Lottie To Be Available in 30 Countries

lottie.nauticalArklu will increase its Lottie doll line’s international presence come June, where it will be available in 30 countries. Lottie, who is meant to be based off a real child, was created with the proportions of an average nine-year-old girl. She can stand on her two feet, has hair that doesn’t tangle easily, and includes tactile clothes and accessories.

Eco-Bonk Bop Bags Get New Sustainable Raw Material

Eco-BonkPueri Elemental will begin using Repreve recycled fibers to make the removable covers for each inflatable bop bag toy in its Eco-Bonk line. The fabric will be made from post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic water bottles, fiber waste, and fabrics.

Meanwhile, Lily Gibbon, Emma Owl, and Noah Whale are joining the existing wild and wooly animals in the Eco-Bonk Wildlife Series, making it six characters in all. The line is suitable for kids ages 2 and up.

COMMENTARY: Marble Runs Are on a Roll!

During Toy Fair last month, I saw quite a few marble runs on display, which is not at all surprising. This particular toy has been around since my own childhood and never seemed to go away for any prolonged span of time. Meanwhile, one of the vendors I spoke to said marble runs have actually increased in popularity over the past year, thanks to the growth of the construction toy category. He also said that many customers opt for larger sets—or else buy multiple small ones of the same brand—and that the ability to combine sets to build ever-larger runs makes for exceptional toy value in their eyes.

Personally, I think marble runs are a thing of beauty: You drop in your fateful spheroid and watch as it winds its way toward its ultimate destiny, guided only by physics and skilled engineering. For young builders, they are a terrific means of developing an understanding of cause and effect, not to mention patience–as any seasoned vet can tell you, it can take repeated tries and multiple setbacks before a marble run is put together perfectly. But it’s worth it: A well-built run can have a downright pacifying effect, as watching the marble traveling along can put the mind in a focused, relaxed state.

Despite what they may have in common collectively, marble runs come in a range of different shapes, materials, and styles. Here are a few of my favorite companies currently producing them, but by no means should it be considered a definitive list. The breadth and scope of these toys is certainly worthy of a longer discussion; I’m just here to get the proverbial ball–or marble–rolling:

Phil.2.28.Pic2Hape is known [Read more...]

Aryaball Kickstarts Into Motion

AryaBall HeadshotWith kids today constantly craning their necks down toward their iPhones and tablets, sometimes the perfect pick-me-up is a day at the park. But what parent wants to resemble a gym teacher or clutter up the car with a ton of sporting equipment just to keep their kids busy? Thanks to Babak Forutanpour, they don’t have to.

Forutanpour, owner and head coach of Aryaball, encourages active play through his new toy invention. The Aryaball and Aryabat are foam products made for kids ages 3 to 10. It allows kids to play five sports at once—with just one ball and one bat. The outer shell of the product is a full sized, regulation 5 soccer ball. The ball then opens up to reveal a football and flying disc. The football also twists and opens to uncover a soft baseball with the dimples of a golf ball. Kids can play baseball with the Aryabat or swing the tip out 90 degrees to turn it into a golf putter.

Forutanpour was inspired to create the product one afternoon when he was at the park with his son Arya. The two were throwing a football around when Arya, who the business is named after, asked to play soccer instead. Foruntapour did not have any other sports equipment with him, but after his son insisted, the pair ended up kicking the football to try to use it as a soccer ball.

AryaBall Product“That’s when it dawned on me that I’m not the only dad who forgot to bring all the balls to the park,” Forutanpour said. “I didn’t want to carry a bag with the soccer ball, baseball, football, and golf. I could reinvent the football and soccer ball. It’s about solving a problem I saw.”

The trip to the park was also cut short because Forutanpour’s kids just wanted to go back home and play on their electronic devices. This was precisely the motivation he needed to bring new innovation to the active play category.

“I think it’s time to rethink the active play category a bit and make products that are easier to use, more fun, and more compact,” Forutanpour said. “It seems like a lot of change in active sports has been related to increased volume and decreased pricing, where I haven’t really seen real innovation.”

Forutanpour came up with designs in his garage soon after the trip to the park. The most current result was generated after several rounds of prototyping. One of the initial designs included a football with two removable end caps to turn into a soccer ball. Forutanpour built these different prototypes with soccer balls and footballs that he had bought. Eventually, he purchased a 3-D printer to create new, original models and make them better each time instead of using real soccer balls and footballs. A 3-D printer prints hot, melted plastic into different shapes, which was used to create the two bowls that threaded together to make a soccer ball.

The Aryaball business has evolved from a father-son activity to a full family affair. Forutanpour’s two children have tested each prototype and given feedback. Along with Arya, who inspired the product, Forutanpour’s daughter Darya helped him tie in additional sports. After several models, prototypes, and tests from his children, Foruntanpour feels as though his product is ready for others to enjoy. He launched the AryaBall on Kickstarter on February 11.

The product’s Kickstarter campaign will run through March 28. Kickstarter is a crowd-funding website where consumers can pledge money toward a project before a certain deadline. The creator receives the raised funds only if the project reaches its goal.  Multiple toy companies have used this platform to launch their new products, often exceeding their initial goals, including Goldieblox, Tek Recon, and Ubooly.

Forutanpour heard about Kickstarter from a friend and has kept a close eye on it as his business developed and as crowd-funding became more prevalent. He has donated to 11 other projects on the website prior to launching the AryaBall and decided it would be a useful platform to fund his product and gage consumer interest.

“I think we are very fortunate to live in a time where there is a platform of crowd-funding to put a product out there and see if people like it,” said Forutanpour. “If people like it and are willing to spend their hard-earned money to pre-order this product, then that is the validation I need to press go and move forward.”

