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.

Admittedly, I did not get to spend too much time at Toy Fair. I was in attendance for the sister Engage event, so I only got a few hours to peruse the Toy Fair floor to seek out things that were of personal interest. Below are just a few of the items that caught my attention along the way. If you want a truly deeper dive, I recommend sources like Toy Directory or Out With The Kids. In the meantime, check out a handful of Nugget Island picks below.

Creativity for Kids’ Shrinky Dinks Fairy Garden

Maia recently discovered the joy of Shrinky Dinks. However, she usually discards them after they have done their shrinking thing. So, the idea of being able to use the ‘Dinks’ after baking and shrinking them caught my attention. Each Shrinky Dink turns into a little fairy that can be played with in a 3-D cardboard garden.

Creativity for Kids’ Shrinky Dinks Fairy Garden
Creativity for Kids’ Playful Pets Nesting Dolls Kit

What is it about nesting dolls that appeals to kids of all ages? Add a DIY art twist, and they go beyond being simple novelty items. This Nesting Doll Kit lets kids paint and sticker their own wooden dolls using non-toxic, acrylic paint.

Creativity for Kids’ Playful Pets Nesting Dolls Kit
Curious Chef 6 Piece Fruit & Veggie Prep Kit / 16 Piece Cupcake and Decorating Kit

Sometimes Maia gets tired of playing kitchen, and wants the real thing. I was on the lookout for a company that makes safe, tangible, and cute-looking kitchen tools for kids. These ergonomically-correct kits offer both ends of the culinary spectrum. First off, they guarantee some fun with healthy fruit and veggie preparation. And, being realistic, there is also some sweet tooth-satisfying kitchen fun with a cupcake decorating kit.

Curious Chef 6 Piece Fruit & Veggie Prep Kit / 16 Piece Cupcake and Decorating Kit
Early Rider

Not only does this British company create a unique, safe bike that aims to teach children to ride at a young age, they create it with solid birch wood. This bike aims to be as easy on the eyes as it is to ride. Pictured is the Classic Series in natural color. Love those flames!

Early Rider
eebee’s Adventure Play mat & Activity Play House / Music and Sound DVD

We love eebee in our house. This dreadlocked puppet was a must-watch in Maia’s first few years, and we looked forward to introducing our newborn to this property some day. This brightly-colored, transformable mat/ playhouse will be the perfect place to do just that. Meanwhile, we will be sure to get our hands on the newest DVD in the eebee line, “Music and Sound.”
eebee’s Adventure Play mat & Activity Play House
“Music and Sound” DVD
Pinkalicious Licensing Mania

Like many little girls, my daughter is quite smitten with the Pinkalicious properties. Walking into the Fundex booth, I was surprised by all of the card and board games being released under this property. A great way to get the little one excited about offline analog games, titles included licensed versions of Scrabble Jr. and UNO as well as original titles like “Pinkalicious Pinkarella Lunchbox Game.”

Pinkalicious Licensing Mania

PPW Toys’ Wizard of Oz Mr. Potato Head Set

These classic childhood toys, as well as Toy Story stars, get the ‘Oz’ makeover with this new licensing deal. Part collectible toy, part child plaything, I have yet to make up my mind if the ‘Oz’ Potato Head Set will be a future “daddy collectible” or a gift for the kids.

PPW Toys’ Wizard of Oz Mr. Potato Head Set
Playmates Toys’ Michael Jackson 10″ Collector Figures

For those who have turned their youngsters on to MJ, here’s the chance to collect (and/or play) with the late King of Pop. Set for release in the Spring, the series includes “Beat It Michael,” “First Moonwalk Michael,” “Thriller Michael,” and the “Billie Jean Michael.” (Excuse my terrible photo, better ones here!)
Playmates Toys’ Michael Jackson 10″ Collector Figures
AMAV’s Chocolate Coin Press

We could be getting our gelt on next Hanukkah thanks to this Chocolate Coin Press from AMAV/Diamant. I loved the idea of getting Maia involved in the process of making the gold-wrapped chocolate coins from scratch – all done using a small “mint” machine.

