Mom's Must-haves: Monster High, fashion dolls I can live with
If they had toys like these when I was growing up, I don't think I would have ever grown any older.
Monster High: You're perfect just the way you are
I've made no secret about how much I adore Monster High, and this catacombs playset (Amazon, $99) has to be one of the most gorgeous and detailed dollhouses I have ever seen. It's gigantic, at almost 4 feet tall, and has enough room to hold and display over 15 dolls. The details are just incredible, with a chandelier and a dragon statue and a candelabra and even a teensy-tiny tray of cupcakes. It has all sorts of different play areas and things to discover, including a secret room. It comes with all sorts of accessories, and the play value of this is awesome, because if your kid is anything like mine, then they love posing their dolls in all sorts of ways and reenacting scenes from their favorite movies. The catacombs pairs perfectly with the latest from Monster High: Freaky Fusion. Freaky Fusion has so many great lessons for kids about accepting who you are and working together. As a mom, I love toys that further the bigger lessons I'm trying to teach my kids — that they are perfect just as they are, that they can do anything and that friendship is important. Monster High has always been about embracing what makes you different, and the Freaky Fusion dolls (Amazon, $21) take that to a whole new level by combining different monsters. They all are just so much fun, and the dolls are incredibly detailed, with all the fun accessories that give the Monster High series such awesome play value. Now if only they would make their wardrobes in adult sizes...
WorryWoos: Because feelings can be scary
The WorryWoo website says the Woos are perfect for all ages, and you know what? It's right, because I, as an adult woman, adore my Wince (worrywoos.com, $36) and refuse to let anyone hold him. These plush dolls come with beautifully illustrated storybooks that encourage kids of all ages to "embrace their emotions." Emotions can be a scary thing! Everything from loneliness to frustration to insecurity, and the books, along with the plush creatures, help kids (and um, grown-ups) work through these feelings and learn not only how to cope with them but that they are totally normal feelings to have. I adore these, and they make an ideal gift for a child (or adult) you know who needs a little extra comforting.
Zylie the Bear: A toy that encourages kids to unplug
Not only is Zylie a fashionable and globe-trotting bear, but her message is that kids need to unplug from televisions and computer screens and go on new adventures. As Zylie travels, she meets new friends like Shen the Panda from China, gets her passport stamped and learns about new cultures. Zylie comes with her own storybook and, at 19 inches tall, is the perfect friend to go on adventures with. She is an awesome gift for a child making their first trip somewhere or for any parent who wants their kid to create some new adventures that don't involve a cellphone or a tablet. (ToysRUs, $25)
And now something for adults too!
Harry & David Book of Spells Gift Tower: Stylish treats for Mom and Dad
We all love Harry & David, and I had the best of intentions to save this amazing tower of treats for Halloween night — until I saw what it contained, and then all bets were off. Pears, seasonal apples, vanilla marshmallows, red hot cocoa, truffles and two beautifully spooky mugs, along with licorice twists, chocolate cherries and Moose Munch popcorn (which they need to rename to convey how truly addictive it is). There is still time to order for Halloween, and if you do so, don't be like me and eat it all before Halloween. The packaging for this tower is gorgeous too, and you can reuse the pretty little scary boxes to hold Halloween photos or other keepsakes.
The writer received Harry & David samples, Zylie the Bear, Monster High dolls and WorryWoos from the respective brands so that she could try out the products. All opinions expressed in the article are based on the reviewer's own assessments of the products.