Practice Safe Sun with the Under the Sea Beach Cabana

April 20th, 2014

pTRU1-4120688dtThe Under the Sea Beach Cabana from Pacific Play Tents is a must-have for taking trips to the beach, park, pool, or soccer field with little kids. It’s easy to carry and assembles in minutes. Kids can lay down in the Cabana for a quick nap or use it to escape the sun.

With two full-sided mesh windows that allow air to freely flow through the tent, this will be kids go-to spot to cool down, relax in the shade, or play games. The tent’s solid back offers protection from UV rays to keep kids from getting sunburn.

Between the tents roominess and fun designs, kids will definitely take advantage of this fun hangout spot during outdoor family outings. Set up the Beach Cabana in the backyard for a whole day of play at home.

Giving Toys a Second Chance

April 19th, 2014

With Earth Day just around the corner, it is a good time to think about how to reuse and recyle. Reusing and recycling toys, in particular, is a great example!

I wrote a post around the holidays about recycling and reusing toys with these tips. Yet, there is a national organization that was started by a high school student who was tired of seeing beautiful, plastic toys on garbage day. She didn’t like to see so many toys being thrown away with many kids who can’t afford to have toys. So, she collected them, cleaned them up and donated them to local churches, food pantries and children’s organizations. Now her venture is called Second Chance Toys, which partners with the Kohl’s Volunteer Program, as well as 1-800-Got-Junk, who transports toys for Second Chance Toys.

Second Chance ToysTo date, they’ve collected and donated more than 170,000 toys to children in need. The goal is to put toys in the hands of more than 100,000 underserved children this year who have humbly asked for a toy through various oorganizations and homeless shelters.

There are six served areas to date in New York City; New Jersey; and Boston, Mass. If you have or can collect 50 or more gently used plastic toys, Second Chance Toys will arrange for a drop-off at a local organization. They even give you access to flyers, merchandise and other promotional items to promote your collection. You can also volunteer your time, or make a donation.

So this Earth Day, consider keeping toys out of landfills and into the hands of deserving boys and girls.

Rabbids Invasion Toys Wreak Havoc in the Best Ways

April 14th, 2014

I like to pretend that I’ve grown out of my childish, tomboy ways, but there’s something about toys that fart, burp, scream, and make the noises of toilets flushing that really, even still, steals my heart. As Ubisoft’s Rabbids video game-turned-Nickelodeon hit TV series, Rabbids have completely taken over TV screens and gaming devices, and now the Rabbids licensed toy line by McFarlane Toys is about to invade toy aisles everywhere.Apr7.RabbidsInvasion3

The range of this line definitely struck me most. McFarlane found a way to bring all of Rabbids’ crazy antics to life with toys that kids can play with, collect, and love.

The Rabbids Plunger Sound Blaster is a wacky toy that’s great for kids who enjoy pranking parents and friends with the pleasant sounds of Rabbids’ famous Bwaaah’s laughs, farts, and more. Even when I think I’ve exhausted all 15 sounds, I still continue to laugh each time I pull the toy’s trigger.Apr7.RabbidsInvasion2

Action figures are a staple in almost every toy line, but the Rabbids Sound and Action Figures 2-Packs allow for interaction and more than just imaginative fun. Plunger Face is currently fastened to my purse—each time I pull the plunger back the toy sounds off with a Rabbid noise, and as I release the plunger it smacks the adorable little bunny in the face, and he reacts with a yell. Kids can also collect Chicken Surprise, The Driller, and Starfish Friend and attach them to coat zippers, backpacks, key chains, and more.

With Rabbids Mini Figure Blind Bag, kids can collect and trade a variety of iconic Rabbids figures. What’s fun about this is that kids don’t know which figure they’re going to get—and a rare high-value mystery Rabbid definitely raises the stakes.Apr7.RabbidsInvasion

The line wraps up with plush, and there’s so much to love about these soft and squeezable 12-inch bunnies. Between their silly facial expressions and costumes, it’s almost too much for me to handle. Kids can choose from Loco Libre Rabid, Super Bwaaah, and original Rabbids plush. Shake Hoo-Bwaaah Rabbid, Raving Rabbid, and Sly Rabbid to hear fun sounds.

Rabbids Invasion toys are recommended for kids ages 5 and up. The line is now available at Wal-Mart and Toys “R” Us.

