Lionel Opens New Brick-and-Mortar Store and Headquarters in North Carolina

Lionel.NewStoreThis past Monday, Lionel opened its first retail store in Concord, N.C. The new location will serve as a central station for popular train sets, replicas, and collectibles, as well as store-exclusive gifts and keepsakes.

To celebrate the new store, which will also serve as the company’s new headquarters, Lionel President Howard Hitchcock drove festivities with J. Scott Padgett, the mayor of Concord, and Donna Carpenter, the CEO of the Cabarrus County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Lionel.NewStore2The store will become a terminal for field trips, new product testing, and company announcements. The 1,100-square-foot space will house one of Lionel’s fully decorated layouts, which will feature different trains throughout the year. Kids can control the layout with handheld remotes and test the newest trains.

Lionel has made numerous expansion efforts of late, including partnering with the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago to debut its first life-sized trackless train ride, The Lionel Train Adventure, earlier this month. The company has also continued to add licenses for new train models through partnerships with DC Comics, Coca-Cola, Crayola, and other brands.

Demdaco Launches New Baby Products Collection with kathy ireland Worldwide

kathyirelandDemdaco has entered into a licensing agreement with kathy ireland Worldwide, one of the country’s most powerful brands founded by CEO and Chief Designer, Kathy Ireland. The new line of products, kathy ireland Baby by Demdaco, features luxurious baby blankets and plush toys designed as a result of a collaboration between Demdaco’s Nat & Jules development team and kathy ireland Worldwide.

The kathy ireland Baby collection is a natural extension to the Nat & Jules brand of children’s toys and keepsakes. The collection will be available to preview in Demdaco showrooms this winter in Atlanta, Dallas, and Las Vegas. Kathy Ireland will make a special guest appearance in the Atlanta Demdaco showroom on January 9 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Safari Ltd.’s Wild Safari Gyropsaurus Wins Prehistoric Times’ Dinosaur of the Year

dinosaurSafari Ltd. has received Prehistoric Times magazine‘s 2013 Dinosaur of the Year award for its Wild Safari Gyrposaurus. Prehistoric Times magazine caters to both retail stores and individual dinosaur enthusiasts. The magazine is celebrating its 20th year in distribution. The staff and the retailers that were canvassed gave strong support for the Gyrposaurus.

Safari Ltd.’s Wild Life dinosaur collection features high-quality figures with a great amount of detail and accuracy. The company is a third-generation, educational toy company whose mission is to teach children the importance of nature and its conservation through the joy of play.

American Girl Welcomes the Brand-New World of Bitty Baby

BittyBabyAmerican Girl debuted its Bitty Baby line of 15-inch dolls, outfits, and accessories. The new line includes 11 different dolls with various skin tones and hair- and eye-color combinations, as well as illustrated picture books, premium play sets, plush animals, and online activities.

Kids ages 3 and up can select their doll from the expanded choices, at which point they receive the Bitty Baby doll dressed in a signature sleeper, along with a special “wishing star” keepsake toy and Bitty Baby and Me, the first in a series of five hardcover picture books featuring ways to play. New outfits in various designs are also available to allow kids to further personalize their Bitty Baby.

The new Bitty Baby picture-book collection, by Newbery Honor Award-winner author Kirby Larson and award-winning illustrator Sue Cornelison, follows a little girl and her beloved Bitty Baby doll as they discover the world around them. Each book also comes with a special section for parents that focuses on the social and emotional experience of preschoolers and offers tips to parents. [Read more...]

British Doll Line Available Online for U.S. Customers

AGFAT_Group_Shot_HRMatilda, Amelia, and Clementine, the first in a new line of historically inspired British dolls known as A Girl for All Time, are now available online for customers in the U.S. These 16-inch dolls are based on 500 years of the fictional Marchmont family. The dolls are dressed in authentic dress such as a velvet cloak or masked ball gown of Tudor England.

Matilda, Your Tudor Girl, comes dressed in a historically inspired costume of grey velvet with a plum kirtle, period underwear, petticoats, court shoes, a key necklace, and a headdress. The Matilda’s Secret novel tells the adventure of 13-year-old Matilda as she is drawn into a world of intrigue, friendship, and even mortal danger in the court of Henry VIII. Also available are Matilda’s night shift, masked ball gown, velvet cloak, and the Keepsakes and Secrets activity book.

