The Best Advice on Children's Products


Dr. Toy’s Smart Play/Smart Toys

Dr. Toy’s Smart Play/Smart Toys: How to Select and Use the Best Toys & GamesFourth Edition on Sale Now!

A child’s ability to play is more than fun and diversion; play is critical for his or her emotional, physical, creative, and intellectual growth, and teaches everything from social skills to critical thinking. For the developing mind, learning to play is paramount — but is your child getting the most from playtime? Learn to expand your child’s ability to be playful, and increase PQ.

Stevanne Auerbach, PhD, affectionately known as Dr. Toy, has dedicated a lifetime to the importance of play, and evaluating toys, games and children’s products. She offers special advice on which types of toys and games to buy for baby to older children and how to best use them. She also provides play pointers, child development principles, and many useful resources.


You’ll learn:

  • How to be your child’s “Play Guide.”
  • How play can strengthen confidence, maturity levels, and thinking.
  • Benefits of play with toys, games, and many other objects to expand playfulness.
  • Criteria for selecting the right playthings to match each child’s needs.

You’ll get practical advice:

  • Evaluating toys and games to select those most beneficial.
  • Supplies to always have available to encourage play.
  • Selecting principles based on Dr. Toy’s Best Children’s Toys and Products.
  • 200 invaluable suggested playtime activities for fun over a lifetime!

drtoyauerbachStevanne Auerbach, PhD, author of 15 books, evaluates toys, games and children’s products for the original, popular, award-winning website, Dr. Toy’s Guide (this website).

Published by Regent Press, Berkeley, California
Distributed by Ingram and Baker & Taylor
Available online: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, et. al.
Customized Edition available:
Contact Mark Weiman, Regent Press, 510-845-1196
Paperback / $19.95 / ISBN 978-1-58790-275-8
E-book / $9.95 / ISBN 978-1-58790

Light Up Your Bikes with Wheel Brightz!

Eric Finch was just 12 years old when he imagined having his bed lit from underneath, like the cars in The Fast and the Furious. A neon glow that would fill his room with light. However, something like that would cost money he didn’t have. So Eric turned to his electrical engineer dad, Ron, and asked him to create a light of their own. One that was safe and inexpensive. After many experiments, Ron proudly presented his creation to his son. Eric took one look at the tiny box, powered only by AA batteries, and knew this wasn’t meant to go under his bed. Eric grabbed the box, ran past his dad and said, “This is cool! Let’s put it on my bike!”


Father and son attached the LED light to a bar on Eric’s bike. Eric took it out for a spin and since the sun was nearly set, its glow attracted the attention of the neighborhood kids. They all wanted to know where they could get a cool bike light for themselves. Eric and his dad set out to perfect and duplicate their first vision and product, find a way to get it manufactured in bulk, and market it to local stores near their hometown.

Since releasing its first product in early 2010, Brightz, Ltd. has created a variety of styles and colors. Brightz product line can be found on the shelves of local, specialty, and national stores across America. Your kids will love riding their bikes around the neighborhood with their brightly lit bikes! Be Cool! Be Seen! Wherever you go!

  • Light up your bikes with Wheel Brightz
  • Wheel Brightz come in 8 colors, kids will have fun mixing and matching colors
  • 20 diamond bright MicroLED lights stay lit while pedaling or at rest
  • Lights are completely waterproof
  • Wheel Brightz are affordable and easy to install, requires 3AA batteries
  • Perfect for tweens, birthday gifts, stocking stuffers, Easter baskets and all around fun!
  • Be Cool! Be Seen! Wherever you go!

View/Shop Brightz’ entire product FOLIO.

Peaceable Kingdom: A New Way To Play

Peaceable Kingdom has a mission – to teach kids to cooperate by playing board games. This winter, Peaceable Kingdom will launch five new cooperative board games. The collection includes Count Your Chickens, Hoot Owl Hoot, Lost Puppies, Mermaid Island and Stone Soup. Ideal for children three years of age and up, the games focus on socialization skills in a cooperative, group play setting. The games retail for $14.99 each and will be available at select retail stores nationwide and on

Unlike traditional games where there is one winner and one (or many) losers, with cooperative games the players work together against a common obstacle, not against each other. Cooperative games create a feeling of community organically, and build healthy relationships as they encourage kids to help one another. Kids learn to work and play together in respectful and compassionate ways. They learn to share, make decisions together, and trust one another. If the game is lost, the defeat is shared equally among the players. And, if the game is won, everyone is a winner!

“At Peaceable Kingdom, we’re not educators or therapists,” says company President, Donna Jaffe, “we are moms and aunties, caregivers and game players. We created these particular games because we believe games are a wonderful way to teach and we want the kids in our lives to learn that working and playing together can be empowering and fun!”