AMAV’s Chocolate Coin Press
AMAV’s Chocolate Coin Press Render
Dunecraft “Pirate’s Cove” / “Mermaid’s Growing Grotto”

I have been a long-time admirer of Dunecraft’s science-themed garden and plant kits. Their down-aged Pirate’s Cove and Mermaid’s Growing Grottos get kids in the growing dome game, with two plant kits targeting both genders.

Dunecraft Pirate's Cove / Mermaid's Growing Grotto
Mezco’s DC Mez-Itz Wonder Woman

My daughter has gone Wonder Woman crazy so I was on the lookout for anything featuring this Amazonian princess. While many toys featured a sexed-up version of the superhero, this pint-sized designer toy was cute and collectible.

Mezco's DC Mez-Itz Wonder Woman
P’Kolino Safari Collection - Tree Table with Animal Chairs

This company makes beautiful products with an eye for modern design, and this wooden table set is no exception. This brightly colored set is made of solid wood and features chairs shaped like animal silhouettes.

P’Kolino Safari Collection - Tree Table with Animal Chairs
P’Kolino Multi-Solution Owl Shape Puzzle

Another small sample of what this company can do with design. Check out their site and get ready to start your P’Kolino-only playroom.

P’Kolino Multi-Solution Owl Shape Puzzle
Putumayo Coloring and Sticker Books

Our favorite world music label expands on their product line with a series of coloring and sticker books based on their trademark artwork. Each uniquely-illustrated set features the animals, instruments and people of that geographical location.

Putumayo Coloring and Sticker Books
NECA Coraline Licensing

Another beloved property in our house, I was excited to see all the licensed toys being offered from NECA. Their “wall of Coraline” included items like a collectible lunchbox, throw pillow, and assorted PVC toys.

Coraline Licensing
Disney Princess Squinkies

Disney Princess Squinkies bring together an evergreen property with the current collectible craze. Guaranteed to breathe extended life into the pencil topper trend, these new sets will come in packs themed around each princess.

Disney Princess Squinkies
Workman’s Wizard of Oz Scanimation: 10 Classic Scenes from Over the Rainbow

The creators of the “Scanimation” style books that were brought to life in best-sellers Gallop! and Swing! are journeying down the yellow brick road with this licensed edition. Iconic Scanimation scenes include Miss Gulch transforming into the witch, The Scarecrow doing his famous dance and the ruby slippers clicking together.

Workman’s “Wizard of Oz Scanimation: 10 Classic Scenes from Over the Rainbow”
Workman’s Papertoy Monsters Book

Despite my lack of Origami talent, I am still obsessed with the papertoy trend – the Internet phenomenon that has some of the coolest designers creating DIY toys. This book brings together 25 papertoy designers from around the world to create Origami-style monster toys for kids to create at home.

Workman’s Papertoy Monsters
Tonner 15” Disney Princess Dolls

At around $200 a piece, these dolls are not made for the hands of your young princess fan. But they are beautiful collectibles and are worth calling out for the adult fan. Maia loved looking at the pictures alone and promised “not to break them if we bought one.”

Tonner 15” Disney Princess Dolls
Tonner 22” Wonder Woman Doll

This showcase piece was wowing all who passed it in the aisle. At $350, this is for serious collectors and hardcore Wonder Woman fans. Regardless of price, Tonner’s attention to detail and quality cannot be denied.

Tonner 22” Wonder Woman Doll
RoomMates Decorative Peel & Stick Products

Peel and stick wall decals continue to replace wallpaper and posters as a popular way to liven up a child’s bedroom. RoomMates have wisely locked in the leading licenses, giving them the advantage in this crowded market. Brands and characters from Disney, DC, Marvel, Star Wars, Nickelodeon, and Cartoon Network are just some of the decals you can purchase. Plus, there’s this pretty cool Where the Wild Things Are set.

RoomMates Decorative Peel & Stick Products
Batman x MIMOBOT USB Flash Drive Collection

Why buy a boring old Flash drive when you can get one in the shape of your favorite Batman character? Loaded with desktop wallpapers, icons, avatars, and screensavers, these storage drives come in the shape of Batman, Robin, Catwoman, or  The Joker.

Batman x MIMOBOT USB Flash Drive Collection

Realizing the holidays were approaching, our daughter notified us she “only wanted Princess stuff.”  She then added to that, “real princess stuff, Disney Princess.”

