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...]

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...]

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.

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.

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.

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...]

Yvolution Takes Kids Rides to the EXY Extreme

YVOLUTION EXY TRICKSTARTRAt this year’s American International Toy Fair, Yvolution is launching its new EXY Extreme Yvolution series. Offering kids a more extreme ride, the first two products in the line include the EXY Trickstartr, an entry-level stunt scooter with an innovative wheelie system, and the EXY Sharker, a three-wheeled skateboard made for urban street surfing.

The EXY Trickstartr is a stunt scooter for beginner riders who want to learn how to master basic tricks. It features a slick matte black/vibrant color design and comes with a special patent-pending device that allows riders to do a wheelie. Trickstartr also offers kids four ways to ride: 1) The Easy Way, 2) The Hard Way, 3) The Expert Way, and 4) The Pro Way. Once the stunt is mastered, the detachable device can be removed to improve speed and agility.

The EXY Sharker is a three-wheeled skateboard with a modern surfboard design. It is half-caster board and half-skateboard, with a front 360-degree caster wheel and traditional skateboard trucks in the back. Riders twist back and forth to get started, self-propel, carve, and pump. The quicker they pump the nose, the faster they’ll go. The Sharker also features a patented super strong ABS Tri-core grip deck and PU wheels with durable ABEC 7 bearings.

Both are suitable for kids ages 5 and up, available in green or purple, and for sale exclusively at Toys “R” Us stores and online.

Before hitting the skate park, kids can watch a series of EXY “learn to ride” videos online that help them get started with both the Trickstartr and Sharker.

Blue Orange Games Premieres Eight New Games at Toy Fair

Feb10.BlueOrangeBlue Orange Games has added eight new games to its collection of more than40 products that will premiere at the American International Toy Fair from February 16 to 19. The new games will be available for purchase online and in specialty stores across the U.S. and Canada in late spring.

Doodle Quest is a drawing game where kids must avoid obstacles using their memory and the power of a pen. Wuzzits is a matching game in which cards combine and morph into different monsters. Aztack allows players to build a temple using unique rules. Players can make rival herds of livestock go head-to-head in Battle Sheep. Spot it! Freeze pits players against an electric timer, while Spot it! Splash is a waterproof version of the family favorite.  Set in Imperial Japan, Niya makes its players use strategy skills to control the important clan garden. BraveRats is a strategy game for two players that is filled with plenty of suspense.

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...]