Amelia, Your Victorian Girl, is made from durable vinyl with articulated elbows and knees. Dressed in a blue cotton Victorian school dress with striped collar and cuffs, Amelia also comes with ruffled pantalets, an undershirt, sturdy school boots, and a straw boater hat. The Amelia’s Inheritance novel tells the story of how Amelia’s life was changed in an instant in 1880 London. Also available are Amelia’s party dress, opera cloak, and stage/ballet costume. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Red Toolbox Gets Kids Building

red6pieceAs a kid, I was obsessed with the small hobby shop in the mall near my neighborhood. I always found something to beg for, whether it was a new addition to my electric train set or a new art kit (I used to think I was the world’s most talented 8-year-old oil pastel artist). Wood craft kits were among my other favorite items—I once made a lopsided birdhouse and a collection of truly heinous wood plaques with my family members’ names carved into them.

As a former aspiring wood crafter, I’m drawn to the Red Toolbox line from Reeves International. The line features real tools that have been designed to fit in children’s small hands.  The tools have the same functionality and quality of adult tools found at any hardware store, but they include easy-to-grip handles for children.

soccertableplantholderThe Red Toolbox line features construction kits that kids can use to build quality toys and keepsakes (unlike my ugly wood plaques of yesteryear). The kits are arranged by levels of increasing challenge—Red Toolbox Junior is for children ages 4 and up and Levels 1 through 3 are for children ages 8 and up. Each level project increases in difficulty, complexity, and the level of precision required, while the child’s hand-eye coordination and physical abilities grow and improve. Kits include the Red Toolbox Mini Basketball (Junior), the Red Toolbox Plant Pot Holder (Level 1), the Red Toolbox Billiard Table (Level 2), and the Red Toolbox Soccer Table (Level 3).

The line also includes a number of tool sets, paint sets, and other accessories to get kids started on their carpentry journey. If only I were 8 again.

For more commentary from Loren, check back often. Views expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Toy Book as a whole. We hope that you will share your comments and feedback below. Until next time!

COMMENTARY: Taking the Stress out of Travel

Seemingly endless construction and bumper-to-bumper traffic. Dead batteries in the PS Vita or Nintendo 3DS. No wi-fi connection and nothing good on the radio. Uncomfortable seatbelts and restless little bodies. Though road tripping is a great option for a large family looking for an affordable summer getaway, sometimes a long journey in a crowded car can make a vacation more stressful than it’s worth. Portable gaming systems can be great (especially when coupled with headphones), but sometimes battery-free options are a safer bet for long journeys. For parents just looking to relax, there are a few great products on the market sure to keep little ones occupied in the car for extended time periods.

Brain Box Animals, from University Games, is great for on-the-go fun. Players ages 8 and up choose a card from the box and study the picture on one side until the timer runs out. Then the players flip the card over to the question side and try to answer as many questions about the picture side as they can. The player who can answer the most questions correctly wins. Brain Box Animals helps kids stay entertained while practicing memorization and recognition and learning new information.

SeatPetsUncomfortable seatbelts are always a complaint with younger kids, but with SeatPets, from Jay at Play International, kids’ seatbelts stay in place. SeatPets are soft, cuddly animals that attach to the shoulder restraint portion of a seatbelt. Perfect for long carrides, SeatPets provide a soft cushion between the neck and the belt and a cozy pillow for naps. Each colorful, furry SeatPet has three pockets and two zippered compartments designed to store all of the things that kids want and need when they’re in the car including, MP3 players, hand-held games, toys, snacks, and an eight-ounce water bottle.

Stuffies.PrancineStuffies, from martFive LLC, are super-sized plush animals with seven top-secret pockets that are fun to discover and store all kinds of keepsakes. For parents who don’t want their car to turn into a second toy box during travel, Stuffies allows kids to bring a few of their favorites and keep them all safe in one place. In addition, every Stuffies toy comes with a surprise roll of collectible stickers and a free storybook from the Stuffies Adventures collection. Each book shares important lessons in fully illustrated, rhyming stories on topics including controlling tempers, using imaginations, volunteering, teamwork, and embracing chores.

