Toy State Introduces New Road Rippers, Hot Wheels, and Cat Products

Road Rippers

Road Rippers

Toy State is adding new products in its spring line, including new offerings from its Road Rippers brand and Hot Wheels and Cat licensed products. The company is celebrating its 30th year by bringing new products for indoor and outdoor play.

For the Road Rippers line, suitable for kids ages 3 and up, Street Screamers feature stylized licensed vehicles with oversized low-profile wheels and special paint jobs. The VW Hatchback has a light-up rotating speaker bed with three unique designs and a different song for each. The Skidders Mini Countrymen WRC can slam on the brakes for a “fish-tail spinout” effect. Rev Up Monsters have a rev-up driving feature, while Maximum Boost has a rocket boost, as well as wheelie action. Street Beatz are custom-designed vehicles with high-impact speakers.

Hot Wheels licensed products, suitable for kids ages 3 and up, include [Read more...]

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: 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...]

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...]

High School Students Launch Toy Company to Raise Funds for Not-For-Profit

FlipNCheckStudents from Stuyvesant High School in New York City have launched their first product, Flip ‘N’ Check, a dry-erase activity book for kids ages 5 and up. The toy is sold in more than 20 stores along the East coast, with all proceeds to be donated to the Teen Entrepreneur Boot Camp (TEBC), a not-for-profit group dedicated to teaching entrepreneurship to teens. This team will be collaborating with the Bronx Zoo for the next version of Flip ‘N’ Check called Zoo Animals.

The idea for the Flip ’N’ Check method was donated to the project by Dr. Howard Wexler, inventor of the game Connect 4, in an effort to fund the program. Flip ‘N’ Check comes in an easy-to-travel format and contains educational puzzles, mazes, connect-the-dots, word searches, crosswords, and more. A demonstration video is available on YouTube.

The students will be documenting their learning experiences on the TEBC blog, which will also feature tips from professionals they have met along the way, and the experiences they have had launching this toy company.

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.