By Estelle Sobel Erasmus
I love toys that teach kids lessons; whether they are lessons on how to nurture, groom, find their creative spark, or sample independence.
Here are a few of my top picks for 2014:
American Girl's Bitty Baby
Bitty Baby is a 15-inch soft-bodied doll available in 11 different combinations of skin tone, eye-and hair-color, allowing your child to pick her perfect mini-me companion. Each Bitty Baby doll, (which just came out this past Holiday season), comes dressed in her signature sleeper, along with a special "wishing star" keepsake toy and a beautifully illustrated Bitty Baby and Me hardcover picture book.
Barbie Deluxe Styling Head Just Play
This toy reminds me of the type of doll heads I used to apply lipstick and eyeshadow to and cut their hair when I was a little girl. Ah. Memories. Children can make their own memories by using cold water to color change Barbie's hair, nails, eyes and lips (which means no mess). It includes 17 styling accessories, such as a toy hair straightener, a play nail polish bottle, a makeup applicator bowl and brush, hair clip, barrettes, hair ties, nail stickers, ring and sets of fake nails.
Kiwi Crate, launched in 2011 celebrates kids' (ages 3-7) natural creativity and curiosity. Upon signing up, each month you get a crate focused on a theme containing art supplies plus instructions on how to make it (string puppets, mobiles, toys, and stamps).What I like about it is that all Kiwi Crate projects have been developed by parents, reviewed by early childhood experts and tested by kids. Each project encourages key developmental skills, such as problem solving, creative expression, gross and fine motor skills, and communication. An annual subscription, priced at $220, includes one free month. Gift subscriptions for 3, 6 or 12 months are also available.
Light Up Links-An Imagination Toy
Light up Links are a fantastically fun new building toy that encourage kids' creativity. Their tagline is "The building links that light up your imagination. Kids can build huge architectural constructions with the link, as well as fun jewelry like bracelets, necklaces and crown, goggles, jump ropes, or cars (no battery required). They light up in the light, but also look really cool in the dark. An accompanying booklet gives even more ideas.
ArtSee Studio from WowWee
If your child is obsessed with your iPad, this is exactly what you need. It's an art app/and IPad case for kids with a little something extra added. What's so wonderful about it is that your child can easily change the background, the design, while creating interactive animated stamp animals (giraffes that move their heads) and other objects that dance around the screen for HOURS of entertainment and the ability to let your kid say, "Mommy, I did it myself. Look what I can do."
Furby by Hasbro
This amazing toy has a mind of it's own. You can feed it virtual food, and it will show feelings via likes and dislikes. I love it because as mom of one daughter, she can interact with a Furby; and feel like she has a companion.