Chrismukkah is over at our mixed-marriage residence.  Please ignore those lingering decorations. It’s time to call out just a few of the Santa (and Hanukkah) successes of the 2012 Holiday season.

Disney Apples To Apples

Disney Apples To Apples – Surely, you have played the adult-targeted version of this game at a party or two – possibly under the influence of an adult beverage. “Disney Apples To Apples” down-ages this word association game so the whole family can participate and integrates pictures from almost every Disney property – including Parks, Pixar, Princesses, and tween TV. We have been playing this non-stop since Hanukkah and has become an instant favorite for our 6-year-old.

Star Wars Princess Leia Fashion Set

Star Wars Princess Leia Fashion Set – Most parents of Disney Princess-loving girls have spent much time helping dress  the rubber-dressed, Polly Pocket-esque Disney Princess mini- figures. This Disney Parks “exclusive item,” also available on Amazon, gives Princess Leia the Disney“fashion set” treatment with a slew of clothing and hairstyles from different ‘Star Wars’ films. No matter how hard those rubber clothes are to put on, I will gladly support my 6-year-old’s interest in this property.

Lite Brite LED Flatscreen

Lite Brite LED Flatscreen – Lite Brite lives on! A staple toy of my 80’s, this toy has been downsized to an era-appropriate “LED Flatscreen.” It still comes with the same multicolored pegs we know and love (yet hate to step on) as well as the black slip-in sheets to create designs.

LEGO® DUPLO® Creative Cakes

LEGO® DUPLO® Creative Cakes – My two year old  loves two things: Getting her hands in my older daughter’s LEGO Friends and celebrating birthdays – fake or not. This DUPLO kit keeps her away from her big sister’s creations while letting her have some birthday make-pretend play at the same time.

Melissa & Doug Slice and Bake Cookie Set

Melissa & Doug Slice and Bake Cookie Set – This playset lets kids “bake,” “decorate,” and “serve” cookies. My children have had their eyes on this toy since seeing it at a friends’ house, and I was happy to add a solid wooden toy set to the mix.

MindWare Pattern Play

MindWare Pattern Play – Nothing beats some offline, old-fashioned block play. The Pattern Play set comes with 40 rainbow-colored blocks to assemble. Just choose a pattern card design to replicate and fit it into the wooden tray. While I am sure there is an “app for that,” it is nice to see my daughter disconnecting from the screen for a while.

Cinderella Toddler Doll

Cinderella Toddler Doll – My two-year-old can often be seen swaying through the house warbling her rendition of Cinderella’s “A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes” in her sister’s flashing “glass” slippers. So, yeah, she loves her Cinderelly. Instead of a Barbie-style doll, Santa brought her a larger-sized Cinderella Toddler Doll. While it may not exactly align with the story – Cinderella wasn’t exactly wearing her crown and blue dress as a toddler – I don’t think that is going to stop her from carrying it with her everywhere she goes.

LEGO Friends Adventure Camper

LEGO Friends Adventure Camper – The LEGO Friends argument is played out at this point, but my stance is “if it gets my girls into the LEGO brand, I am down.” This was one of the most enjoyably intricate sets we have built, and temporarily left last year’s camper-gift-from-Santa (Barbie Sisters Family Camper) in the dust.

Journey Girls Wheelchair and Crutch Set

Journey Girls Wheelchair and Crutch Set – The rite-of-passage know as American Girl Dolls has fully infiltrated our house. It’s a great to have brands like Journey Girls that offer cheaper 18” doll accessories. This wheelchair and crutch set has been a hit on the block and a central part of our daughter’s American Girl playtime since Medical Orderly Kriss Kringle delivered it December 25th.

Fisher-Price Little People Disney Princess Songs Palace

Fisher-Price Little People Disney Princess Songs Palace – Fisher-Price’s classic Little People brand meets the ubiquitous Disney Princess brand in this musical dollhouse-style toy. My two-year old has already spent hours with this toy, warming up for her eventual full-fledged Disney Princess obsession.

Choo Choo Bob DVD

In reviewing children’s shows, I often chance upon two types:  First, there are the wonderful, niche productions aimed at a specific audience with specific goals. Then, there are the broader, mainstream-aimed shows that are just waiting for their national breakthrough.  The Choo Choo Bob Show falls in to the later category.

Based out of Saint Paul, Minnesota, The Choo Choo Bob Show is a live-action comedy show aimed at children 2-7 that has echoes of Pee Wee’s Playhouse, Captain Kangaroo and Howdy Doody.  ’Choo Choo Bob’ is set at Bob’s clubhouse, and features visits from his wacky human pals (includes actors with experience at Comedy Central) and puppet friend Charlie Rat. Choo Choo Bob keeps it updated for modern audience with stop-ins from hipster musicians (Ozomatli), humor  that will appeal to parents and kids (“Cleaning with Autotune”), and a likable lead host (Sam Heyn) that won’t scare off parents.

And, of course, there are the trains. Executive producer and show creator Bob Medcraft was inspired by his retail storefront Choo Choo Bob’s Train Store, located in St Paul.  His knowledge of trains carries over into each episode where the characters travel across the country visiting real working railroads, answering train questions from kids, and watching “guest trains” zoom by their club house.  Even if your little one is not train-infatuated, the music, wrap-around plots and characters will keep them engaged. And if they are train enthusiasts, this show will send them roaring down the rails. We had a viewing party with our friends’ sons (ages 2 & 5) who were already in love with all things locomotive.  The show resonated with them after the first 10 minutes, and the one DVD we gave them as a sample was surely not going to suffice.

Right now The Choo Choo Bob Show has 46 episodes produced, all airing in the mid-west. But anyone outside those geographic lines can access Choo Choo Bob merchandise online, including, DVDs, CDs, and stuffed animals.  Bob Medcraft and team hope to ride their train into other states soon. In the meantime, you can check out some great clips on their YouTube channel.

 

The Choo Choo Bob Gang

The ‘Choo Choo Bob’ Gang