China Toy Fair


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...]

Saban Brands Teams Up with Random House on Julius Jr. Children’s Books

Julius JrSaban Brands has entered a global publishing deal with Random House Children’s Books for the preschool property Julius Jr. New products will include an interactive collection of books inspired by the TV series, which airs on Nick Jr. Random House has acquired worldwide English rights, and the books will be available starting this fall and published under the company’s Golden Books and Random House Books for Young Readers imprints.

“The Julius Jr. series will be a natural fit with young readers and we’re happy to share the fantastic adventures of Julius Jr. and his friends through visual storytelling,” said Elie Dekel, President of Saban Brands.

The fall collection will include a full range of color and activity books, leveled readers, storybooks, and novelty books for preschool-aged children.

New LeapFrog LeapPad2 Custom Edition Lets Kids Personalize Their Tablets

LeapPad2CustomAlong with providing access to nearly 1,000 learning games and creativity apps courtesy of LeapFrog’s educational library, the new LeapPad2 Custom Edition from LeapFrog Enterprises Inc. lets kids create unique looks for their tablets.

Similar to the original LeapPad2, the LeapPad2 Custom Edition includes a tech-forward design with access to leveled reading experiences. It also has 10 sticker skins and 11 digital wallpaper designs for more than 100 different ways to personalize the tablet, as well as front and back cameras and video recorders and 4GB of memory. It also comes with nine free apps.

Suitable for kids ages 3 to 9, the LeapPad2 Custom Edition is available online and at major retail locations in the U.S.

COMMENTARY: Lighting Up Imaginative Play: Light-Up Toys Provide Magical Fun For Kids

When I attended Fall Toy Preview in October, I had a conversation with a few industry executives about how when companies expand their line to include glow-in-the-dark or light-up SKUs, it often signals the end of the brand. They referred to glow-in-the-dark and light-up products as a “last resort,” and said it typically means that there are no other possible innovations for the product line.

However, I know a certain 4-year-old boy who would absolutely disagree with this idea, along with his 8-year-old sister (aka my niece and nephew!). LED lights have a strange magic to them—especially for kids. The bright colors they provide, just like glow-in-the-dark effects, seem like something out of a fantasy story that kids go crazy over—no matter how simple the technology actually is. There are some great new products hitting the market that reflect how great glow can be, here are some of my favorites:

TRACERTRACK_24

 

Tracer Racers, from Skullduggery, utilize Light Trail Technology as they blaze streaks of light on the glow-in-the-dark track. That’s right—LEDs AND glow play patterns. Lights galore! Magic frenzy!—and there’s more! Each Tracer Racer beams down purple light rays from its undercarriage onto the track, which is specially engineered to emit glow remnants only after the racer has passed. The new Tracer Racer drag racing sets include a 10-foot single lane set including one racer, an 8-foot double lane set with two racers, and a 12-foot double lane loop set with a light-up finish gate and two racers. The company will also introduce trucks to the line this year. Kids ages 6 and up are sure to enjoy all of the amazing light-up elements in this toy. [Read more...]

Sega Kicks Off New Era of Toys and Games with a Sonic Boom

SonicBoomlogoSega will launch a new branch of its Sonic the Hedgehog universe entitled Sonic Boom, which will be accompanied by a CG animated TV series, video games for the Nintendo Wii U and 3DS, new toys from Tomy, and more. To date, the character has appeared in more than 70 video game titles across a span of more than 20 years.

During a press event this past Thursday in New York City, the upcoming TV series was introduced as a character-driven comedy featuring lots of action and adventure. It consists of 52 11-minute episodes, and will debut in both the U.S. and France during the 2014 to 2015 season. “What we try to do is take the character and put them in situations where their personalities take center stage, and take us in interesting directions,” said showrunner and executive producer Evan Baily. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: These Valentine’s Day Toys and Activities Have Lots of Heart!

Valentine’s Day is coming up, and many people will give roses, chocolates, and jewelry to the objects of their affections. But lest we forget, toys and games also make fine presents. Looking around the toy industry, it’s clear that a number of companies were aware of potential opportunities, and responded with cool Valentine’s Day-themed products. But I also found some items that, even if they weren’t packaged specifically for the hearts-and-flowers holiday, are still perfect for the occasion. Here’s a brief rundown, though as usual, this is by no means an exhaustive list:

Phil.Feb7Plush dolls, from Aurora World Inc.: These dolls come in all shapes and sizes, and several of them sport that most familiar of Valentine’s Day icons: the heart. For example, Pink Promise, a soft, two-toned elephant, has heart prints all around the insides of its huge ears. There’s also Sad Sam & Honey, a pair of adorably sad-looking basset hounds, each bearing a heart with an “I Love You” message. Aurora World also has YooHoo & Friends, a trio of pastel-colored chimpanzees that not only present Valentine’s Day messages such as “Be Mine!” and “XOXO!,” but squeak when squeezed.

While the dolls I just mentioned are tailor-made for February 14, even if you take away the pink dye and hearts, these are still terrific plush animals. Both Sad Sam & Honey and YooHoo & Friends have big eyes and emotive facial expressions, which make them easy to empathize with and feel affection toward. Pink Promise, on the other hand, benefits from sheer generousness of proportions: It comes in four sizes, one as large as 22 inches from trunk to end. As such, this elephant is a potential pillar of emotional strength, and isn’t that what we all want for Valentine’s Day? Aurora World plush is suitable for all ages. [Read more...]