COMMENTARY: Now Every Kid Can Be Captain America

Phil.04.03.Cap6inchLegendsThis weekend, everyone’s favorite re-animated World War II super-soldier returns in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, from Marvel Studios. (PLEASE NOTE: THIS OPENING MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS.) Having seen a preview of the movie, I won’t give too much away, but suffice it to say, it’s a good time, precisely because the captain faces conflicts that aren’t just fisticuffs. At a certain point, both he—and the other Marvel Comics-based heroes who appear—must decide whether to turn on their own government. Admittedly, it’s not that difficult a choice, since saying no means a terrorist organization descended from the Nazis gets the power to kill millions with the push of a button. But a moral quandary is, nevertheless, a moral quandary, and gives the movie a kind of complexity that isn’t always found in summer blockbusters. (END SPOILERS.)

It also results in a character that kids of all ages can—and should—aspire to become more like. (Did I mention that Captain America also learns to trust his friends? This film’s full of valuable lessons for young ones!) To that end, Hasbro has released an impressive line of Captain America: The Winter Soldier toys and accessories that allow for all kinds of pretend play. Since not every movie protagonist is a fit role model for kids, having found one with product support from the toy industry, I feel it is this column’s responsibility to highlight said product as much as possible. Cap, you’re welcome. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Bath Time Is Play Time in My House

I’m a lucky mom (for many reasons), but in the context of this post I’m lucky because my kids love taking baths. It’s one less thing to fight about. However, the reason they don’t mind cleaning up is that it’s fun. It’s not the getting clean part they enjoy (Lena has tried to make me forget about that portion of the experience many times), but the playing. Entertaining a 4-year-old in the tub is very different from distracting an 8-month-old, but bath toys have come a long way since I was a kid (plastic cup and Dawn dish soap, anyone?), and I’ve got a whole array of toys to get the job done. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Learning Healthy Habits Has Never Been This Much Fun!

As adults, we’re always obsessing over chasing that elusive 10 pounds that we gained so easily after college, but still haven’t figured out how to lose. Going to the gym and eating organic foods are second nature to those who have adapted healthier lifestyles in an effort to be at their best. It’s difficult to make those changes—switching french fries for brussels sprouts and being active instead of sitting on the couch all day. Why, then, don’t we give our kids a head start in this crusade? We should be teaching these healthy habits as early as possible.

eggplantAt Toy Fair 2014, there was one booth that stuck out to me, mostly because there was a dancing carrot in superhero gear in front of the ss-logotable. Hey, whatever you have to do! But the premise of this company is just that—to put a fun, positive light on vegetables and to get the attention of kids. [Read more...]

Young Builders, Make Way for Modular Toys USA!

Modular Toys.Racetrack_piecesModular Construction Toys, the Israeli-based manufacturer of Modular Toys construction sets, is bringing its product line to U.S. specialty retailers with Modular Toys USA. More than 125 stores across the country are already stocking the company’s construction sets, and the expansion includes racetracks, as well as locomotive construction and building sets. These toys are suitable for kids age 4 to 8.

Modular Toys’ sets are designed to grow vertically through the use of included elevation pieces. No sorting needs to take place, since the innovative connector pieces let children mix and match different sets. This season’s new additions include the Mega Racetrack, which includes nine construction pieces, three cars, and a sturdy plastic storage bin for clean-up and organization; and the [Read more...]

Ganz Recalls Grumpy Cat Stuffed Toys Due to Choking Hazard

Ganz.GrumpyCatThree styles of Plush Grumpy Cat stuffed animal toys from Ganz are being recalled. The stuffed animals’ eyes can detach, posing a choking hazard to young children. No injuries have been reported, although Ganz has received six reports of eyes detaching from the toys.

The style of toys include an 8-inch Grumpy Cat in laying position, a [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Not a Barbie Girl!

Barbie just celebrated her 55th birthday, and to commemorate the occasion, made a splash on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Wearing a skimpy, and quite-controversial, neutral-toned swimsuit, Barbie caused quite a stir. Many argue that it may be time for Barbie to finally step down as the queen of the children’s doll world. Nickolay Lamm, creator of the new Lammily doll, would certainly agree that there is a new girl in town: the “average is beautiful”-promoting Lammily doll.

Lamm claims that Lammily is the world’s first normal-sized doll. Last year, Lamm designed images of what he dubbed, “normal Barbie,” in an attempt to make the doll reflect the proportions of real female bodies. He used the measurements of the average 19-year-old woman from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and molded them into a 3-D model of Barbie.

lammilyBarbie’s unrealistic proportions have long been criticized by feminist campaigns. Although her waist was expanded and her bust made smaller in 1998, her figure remains significantly out of proportion and unrealistic for the average teenager. Studies show that if transformed into a real woman, Barbie’s 16-inch waist would be four inches thinner than her head. She would be required to walk on her hands and feet, as her 6-inch ankles and vast, missing areas of body would not be able to hold her upright. Studies also show that body image issues in young girls may be related, in part, to Barbie and dolls of the like, and that more than 50 percent of girls ages 9 to 10 claim to be, “on a diet.” This is deeply unsettling, and it seems that while no one thing can be blamed for this warped sense of body image in young girls, Barbie’s unrealistic figure can’t be helping.

Lammily represents something new. [Read more...]

Radio Flyer Cyclone Provides Modern Take on Classic Kid-Powered Toy

Radio Flyer Inc., maker of the famous little red wagon and leading producer of wagons, tricycles, and three-wheel scooters in the U.S., has introduced the Cyclone for kids ages 3 to 7. It features giant 16-inch wheels that kids rotate with their arms to propel into 360-degree spins, quick forward sprints, and reverse rolls.

RADIO FLYER CYCLONEIn addition, the Radio Flyer Cyclone is enabled by a footrest, and features a sturdy rear caster wheel for added stability. It also has a steel frame, molded handgrips, and ergonomic seat. Check out the preview video below:

Available at Toys “R” Us, Cyclone can also be found on radioflyer.com.

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...]