COMMENTARY: Cardboard Playhouses Help Kids Think Inside the Box

It’s almost Christmas, and for me, that means logging onto Netflix and making sure that a DVD of the 2004 film, Millions, is in the mail in time to reach me by next Wednesday. If you’ve never seen Millions, you should totally make it part of your holiday viewing, as it is a wonderful movie. Directed by Danny Boyle (of Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire fame), it’s not a saccharine-fest like a lot of other Christmas-themed fare; however, it is set around Christmas and packs messages about the importance of charity and human kindness, and of the power of familial love. Watching it reminds you of what the holidays can, and should, be about.

Millions is also a celebration of a child’s imagination, and one of my favorite parts of the film is near the beginning, when one of the main protagonists, 7-year-old Damian, is sitting in his backyard kingdom that’s made out of discarded cardboard boxes. Thanks to Boyle’s whimsical direction, the viewer gets to experience how something as simple as a box fort can become a source of great play potential: At one point, Damian’s entire universe trembles as a nearby train thunders by. He also has one-on-one chats with various Catholic saints, who drop by for darkly humorous interactions, and to relay messages about the boy’s recently deceased mom.

Calafant, Cardboard playhouseIt was because of Millions that I wanted to put together a list of cardboard playhouse toys. Now if you’re like me, you got your first taste of them when you were younger, shortly after a new refrigerator, TV, or bathroom fixture was unpacked at your family home. Today, anyone can still acquire a large box from pretty much anywhere and use it for playhouse-building; however, clean surfaces, such as the ones on the following products, do present an advantage for decorating. There’s another reason why I chose them: They all utilize recycled cardboard, meaning they take something that might otherwise end up in a dump and turn it into a item that creates enjoyment. Since it’s the holidays, if you’re going to give a present that encourages a child’s creativity, why not one that’s friendlier for the whole planet, which serves as every kid’s playhouse? [Read more...]

Google’s Zeitgeist Releases Top 10 Trending Toy Searches for 2013

Google has released its annual Zeitgeist—a “spirit of the times”—which gives us a chance to remember the people, places and topics that got us talking, and ultimately searching, before a new year begins. The list of top toy searches features new toys such as Minions and Palace Pets, but also old favorites, such as Play-Doh. Here are the top 10 trending toy searches this year:

  1. Pokémon
  2. Play-Doh
  3. Digimon Fusion
  4. Minecraft Toys
  5. Minions
  6. Palace Pets
  7. Paw Patrol
  8. Pacific Rim Toys
  9. My Little Pony
  10. Disney Planes

The 2013 Zeitgeist site provides more than 1000 top-10 lists of popular and trending searches from 72 countries, making it the most comprehensive and global list to date.

Magicforest Distributes New Moulin Roty Nighttime Shadow Puppets

magicforestFrench toy company Moulin Roty has cast a light on its Les Petit Merveilles line of Nighttime Shadow Puppets. Instead of reading from a storybook, parents and kids can use these puppet sets with themes of Castles, Paris, Circus, and Dinosaurs to create magical tales for sweet dreams. Magicforest, the exclusive U.S. distributor of Moulin Roty toys, will showcase the entire collection, plus the Nighttime Shadow Theatre, at its booth at the American International Toy Fair.

Different than hand puppets made by a flashlight and a camping tent wall, these artistic puppets entice storytelling and hand coordination, and serve as an outlet to express feelings. The puppets are made from black cardstock that is laser cut into various shapes. The Paris Shadows set features the Eiffel Tower, an airplane, the moon, and a sleepwalker. The nine-piece Castle Shadows includes a dragon, a fairy, royalty, and a witch. The Dinosaur Shadows is a pack of 10 puppets featuring a stegosaurus, a brachiosaurus, and more prehistoric shapes. The Nighttime Circus Shadow puppets include 11 different figures, including a lion, an elephant, and a strongman. The puppets are designed for kids ages 3 and up.

Motorworks Expands with New Cars, Play Sets, Accessories

ManhattanToy.Motorworks.convertibleMotorworks, from The Manhattan Toy Co., will expand its line next year with new models, a car trailer, and accessories. The vehicles are designed with a common, convertible chassis, which allows kids to choose between durable, snap-on parts and to customize in different ways.

