China Toy Fair


COMMENTARY: Preparing for Baby, Part 3

We recently featured Kids Preferred’s Bunnies by the Bay Buddy Blankets on the cover of Specialty Toys & Gifts’ June issue. (In case you’re unaware, Specialty Toys & Gifts is our NEW TEMPLATEmagazine for specialty toy retailers, and it runs within every issue of The Toy Book.) Bunnies by the Bay is a super sweet line of high-end toys, plush, apparel, and books for infants and toddlers. They even have adorable mini plush backpacks that are perfect for taking toddler essentials (books, snacks, small toys) on the go.

I recently wrote about the Mamas & PapasBaby Snug with Activity Tray. Mamas and Papas is another company that tends toward the high end with its products. They recently introduced me to their soon-to-be-released Bobbin Rocking Horse. At $199 it’s a bit on the pricey side, mamas__papas__bobbin_rocking_horsebut it’s a classic item that will last for many years. It features soft chunky corduroy fabric and solid wood handles for easy gripping, and has a soft and tactile rope mane and tail. Its frame is made of solid wood. It has a classic but modern look in neutral colors that parents won’t mind keeping out on display.

To move away from toys just for a moment, I’ve been noticing the company Boon Inc. quite a bit lately as Boon.GrassI’ve been preparing for baby. They do a super modern take on baby necessities, such as bottle warmers, feeding products, bath time, and storage. The company’s Grass Countertop Drying Rack and accessories are a lot of fun and would really brighten up a countertop rather than giving off the typical “I have a baby therefore my countertop is always cluttered with bottle parts” vibe.

Check back regularly for more baby product reviews from Jackie. 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: Preparing for Baby, Part 2

Preparing for baby’s arrival can be overwhelming, but shopping for adorable new things is just fun. Especially when those new things include sweet new toys! I am particular to Lamaze’s toy line for infants, because they incorporate developmental features designed to engage a baby’s senses through various forms of play. Some of my daughter’s favorite items as an infant were Lamaze products. It doesn’t hurt that they’re just so darn cute and colorful.

Franky the Hanky WhaleTwo of my favorite new Lamaze toys are Franky the Hanky Whale and Push Along Peanut. I fell in love with Franky when I spied him in Tomy’s booth at Toy Fair in February, and knew I had to have him for my son. Designed for 9 months and up, Franky helps develop baby’s motor skills via put in-take out play. A number of colorful, soft handkerchiefs can be placed into the top of Franky’s head, and come out his mouth. A variety of textures with ribbon loops and crackly tail and fins keep baby engaged.

Lamaze PeanutPush Along Peanut also helps develop motor skills for 9 months and up. This elephant on four wheels gets baby moving as he pushes and pulls it along. The high contrast colors and a variety of textures (and a squeaker inside) keep baby coming back for more.

Cloud b’s Bubbly Bunny is a super sweet toy that goes from day to night, great for travel and trips to Grandma’s house or just as a special friend to keep at home. It can be used to soothe infants, but I could see this remaining a must-have through toddlerhood. It bubblybunnyplays four comforting sounds: friendly giggles, soothing winds, a relaxing lullaby, and calming ocean waves, that can be activated with push-buttons and includes a volume control feature. It also has two sleep timer options (23 minutes and 45 minutes) and is super soft to the touch.

Another item I was recently introduced to is the Comfy Cradle Slip-On Pillow. I’d never seen comfycradlepillowanything like this before, and it’s a really great idea. At first glance it sort of looks like a water wing (you know, those inflatable things kids wear on each arm in the pool to help them stay afloat?), but it’s basically a super soft pillow that you wear comfycradleactionon your arm while feeding your baby. It’s recommended for up to 12 months. It’s brilliant because you can get up and move around, switch seats, answer the phone, or reach for the TV remote (come on, like you never catch up on a show while feeding your baby), without disturbing baby’s comfort. It offers gentle support to baby’s head and neck while feeding, and is machine washable. It can be adjusted with a Velcro strip, and then once you have it the way you like it, you can just slip it on and off each time you use it.

