The Best Advice on Children's Products


Dr Toy’s Tips on Outdoor Play

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

Primary-SchoolerEvery day, weather permitting, children benefit from playing outside. Their fun outside involves a wide variety of play. Playtime outside depends upon where you live, access to parks or a safe yard and available supervision. Children need a wide range of activities for maximum growth.

Children like to play in different ways, from rough and tumble to gentle games of “pretend.” They like to play organized sports and activities. They like to walk and to run, skip and jump rope. They like to throw balls. They like to play with forts, they like to climb or to just sit under a tree and daydream or just read a book.

The outdoors toys that you pick for your children depend upon their age, skill level and geography. Certainly, a push/pull toy is fun to play with outdoors. Shovels and pails for water and sand are great.

You can help your child expand their fun and sense of themselves by starting with a tricycle. Tricycles can develop mobility, physical dexterity, independence and children’s feelings of pride in their new accomplishments.

Traditional products like a jump rope are great for physical skills building, both in coordination and in teamwork with other children. This is also true when you introduce a basketball, softball or other outdoor ball for play. For the very young child, just throwing the ball back and forth is a great experience.

Other activities that can be enjoyed would include binoculars and outdoor gear. This is part of observation skills building, including hobbies like bird watching. With binoculars, children can learn much about birds and other animals, which can lead to a lifetime interest.

Clubhouse activities don’t have to be elaborate; just having a space to play outdoors allows for adventure play. An outdoor playspace can be a cardboard box, a mass-produced clubhouse or a project that you and your child create together out of found of recycled materials. These kinds of outdoor activities can be lots of fun and can extend play for a long time.

Climbing equipment and other exercise toys give your children a variety of ways to develop physical dexterity and physical expression. There are climbing gyms available that are safe, colorful and fun. Selecting this equipment takes some time, but it is also time you can share with your child as you supervise them.

Cameras are very useful products for outdoors, where your children can learn to take pictures and observe more closely what they see. Encouraging a variety of interests can lead to a lifetime hobby and expand their curiosity.

Children can also paint outside. This is a fun activity on a nice day, and easels make it easier. Whatever types of toys that you select, make sure that they can hold up to the wear and tear of the outdoors. They should be easily cleaned, and they should have all safety aspects checked.

It is important to balance playtime indoors and outdoors. Outdoor play gives children extra benefits and should be encouraged as much as possible.

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Tracy Newman’s I Can Swing Forever Children’s Album: The Soundtrack for Summer

Singer/songwriter Tracy Newman’s children’s album, I Can Swing Forever, has been named one of Dr. Toy’s Best Classic Toys of 2015. The CD is packaged with a sing-along coloring book (designed and illustrated by Tracy’s daughter, artist Charlotte Dean) The CD/Book combo is perfect for your summer vacation trip, whether you’re driving, flying or simply staycationing!


I Can Swing Forever contains 18 tracks ranging from breezy, fun-filled tunes to dreamy heart-felt lullabies. The sing-along coloring book engages children while they listen to the songs, without the use of over-stimulating electronics or social media. The pictures are reminiscent of classic illustrations that are also fun to color. Keep one in the car and another ready to pack on your next vacation/long car trip. Parents and guardians who are developing a bedtime routine will find I Can Swing Forever a helpful tool.

xThe mother/daughter collaboration began decades ago. When Charlotte was little it was hard to get her to go to sleep, so Tracy sang to her every night. Some nights Tracy was too tired for the whole routine, and she would have appreciated an album that worked as well as live singing – playful songs subtly drifting into sleepy songs. There didn’t seem to be one out there. So, over time, Tracy wrote and gathered her own combination of songs to sing to Charlotte that worked every time. Charlotte would be actively engaged and then fall asleep, never knowing what hit her. I Can Swing Forever is made up of those same songs in the same order that worked so well with Charlotte.