Working together for the good of the group positively influences social dynamics in school, on the playground, and at home. Sharing toys, taking turns, being part of a group project all involve cooperation and cooperation takes practice. The challenge in a cooperative game is not “What can I do so I win,” but “what can I do so we all win!”

Dr. Lisa Striar, School Psychologist and mom of three children says, “In my opinion, the game’s ability to stimulate compassion in kids is one of its best assets. Our family loves to play games. However, when one child has a small defeat, the other children rejoice because it means they are closer to winning. In a cooperative game, when one player has a small defeat the other players feel empathy. They are truly sorry and may even offer a bit of consolation and encouragement. When you are all in it together, compassion comes naturally.” (more…)

Letter Books: Connecting Kids to their Family Roots

from Treasured Passages

by Whitney Biggs, Co-Founder

Treasured Passages will tell you they are on a crusade to bring back love letters. You know, the handwritten, pen to paper, stamp and envelope kind of love letter. So they created the Letter Book, and they believe it’s the most meaningful gift you could possibly give your mother or daughter this Mother’s Day. They do suggest, however, having tissues on hand when giving the gift.

When Treasured Passages co-founder Whitney Biggs was faced with the untimely death of her mother, she grieved because her children would never know their grandmother. She knows how important family artifacts are because she lost the chance to create more of them with her own mother. Whitney says, “Knowing where and who I came from gives me a sense of family and belonging even though my mom’s not here anymore.” Whitney and her two partners Sabra Miller and Janice Maples decided to create the Letter Book for Mother and Daughter to help others make and save memories.

A Letter Book is a book that is shared between two people.


The book includes over 30 cards and envelopes, that when completed, will have created a stronger bond and chronicled the relationship of the two people sharing the experience. The cards are actually tucked throughout the little nooks and crannies of the book creating a treasure chest of sorts.

The Mother and Daughter book has had phenomenal success, even amongst very tech savvy women, who love the vintage look and the idea of connecting with their moms or daughters through pen and paper. These letters can’t be deleted and can be passed onto their daughters. It’s truly the gift that keeps on giving.

Their books have been picked as favorite gifts by People Magazine, E! News, and NBC Today Show. The people have spoken…. BRING BACK LOVE LETTERS!

Treasured Passages has letter books for Mother and Daughter and Grandparents and Grandchildren. They also have “One Little Mailbox” designed for sending love letters to younger children and that won a 2014 Dr. Toy award for Top Ten Best Children’s Products.

Learn more about the Mother Daughter Letter Book.

View/Shop Treasured Passages’ entire product FOLIO.

Dr. Toy’s Best Gifts to Launch STEM Learning


by Stevanne Auerbach, P.D. “Dr. Toy”

As a parent you can help encourage and support educational play every day and help your child to be a more productive learner at home and in the classroom. While your child’s world expands you can help your child to be ready, and to grow, learn and develop to his or her fullest potential. An important part of the parent’s role is to guide, teach and encourage children to make the most of their after school and playtime hours.

The latest most important learning initiative involves STEM! That is education that supports Science, Technology, Engineering and Math to expand national awareness and improve abilities in these areas in schools, homes and workplaces. There is a growing support for more focus on STEM as an important area for improvement of students and for teachers and parents to also become better prepared and expand their knowledge in these essential areas.

We want to assist parents to know more about some of the best and most useful play products they can easily obtain to help their children gain more confidence and experience in these areas, and increase their skills for school now and improve future earnings. Many of these products have been developed in the Bay Area (see BA in the descriptions) and several of the products are made in America (see MA).

These are some of the latest and best products for a full range of STEM experiences. Download PDF

Dr. Toy’s Best Tech Toy Gift Round-Up


by Stevanne Auerbach, P.D. “Dr. Toy”

Dr. Toy selected an excellent array of tech products that offer interactive learning, skill building, and encourage activity. The balance of time spent learning, play and tech is essential for children’s maximum development.
According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation study, American children spend an average of “almost 40 hours a week (equivalent to a full-time job) consuming media outside of school – including television, computers, radio, phones, and electronic games.” Most children have TVs, computers, phones, and game consoles readily available. They are exposed to advertising as they browse the Internet, play online games, and watch TV. Parents’ responsibilities are more challenging than ever.

Adults must find the right balance in children’s activities, and help them to not spend all day being sedentary playing on an app, video game, or other electronic products. We want, for many important health and social reasons, to encourage more active and open ended play for children. Children need a balance of reading books, building with construction toys, playing with board games, puzzles and being out of doors playing with friends, creative activities and following hobbies and interests.

Play is essential for everyone from the one-year-old baby to the one-hundred-year-old senior. How are you creating more varied playtime in your life, with your family?

The selected tech products offer many good choices for tech interaction, learning and great benefits if used wisely. Download PDF

Folkmanis Puppets: 35 Years and Going Strong!