Check back regularly for more baby product reviews from Jackie. 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: Preparing for Baby… Let’s Go Shopping!

As I prepare for the arrival of Baby Boy Breyer (due in July!), I’ve taken a special interest in toys and other juvenile products for infants. While I’ve saved a good deal of baby items from my daughter, now 3, it’s always nice to have new stuff for a new baby. Plus, since he is a boy, many of the pink, girly things I’d saved just won’t do. Time to shop! Here are some of the cool, sweet, and innovative new baby items I’ve recently uncovered:

Baby Snug w Activity TrayThe Mamas & Papas never fail to come through with modern, fashionable, and functional items. The Baby Snug with Activity Tray is designed for ages 3 months and up. Once a baby can support his own head, he can try out this comfy seat. It’s lightweight, can be used indoors or out, and grows with the child so it has a longer lifespan than some similar items. The removable tray can be easily wiped clean, so it can be used for meal time, or to hold toys for play time. The removable tray comes with a beaded loop, spinning lion, bendy stalk, rattle flower, and more that can be moved around to continually interest baby.

TheShadeSince I’m having a baby in July, I’ll have options I didn’t have with my daughter, who was a fall to winter baby, such as going for walks and sitting outdoors. The challenge, of course, will be protecting my little one from insects, the sun, etc. The Shade, the very first product from Imagine Baby, is the ultimate accessory for car seats and strollers and protects babies from the sun, wind, bugs, and other annoyances. It is available in four sleek colors and is compatible with just about every stroller and car seat on the market, according to the company. It offers a breathable design, and UPF 50+ Protection from UVA/UVB rays.

swaddle.mickeyAll new moms are familiar with swaddling. It takes some getting used to, and it doesn’t work for all babies, but some babies really seem to be comforted when they’re swaddled up in a soft cozy blanket. SwaddleDesigns offers an array of patterns and styles in soft cotton flannel fabric. Swaddling instructions are sewn into the blanket so new parents can swaddle successfully on the first shot. I love the Mickey and Minnie Mouse patterns, as well as the elephants & chickies.

Check back regularly for more baby product reviews from Jackie. 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...]

COMMENTARY: Disney’s Monsters U Sure to Scare Up Sales

Sulley Scare Mask

Disney is really good at a lot of things. One of those things is taking a beloved property and refreshing it, breathing new life into it, and turning it into a must-see movie or must-have property for a new audience of kids. They do it every year with Disney Princess (Last year was Cinderella, this year is The Little Mermaid). The film comes out of the vault, and the already incredible powerhouse that is Disney Princess (the No. 1 toy property ranked by annual 2012 dollar volume according to The NPD Group), launches an expanded program of licensed products focused on the Princess of the year.

However, Disney works some its best magic on the big screen, and Monsters University—due in theaters June 21—has success written all over it. Billed as a prequel to 2001′s Monsters Inc., the film follows fan favorites Sulley and Mike on their journey to becoming scaring professionals at Monsters University. (If you’re interested in attending, visit http://monstersuniversity.com/edu/.) [Read more...]

Reyne Rice Discusses Gender in Toys on HuffPost Live

Our good friend and Toy Insider Co-Editor Reyne Rice appeared on Huffington Post’s HuffPost Live discussion “Toymakers Should Create Gender-Neutral Toys.”

Click here to watch!

Like Square Shooters Dice Game on Facebook to Help Donate up to $3,500 to Autism Speaks

According to Autism Speaks, an autism science and advocacy organization, autism affects one in 88 children and “is the fastest-growing serious developmental disability in the U.S.” To help fund much-needed research, Cleveland, Ohio-based game manufacturer Heartland Consumer Products, LLC, marketer of the Square Shooters dice game, announces its campaign to support Autism Speaks.

For every “like” received on the Square Shooters page on Facebook during the month of April – National Autism Awareness Month – the company will donate $1 to the organization, up to $3,500. (Visit www.facebook.com/squareshooters)

Square Shooters is a multi-faceted game that launched in 2011, and consists of a full deck of cards printed on dice. A versatile game, users can choose to play the Square Shooters feature game; versions of other card games like rummy, 21, or poker; or even make up a new way to play.

