Saturday, September 18, 2010

Little Mommy Baby So New Deluxe Play Set by Fisher Price

As anyone who has read this blog or even casually glanced at it you know that I am a fan of Fisher Price toys. As a clinician I need to have toys that are durable and can stand up to lots of use (sometimes abuse), and Fisher price toys are well known to have that kind of durability. So when I found this toy set I was really excited because I love toys that promote relational and early pretend play and thought that this would be an excellent addition to my baby centre (it also matched the stroller and rocking cradle that I have and love). Strengths: The bed and high chair are cute and match other pieces in the baby so new series. They are easy to put together and because they are made of a hard plastic, easy to clean. The bed seems to be a bit more durable than the high chair. Weaknesses: My biggest disappointment was the overall quality to these items. The first time one of my kids tried to put the baby in the high chair it fell apart. I quickly put it back together, but as soon as this little girl tried to put the baby in again the chair once more fell apart. By the end of the day (after using it and putting it together countless times for 7 other children), the chair just fell apart. The seat no longer stays attached to the legs and the tray will fall off of the chair when even lightly bumped. Maybe I just got a lemon, but given my bad experience with this set I'm not willing to go out and buy another one to see if the quality is any better. Price: $30 - $35 (much to expensive for the quality of the toy I got). Where to Buy: Toys R Us, Amazon, or the Fisher Price website (

Deluxe Wooden Barnyard Animals Jumbo Knob Puzzle by Melissa & Doug

This is another great introductory puzzle for older infants and toddlers (1 year+)! The easy grasp knobs, extra thick pieces, and brightly coloured pictures all combine to make this an appealing puzzle for young children. The children I have used the puzzle with love to take the pieces out and put them in trucks or incorporate them with other farm toys, which further increases the play value of the puzzle. Strengths: The pieces are very easy to manipulate and this reduces frustration on the part of the child when he/she is trying to manipulate the forms into the openings. I also like the matching element of the puzzle. Children who are first learning to do puzzles can match pictures as well as general shapes. The pieces are also just fun to bang together if that is what a child is interested in doing. Weaknesses: I have heard some people complain that the layers of wood on their puzzles have separated, posing all kinds of safety issues, but I've used mine for over a year with lots of different children and have never encountered this issue. Price: $8-$14. Where to Buy: Toys R Us, Amazon, speciality toy stores, or directly from the Melissa and Doug website (

Wheel Pals Jungle Journey by Playskool

This is a simple cause-effect rolling toy that has cute little jungle animals zooming down a curvy ramp. Although the toy is simple there are couple of interesting elements to it. The lift-and-go launchers helps the animals on their journey down the ramp and the bridge is actually collapsible, so the animals can fall through the opening if you want them to. Each set comes with two wheeled animals vehicles, but you can add more characters is you want to. Strengths: The animals are a great size for little hands and they roll easily down the ramp. It's simple to operate and gives children lots of options for where to hide and place the animals. Weaknesses: When I first found this toy I thought that it was really cute and would be lots of fun. So far I've had more fun with it that any of the children I've used it with. They are initially interested in how the trap on the bridge opens and closes, but that's where their interest seems to end. I don't know if it's just that the ramp is to short and it doesn't provide enough action for these kids, but overall I haven't seemed to get my money's worth from this toy. Most of the children I work with like carrying the animals around and driving them on other surfaces, but the ramp just isn't all that exciting for them. Price: $11-$16. Where to Buy: I have seen these play sets in stores like Target, Toys R Us, and WalMart.

Duck and Cover by Jackie Urbanovic

This is another great addition to the "Duck" series by Jackie Urbanovic. In this outing Max the Duck helps Irene give shelter to an alligator named Harold who has run away from the zoo after being accused on eating someones pet dog. All of the other animals in the house are worried that Harold will turn them into a snack, but Max knows what it's like to be scared and alone so he does his best to protect Harold. The brave little duck and his friends try hiding Harold as well as disguising him (my favourite is when all of the animals pretend to be alligators) so the zoo detectives won't find him. Even as Harold becomes more comfortable in the house, the other animals worry that he will turn them into snacks because even Harold admits he has a very big appetite. Finally the zoo detectives find Harold and admit that he didn't eat a pet dog (which is what they thought originally) but rather a hot dog. So Harold returned to the zoo and the animals didn't have to worry anymore that he was going to eat them.

Building Blocks Torrino by Haba

This set of six stacking blocks is a lovely early block set for toddlers who are interested in stacking up and knocking down small towers of objects. The pieces are made out of beech wood and finished with water based, non-toxic lacquers that seems to retain the colour quite nicely. The tower is only about 9 inches high when stacked, so there is very little chance that the blocks could do serious damage to floors or fingers when knocked over. Strengths: The pieces are a nice size for small hands to manipulate and they stack together easily. These blocks can also be incorporated into other Haba block sets and this allows for even more creative building opportunities. Weaknesses: According to the manufacturer, these blocks are good for children as young as 12 months, but I have some concerns about the small red ball on the top of the pink cone. It looks like it may be a separate piece of wood that has been glued/attached to the larger piece. Maybe it's all one piece, but I just can't tell. Therefore, I'm always hesitant when using this particular block with children who still like to chew or mouth toys. Maybe I'm worrying needlessly, but it just looks like the little red ball could pop off. Price: $17 - $20. Where to Buy: Oompa (, Moolka (, and Padilly ( all carry Haba block sets.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Shape Sorting Caterpillar by The Little Toy Company

