www.barbieismoving.com website. The grand prize is having your child's room re-decorated by a Barbie designer (prize value $2,500). Parents who enter must have a child who is within the ages of 3-12 at the time of entry to claim their prize. 5 winners per week, over the course of 16 weeks, can also win a 2013 Barbie Dreamhouse Mansion ($150 value). Participants can enter daily.
Here are some pictures of the newest Barbie toys of 2013, top Barbie toys from years past, as well as the entire Mega Bloks Barbie line that encourages kids to design and construct their own Barbie play worlds. Also, this summer, families can partake in the Barbie Dreamhouse experience in Miami, FL and Berlin, Germany with the ability to tour Barbie's dreamhouse.
Anyone who has a baby, or seen one that is a voracious teether, for some reason, why do they all gravitate to mouthing and chewing on our real car keys? Over decades, various forms of plastic ringed baby keys have been popular baby toys. I'd personally bet that if given the choice between plastic or real, the metal baby keys would win most times.
The folks at Kleynimals went ahead and designed safe, food grade, stainless steel teething keys in adorable animal shapes, that can also be engraved or monogrammed. They do not contain lead, pthalates, BPA or cadmium. They are also made in the United States and retail for $24.99 (without engraving). These are adorable, and make a very unique and special baby gift.