I realize I am the parent, I could put my foot down, maybe even sneak in some wooden puzzles. But, in truth, it is not like she asked for a Tiffany bracelet or a Hannah Montana doll. And on the positive side, Maia’s favorite princess is currently Mulan, teaching her some other (slightly Disneyfied) culture than that which exists under the sea and in a castle. Plus, underhanded plans are already in the works to sneak in some non-Disney branded Princess paraphernalia, and as long as it is pink and royal-looking she will be a happy toddler.

So, on my excursions to hunt down various Princess presents, I came across some licensed products that lend themselves quite naturally to the brand (Barbie-style dolls, pajamas, DVD players, pop-up castle tents, even toothpaste). However, I have chanced upon a few that left me with a slight feeling somewhere between bemusement and professional curiosity. I wondered how important it was to stay true to a classic brand, respect the back-stories and remember the magic that originally made these films so successful.

Before I share my list of Perplexing Princess Products, let it be known I am in no means an anti-Disney anarchist. I can’t wait to bring Maia to Disney World, show her all the movies I watched as a kid, and take her to each new one as it comes out. But, it is hard not to poke fun at some of the licensed products coming out of the House of Mouse, whether or not they are ringing up sales at the registers.

Ten Perplexing Princess Products

1. “The Princess and The Frog” Comfy Throw Blanket – Yup, it’s a Princess Snuggie, or Snuggler to be more accurate. The current As-Seen-On-TV product we all love to laugh at is now available at your local toy store with your favorite new princess image on it.

Princesssnuggler

2. My 1st Disney Princess Baby Ariel Doll – With this release, Disney is going “retcon” on us. If I recall, Ariel did not have legs until her later years. I understand this may be categorized as nitpicking, and the target demographic may not be so concerned, but ignoring a classic back-story devalues a much-loved license.

BabyArielDoll3. Princess Ariel Bride Dress - I am okay with princess dress-up, but a bride’s dress borders on “Toddlers and Tiaras” level creepy. I understand the value of role-play, and Maia loves to pretend her Princess dolls are getting married. But seeing her walk down the “make pretend” aisle in a white dress that “includes a bonus veil to make you feel like you are headed down the aisle with your own Prince Eric” is messing with my head a bit too much.

AirelBrideDress

4. Any Disney Princess Enchanted Nursery Toy - This whole line is based off the concept that Belle, Beauty, Cinderella and their princes all played together as toddlers. Seeing The Beast as a toddler in his outfit did make me chuckle, but the words “brand erosion” come to mind when seeing some of these dolls.

Disney Princess Enchanted1
Disney Princess Enchanted Nursery Pairs

5. Enchanted Nursery Sea Shore Snow White - A build off of the previously mentioned line, this has Snow White “dressed up and ready to go” for a day at the beach. Sunglasses and sparkle bathing suit are included. Again, I go back to the story of Snow White and question whether she had access, deep in the woods, to the latest Ray-Bans and La Blanca products.

enchantedsnowwhite

6. Snow White Vacuum & 7. Snow White Ironing Board Seat – Speaking of Snow White’s resources, I am sure she would have loved this vacuum and ironing board when cleaning up after those 7 slobs. Unfortunately, the “real” Snow White had to do with her helpful animal friends and some elbow grease. Fortunately, today’s girl has more options, and the little Snow White of tomorrow will have some practice with these Princess-branded toys.

SnowWhiteVacsnowwhiteiron

8. Disney Princess: A Christmas of Enchantment – After borrowing this from a friend, I anticipated the Princess crew would help us celebrate the season with some new holiday content. But watching it, all I found was recycled bits of old Disney content with brief intros. We are given a chopped version of the previously-released Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas DVD, an edited short from Fantasia 2000, some above-average 1930′s era cartoon shorts, a Little Mermaid story with no animation and two songs with clips from the Princess films.

DVD

9. Disney Princess Plush Rocker – No direct tie-in to any princess is clear here, as we know none of the royal girls were riding flamingo-colored horses. The color pink seems to be the only connection to anything princess.

plushrocker

10. Disney Princess Nursery Doll Set – Sure, girls love playing mommy to little baby dolls. So, why not slap a Princess logo on a doll and sell it as a branded Princess item? Also available to keep your baby comfy: princess branded cribs, swings, beds, feeding sets and more.

disneynursery

Your thoughts? Any Princess products you love? Or think are over-the-top? Feel free to comment!

