By Yasmin Jorge
As a parent to young children, I enjoy the holidays with renewed interest. My kids understand who Santa is, but don’t know Mama is Mrs. Claus – researching the latest products two months in advance before the mad dash to shop, shop, shop followed by wrap, wrap, wrap. Here is a wonderful assortment of holiday gifts for your perusal, from the whimsical and amusing to educational and fun.
I’m probably just as thrilled as my daughter with Disney Princess toys by JAKKS Pacific. Inspired by classic Princess stories, The Magic Rise Oven™ entertains for hours with culinary fairytale moments, where our little girls can play bake, decorate and display. They can put their delectable pies, cakes and cupcakes in the oven, wave their magic heart wands, say a few enchanting words, and watch their treats magically come to life. Our princesses can also customize their creations with interchangeable icing and toppers, where the toppers light up with another wave of magic wands. The Disney Princess Magic Rise Oven offers colorful two-sided play, the front is the oven and the back is the storefront display area, for lots of royal fun with friends, dolls, teddy bears and maybe brothers. Additional cake and cupcake accessories are sold separately for larger pretend parties. While my daughter gets to be the Princess with the sparkly tiara, I hope Mama gets an invite to the baking festivities! Look for JAKKS Disney Princess products at toy retailers nationwide, like Target. Consumers@jakks.net or 877-875-2557
Move over Barbie, we’re captivated by JAKKS Tollytots™ Division’s My First Disney Princess, Baby Cinderella. We definitely want her at our baking party. I don’t play with dolls anymore, but this gorgeous gal is tempting with her lovely details – big warm eyes and pretty features, and stylishly embellished onsie with matching tiara. She’s soft, cuddly, and a perfect size for toddler hands and imagination. My little one can’t stop hugging her and won’t share. Additional Disney baby princesses include Ariel, Snow White, Aurora, Belle, and Tiana. http://www.tollytots.com
While we’re on the princess subject, Ravensburger’s brightly-colored, kid-powered WOW Pippa’s Princess Carriage is a must for holiday wish lists. My own princess preschooler is having a ball playing with the adorable pumpkin carriage and party guests, Princess Pippa and her Fairy Godmother, Snowdrop the Horse, and Francis Frog. My girl was laughing and interacting with these fanciful characters as they embarked on imaginative journeys throughout the house in their carriage, clippety-clop!
Ravensburger WOW toys are beautiful and well made, boasting a 10-year guarantee. My son’s racecar is three years old and looks great. I expect my daughter’s princess pumpkin carriage to hold up just fine.
My son is a puzzle buff, so Ravensburger’s new Highlights™ collection of puzzles are terrific for him. Inspired by the iconic brand and popular children’s magazine, offerings include a That’s Silly!™ line that challenges kids to find silly items in the scene; and Hidden Pictures™ for classic seek-and-find activity. These puzzles satisfy both of us: I feel good that he is learning and having fun. Ben is really interested and engaged to first assemble the puzzle and then find the hilarious objects in it. The 60-piece That’s Silly! Farm Stand puzzle depicts a colorful and detailed country farm stand with familiar fruits, vegetables and scenery. “Hey, carrots don’t grow on trees! That lady is carrying her groceries upside down! A lizard can’t carry an apple on its’ back,” my child bursts out laughing. Observing Ben doing puzzles is priceless, and the Highlights theme makes me nostalgic. http://www.ravensburger.com
Ravensburger toys can be purchased at various specialty toy stores nationwide, such as FAO Schwartz in Manhattan, or through Amazon.com/Ravensburger.
We’re happy and having a hoot with the Fierce Fun Toys, LLC comical line of plush animals and books. Three likeable characters must deal with natural body responses as they brave new surroundings and adventures and accept different friends. Ben KaChoo is the hippo with allergies who can’t stop sneezing; Harry Hiccers is the koala with hiccups; and Norman PhartEphant is the flatulent elephant because of a change in diet. In addition to being funny, these are meaningful and educational products parents will enjoy with their children. While we all laughed reading the tales of each animal, I was secretly pleased to see how my toddlers grasped and identified with the life lessons through Ben, Harry and Norman. This is my idea of quality family time. Finally, I must add that the plushes and books are super quality. The animals produce great sound effects and polite apologies when their tails are pulled – Mama and kids like this! The books are glossy, colorful and have stickers on the back. Fierce Fun Toys should be relished year-round. http://www.FierceFunToys.com
My kids like their story time anywhere – home, library and school. I got into reading to them since infancy because I’m a ham at playing character roles. So I got some fresh material from Workman Publishing to test on my young audience. And I scored! This year my son discovered the joy of super heroes and villains, so we’re thrilled to have DC COMICS Super Heroes & Villains: Fandex Deluxe and Star Wars™: A Scanimation Book. Both books make an excellent read for fans of all ages. They truly satisfy my Ben’s appetite for knowledge about those good and bad guys: The DC Comics Fandex boasts 75 years of facts, history, and trivia about comic book icons, such as Batman and Robin, Superman, Wonder Woman, and The Green Lantern, to their nemeses, The Joker, Catwoman, Mr. Freeze, the Penguin, and more – the gang’s all here. The Star Wars Scanimation Book is the first Star Wars book that actually moves, bringing to life 12 of the most iconic scenes from the epic Saga. Both books are a perfect size for toddler hands. My son wants to bring these to school for show-and-tell. His 22 friends are fans too.
Sandra Boynton’s Perfect Piggies board book is another sweet holiday offering from Workman. It comes with a cuddle soft piggy plush and a free song is available via download at http://www.workman.com/boyton. We love Boyton’s barnyard friends, so this is a nice addition to Sydney’s library. She can comfortably hold the book and be amused by what makes piggies stellar creatures. As always, Mama must bring out her inner thespian storyteller. That’s OK, these books
are cool, and as expected from Workman, superior quality and innovative.