Tracy is an Emmy Award winning TV writer. She wrote on many comedy shows, including Cheers, The Nannyand The Drew Carey Show. She co-wrote the groundbreaking “coming out” episode of Ellen (her Emmy win) and co-created the long-running ABC series, According to Jim. Charlotte is an artist and the author of the My Crazy Baby Brother books. She recently wrote a 90-minute comedy show called Charlotte’s Shorts, which featured members and alumni of the famous Groundlings comedy troupe (of which Tracy is a founding member).

Photo credits: Charlotte Dean with her illustration for “Piccolo Mini” from the coloring book, Tracy Newman singing with young Gracie at the Thousand Oaks Library show May 16, 2015. Event was part of the “1000 Books Before Kindergarten” national reading program. Photo credit: Liza Cranis

For more information on Tracy Newman and Charlotte Dean, visit their websites at and

View/Shop Tracy Newman’s entire product FOLIO.

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.

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.

Lil’ Waves Beachpool: Safe Portable Summer Fun!


Lil’ Waves has just launched its revolutionary new beach toy, the first ever Lil’ Waves BEACHPOOL. This innovative product is “by far the most helpful, amazing, and fun kit I have ever brought to the beach,” says Mary, an reviewer.

The Lil’ Waves Beachpool is a shallow, concave pool — made of a lightweight high quality vinyl, is fun to set up, and only takes minutes. There is simply one outer ring to inflate, only takes a little time to fill with water & it warms up quickly! The unique, one of a kind design truly promotes interactive fun, a safe environment and it is durable enough for parents to cool down and join in on the fun.


Lil’ Waves has solved two main concerns for young families at the beach: How to keep their child entertained and how to keep them safe. Children love to play in the water and the sand but all too often the surf can be cold and overwhelming. Similar to wading pools that are close to the oceans edge, the Lil’ Waves Beachpool creates a water-filled oasis that allows children to enjoy the water, play in the sand, and all right next to your beach chair! HOW GREAT IS THAT!?

There are no other inflatable kiddie pools on the market today that are designed for the beach. The plastic is typically thin and they don’t withstand more than one or two trips before tearing or puncturing. Even more challenging, for young children, is its elevated sides. This can make it difficult for them to get in and out safely, as well as difficult for parents to enjoy the interaction. The Lil’ Waves Beachpool is the first and only kiddie pool designed specifically for the beach and solves all the typical kiddie pool challenges.


An reviewer, Mrs. Driz says, “This is by far the best beach pool we have used, after trying a few different ones, we are in LOVE with this one…We loved how easy it was to set up, blow up, clean & put away. Very compact & lightweight, while still being tough enough to handle my husband & I going in to play with our little one. We will be bringing this to every beach trip we take :)

The founders and developers of the Lil’ Waves Beachpool, parents of three daughters themselves, are excited to hear so many great reviews and feedback. After all, they came up with the Beachpool idea on a typical family vacation at the Jersey Shore!

“We are so happy that we are able to share the Lil’ Waves Beachpool with other parents and children. We created it to help our youngest daughter who was afraid to go in the ocean but her favorite spot was in the shallow wading pools that were close to the water’s edge. When the Beachpool idea came about we brought our first proto-type to the beach. Not only did she love it, but in minutes it was filled with other children! The biggest plus was the piece-of-mind that she was nearby and safe.”

Justina Devino Hill, Marketing Director, shares, “Now that my friends and I are parents — or thinking about parenthood, I am seeing it from a different perspective and am so happy to share the Lil’ Waves Beachpool with this generation of young moms and dads.”

Lil’ Waves, founded in 2013, is a family owned and operated business based out of Jersey City, NJ, whose mission is to offer the most unique, high quality beach products for safe and enjoyable fun for many seasons of family memories.

The Lil’ Waves Beachpool is available to purchase as just the pool itself or as a kit. The Lil’ Waves Beachpool Kit is by far the most popular and the best value, as it includes a Lil’ Waves Beachpool, mesh carrying bag, repair patch, circular template and foot pump for easy inflation. It’s simple to travel with, set up and store away. With its high quality materials and craftsmanship it will truly be your “go to” for years of family beach fun!

View/Shop Lil’ Waves’ entire product FOLIO and purchase Beachpool.

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…)

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

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.