One of the best things about being a mom is your chance to reread your favorite childhood books and play with toys both old and new. But, one of the best things about being a mom blogger is getting to go the Toy Fair! Last week the Toy Fair hit New York at the Javits Center and I dropped off my daughters at The Westminster Dog Show with their grandmother (knew those pet allergies would come in handy) and headed to the fair to decide my own Best in Show. First stops, Playmobile and Madame Alexander.
Certain companies evoke the kid in me like no other and Playmobile is one of them. I had the big fort/camping set when I was little. I am endlessly fascinated by incredible attention to detail that Playmobile executes in all their toys, the quality of the pieces that can be handed down over and over again, and way in which their toys facilitate imaginative play. What caught my eye at the fair was their new school. First of all it has such a pleasing, colorful, happy feel. This is the school your kids wish they attended. The details abound – a skeleton figure and microscope in the science lab, a working abacus on top of the real chalkboard for doing math, a little child bathroom and a Principal’s desk with a coffee pot. Details, always about the details. I immediately wanted to pick up the pieces and start playing. It’s also fully fashioned all the way around like all Playmobile toys so that you could really get a bunch of kids playing with this at once – something I’m always looking at as a mom of twins.
One of my other favorite things about Playmobile is how their attention to the little things makes them great teaching tools too.
When we had a family medical tragedy in our family many years ago someone suggested the Playmobile Hospital as a toy to help my very young niece and nephew learn about a hospital and the kinds of things they would encounter when they went their to visit their mom. It took me a couple of hours to put together – perfection requires some hard work! – but it was a very accurate and engaging toy from the gurneys to the OR instruments to the doctors wearing surgical masks it covered many of the scary things they would see and made it maybe, possibly a little less intimidating. At least it gave them an outlet to play out what they did see and try to make sense of it.
The school set comes out in August and I can see this being a toy that could help kids adjust to the idea of starting a new school and as a toy which helps them act out any anxiety they have about going to school, and the situations that arise once they start.
And, by the way, all of their pieces go in the top rack of the dishwasher, just throw them in one of those little baskets that you use for sippy cup inserts and bottle rings and nipples.
After Playmobile I headed to Madame Alexander. My daughters have been to the Madame Alexander “factory” up in Harlem and are big doll fans. I have to say out of all the press kits I came home with from Toy Fair, the Madame Alexander one is the one that they fought over, pored over, and has now found a permanent place on their bookshelf. I don’t blame them. But, I was never a doll collector. While I appreciate the incredible artistry, design and quality of the special dolls, I liked something I could play with not just look at. My daughters on the other hand are fairly obsessive collectors, of tons of things – rocks, shells, Webkinz, books in series, etc. So they announced that when they turn 8 on their next birthday they would be mature enough for one of the “fancy” Madame Alexander dolls. We’ll see.
In the meantime I was incredibly impressed and drawn to the huge array of play dolls that Madame Alexander currently has in their line up. Wonderful soft versions of their collector dolls such as Rainbow Bright, Angelina Ballerina, Fancy Nancy and Pinkalicious. One of my absolute favorite items is a Wizard of Oz soft doll playset that comes with a Dorothy doll and then two other outfits that turn her into either the Good Witch or the Wicked Witch of the East. I love a toy that does triple imagination duty.
The dolls I came home raving about however are the Madame Alexander 18″ Favorite Friends dolls that compete directly with the American Girl Just Like Me dolls. These dolls have beautiful faces, are impeccably well made and most importantly, they retail for less than half the cost of an AG doll. That means I could buy two dolls and an extra outfit for the price of one American Girl doll. And like I said, as a mom of twins that is a serious draw. As a personal preference, I also like the looks of these dolls more than the AG dolls because I for one always found those two front teeth that stick out on the AG dolls as pretty unattractive. The only draw back of course is what my daughters pointed out – you can’t take the Madame Alexander doll to the hair salon at American Girl. But, maybe they will get on this and create a partnership with Toy R Us to have doll salons in stores. By the way Toys R Us, if you did this you’d bring a ton of girls into your stores!!!
In my next post I’ll talk about Melissa and Doug complete with a giveaway! Stay tuned…