The collection is comprised of three different trim levels: Street Series, Speed Series, and Extreme Series. Motorworks will attend next year’s American International Toy Fair with its latest offerings, all of which are suitable for kids ages 3 and up. [Read more...]

Groovy Girls Turning 16 With New Core Dolls and Accessories

ManhattanToy.GroovyGirls.ComboSixteen years after the introduction of Groovy Girls, visitors to The Manhattan Toy Company‘s booth at the American International Toy Fair can be the first to see three new Groovy Girls Special Edition Sweet 16 Dolls: Skylar, Fuchsia, and Lilia. These limited edition dolls are each dressed in bright fashions and sport colored hair to match their names; for example, there’s sky blue hair for Skylar and raspberry pink locks for Fuchsia.

There will also be new B-Line “Core” Dolls consisting of four dolls that start with the letter “B”: Brooklyn, Bailey, Bayani, and Breanna. These poseable dolls arrive with distinctive outfits, hairstyles, and grins.

Other additions for next spring include Princess Ella, who has golden blonde hair topped by a jeweled tiara that makes her look taller than her 13 inches; the Royalty Ritzy Bed, which has a quilt with satin lining, tulle trim, and a satin pillow with tassels; and the Totally Tentastic tent with zippered mesh door, nylon flaps, and dimensions that fit up to three dolls. All products are suitable for kids ages 3 and up.

Aeromax Debuts New Firefighter, Astronaut Role Play Products

Aeromax.Drawstringbackpack.onkidAeromax will showcase new products at the upcoming American International Toy Fair that are intended to be high quality, albeit for not too much money. They include the Firefighter Drawstring Backpack, the Astronaut Drawstring Backpack, the Alien Invasion Light-Up Flying Saucer, and the Youth Astronaut Helmet.

Both the Firefighter Drawstring Backpack and the Astronaut Drawstring Backpack are lightweight and measure 14 feet by 16 feet. In addition, they fit comfortably on a child’s back and feature bright colors that showcase firefighting symbols or NASA-inspired space explorations. The drawstring backpacks, suitable for kids ages 3 and up, can also serve as an addition to Aeromax’s firefighter suit or astronaut head-to-toe outfit, or worn as a regular backpack to school. [Read more...]

Hot for Spring and Holiday Travel—Customizable Flip Flops

Maui_Flip_Flops_W_Pink_Bloom_2__10997.1375240005.451.416Every now and then a non-toy item permeates space in toy stores due to its trendiness, appeal to kids, and, typically, its toyetic nature. Something about it makes it fun and kids have to have it.

Enter Lollz Flip Flops, from Wavewearco. Available in child and adult sizes, these flip flops allow users to customize their footwear with super easy snap-on/snap-off Lollz accessories, which include bows, flowers, buttons, etc. The company even encourages its customers to design their own Lollz for a unique look, with suggestions such as gluing on rhinestones, or painting them. The Lollz snap on and off easily, but stay on very securely.

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The idea for the line came from the owner’s personal experience. He couldn’t understand why his daughters insisted on bringing so many pairs of sandals on vacation, taking up precious space in their luggage. They insisted that their footwear had to complement their outfit. And so Lollz were born. With Lollz, kids can bring one pair of flip flops, and several accessories to change their style as they wish, even on the go.

 

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COMMENTARY: 1996: The Best Christmas Ever

1996. It was the year of the New York Yankees, the Chicago Bulls, the Dallas Cowboys. It was the year of Jerry Maguire and the Macarena. It was the year of Bill Clinton’s reelection. But most importantly, 1996 marked the best Christmas ever, with toy companies cranking out some of kids’ favorite toys of all time.

Cabbage Patch Snacktime KidWho could forget the Cabbage Patch Snacktime Kids dolls, from Mattel? Those pudgy-faced, yarn-haired little cuties each had a motorized mouth, and kids could feed their doll a french fry, a pretzel stick, a banana, and other yummy snacks. This was one of the toys my mom admits to pushing other moms out of the way for at Toys “R” Us on Black Friday morning. The food, which the dolls realistically chewed when kids inserted it into their mouths, fell into a backpack on the doll’s back, so kids could feed them over and over again. Of course, this beacon of glory was shortly recalled after the holiday season, as kids were getting their hair, skin, and fingers stuck in the doll’s mouth (as you can imagine, this resulted in many unhappy parents and kids with bald spots). While I made sure my hair was secured tightly in a ponytail while playing, my Snacktime Kid remained one of my favorite toys through ’97.