”The game’s versatility is the key,” said Tom Donelan, Heartland’s president and CEO. “It can bring different ages and generations together. Play can be as simple as a matching game for kids or a game of chance for adults.”

Donelan’s oldest son Connor is a 19-year-old young man with autism. “Dice games are perfect for families who need fast-paced games that don’t require a lot of attention from every player. We accidentally found that the game fits our family’s particular play style when Connor picked up the dice and started playing—he’s not a big game player, but he enjoyed the fast action of Square Shooters,” said Donelan. “It’s by no means scientific evidence, but we believe—and hope—that other families affected by autism or other special needs will have a similar experience. Supporting autism is personal for us, and we’re excited to join the fight to fund research and give back to the autism community.”

Square Shooters is designed for one or more players ages 8 and up. The game is available at Walmart, Walgreens, Books-A-Million, and many independent toy/game retailers nationwide. For more information, visit squareshooters.com or like the Square Shooter’s page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/squareshooters.

Ickee Stikeez Now Available at Walmart and Walgreens

Ickee Stikeez, from Zing Toys, are squishy, monster-themed collectibles with suction cups that stick to flat surfaces. Ickeez stick to any flat surface, such as lockers, lunchboxes, windows, and cell phones. When pulled-off, the Ickeez make a loud “pop!” Characters come in “Podz” that are reminiscent of vending machine capsules, which also have built-in play. Kids can connect them to create various different structures and environments for their Ickee Stikeez characters. Each pack has a number, which can be entered on www.ickeez.com for additional content, back story, wallpaper, and short videos.
Ickeez Series 1 is now available at select Walmart locations and Walgreens. Ickee Stikeez Series 2 will be in all Walmart stores this holiday season. There are 24 total characters in Series 1. They are sold in three-pack blisters retailing for $2.99 each.

TOTY Award Winners Announced

More than five hundred toy industry executives and guests from around the globe gathered in New York City on February 11 to honor their peers at the 12th annual Toy of the Year (TOTY) Awards and Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

A Toy Industry Association (TIA)-administered event in support of the Toy Industry Foundation, the  gala held in Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center kicked off the 109th American International Toy Fair and paid tribute to today’s superstars, tomorrow’s bright up-and-comers, and illustrious toy industry icons.

Interspersed with the presentations of 12 TOTY Awards were two inductions into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame: Arnie Rubin, Founder and CEO of Funrise Toy, and the late Frederick August Otto Schwarz, founder of FAO Schwarz. The new inductees join a distinguished roster of nearly 60 toy industry luminaries who have been inducted into the Hall since its establishment in 1985.

Award winners were selected with the input of consumers (on ToyAwards.org), retailers (mass and specialty), media, and members of the toy industry. The five ballots were weighted and used to determine the category winners as well as the overall “Toy of the Year” award.
LeapPad Explorer by LeapFrog Enterprises, Inc. received the coveted “Toy of the Year” title and was also awarded Educational Toy of the Year and Preschool Toy of the Year. The awards program included 77 finalists across the 11 categories.

And the winners are…

[Read more...]

Dark Horse Deluxe Offers a Unique Take on the Good Luck Trolls

The Good Luck Troll was originally created in 1959 by Danish fisherman and woodcutter Thomas Dam. At various times since the early 1960s, Trolls have been a top-selling toy, building a seldom-achieved brand equity. Dam Things, which holds all rights to the works of Thomas Dam, is in the process of launching a complete slate of merchandise activities and products for the Good Luck Trolls. Dark Horse Comics has been granted the license for a collectibles program. The line will consist of 15 different trolls, some of which are rare, sold in mystery box assortments.

Dark Horse felt the Good Luck Troll would be a natural fit in the designer vinyl and specialty retail arena, and has created Trolls with unique variations of color and surface treatments. The product development was closely supervised by Dam Things and its brand manager Dannie Festa of Festa Entertainment, including a trip from Denmark to the West Coast prototyping facility to assess and approve the works in progress.

[Read more...]