Smoochie pooch toy

smoochie pooch toy

The 1999 edition of Oppenheim Toy Portfolio's The Best Toys, Books, Videos, Music & Software for Kids offers a full chapter on toys for kids with disabilities. Available at bookstores or at http: - - The Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Newsletter offers toy ideas year-round and always includes some suggestions for kids with disabilities. For information, visit Oppenheim Toy Portfolio at http: - - .

In cooperation with the American Toy Institute Inc. the American Foundation for the Blind has published the 1998-1999 Guide to Toys for Children Who are Blind or Visually Impaired, which offers more than 100 commercially available new toys tested and recommended for kids with visual impairments. For a free copy in print or on audiocassette, call (800) 232-5463.

The sixth annual Toys 'R' Us Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids! features dozens of toys that are especially accommodating to children with disabilities. The guide is free at Toys 'R' Us stores or call (800) 732-3298 (voice) or (888) 859-8011 (TTY).

Finding toys for kids with disabilities is easier than ever as toy manufacturers become increasingly aware that toys addressing the special needs of some kids will ultimately benefit all kids.

Lights, sounds and the stimulation of interactivity make toys accessible to kids with disabilities; they are also the qualities that will draw any child into the play arena.

When shopping for that favorite child who happens to have a disability, focus on his or her abilities. Is he crazy about Sesame Street? Does she love playing games? Can he draw or build?

The disability itself can be addressed in a positive way, too. A child with little hand strength or dexterity, for instance, might get a kick out of the Barney Song Magic Banjo (Playskool; $29.99), where the simple ability to wave a hand can make the ''magic'' of the music begin.

A baby with severely limited vision will thrill to the bright stars that flash with the slightest shake of the Firstronics Shake 'n Light Rattle (First Years, Inc.; $4.99).

And a child in a wheelchair will appreciate a doll that has the same mobility tool, such as Barbie's new pal, Becky the School Photographer (Mattel; $23), who comes with a two-toned wheelchair, hip clothes, and photography gear.

Kids want toys they see at their neighbors' and cousins' houses or on TV. Parents want toys that stimulate and educate and that the whole family can enjoy, if possible.

Here are some of 1998's best ''ordinary'' toys that need little or no adaptation for kids with disabilities.

Pretending toys
Baby Laptop (Little Tikes; $20) gives toddlers a chance to join the tech track. The toy has a mirror in its screen, plus fun sounds, tunes and lights that are activated when the colorful keys or disk drive are pressed.

Follow-the-Lights Talking Phone (Mattel; $30) was highlighted this year in Best Toys, Books, Videos, Music & Software for Kids with a SNAP (Special Needs Adaptable Products) award, as well as being included in the 1998-99 Guide to Toys for Children Who are Blind or Visually Impaired, produced annually by the American Foundation for the Blind and the Toy Manufacturers of America. Kids can follow the lights and numbers to call Mickey or Minnie or use the phone to learn their own phone number. Numerals and symbols are tactile as well as visual, and a built-in ''phone book'' adds to the fun.

Creative toys
Babies and toddlers will play for hours with the Activity Table (Fisher-Price; $29.99), which can be used as a table or placed on the floor for easier access. One side of the activity board features whirling marbles and a mirror; the other is for stacking 14 blocks, which can go down the

chute for easy storage.

Older builders will enjoy the Celestial Stinger (Lego; $49.95), a vehicle with lights and sounds to suit its name, or Metro PD, (Lego, $66), a full-blown police station with police boat, helicopter, officers and more. Receiving high marks in the Guide to Toys for Children who are Blind or Visually Impaired this year is the new Glow-in-the-Dark Human Skeleton (National Geographic - Curiosity Kits; $20, (800) 584-5487). After coloring and assembling a full-blown child-size skeleton, kids can appreciate their glowing accomplishments under the provided black light. The best way, this toy tells kids, to learn about ''the miracle of you'' is from the inside! Easy instructions, fluorescent paints and markers included.

Dolls and characters
Sesame Street has been teaching our children for 30 years, and its characters are as lovable as ever. This year, a new line of favorite characters sing, move or light up when a hand is lightly pressed. Try Elmo and His Pet Puppy (Tyco; $29.99) - the puppy walks and spins - or Yum Yum Cookie Monster (Tyco; $29.99), who eats a cookie and makes those famous Cookie Monster sounds.

A favorite for kids with limited movement will be Smoochie Pooch, (Mattel; $34.99), an adorable dog that sniffs, licks and makes dog-like noises when his head is lightly touched.

American Girl dolls, those wonderfully wholesome dolls representing periods in our history, have always been accessible to all girls. In addition to wardrobes and furnishings, each doll also has a series of books available about her particular piece of the American story.

This year, thanks to Seedlings Inc. in Lavonia, Mich. most of the American Girl series are available in Braille. Prices: $8-$10 per book. Call (800) 777-8552 for titles and a catalog. The Today Girl, whose hair and eyes can be configured to match your child's, has a wheelchair as one of her available accessories.

Educational toys
Preschoolers will have great fun learning with Pooh with the See 'N' Say Talking Fun ABC's (Mattel; $28). Designed like a book with real flipping pages, this interactive toy teaches the alphabet and phonics with Pooh's voice for encouragement.

Older kids will be challenged by the GeoSafari Talking Globe Jr. (Educational Insights Inc.; $99.95; 800-995-4436). Talking, lights and sound effects make geography and social studies fun with this interactive toy. Manufacturer's recommended ages: 6-10; the original GeoSafari Talking Globe, also $99.95, has tougher questions for older players.

It's been around for years, and the Pop-o-Matic Trouble (Milton Bradley; $9.99) is still a great gift. The bubble-enclosed die can't roll away or be lost, and playing pieces fit snugly into holes as players move around the board.

On the electronic front, games that talk, sing, light up, and motivate with sound effects are plentiful this year. Sure to be a hit with players 9 and older will be the talking Electronic Mall Madness (Milton Bradley, $29.99.) Kids use credit cards and go on a shopping spree in this fun interactive game that teaches something about strategy, spending and social play.

Fans of Battleship will enjoy the Electronic Talking Battleship (Milton Bradley, $39.99), played like the original with terrific sound effects when ships are sunk or located.

If you really want to drive kids and their grown-ups crazy, the BOP IT game (Parker Brothers, $19.99) is a great electronic game that passes from player to player, while repeating a fast-paced tune and shouting instructions to bop it, twist it, or pull it to keep the action going. Great for kids whose quick reflexes outshine their physical mobility.

Deborah Kendrick, a Cincinnati free-lance writer, is a nationally recognized advocate for people with disabilities. Write: Deborah Kendrick, Cincinnati Enquirer, 312 Elm St. Cincinnati 45202; e-mail:

Category: Pooch

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