Folkmanis® Puppets believes imagination is the key to a healthy childhood, encouraging play and discovery to develop the skills necessary in life. The company has been making the most innovative and engaging specialty puppets in the world since 1976, delighting imaginations and winning nearly every industry, child development, and kid-tested award, many repeatedly.

35 Years and Growing!


Conceived as a “cottage industry” business in Watertown, MA., in the late 1960’s and nurtured among the street vendors lining Berkeley’s famed Telegraph Avenue, Folkmanis® Puppets are the expression of Judy Folkmanis’ active imagination, sewing wizardry, and love of nature.

Creating her first animal puppets to entertain her own children, Judy was astounded when her unsung, but cuddly, creations began attracting a growing group of paying customers. Most often these were other parents who sought high play value from their toy purchases and an appreciation of the natural world for their children.

Joined in the burgeoning endeavor in 1976 by her Ph.D. husband Atis—who happily abandoned a career in biochemistry for pattern-cutting—the couple realized that launching a menagerie of carefully detailed and realistic animal puppets was their “right livelihood.” They hired several seamstresses and never looked back. The rest, as they say, is toy industry history – as Folkmanis’ line and renown grew by leaps and bounds.


The Right Toys for Toddlers



by Stevanne Auerbach, Ph.D. – “Dr. Toy”

Toddlers actively explore their world and want to touch, smell and taste everything. Watch carefully and “child proof” your home and the child’s playspace.

This is a great time for lots of good, safe toys that offer varied play experiences. The right toys help your toddler learn about color, shape, size and weight.

Constantly check things out so they match your child’s growing interests and responses. Play will help develop better coordination, strong muscles and inquisitive minds.

With blocks the child gains small muscle strength and counting skills. It’s fun to build up, take down and rebuild. Plus, children learn a lot as they create.

Toddlers enjoy a range of toys that include a soft doll, pail, shovel, push-pull toy, jack-in-the-box, bubble pipe, pounding set, ring stack, puzzle, pounding set, books and tapes.

Toddlers love to play with household objects such as plastic dishes, pots, pans and cups. A small broom will give the child a chance to sweep.

When selecting toddler toys consider:
• Is it durable?
• How long will the toy last under “toddler testing”?
• Is it childproof?

A product should be long-lasting, substantial and made of good, strong materials.

Stuffed toys must be hygienic, washable and not have any fluff that could be pulled off and put in the mouth.

Protect the child from small parts or anything tiny that could cause choking. All products must be non-toxic.

Toddlers play with or near other children, at their own pace. Contact with other children is important, so playgroups are a great way for them to socialize, learn to take turns and engage with others.

Observe how the children interact with people and objects. This is the time to build self-esteem.

Notice the way children feel about themselves and how it affects physical, emotional, and mental growth.

Picking Perfect Toys for Children of Any Age

Dr. Toy has assembled a series of articles, re-posted from the Huffington Post, to help you decide what to get your little loved ones.


Picking Perfect Baby Gifts

The Right Toys for Toddlers

Best Toys for Preschoolers

Best Toys for Children in Primary Grades

Best Toys for Older Children


Best Toys for Older Children


by Stevanne Auerbach, Ph.D. – “Dr. Toy”

Parents want to know more about play for children between age 9 and 12. During this period of development, children experience rapid social maturation and physical growth. They are in transition.

No longer so young, their interests grow more sophisticated. Despite the many changes, they still benefit by having a good balance of activities at home, at school and at playtime.

Children will expand their talents and interests if they are encouraged. So, this is a great opportunity for parents to introduce new hobbies, as well as a range of activities and experiences, to their children.

At this age, friends are a significant influence on a child. However, with your support and encouragement, their individual talents and interests will also expand. The older child likes to make things, work on projects and see results.

Gift ideas include interesting hobbies, crafts or construction sets. They also like computers, cameras and scientific materials. Other possible gifts include sports, creative arts equipment, stuffed animals and also the introduction to or support for special collections.

Also consider assorted books, board and video games, a camera or video camera, and the newest hand-held technology.

This is a good time for children to discover and expand their interests and unique talents. They can also be encouraged to pursue music, art, dance, drama and writing.

Your child’s ability to concentrate for longer periods of time at this age will be reflected in what they pursue and how much they develop their interests after-school. Provide time for them to spend alone to find their own interests and enjoy being productive.

Children appreciate knowing about different alternatives and having the opportunity to make selections based on their interests and curiosity. When children are constructively occupied, they are happier, more satisfied and more productive at home and in school.

Reading, playing games, flying a kite, throwing a Frisbee, putting a puzzle together and having a hobby can all help to make children more focused, smarter, social and self-confident.

Just as friends and individual pursuits are important, as they grow older, children need to also interact with their parents. So find some fun group activities to do together that allow everyone to win.

Play is the smart way to learn.