Time to Play at BlogHer ’09

Last night I returned home from my weekend at the BlogHer ’09 conference where I spent four fast-paced days and three wild nights with 1500 of my online peers, all thanks to the generous sponsorship from Jim Silver and his team at TimetoPlaymag.com. In between informational sessions, sometimes intense discussions, and cathartic parties that every stay-at-home mom should get a chance to experience, I spread the word about Time to Play’s guest blogger program as well as the fun picture contest I told readers about in the week leading up to the conference. If any of you blog and are interested in guest blogging at Time to Play, please indicate that in the comment section of this post! I’m happy to pass your information on to the appropriate contacts.

Maybe it was just the fact that I was viewing the BlogHer Conference through the eyes of Time to Play goggles, or maybe companies have aptly discerned that the way to a woman’s heart is through her children, but it appeared that toy companies were out in full force! In fact, I was so impressed with the #kidswag (and this is truly the tip of the iceberg of possible items to snag) that I took this photograph:

I like to refer to these items as my ticket back into my home. A couple of dollies and some Play-Doh in my children’s hands and my absence was forgiven.

My favorite booths in the Expo Hall were far and away those with a kid focus, and I loved checking out the new toys. I entered to win a new Mickey Mouse Club House electronic toy from Disney and Wild Planet called Mouse-ke-Tag because I know that my Pluto-obsessed three year old and his sister who is a fan of all-things-Disney would get up and run around the room playing this game, which is precisely the idea. Anything that combines buttons, fun sounds, and physical activity works in my family.

The real highlight came when I sat down to chat with Sharon John, the General Manager of Hasbro’s Playskool brand and Jodie Neville, Playskool’s Senior Marketing Manager. While I was clearly in the company of accomplished and powerful women, my time with them felt like a conversation between moms discussing our children and our cute red pumps. Their sincere belief in the importance of placing not only fun, but educational toys in the hands of our children was clear.

Sharon shared with me Playskool’s rich learning heritage and the fact that the company began 80 years ago with two former teachers hoping to create toys that encouraged learning. While I tend to note the brain development that occurs when children play because of my own educational background in psychological services in education, anyone who has watched their child manipulate the flow of air in the Busy Ball Popper or take their first steps using the Walk and Ride knows the developmental value of Playskool toys. To hear that this was Playskool’s intention from day one was reassuring as both a parent and a purchaser.

While I was with the folks from Playskool, I was honored to receive the first public demo of Playskool Kid’s new website for kids. My children are allowed computer time a few days a week as part of their daily allotment of screen time, and while I have found wonderful educational and fun sites that they can enjoy next to me while I work, the sites have for the most part not been child-intuitive in their instructions. The Hasbro site uses clear visual instructions rather than word commands to guide children through the activities, making them feel self-sufficient and far less frustrated. Watch for this site to launch sometime in September!

I also got a sneak peek of a toy that I love simply because it is so much fun. While I love having a son, I do not love boy toys. I find many of the dinosaurs to be scary and the superheros to be at best not appealing and at worst inappropriate. However, my son and I do love his Kota and Pals Hatchlings and now I also love this big guy, Monty Rex. He’s at once ferocious and disarming, and if you growl at him, he’ll growl right back. His soft “skin” is fun to pet and he not only reacts to your touch…but he walks towards you! This guy will be on my son’s Christmas list this year partly for him, and partly for the entertainment value of watching my dog and cat react to a walking T Rex named Monty.

Now I just have to hope my daughter doesn’t read this post, or next year she’ll want to attend the BlogHer Conference with me…

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