[Read more...]

Little Tikes Promotes Early Learning, Interaction with New Website, Tagline

LittleTikesThe website for MGA Entertainment‘s brand Little Tikes has been redesigned to feature more content for customers. The brand has also rolled out a new tagline, “The Wonder of Little Tikes,” referencing the moments that connect parents and their children.

The refresh adds new and extended content that reinforces littletikes.com as a destination not only for the largest assortment of Little Tikes products, but also as the go-to resource for insights and tools related to early engagement in childhood development. The updates, stemming from feedback from Little Tikes customers online, provide a more interactive, complete experience.

Now there is an easier check out process and additional functionality to make shopping more efficient; educational and entertainment content, including online games, coloring pages, and an animated webisode series; an incorporated ratings and reviews system to collect feedback and engage customers; and posts from leading childhood development experts to inform parents of key trends.

COMMENTARY: Easing Kids’ Nighttime Fears One Toy at a Time

It’s 9 p.m.—already well past bedtime—and your little one is still buzzing about the house in his or her favorite footie pajamas begging to play with just one more toy for just five more minutes. Whether it’s because they are restless or afraid of the dark, looming shadows in their room, getting kids down at the end of a long day can be a challenge. While you’d probably like the toy box to stay shut so you can get them off to bed, there are actually some great toys on the market that can assist you in this (often) headache-inducing process.

DinoRoar.Baby'sFirst.GoldbergerPart of the Baby’s First line, from Goldberger Toys, Dino Roar is great for kids who get scared when bedtime rolls around. The adorable baby doll is dressed in a pink or blue dinosaur costume, so both boys and girls can enjoy the security Dino provides. Little ones can press Dino’s belly for a “roar” sound that’s sure to intimidate any scary monsters lingering in the closet or under the bed. Dino’s glowing face and soft feel give kids ages 18 months and up security while falling asleep.

StarShineWatchdogs.KellytoyFor kids a bit older, Starshine Watchdogs, from Kellytoy USA, are ready to protect and serve at bedtime. Orion (blue) and Skye (pink) are cuddly plush puppies. They each say reassuring phrases, such as “don’t worry, I’m here,” and “all secure, sleep tight.” By pressing Orion or Skye’s right paw, the included Star Light nightlight illuminates the room, but automatically shuts off after a few minutes. Parents can even purchase additional Star Lights for other areas of the house, in case kids need to get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom or get a glass of water. The bright star on the puppies’ chest also glows when kids press their left paw. These pups are great for travel.

Hello Kitty Lullalight, from Tech 4 Kids

Hello Kitty Lullalight, from Tech 4 Kids

Night lights are great for kids who have trouble with the dark, but throwing their favorite characters into the mix can make them feel even more secure at night. Spot Lite is a line of light-up character-based products from Tech 4 Kids. Including in the line are Lullalights, which are dome-shaped nightlights that glow and play lullabies. Featuring characters including the Smurfs, Hello Kitty, and Moshi Monsters, Lullalights project a colorful character image on the bedroom ceiling. Nite Friends are shaped nightlights also featuring kids’ favorite characters. They have an auto shut-off and are wireless, making them great for travel.

Jake.WallFriends.UncleMilton

Wall Friends, from Uncle Milton, not only serve as a nightlight, but as a piece of room décor. Available in multiple popular characters including Doc McStuffins, Cinderella, Jake the Pirate, Lightning McQueen, Minnie, and Mickey, Wall Friends easily adhere to bedroom walls. Each Wall Friends includes a remote, so kids can interact with them and hear their favorite characters say familiar phrases without getting out of bed. Wall Friends even feature two brightness settings and an auto shut-off.

All of these innovative products provide parents with an easy way to get their kids safely settled into bed at night. Easing their fears in a fun way with plush, dolls, or their favorite characters will make them stop begging to sleep in mom and dad’s room, and keep them better rested for the busy day on the horizon.

For more commentary from Marissa, check back often. 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!