Make Easter Sweet with Toys Instead of Candy

April 14th, 2014

ABC US News | ABC Business News


Twilight Buddies (Cloud b)

  • The new Twilight Buddies are a colorful, ultra-cuddly collection of super soft friends that help ease children’s fear of the dark.
  • These plush pals project actual star constellations onto bedroom ceilings and walls.
  • Each cute character provides a soft glow in three soothing color options: blue, green and amber, as well as the option to automatically cycle through all three.
  • These snuggly buddies include a bright green alligator, a fuzzy fox, a patchwork giraffe, a huggable hippo and a silky soft sheep and more.
  • The lights automatically shut off after 45 minutes to create the complete darkness for sleeping recommended by pediatricians.
  • Ages: 0+
  • MSRP: $30


 Boingers (Nat and Jules)

  • Decorative headband with bunny ears features a trendy sparkle fabric bow.
  • Soft Bunny with spring themed satin ribbon.
  • Sound activated characters that “boing” when they are thrown
  • Ages: All
  • MSRP: Boingers $9.00


Grunting Pig Puppet and Rabbit Puppets (Folkmanis)

  • Entertain your kids and your friends and LOL with the Grunting Pig puppet.
  • Delightful silky soft plush of pale pink with grey patches and a curly tail come to life with a workable snout, mouth, and front trotters.
  • Squeeze his potbelly to make him grunt and witness the hilarity that ensues.
  • This little piggy is 14 inches long.
  • Ages: 3+
  • MSRP: $29.99


Go! Go! Smart Wheels Vehicles (VTech)

  • Children can cruise into the learning zone with new Go! Go! Smart Wheels vehicles from VTech.
  • These electronic play vehicles are perfectly sized for little hands and entertain children with a light-up button that activates music and sounds.
  • Little ones will also learn about different letters and vehicle names through pretend play.
  • A new ATV, convertible, and bulldozer, airplane and dump truck join a line-up that includes a car, van, truck, ambulance, fire truck, police car, tow truck, helicopter, cement mixer, tractor and two race cars.
  • Ages: 1+
  • MSRP:  $7.99


Little People Easter Surprise (Fisher-Price)

  • Ding-dong, is any bunny home?
  • Yes, it’s Eddie and Sofie, in a house filled with fun Easter surprises!
  • Ring the doorbell and a light turns on inside.
  • Move the rooftop egg for fun sounds, music and a hop-up bunny surprise. Play peek-a-boo with a pop-up chicken … and more.
  • House opens wide for two-sided play, then folds closed at the end of the day with everything stored inside.
  • Includes two figures, an Easter basket and a wheelbarrow.
  • Ages: 1-5
  • MSRP:  $29.99


My Studio Girl 3D Magic Dough (University Games)

  • Air-dry modeling kits with easy-to-follow instructions.
  • These adorable sculptures dry solid with no baking required to create a 2.5-inch figure.
  • Includes everything needed to make cute keepsakes, such as a dog, ladybugs, a cat, a nesting owl, a hippo, and a cat on a mat with adorable accessories.
  • Dough is perfectly measured to make each component of each little animal.
  • Ages: 8+
  • MSRP: $4.99


Hexbug Nano V2 Easter Eggs (Innovation First)

  • Ages: 3+
  • MSRP $4.99


Glitzi Globes Surprise Egg (Moose Toys)

  • Ages: 5+
  • MSRP: $2.99


Zelfs Surprise Egg (Moose Toys)

  • Ages: 5+
  • MSRP: $2.99


The Trash Pack Series 6 2-Pack (Moose Toys)

  • Ages: 5+
  • MSRP: $2.99

Skylanders SWAP Force Easter Basket (Activision)

  • For kids who love Skylanders—there’s something for everyone.
  • .Fryno, Punk Shock, and Springtime Trigger Happy will be available in special limited edition Spring Edition packaging.
  • Springtime Trigger Happy is one of the most unique Skylanders of the bunch and features a completely new spring-themed design that comes to life in the game.
  • There are Skylanders items for everyone including Monopoly, markers, trading cards, T-shirts
  • Ages: 6+
  • MSRP: $1.99 – $19.99

GoldieBlox and the Dunk Tank

  • GoldieBlox and the Dunk Tank is a storybook with a construction kit.
  • In this story, Goldie and her friends devise a plan to get her dog Nacho clean in time for the carnival. Kids read the story and build along to solve the problem of the dirty dog.
  • Builds spatial skills, engineering principles (hinges and levers), reading skills and confidence in problem solving.
  • Comes equipped with three design idea starters—also compatible with all other GoldieBlox toys for unlimited building possibilities.
  • Includes a storybook, an animal figurine, a bouncy ball, two wheels, nine short axles, 18 long axles, 12 blocks, 10 spacers, and two targets.
  • Ages: 4-9
  • MSRP: $19.99

Traveling with Kids

April 13th, 2014


traveling with kids

We travel with our kids several times a year and I am always trying to think of new ways to make the whole process a lot smoother.