As the yearly birthday party preparations come around, the first step is usually the scared “party theme.’” Usually it is as easy as visiting your local iParty and picking up-some Bob the Builder or Dora napkins and utensils. But for diehard fans of Yo Gabba Gabba, it is a whole other affair. A quick visit to GabbaFriends.com will introduce you to a community of dedicated fans who post and share ideas on creating homegrown birthday parties. Usually foregoing store-bought birthday supplies, this site features the “ultimate Yo Gabba Gabba birthday party planning guide from invitations to party decorations, games, and piñatas! ” After scrolling through the site, you will be amazed at the creativity and enthusiasm Yo Gabba Gabba adult fans have.
So, when Maia’s birthday came around we had to have a go at some custom creations of our own Below, I have shared a few a few pictures that show us having a go at it. While it may not live up to the borderline artisan creations of our Gabba peers, it was definitely fun to try!

As the yearly birthday party preparations come around, the first step is usually choosing the sacred “party theme.’” For many, it is as easy as visiting the local party store and picking up some Bob the Builder or Dora napkins and utensils. But for die-hard fans of “Yo Gabba Gabba,” it is a whole other affair. A quick visit to GabbaFriends.com will introduce you to a community of dedicated fans who post and share ideas on creating homegrown birthday parties and events. Usually foregoing store-bought birthday supplies, this site features the “ultimate Yo Gabba Gabba birthday party planning guide from invitations to party decorations, games, and pinatas! ” After scrolling through the site, you will be amazed at the creativity and enthusiasm “Yo Gabba Gabba” adult fans have.

So, when Maia’s birthday came around, and she decided on ‘Gabba’ as a theme, we had to have a go at some custom creations of our own. Below, I have shared a few a few pictures that show our attempts. While it may not live up to the  artisan-like creations of our Gabba peers, it was definitely fun to try!

bespokegooblehatMy bespoke Gooble hat, inspired by this cult secondary character. (For those not in the know,  learn more about the perpetually sad Gooble here.)

YoMaraBandanaNobody puts Mara the Basset Hound in the corner. A little Fireworks-tinkering and Mara gets her own logo and bandana.

maiaThe guest of honor and her special T-shirt

mamalancerockMama shows off her custom-made T

customshirtsforallAuntie, Uncle, Mom, Dad and Maia rock custom T’s

partyinmytummygameParty in My Tummy: The Bean Bag Game.  Sort of scrappy, but it works.

munobagsMuno goodie bags for all!

I won’t bore you with all of our custom creations, and many are child’s play compared to the creations at GabbaFriends.com. However, it was refreshing to build a party a from scratch and involve Maia in the process.

gooblesign

As Maia’s interest in books seems to be quickly matching her parents’, we have found her gravitating toward the work of Eric Carle. Current favorites in bedtime rotation include Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?,  A House for Hermit Crab, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar. worldofec_234x194

So, I was quite excited to hear all the Eric Carle licensing action announced over the past week. The latest announcement adds more product to a portfolio of licensed good that includes games, puzzles, plush toys, yogurt, greeting cards and more. While licensing of classic properties can often seem like blasphemy I think “The World of Eric Carle” (its official license name) is so design-driven that it begs for merchandising.

In the U.S., new Carle products will include:

  • Crayola large-format coloring books
  • T-shirts for juniors and children
  • Zoobies 3-in-1 plush, pillow, blanket conceptchorionveryhungrycaterpilla
  • Classroom products, including bulletin board sets, borders, cut-outs and work holders
  • Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See? book for the Leapfrog Tag System
  • And, for you Applebee’s diners, the restaurant chain will be distributing themed family activity booklets

Unfortunately, an Eric Carle bedroom assortment (including blankets, curtains, cushions, towels, blankets and rugs) is limited to Europe.

Big picture, I hope this will be the impetus for  more design- inspired products, with licensees thinking outside of the box. Eric Carle vinyl figures anyone?

Read the official press release here

For a list of merchandise already available under “The World of Eric Carle” brand click here.

The lineup from University Games
The lineup from University Games
yobaby
Why not, right?

Current favorite in the Siden household

Current favorite in the Siden house.
Maia, Maia, What do you see?
Maia, Maia, what do you see?