The Best Advice on Children's Products


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.

Best Toys for Children in Primary Grades


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

Children enrolled in the primary grades are actively involved in friendships, interested in learning, happily engaged in outdoor play, rapidly gaining skills, and expanding a wide variety of interests.

Peers are very important as are their activities and a range of toys, especially the products their friends play with. Children of this age express their ideas, creativity, feelings, abilities, and personality while they are engaged in play. They share the give and take, conflicts, and challenges of getting along.

Encourage play with both younger and older children to offer a full range of social experiences, which benefits all children.

You can choose among many useful play products for children from five- to eight-years-old.

Active toys develop their large and small muscles. Consider skates, jump ropes, construction, and a variety of role playing and adventure type toys.

Creative toys develop imagination. Explore musical instruments, varied art supplies, crafts, puppets, a dollhouse (one they can decorate is enjoyable), or train layout.

Educational toys enhance reading, writing, math, science, or geography. They stimulate mental abilities, challenge thinking, and help them problem-solve with a chess set, strategy board game, science project, telescope, or beginning a hobby.

Create a special place for child to study and organize playthings. Your child needs easy access to the wonderful products you purchase. Find new ways to store playthings so your child can take responsibility for putting things away.

Some useful ways to handle organizing includes:

• Shelving makes storage easy.
• Boxes or bags can hold a lot.
• Shoe boxes are useful for tapes, small pieces, and art supplies.
• Large boxes can be decorated.
• A hammock is a good way to store stuffed and soft toys or dolls.
• A toy chest must have safety hinges.

Take some time each day to play a board game, building, or doing a craft with your child.
Quality time means having fun together.

Best Toys for Preschoolers


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

Preschool children are curious, inquisitive and have a lot of energy. Everything around them is of interest. Their vocabulary, self-expression and imagination is rapidly expanding. Their play is dramatic, creative and active.

Preschool is an important, fun, learning opportunity where your child expands social skills and practices communication skills. Observe the toys your child plays with at preschool. You can learn a lot by observing your child during play.

Take your child to your local toy store. S/he will be excited. Listen to your child as they create a “Wish List.”

To select what’s best for your child look at toys that have plenty of play value. Choose durable, long-lasting products that provide hours of fun like wooden blocks, construction playsets and puzzles.

Look for various textures, shapes, sizes and colors. Consider the materials.

• Imagine your child playing with the toy.
• Study age labeling on packaging for appropriateness.
• Children have short attention spans, even the best toy will be used only for a short time.
• Recycle toys to make the most of them.
• Products too complex are frustrating and those too easy are boring.
• Show the child how to use the product only if he needs help. It’s best to allow the child to discover.
• Toys offer the child many forms of self-expression.

If angry, your child can use a foam bat and ball, a bop bag or hand-puppets to safely express feelings and release emotions.

For creativity, s/he will benefit from clay, finger paints and crafts.

For learning, sorting shapes, sizes and weights, books and tapes are excellent.

Eye-hand skills will improve with ring toss, bean bags and different construction products.

For active play, your child will enjoy a trike and outdoor play equipment.

For indoors, select a good mix of art supplies, playsets, books and tapes.

Remember your child learns through play, so encourage lots of fun playtime and discovery,. Find enjoyable things together like games, creative and building projects.

Picking Perfect Baby Gifts



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

Anytime of the year is the right time to find a great gift for a child, or for an adult who enjoys “the child within.”

How do you go about finding that special gift of a toy, plaything or game?

Children and adults love bears, stuffed animals, dolls, board games, recorded sounds and fun gadgets. Ask about their favorite objects, and you are certain to find something that they will enjoy.

But what about the buying gifts for babies? Those precious, new people in your life who cannot tell you what they want, but who will definitely show you what they think about your presents, either with cute gurgles and happy smiles, or with complete indifference to that hard-won gift you survived traffic and shopping malls to acquire?

For baby, a special teddy or stuffed animal is always fun to look at; many special objects provide stimulation and others are interesting to watch and respond to.