The AryaBall’s Kickstarter goal is $35,000. So far, the business has been entirely self-funded by Forutanpour, so the next stage is to make multicavity tools to produce the product. A multicavity tool would allow for multiple AryaBalls and AryaBats to be made at a time. Ultimately, the more money the AryaBall is able to raise, the more efficient it would be to manufacture the product.

“The response has been really positive so far, so I’m hoping we have a successful Kickstarter to get these balls made and shared with people,” said Forutanpour. “We’ve been getting emails from people saying they want one.”

The price point for the AryaBall and AryaBat together is about $45 if the AryaBall reaches its fundraising goal and the minimum amount of tooling is available to manufacture the products. Consumers will also be able to purchase the products separately.

Although all of the engineering aspects of the product are done, Forutanpour would like to incorporate all feedback from consumers as Aryaball is introduced around the world. Once a final round of prototyping is finished, there will be another round of testing. Forutanpour hopes to get the product on shelves on mass and specialty stores in time for the holiday season.

The Aryaball was most recently a featured exhibitor at the American International Toy Fair in New York City from February 16 to 19. Shark Tank investor Daymond John, founder, president, and CEO of the fashion line Fubu, even stopped by the booth and chatted with Foruntanpour. The product was also featured on NBC’s Today Show as a Hot New Toy for this year.

Click on the video below to see the AryaBall in action.

Jazwares’ Gravity Falls Toys to Arrive This Fall

Jazwares.GravityFallsJazwares has created a new Gravity Falls toy line based on the popular Disney TV series. The line-up will include figures, plush, role-play, and play-set toys, and the first wave will see release this fall at retailers across the U.S.

The initial retail focus of the toy line will be in specialty stores nationwide. Currently, Gravity Falls is a top-rated show on Disney Channel among kids ages 2 to 11 and 6 to 11, and tweens ages 9 to 14. It follows the adventures of Dipper and Mabel Pines, twins spending the summer with their eccentric great-uncle Stan in the town of Gravity Falls, Oregon, where things are never as they seem.

COMMENTARY: Plush With a Purpose

Last week at Toy Fair, I was incredibly moved and encouraged to see so many toy companies giving from their compassionate hearts. When I was younger, I wanted to write about cancer research or world hunger. This week, Toy Fair reminded me that the toy business is an incredible outlet to make a huge difference, and these toy makers are using the toy industry to teach kids the importance of giving, love, and compassion. I’ve fallen in love with a handful of toy makers who are using their platform to make a real difference. Toys may seem trivial, but aren’t kids the ones in whom we delegate our future? [Read more...]

Super Duper Going the Retail Route with Educational Products

SuperDuperSuper Duper Publications is partnering with U.S. retail and online resellers to sell its children’s educational products. The company has more than 750 common core and state standards-aligned card decks, games, workbooks, software programs, mobile apps, and more for children ages 3 to 12.

Previously, the company mostly sold directly to consumers and educators, and only offered certain items to retailers. “We are very excited about working with retailers to bring our unique products to parents and educators throughout the country,” said Super Duper president Sharon Webber.

Super Duper also has over 40 international resellers that distribute its products worldwide. To date, the most popular Super Duper creations include the HearBuilder programs, which have helped students dramatically improve their early learning and pre-reading skills, such as basic concepts, following directions, phonological/sound awareness, auditory/listening memory, and sequencing.

The Little Gym Active Toys Available at Target Canada

Feb24.LittleJimThe Little Gym International has partnered with Aqua-Leisure Industries for children’s development and activity toys for kids ages 3 to 7. The brand’s first line of active toys will be available exclusively at Target Canada stores starting this month.

The line includes products that emphasize physical development, imaginative play patterns, and experiential learning. The Maze Mover is a balance ball game that promotes problem solving, balance, and coordination. The PartyChute emphasizes cooperation, timing, and gross motor skills. The Air Cube allows kids to toss, tap, and keep a large, inflatable cube in the air. The Tube-A-Twist encourages agility, flexibility, balance, and problem-solving skills.

In addition, The Little Gym has launched music CDs designed to get kids moving, learning, and having fun. The CDs are available for download on iTunes and for purchase on Amazon.com. The Little Gym is expected to release additional active toys later this year.

Barbie Has Entrepreneurship and More in Her Future

Entrepreneur BarbieDuring the recent American International Toy Fair in New York City, Mattel offered a preview of what’s to come for one of its most iconic and popular brands. “Anything is possible” was introduced as the new slogan for Barbie, accompanied by an official new Barbie theme performed by Fifth Harmony. It was also announced that this year, after more than 150 careers on her resume, the Barbie Career of the Year doll will celebrate female entrepreneurship.

Looking ahead to the coming months, new Barbie dolls will also focus on hair play, glitter, and supporting the Girl Scouts. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Back to Basics: Sketch, Doodle, Paint, and Play

TF14Logo-cityDatesAfter Toy Fair 2013, the words “and there’s an app!” were ringing in my ears for weeks. This year, however, appcessories seemed more like a taboo than anything else, with most companies shying away from toys with app-enhanced features or reliability. Honestly, it was less than disappointing. I think keeping screen time and toy time separate is perfectly acceptable, and apparently, what kids and toy buyers prefer.

This year will truly mark a return to traditional play patterns. Rainbow Loom, a simple bracelet-making kit for kids, was huge in 2013, eventually snagging four Toy of the Year (TOTY) awards, including the overall Toy of the Year. That said, Toy Fair 2014 brought tons of cool innovations in the activities category, with companies fighting to be the next big thing once the Rainbow Loom craze comes to an end. [Read more...]