Today’s toy shopping experience has become a combination—or choice—of in-person browsing, online price comparisons, and research in a way we’d previously never seen before the dawn of the smartphone. Gone are the days of browsing the aisles of a single store, limited to its inventory and prices. Competitors used to be a trip or a phone call away, and often, shoppers didn’t have the time or desire to drive around town in search of a slightly lower price.
Science kits are typically geared toward kids ages 8 and up. There have been plenty of logical reasons for this—for one thing, kids need to be able to read the manual to do the experiments; and for another, science experiments can be complex, requiring kids to have longer attention spans and higher critical thinking skills. However, at this year’s North American International Toy Fair in NYC, many companies have found ways to introduce science to a younger audience.
Plush is not just about stuffed teddies anymore. At North American International Toy Fair, there were dozens of companies with plush on display—ranging from traditional bears, to robotic plush, to artistic plush. Creative plush designs are especially cool because they appeal to both kids and adults. The right plush piece can even add a unique design element to a room, and many of these types of plush characters are great gift ideas for expectant parents who are waiting to find out their little one’s gender, since they have a gender-neutral heirloom quality to them that makes them extra special.
Just this weekend, I attended a party at a friend’s house—a “FriendsGiving” gathering hosted by her and her husband. After a delicious pre-holiday feast of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and veggies, we decided to let the food settle while playing a game of celebrity Charades. Our game was spontaneous, so we worked with what was at hand: post-it notes, a pen, and a salad bowl. We tore up the post-its, wrote the names of celebrities, and tossed them into the bowl before breaking into teams and doing our best Michael Jackson, George Washington, and Vanna White impressions.
This reminded me that games aren’t just for kids. Somewhere along the line, the concept of “fun and games” became synonomous with youth, a lack of responsibility, and blissful ignorance. But one could make the argument that grown-ups need games even more than kids sometimes, to help us unwind, loosen up, and chill out at the end of a busy day or a hectic work week. [Read more...]
This month, Toca Boca launched the Artist Play Series, a new project that invites international artists to celebrate the synergies of play and art by creating tools for play. The result is a series of toys that encourage imagination and self-expression. The line kicked off earlier this month with Toca Ink, a set of six temporary tattoos by Brooklyn-based tattoo artist Virginia Elwood. The Toy Book chatted with Toca Boca about the new line.
The Toy Book (TTB): Is this Toca Boca’s first licensed product line in the U.S.?
Toca Boca (TB): Toca Ink, the first product from the Artist Play Series, is not a licensed product. It’s a Toca Boca product.
TTB: How did Toca Boca select each artist for the temporary tattoo line?
TB: Toca Ink is the only temporary tattoo product we have planned. We partnered with Virginia Elwood on it after looking at hundreds of tattoo artists across the U.S. for one that had a truly personal style and high artistic integrity. Virginia’s love for this art form is evident in her work. She has a classic style, yet her bold personality still shines through. We were drawn to how she comes across as an artist first and a tattoo artist second. [Read more...]
Science—Not Just for Scientists!, from Gryphon House Inc., teaches kids about the world of scientific discovery. The book features more than 40 pages of hands-on activities, reproducible handouts, and colorful photos that empower children to question, experiment, and develop abstract reasoning skills. With the help of step-by-step instructions and lists of easy-to-find materials, children ages 3 to 6 will explore the water cycle, simple machines, energy paths, and more.
In the past, the term “science toy” commonly elicited thoughts of volcano kits, magnifying glasses, and telescopes—and not much else. However, times have changed. Kids and parents today have a broad range of options to choose from in the science category, from toys that teach kids about outer space to kits that help them learn computer programming. With all the options available today, the industry is seeing new trends in the science toy space, and kids are reaping the benefits.
Demand has grown for toys geared toward kids as young as 3 and 4 years old. Andrew Quartin, CEO of Thames & Kosmos, says, “I visit a lot of retail stores, and more times than not, I get requests for things specifically for 4-year-olds, and sometimes for 3-year-olds. This presents specific challenges, because the way kids ages 3 and 4 learn is very different from the way kids ages 6, 8, 10, or 12 learn.” The key to creating a successful product for this age demographic lies in how easy it is to play with. “One of the strongest assets of our kits are the manuals and the ease-of-use we create with them. How do you do that for a 3-year-old that hasn’t learned to read yet? Our thought is that we’re going to model our manuals after picture books, so it’ll be very image-driven and will tackle topics that they’re interested in.” [Read more...]
Toy stores today offer kids an ever-impressive selection of playthings that do more and more each year. From video games to talking plush, appcessories to robotics, it seems like there is no end in sight for innovation in the toy industry. I’ve often wondered just how far toys will go—it seems that literally anything is possible these days, with the right amount of willpower and support. Will we see invisibility cloaks? Toys that let kids fly? Time machines? The list goes on and on. [Read more...]