As the baby grows, the most stimulating toys will still be played with, and perhaps carried around from room to room.

Consider a nice mobile for visual stimulation. Look for one with music, or buy a mobile and a recorder with an assortment of good musical selections.

Music helps with auditory stimulation, so another choice might be a music box. They are so much fun to listen to, and so very soothing.

Mobiles might be best for active babies who need something to occupy their time, and music boxes might work best for cranky babies who need some help falling asleep.

Look for a crib mirror, which is perfect for observation and interaction. Baby will enjoy looking and talking to his or her image. Soft toys can be perfect for entertaining the baby at about three months.

Music is not the only sound that a baby will like; look for interesting rattles that offer clutching and shaking sounds. Babies find them not only fun to listen to and to watch, but also great to chew on when teething. You can find a variety of specific and recommend shapes, textures and styles for different functions.

Some rattles make the best noises. Some shapes are better for teething babies. You can choose between a variety of soft shapes and different textures and styles. You can make a selection based on what you like and the features that your baby is ready for.

Play games with your baby to expand its enjoyment of interacting, laughing and being playful.

There are also many different “peek-a-boo” objects, moving and hiding toys and other fun products that you can use to stimulate and support the mental and social development of babies.

This is a good time to remind you of some safety tips for all young children.

Make sure the product package clearly states the age range so that you do not give a child a product that is not appropriate for its developmental level.

Watch out for small objects that are left around by accident, as babies can pick them up easily. We don’t want any accidents, so avoiding these ahead of time is the best way to “child proof” your home or wherever you travel.

Madame Alexander Doll Company: Celebrating World Cultures



Playful, Poseable, Portable and Practical . These are the top reasons the new Travel Friends™ – International Collection of dolls being introduced by the Madame Alexander Doll Company is a must have for children this Holiday season. This new series of play dolls, celebrates world cultures. It is a first, in a new series of dolls for children ages 3+. Madame Alexander is a doll company acclaimed for their treasured collectible dolls. They have always had a rich history of designing dolls that are cherished for their beauty and craftsmanship. This new series builds on that heritage and now is a welcome addition introducing children today to a world of play dolls showcasing nine countries, encouraging children to learn about and embrace a variety of cultures from around the world. These dolls are crafted with the quality and details of each country’s cultures and costumes. They are perfectly sized for playful portability. They are poseable and fun to play with!

Each doll welcomes you into her world with a Hello! from her county and offers fun facts and highlights of interesting places to explore in her hometown. These beautiful 7” dolls are small in size, with fun features including removable outfits and accessories, they are fully bendable and have playable hair, which will keep kids entertained for hours of fun at home, in the car, on a trip. These dolls make great stocking stuffers, and are educational focused gifts that feel good to give. You just want to collect them all!

best10A winner of Dr. Toy’s 10 Best Toys of 2014, Madame Alexander Travel Friends™ have been hand selected to receive the prestigious “10 Best” award. These products are carefully selected from among many hundreds of reviews at toy fairs, catalogs and many other sources, and by using extensive criteria developed over many years. The Dr. Toy 10 Best list is chosen as a service to consumers who want to purchase safe, affordable, educationally oriented, and stimulating toys and products for children.

Upholding the Madame Alexander reputation of high-quality and craftsmanship, this age-appropriate collection illustrates that the “love is in the details.” The first collection in an ongoing series of Madame Alexander Play – Travel Friends™ Doll International Collection can be purchased at specialty stores nationwide, TOYS R US locations, and online at beginning Fall 2014.

View/shop the entire Travel Friends Doll International Collection in Madame Alexander’s Folio.

The Madame Alexander Doll Company encourages girls of all ages to enjoy a lifetime of doll fun, gifting, and collecting with products that include baby dolls, play dolls, and endearing collections that are beautifully designed and age-appropriate products of quality and craftsmanship. Since the company’s inception in 1923 by Madame Beatrice Alexander, the vision of this talented and entrepreneurial woman to engage a child¹s imagination through doll play continues to be upheld by the company today inspiring girls of all ages across generations to have fun with dolls, develop, learn, and imagine and enjoy a lifetime of play.