For Christmas, we got both of our kids their own suitcases, like the Trunki from Melissa and Doug. They love to be able to pack their favorite toys and books. This also cuts down on them trying to stuff all of their prized possessions into my bag. They know they can pack their loveys, blankets, and few books and toys. If it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t come with us!

Another priority when traveling is keeping them busy! Even though we do have a DVD player for the car, we don’t like to rely on that to keep them entertained. We always pack some activity pads, like Melissa & Doug’s Water Wow or Carry-n-Color activity pads. The Water Wow pads are great because they are mess free!

030801_alt1To help with the activity pads, a travel tray, like this one found at One Step Ahead,  is a must. Not only does it give your child a flat surface to draw and color on, but they make a great snack tray as well. I love the side pockets on this one to hold cups, markers, crayons, and small toys.

When all else fails, family games always come through for us. Classic games like Travel Bingo and the License Plate game from Melissa and Doug never get old! It also keeps the kids busy by making them look around and gets them excited when they find what they are looking for.

travel games

Stephanie is a member of the 2013-2014 Toy Insider Parent Advisory Board. She is also a blogger at A Grande Life. You can follow her on Twitter at @thestephglover!

R/C Outlasts The Rest (And Makes the Perfect Easter Basket Gift)

April 12th, 2014

NewBright_EdKouryby Ed Koury, New Bright

Kids these days are so concerned with what is on the Internet or what new video games are coming out, that classic hands-on games and toys have started to fade away. However, there are some classic toys that still hold kids’ interests. One such classic play pattern is the radio-controlled (R/C) toy car.

This everlasting category hasn’t lost its relevance over the years, and as technology advances, the R/C business continues to make improvements and upgrades. New Bright R/C cars are all about speed, power, and performance, and that’s what kids are looking for these days. Sure, video games can be fun, but sometimes kids need to get away and do something more hands-on.


This classic play pattern is still important for kids, and starring at a computer screen or TV for hours isn’t always healthy. Kids themselves can realize this and enjoy the opportunity to pick up an R/C product and race their car around the house or outside. New Bright R/C makes toy cars that capture the real-life experience of driving a real car. The lifelike presence of sports cars and monster trucks brings an experience like no other to playtime.

As the R/C category continues to grow, nothing will put a smile on your child’s face faster than an R/C car on Easter morning. More than just chocolates and candy, giving the gift of R/C has lasting play value for kids.

Check out some of New Bright’s latest R/C toys!


The Toy Insider Springs Into Fun with a New Giveaway!

April 7th, 2014

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Out with the old, in with the new! 

Spring into fun with The Toy Insider! To celebrate the arrival of spring, we’re cleaning out our overflowing closet! Nothing like a good bout of spring cleaning to make room for the new AMAZING toys we’ll be sharing with you throughout this year. We’re giving away a BOX FULL OF NEW TOYS worth more than $300 each week to one lucky winner.

Every Friday, from April 11 through May 2, head over to our Twitter page (@TheToyInsider) and find our #SpringIntoFun tweet that we will post at 8 a.m. We’ll choose our lucky winner at 4 p.m.!

So start cleaning out your own closets and make room for a brand new box of toys from the Toy Insider!



8 Essential Outdoor Toys

April 6th, 2014


I can not wait for the weather to warm up a bit so that I can get the kids outside for fresh air and outdoor play. We all need it after the winter we’ve had! I have been stocking up on our outdoor toys so that there are no excuses and they won’t get bored.

1. Jungle CroquetAn indoor/outdoor croquet set from Alex Toys with jungle animals that are ready to play. These wacky wickets are made of real wood. Great for hand/eye coordination. Includes 4 mallets, 4 balls and 6 stakes.