This is a great wooden shape sorting toy that is designed for children 18+ months of age. Each "peg" on the caterpillar is a different shape and has two rings that fit onto the shape fairly easily. The rings are a great size for little hands and are easy to manipulate. Strengths: This is a nice to for promoting fine motor and cognitive skills. I like the fact that it has shapes other than circles, squares, and triangles, which are the shapes that many sorting toys come with. Weaknesses: There is one major design flaw with the toy, especially if it is to be used with younger children. The pegs that you put the shape rings on aren't actually attached to the caterpillar board. It does add another dimension of difficulty to the toy, which is nice for older children with more well developed fine motor skills, but it is incredibly frustrating for younger children. The children I have used it with will become very agitated when the peg slips out of the hole just as they are about to put the ring on. I solved this problem by gluing the peg to the board! The toy isn't as challenging for some of my older children, but at least I'm not facing any tantrums when the younger ones knock the pegs over. Price: $18 - $25. Where to Buy: You can find this toy online at Fat Brain Toys ( or at the Little Toy Company's website (

Sarah Lynn & Her Camping Adventure by Fisher Price

This zippy little car and sleek camper are packed with everything kids need for a fun camping adventure! The set comes with two figures, Sarah Lynn and her friend Maggie, who can bend to sit comfortably in the car. They can go fishing, sit around the camp fire, and at the end of the day crawl into their sleeping bags for a good night's sleep! The camping set includes a two-seater car, cooler (with picnic supplies), pop-up camper with a sleeping and kitchen area (stove, sink, & refrigerator), 2 chairs, a campfire, fishing rod, and two sleeping bags. Strengths: This is a great pretend play toy for older toddlers and preschoolers. The car and camper are fairly durable and everything stores inside of the camper (except the car) when play time is done. Overall, it's a fun toy that can be used easily with some of the other Little People play sets to extend imaginative play even further. Weaknesses: It can be difficult for little fingers to try and fit the fishing pole on the little girl figures. Price: $30-$35. Where to Purchase: You can find this set on Amazon or go directly to the Fischer Price website.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Dr. Toy's Smart Play, Smart Toys: How to Raise a Child with a High PQ (Play Quotient) by Stevanne Auerbach

It has been said that play is the work of the child! Therefore being able to build strong play skills early in life is a wonderful foundation on which to build all kinds of developmental, communicative, and social skills. Dr. Toy (aka Stevanne Auerbach) provides an excellent advice on ho to choose and use toys with young children.Often actors such as safety, durability, flexibility, and age appropriateness complicate the challenge parents face in choosing the right toys for their children at the right time, but don't worry Dr. Toy is here to help. There are excellent tips on how to choose toys for children at different developmental stages, how to present toys to children, and how to use these toys to build exciting social relationships between parents and their children. This is an outstanding resource that should be on the shelf of every parent, teacher, therapist, and any other person who has important children in their lives. Where to Buy: Most major bookstores would carry this title.

Taggies Grabby Elephant by International Playthings

This cuddly blue elephant is actually a winner of the Gold Oppenheim Toy Award! It is soft and snugly, just like all of the other Taggies toys. There are lots of different ribbons and tags attached to the elephant that make him easy to grab and fun to snuggle. It's basically a teething toy, but is light enough for infants to carry around for lots of sensory fun. Strengths: It is much more than just a rattle or teething toy because there are great opportunities for all kinds of exploration with this wonderful elephant. Babies can grasp his ears, his nose, and pull on the jiggly mouse inside of the elephant's tummy. I really love this toy and so do the children I share it with. It's a great size to carry around and it's light enough not to pinch or hurt little fingers. Weaknesses: Because it is made out of a soft, plush material it's not the easiest thing to throw in the washing machine for a quick cleaning. I spot clean mine when it needs it! It's a little extra work, but the toy is just so irresistible that it's worth a little extra work. Price: $15-2o. Where to Buy: There are lots of different places that you can find taggies toys. Some of the best sites to shop include: Baby Bungalow (, the Taggies site (, Sensational Beginnings (, and Genius Babies ( It's a really lovely toy and the perfect gift (I got mine from a really great family that I work with!)

Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Zoo Blocks by Haba

This is a set of 25 wooden blocks painted in fun colours to resemble different zoo animals. Each block is a slightly different shape and this allows children to use their imagination about what kind of animal they want to build! The fact that you can mix and match shapes and colours seems to be especially appealing to toddlers who like to explore the limits of their imaginations. Strengths: These are great blocks for toddlers-well made, durable, good for small hands, colorful, and a good addition to other Haba block sets. Weaknesses: They are a little it pricey (over $40) but they give you terrific play value for the money. They are wonderful for toddlers, but older preschool children seem to enjoy them just as much, Price: $40- $45. Where to Buy: You can most Haba block sets through Moolka toys (, Oompa toys (, and of course Amazon. I usually go with Amazon for these kinds of toys because they are usually less expensive that some of the other toy retailers, but I got this set through Moolka and paid less for it than I would have through Amazon.