Tracy Newman’s I Can Swing Forever

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.

Wishbone: From Brainstorm to Contemporary Classic

wishbone_logoWishbone balance bikes were destined to be different from the start. The first prototype was sketched out and then lovingly handmade in the cramped bathroom of industrial designer and stay at home dad Richard Latham’s 20th floor New York City Apartment. Over the course of several weeks he snuck tools and lumber past the building’s doorman and went to work perfecting a balance bike that could help young son Noah keep up on their daily brisk walks around Central Park.

“At first we were just problem solving for our family,” says Richard Latham, Wishbone. “But we’re designers as well as practical parents, so the first Wishbone had to look as good as it performed. When parents started coming up to me in the park and asking where I bought it, we knew we were on to something bigger.”


Fast forward a few years to today and that something is now the family-run Wishbone Design Studio, co-founded by Latham and wife Jenny McIver, former lawyer and diplomat. While Richard designs and continually improves the studio’s selective line of balance bikes and other transformational products for young children, Jenny manages worldwide marketing, strategy and sales. The combination of sustainable materials, eco-friendly production values, an impeccable, urban-chic aesthetic and the couple’s focus on the joy of childhood means Wishbone is now a firm family favourite in more than 23 countries.

Transformational design
Every product by Wishbone is designed to do two things: to help change the way kids play and to grow and transform with the child.

“We’re really trying to create bikes and toys that have enduring value,” says McIver. “An heirloom that parents can hand down to their kids and their kids. Something that creates memories for families and becomes a more important part of family life and fun the more it’s used. A new classic if you will.”

The first Wishbone bike was designed to grow with the child: starting as a three wheeled trike, then morphing into a pedal-less bike to teach balance and confidence. Then finally by flipping the frame and adjusting the seat it becomes a fun scoot bike for kids up to five. That focus on adaptable design is now baked into every product Wishbone creates.

New Introductions
At Wishbone Design Studio, the design process never stops. New introductions now include the Wishbone RE Bike, made entirely from reclaimed and recycled resdential American carpet fibres, and the Wishbone Wagon, a stunning mid-century inspired pull along wagon that transforms into a peddalless car for toddlers.

“We’re having a lot of fun doing what we’re doing,” adds McIver. “We’re hoping that’s true of our customers too.”


Just the Facts, Mom

  • Wishbone bikes transform with growing kids
  • Sustainable, European birchwood and eco-friendly production
  • Recycled, chlorine free packaging materials, non toxic-inks
  • Winner of multiple international design awards, including TIME Style & Design Award for influential design
  • Compliant with all appropriate international safety standards
  • Additional Limited Edition Specials each year celebrating important environmental or educational causes
  • Contact:

Little Yoga Mat: Your Child’s Safe Zone


Jesen at ABC HomeJensen Wheeler Wolfe, a Manhattan mom and yoga instructor, was teaching a pre-K yoga class at her daughter’s school. Her pint size yoginis were doing some poses but also running amuck. She wanted to tame the chaos. She thought mats would help.

That evening Jensen and her husband Gregory pulled out the extra mats she stashed for her students who didn’t have mats and cut them to custom fit toddlers. She didn’t need many. One adult mat became 4 mini mats. Jensen brought the 20 mats to school the next day and gave one to each student. The teacher helped her fan them out in a circle for class. The kids loved them. The teacher loved how they organized the class and gave each child a safe zone: their mat. The class was no longer chaotic.

Mats went home with each child and parents started calling Jensen, wanting to place orders. When Gregory walked to school with their two-year old daughter, who proudly carried the yoga mat tucked under her arm, she was stopped on the sidewalk and asked, “Where did you get that adorable mat?” At this point, Jensen’s husband called her and said “have you thought about this as a business?”

Jensen’s background as a researcher helped her at this point. She jumped online and started investigating the idea and seeing what other mats were out there. She’d also been looking for a niche in the field of yoga; a world she’d been part of for 15 years as a teacher and loved so much. A way to leave her day job as a magazine fact-checker and do work that mattered to her.