2. Ring Stix: RingStix is a new game that is easy to learn and you can play it alone, by two persons or in a group.  RingStix is played by two players passing the ring back and forth using two sticks per player. To launch the ring place both sticks through the ring, pull the sticks quickly apart causing the ring to launch. The ring will spin toward the other player.

3Top Toss Lawn GameThis is great for parties AND when the neighborhood kids want to get together. Players take turns trying to wrap the bolo balls around the rungs to score points. The steel frame is portable, durable, and easy to set up. Comes with storage bag and instructions from Poof Slinky.

4. Activity ConesGrab a stack of these sturdy plastic cones from Melissa and Doug and head outside to play! Four different colors and two textures make every cone unique, so they’re great for traditional outdoor games and so much more.

5. UnbelievaBubble: What kid doesn’t love playing with bubbles?  Uncle Bubble has a reputation for launching products that forever shake-up the Bubble Play Industry. The UNBELIEVA BUBBLE wand makes giant bubbles that will blow kids away!

6. Max Boom Sport Pack: Having a variety of sports balls is a must! This three-ball set , from Poof-Slinky, has a 8-inch football, a 6-inch basketball, and a soccer ball. All of the balls are made of soft, safe foam in fun colors and designs. Kicking, tossing, or slamming brings out the signature BOOM! Kids ages 5 and up will love it.

7. Ready, Set, Stilts!Learn to walk on stilts from Alex Toys! Two easy steps: 1- Learn to balance with big foot trainers; 2- Replace the trainers with no-skid caps and step up to stilt walking. So fun, kids won’t even realize their improving their balance and coordination!

8. Sidewalk Mandala – Sweet StuffTake it outside for big outdoor sidewalk fun! Create beautiful mandala designs in chalk. Intricate patterns are easy to create with the Sidewalk Sweet Stuff Mandala stencil. Stencil folds for easy storage and travel.


Stephanie is a member of the 2013-2014 Toy Insider Parent Advisory Board. She is also a blogger at A Grande Life. You can follow her on Twitter at @thestephglover!

How Early Is Too Early?

April 5th, 2014

girl play

My daughter is 21 months old. She loves everything from blocks to boats, and from cars to castles. Yet, I never really thought about her play pattern as it relates to traditional girl toys and dolls. She has her favorite Lambie and loves to run around with her miniature Doc McStuffins figurine. Yet, most of the toys we have in our home are gender neutral and perhaps a bit boy-leaning. Not a surprise since my son is my first born, so most of the toys in our house have been bought with him in mind (cars, trucks, and trains are the common theme!)

Yet, now that my daughter is getting older, I can see she is starting to take a more active role in her own play, and, as a result, in the things she wants to play with.

My first clue, if you will, is when I took my son over to a preschool friend’s house for a play date. It was a female friend so most of the toys leaned to doll houses and dolls, with a smattering of trains and trucks. They played well together, and little sister tagged along. The older kids payed her no mind as she sat on the floor next to a Calico Critter dollhouse and a Fisher Price Doll house and proceeded to try to get various Barbies in the front door of each. She enjoyed her play so much that she wouldn’t let go of Barbie and her dream house when it was time to go!

So the question is, when is it too early to introduce Barbie (considering, of course, that some are recommended for kids ages 3 and up due to small parts). When did your daughter get her first doll house? And which one did you find had great play value? Because, apparently, with her second birthday just three months away, I may need to start shopping!

Take a Day and Just Play

March 29th, 2014

I came across this quote recently and it really hit home. We often consider play as it relates to our children, but play is, and should be, an important part of the lives of adults. Whether you have kids or not, it is important to take the time in our busy schedules to have fun.


Maybe it is getting together with friends to play Frisbee in the park on a Sunday afternoon. Maybe it is getting together with fellow Moms for a painting class or a make-your-own jewelry event. Other times, even though you have bills to pay, emails to send, and dinner to make, it may be just getting down on the floor and playing with our kids, and forgetting about our to-do lists. Consider going for a bike ride on a weekday night, or a quick ride to the playground in the middle of running errands.

Make one night a week game night and play board games with the family or make a weekend night movie night. Some fun board games are classics like Candy Land and Chutes and Ladders, from Hasbro. A fun new game that’s family friendly is Squashed, from Plasmart! Or grab some old magazines, markers, crayons, scissors and glue, and have kids make cards and art.

Whatever activity you do with your family, put the worries aside and just play!