TraykitTrayKit, from Kids Preferred, is a carry-on backpack that kids can pack themselves and carry on a trip using the handle or shoulder straps. TrayKit can be hung from the back of a seat or strapped to a tray table. When the kit is opened, kids have a play surface with raised sides so nothing falls to the floor. There are colors and patterns for boys and girls ages 3 and up, and the play surface can be cleaned easily. TrayKit accessories include passport holders, luggage tags, travel journal kits complete with pencils and erasers, and TravelBugs, which are small clip-on plush bugs in four styles.

Each of these products are noise-free, don’t require any batteries, and will provide easy entertainment for kids during long trips. There’s enough play value in these items to keep kids happy, while mom and dad stay stress-free (as long as the GPS doesn’t malfunction).

For more commentary from Marissa, check back each Monday afternoon. Views expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Toy Book as a whole. We hope that you will share your comments and feedback below. Until next time!

COMMENTARY: Toys Are More Fun Than Candy

Mattel’s North American team recently kicked off an Easter program called Save the Bunny, which launched with a clever celebrity PSA. The concept is to promote giving toys, rather than copious amounts of candy, for Easter. As part of the promotion, consumers who visit www.savechocolatebunnies.com will have a chance to win a Mattel toy every day this month, download exclusive coupons on toys from Mattel brands like Barbie, Hot Wheels, Fisher-Price, and Thomas & Friends, and win grand prize money.

As a parent and someone who loves toys, I whole-hardheartedly agree with this idea. Not only does my 3 year old not need a giant chocolate bunny, gallons of jelly beans, and piles of fluffy marshmallow chicks (OK, I’ll admit this is making me hungry), but I know from experience that I won’t actually let her eat it all, and I’ll end up eating it, which isn’t exactly part of my summer bikini plan (though I’m pregnant, so what’s the difference, right?). Anyway, she will have a lot more fun if I limit the candy to a few of her favorites, and fill that basket—er, strongly suggest the Easter Bunny fill that basket—with toys!

For retailers, signage suggesting spring/summer toys to fill Easter baskets should already be up, but it’s not too late! Many consumers wait until the last-minute to shop, especially with the holiday coming earlier this year. A special display of spring-like, small, basket-sized items makes shopping easy and promotes quick sales. The pharmacies already do this, toy stores should too! [Read more...]

Mattel Wants You to Help Take a Bite Out of Chocolate Bunny Extinction

Mattel’s North American team has week kicked off an Easter program called Save the Bunny.

The chocolate bunny has been an Easter tradition for more than 200 years, but the future of this holiday icon is… well, melting. This Easter, Mattel, the Endangered Chocolate Bunny Commission (ECBC), and celebrities such as Chris Harrison, Stephen Collins, and Kate Flannery, have come together to Save the Bunny with a special hare-raising and entertaining PSA.

Help support our chocolate friends and sweeten up Easter baskets with toys at www.savechocolatebunnies.com. Visitors to the site have the opportunity to win a Mattel toy, download exclusive coupons on toys from Mattel brands, and win grand prize money.

Creatures of Delight Fuse Fangs and Fun

There is a softer side to all kinds of fictitious creatures: from Yetis, aliens, and trolls, to dragons, human-devouring plants, and purple dinosaurs.

Tom Kopian, artist and creator behind Creatures of Delight, a line of specialty, handcrafted monster toys, works with a small team and his 11-year partner, Stewart Buffaloe, to make one-of-a-kind creatures using a variety of molds and his patented latex-fiber blend material.

Large Feed Me Creature

The creatures are a combination of creepy and cute and appeal to a broad demographic. Though the line is composed mostly of traditionally scary, fictional monsters, their vibrant color palettes and bright-white smiles make them appeal to girls as much as boys. “I think essentially the toys are gender neutral. They are rough and tough monsters, so it can be a boy thing, but girls like some of the cuter pieces like Snarl, Floyd, and the Grudges. It is not definitively a boy or girl thing,” Kopian explains. [Read more...]