Jensen couldn’t find any yoga mats for the pre-school market online or in stores but what she did find was that yoga for small children was becoming a staple in preschools around the country. Schools were finding that the practice was helping kids cope with stress and find balance. Children learned to take time to breathe, focus and yoga strengthened their bodies. She knew already that kids classes are also playful and stir the imagination. It’s a practice that children can carry into adult hood. City children in particular are exposed to a barrage of stimuli and it’s easy for kids to overload. Yoga can help. Doing yoga with your child can also be a nice bonding experience. She read that research was proving that boys and girls who practice yoga were more self-confident and better able to focus in school. What parent wouldn’t want that?

This had an organic beginning she trusted and a concept she could get behind. The reason was clear but the how to was not. Having never manufactured a product or started a business Jensen spent the next two years in research and development. She found a designer, started corresponding with a mat factory and putting all the other pieces together to create a company.

Because her target age was so young (0-4) she wanted to create an eco-safe mat that was hypoallergenic, biodegradable and recyclable. A clean sustainable product that hip stylish parents would appreciate. Also important was a good grip, cushion-y texture, and extra thickness.

The design needed to be about yoga and nature driven. Jensen’s designer, also a yogi, created two designs based on yoga poses: lotus and sun.
LOTUS, the national flower of India, grows in mud and rises above the surface to bloom with remarkable beauty. The lotus flower represents long life, health, honor and good luck.
SUN salutations are a sequence, typically performed in the morning, to greet each new day and give thanks for the sun’s offerings of light, heat and life.

Jensen settled on TPE (an eco-friendly foam like material) and soy-based inks.

In January 2011, The Little Yoga Mat launched online.

yogadaddyThe momentum has been steady. Sales have doubled every year and currently the mats sell in 150 stores nationwide + a few studios and shops internationally. “I knew the mats worked in a class room setting” says Jensen “but didn’t realize how happy kids would be to have a mat that’s just their size. I hear stories of tots teaching their parent’s yoga, doing it side by side and independently pulling their mat out and striking a few poses. They send me photos!”

Not only did Jensen stock preschools and yoga studios, she also sold to toy stores, baby shops, and department stores. Pediatricians bought them to sell in their offices as tummy time mats. It became a mat for naps, play and yoga. Something she hadn’t envisioned.

It helped that the industry was growing steadily too. According to a Yoga in America market study, yogis and yoga parents spent $10.3 billion on yoga apparel and classes in 2012. Twice as much as they did in 2008. “It’s considered one of the fastest-growing sports in America, and the latest trend is an increase in the number of pint size practitioners,” said Jensen.

Marketing for The Little Yoga Mat has been mostly grass roots and relying on Jensen’s skill set. As a fact-checker at Glamour magazine for 10 years, she knew how to pitch to magazines and write her own PR. Jensen also personally knew editors and writers at other magazines who were rooting for her product. Friends at Redbook, Parenting, O, The Oprah Magazine, In Style and Cool Mom Picks wrote articles.

As a former stage actress she was not shy about TV appearances or radio spots. shot a video about her entrepreneurial success story, Ebru TV and Josh Smith of Biz Talk Radio followed.


The Little Yoga Mat won numerous awards and most recently the prestigious Dr. Toy’s Best Green Toy of 2014.

Plans to add another mat design and jump up a size (for ages 5-10) are in the works. Also some teaching tools: a yoga game for toddlers and quite possibly an app. Although she’s had offers, Jensen has been able to keep the business running without the help of investors or bank loans. “It means slow growth, but the independence is worth it,” says Jensen. “I have help, but still do the bulk of the work. I look forward to handing off more day-to-day responsibilities as we grow, but it’s difficult. People still like to see and talk to me – the face of the company.”

“The best part is that all these kids are learning yoga and I’m so happy to be a part of that. My mat is just a tool. It’s the journey on the mat that’s important. The magic carpet ride. I tell my daughter, now eight years old, that it’s possible to have an idea and not know how you will make it happen but believe in your ability to figure it out and you will. I did.”

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