These books are available at retailers nationwide, such as Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, and Borders. http://www.workman.com/
With all the playing going on in my house, it’s wonderful to relax to Snooze Tunes For Babies™ Lullaby Christmas from Numix Music Inc. This holiday CD features classics, such as “The Chipmunk Song,” “Feliz Navidad,” “Jingle Bells,” and “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” among many other favorites.
The tunes are so peaceful and lush, digitally-mastered with soothing chimes, harps, piano and synthesizers, everybody was lulled into naps in about 30 minutes. And that means kids, parents,
and our beagle and American dingo got shut-eye simultaneously – a rarity in daylight.
Snooze Tunes For Babies Lullaby Christmas is available as a digital release only. Individual songs and albums can be downloaded on iTunes.com. New tunes will be available early next year, including tributes to Rihanna, Michael Jackson, and Broadway Show songs. I’m going to listen to Snooze Tunes in my car, even when it’s not Christmas! http://www.snoozetunes.com
Picture taking opportunities abound during the holidays, so why not give young paparazzi their own cameras? Sakar International, Inc. has adorable cameras for picture perfect fun. Sakar has teamed up with Nickelodeon to create the Dora the Explorer™ Talking Digital Camera. Organically shaped, it is an ideal size for toddler handling. The camera includes a software suite and interactive functionality, and three built-in phrases from Dora, activated by pressing certain buttons.
The Leapfrog™ Camera 2.1 MP also talks and gives kids a way to document their world. Afterward, simple but creative software lets them manipulate their creations and mold them into their own. The Leapfrog Camera takes up to 100 photos with built-in memory, has built-in flash, and boasts an easy grip design for budding artists. Since they know Mama is a photography buff, my children are delighted to have their own personal cameras. I’m ready for my close-up.
These colorful cameras are available online or in-store at Toys R Us nationwide. http://www.sakar.com
My youngsters were curious of the Land and Water Mega View Periscope from Backyard Safari™ Outfitters. No, it wasn’t a toy for Dad, but for them – now go out and explore my short Jack Hannas! And that’s what they did, after bundling up in coats, hats and gloves, we were off to the local park.
This full-view periscope gave them renewed outdoor fun — stealth viewing over those popular tall boulders, high bushes, fences, around corners, and more, to witness Autumn’s colorful changing leaves, small animals, school friend, etc. You get the picture. And since this periscope boasts three rugged, lightweight sections telescopes for a reach of over 4 feet high, Ben had a blast seeing all those out-of-reach views. He can’t wait to conquer towering snowmen and huge snow mountains.
The Mega View Periscope also offers an exclusive water feature. Flip it upside down and it can be submerged a full 16 inches for underwater viewing. We’ll be taking this on our yearly family vacation to Cape Cod – there’s a great lake and beaches to explore. My kids will have fish eye views, and I won’t worry about water getting into their eyes and ears. http://www.backyardsafarioutfitters.com
I’m really impressed with the educational and realistic toys from ZILLIONZ™. The Talking Cash Register is awesome – it speaks three languages (English, Spanish and French), rings up real money and counts! My baby bankers can learn about money and math through lifelike fun play – they can hold the hand-held scanner to read barcode stickers (included) or call up a price check over the loudspeaker microphone. The talking keypad announces and totals entries while the digital display shows them. There’s even a credit card and play money to get started. The cash drawer is big enough to store real dollars and coins. Oh, oh, I hope my children don’t realize this anytime soon.
The Talking Cash Register is available in two different color combinations, steel/blue and pink/lavender.
I’ll need both. I don’t want a battle over whose bedroom it stays in. Move aside plastic fuchsia piggy banks. But seriously, this toy will help teach my kids about money, and I’m starting them young.
These products are so nice, classy and sturdy. Find more at http://www.zillionztoys.com.
My children are into building things, puzzles (as previously mentioned), Lego’s, and Tinker Toys, keep them occupied for at least an hour each day. I’ve recently added Fuzzoodles by Giddy Up™ to their toybox and they’ve taken the constructing challenge gleefully. I describe Fuzzoodles as the extra kooky second cousin to Lego’s and Mr. Potato Head. It combines colorful, bendable and BIG fuzzy noodles – Fuzzoodles — with wacky-looking interchangeable body parts such as eyes, mouths, teeth, hands, noses, feet, etc., along with accessories such as bowtie, purse, and skirt. You can image how much my kids enjoy themselves building an endless assortment of crazy creatures. Their characters are endless and weird, but in a cool way. “Mom look at this one I made!” and I nod my head in approval.
Fuzzoodles can be designed into single friends, made into bracelets, and decorate pens, headphones and more. My kids are twisting, bending, and building fanciful figures to battle Power Rangers, Transformers and join dolls at tea parties. These funny folks are wrapped around their bedposts at night.
And finally, my toddlers fight a lot year-round – not just at holidays. So I’ve handed them a Kimochi by Plushy Feely Corp. to help them better express what’s bothering them. My kids, ages two and four, took to the huggable Kimochi Bug instantly. This is a darn cute plush, an ideal size for small hands, with a pouch on its’ belly to store feelings. Colorful round gushy characters portray “feelings” like hurt, kind, friendly, sorry, uncomfortable, and more. I know my kids are claiming to feel multiple feelings just to interact with their Kimochi more, but they’re grasping its’ purpose. Hopefully, Ben and Syd won’t fight over this toy, and Mama may try it when they’re at preschool. Additional high-quality Kimochis include a cat, octopus, dove, and cloud, and more feelings are available too. http://www.kimochis.com.
We have plenty of playing to do with all these terrific products. Go out and shop for them this festive season. You’ll be merrier!