Christmas: The Ratings are In

I have to admit, I don’t find shopping for toddlers to be easy. This Christmas, we did pretty good, but I have to say, some manufacturers are hitting it out of the park, while others…well…

For those of you who also have toddlers (or better yet, babies who will be toddlers next year), here’s my hits and misses lists. I hope you find them helpful!

Hits

  • Fisher Price Imaginext Series of Toys (http://www.fisher-price.com/fp.aspx?st=10&e=imaginextlanding). Leave it to Fisher Price to get it right. My son has several different Imaginext toys, including the jungle, a few of the dragons, and some of the Lost Creatures. He asked Santa for the Batman car (which came with four action figures). These toys get played with ALL the time. A 3 1/2-year-old with a great imagination, he’s captivated by the possibilities these toys provide. The best part? They are all constructed to work together – so his Batman can stand in the footholds of the jungle and make all the special tricks happen. I really want Spike the Ultra Dinosaur, but he’s scared of it, so it will be a while, I suppose. We will have these for a long time
  • Microblocks set (from Mega brands) and Lego Duplo. Morgan was always fascinated by Jake’s Duplo Legos, but he only had one box of them, and there was never enough to go around. Having done much of our shopping at Target instead of a full-on toy store, our selection was somewhat limited. We found a great tub of Duplos, and right next to them, there were the Microblocks for girls. This set was adorable, and even included flowers that could be attached to the pieces. Now we have plenty to go around, and for the really big projects?? They work together! Peace restored.
  • Animal Planet’s T-Rex (http://www.toysrus.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2476645). Jake has always liked playing with different animal figurines. We’ve tried a lot of the really good (read: expensive) ones, but I think this Animal Planet brand really tops the list. This “big” T-Rex is awesome – lightweight enough for both my kids to easily play with it, but it also combines its “big” height with a really stable design, allowing it to easily hang out by the toy bins. This T-Rex solicited an amazing reaction from my little boy at Christmas, and now spends it’s days terrorizing the jungle animals from his Imaginext set!
  • Stage Microphone with Special Effects (http://www.backtobasicstoys.com/item/productid/8054/txt/Stage_Microphone_with_Special_Effects). If you think your kids are too young for karaoke, think again! This microphone, equipped with its own light show, is a big hit in our house! Bought by my sister for Morgan, Jake has taken it over. He grabs his Wiggles guitar, taps a button to starts a song, then entertains us with his singing and dancing. Worried about the noise? I have to say that this is one of the few battery operated toys where the manufacturer actually took note of appropriate volume levels. It’s loud enough for him to rock out, but not loud enough to send us out of the room. That’s a good thing, considering our very open floor plan.
  • Leap Frog Tag Reader and Leapster (http://leapfrog.com). Leap Frog never disappoints. Both of these are great, my son especially loves the games that appear in the books for his reader. The downside? Leap Frog is now making all of its toys vehicles for customer relationship marketing. Meaning, almost everything requires an initial hook up and registration to a computer before your child can use it and they are trying to keep you involved with their site throughout the time your child is using the toy.  The books for the tag reader are easy to download (although it only holds a limited number), but now every time we turn it on, it tells my son he has rewards waiting and to have his parents hook his reader up to a computer. The Leapster is a bit more self-sufficient following initial set up.
  • Crayola Washable Markers (http://www.crayola.com). Crayola finally got smart and realized that if you want consumers to pay premium for your brand, offer a true premium product. We replace our washable art supplies from Crayola whenever they need it. I’ve been very impressed with the ease in which marker come off of hands, table tops, wood floors – yeah – all those places
  • Fisher Price Loving Family Sets (http://www.fisher-price.com/fp.aspx?st=5851&e=product&pid=38832&prodcat=lfaccessories-thumb). Morgan doesn’t need a dollhouse, because she’ll inherit mine from when I was little, but the different sets you can buy from Fisher Price’s Loving Family line are the closest mimic to Jake’s Imaginext toys that I could find for a girl. Shopping for a two-year-old girl is difficult, because everything comes with small parts. I had to (gasp) buy her toys that were rated 3+ because everything for younger ages was too babyish for her. She likes the horse, and I know she’ll grow into the set and we can add on some accessories for her upcoming birthday.

 

Misses

  • Toys for two-year-olds. Once again, I find myself struggling to find non-baby toys for a 2-year-old. This is a miss among all manufacturers. It is especially harder for a girl than a boy.
  • Hungry, Hungry Hippos – I loved this game as a child and was excited to buy it for my kids. I was disappointed to see how cheaply constructed this game is now and that the marbles are these light, plastic balls instead of the heavier marble versions. The biggest issue? It doesn’t fit back in the box once assembled. Why does a manufacturer think it’s appropriate to house a game in a box that is of no use once the game is assembled? Especially a game that comes with 16 plastic balls? If they are trying to be environmentally friendly with smaller packaging, they’ve failed. Rather than reusing the box for the years the game exists, we had to throw it out. However, my kids love the game so I can’t complain.
  • Disney Princess Ariel’s Fashion Purse Set (http://www.toysrus.com/product/index.jsp?productId=3743906). I suggested to my sister-in-law that she purchase this for my daughter, thinking she’d be delighted by the purse and the fashion accessories. I saw it online and thought it was perfect. There are several issues: the purse isn’t really big enough to fit much in it, and doesn’t close well. The money that is to go inside the purse was glued into the box and impossible to get off without ripping. Overall the accessories were made cheap. I should have suggested she just buy a small girl’s purse and fill it after market with stuff, and it probably would have cost the same. Buyer beware on this one, there’s not much utility once it’s out of the box.

I’m glad I have many more hits than misses. We have a few cool things that my kids haven’t widely used yet, too, including a kids’ camera from Discovery, and a My Lil’ Pony remote control scooter.

Overall, it was a great Christmas for the kids, the parents, and for Santa. However, as I take down the decorations, I have to admit, I’m glad it’s over!

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