COMMENTARY: The Toy Industry Stands Up for National Bullying Prevention Month

October is National Bullying Prevention Month, and whether or not you believe bullying is a natural rite of passage among children, versus a series of preventable behaviors that can leave lasting emotional damage on the young, one thing is clear: It has become a part of the national conversation. Joining the voices chiming in on the subject is the toy industry, which in the months leading up to October, has seen a number of actions among various players to address the problem of bullying. Some take the form of products that try to make kids understand the bad feelings that come with being picked on; others seek galvanize youth into taking a stand against bullying together. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Nintendo Is Game for Playing in the Toy World

amiibo.largerversionSince the 1980s, Nintendo has always seemed to be the “family-friendly” choice in video games. With wholesome characters such as Mario and Luigi, Princess Peach, Yoshi, and Toad, and bad guys that make you laugh more often than they scare you (except for Bowser in the original Super Mario Bros. game on NES—he was straight up scary), Nintendo has always given off a welcoming, family-friendly vibe, with games available for kids of all ages, and systems and controllers that are intuitive rather than intimidating.

Despite knowing this—and being a Nintendo fan my whole life—it still caught me a bit off-guard when Nintendo announced that it would be launching amiibo, which are action-figures designed to connect and interact with compatible games. “By holding the amiibo over your Wii U GamePad, you’ll open up new experiences within each corresponding game,” reads the Nintendo website. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Comics’ Timeless Heroes (and Villains) Are Still Loved by Today’s Kids

Superman-First-Comic-Action-Comics-No-1-222x300Kids these days may not know that Superman, Spider-Man, and Batman (among many, many others) hailed from glorious comic books first published in the 1930s, costing someone 10 cents an issue on the stands. They also may not realize how well some have held their value, being that the very first Superman comic, Action Comics No. 1, supposedly goes for $3.2 million dollars—but let’s not get too sidetracked.

The real point here is that today, September 25, is National Comic Book Day, and it’s hard to imagine the toy aisles without the superheroes and villains who once upon a time, were neither action figures nor stars on the silver screen played by big-league actors and actresses; but instead, started out as hand-illustrated drawings on a comic strip. [Read more...]

Pley Plays with Experience

Ranan - Head Shot 1It can be hard to say no to a kid who consistently begs for a toy. But once they have that toy in their hands, parents are never sure how long the kid will play with it before they are ready to move on to something else.

Ranan Lachman had the same problem when his son was about five years old. Lachman realized that he had spent about $3,000 on toys, only for his son to play with each for only two to three hours. Lachman knew there had to be a more efficient way to provide toys for his son. Thus, he became the co-founder and CEO of Pley (yes, that’s spelled correctly), a company that allows its customers to rent as many Lego sets as they want for a monthly fee. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Dolls for Boys Are a Sign of the Times

Fritzi, from Haba

For the most recent issue of The Toy Book, I had a chance to research trends in the doll industry, and one that stuck out is an increase in dolls with potential appeal for boys. Arklu, the creator of Lottie Dolls, is planning to introduce its first boy doll, Kite Flyer, this fall. Meanwhile, Haba will be introducing Fritzi, a doll that has no assigned gender—Fritzi can be a boy doll for boys, or a girl doll for girls. There’s also Grandmas2Share, which is marketing grandmother-themed dolls as playthings for children of both genders. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Happy National Teddy Bear Day!

by Christine Duhaime and Phil Guie

toothpickLife—or childhood, at least—would have been simply un-bear-able without teddy bears, am I right? What other toy so effectively soothes us when we’re unhappy, or makes for a truer companion on picnics, tea parties, and other adventures? And since this is an industry blog, we should also point out that teddy bears are a perennial seller among audiences of all ages: Toddlers may receive them for their first toys, but so do young adults as college graduation presents; and grown-ups as birthday gifts, Valentine’s Day tokens, and souvenirs. [Read more...]

On the Hunt with Jordan Hembrough

When you step inside Hollywood Heroes in Westwood, N.J., you can literally smell the nostalgia (for those of you who are unfamiliar, nostalgia smells similar to dust-covered cardboard and childhood memories—but like, in a good way). In the collectible toy shop, bright lights beam down on glass cases displaying superhero relics with more than 40 years under their utility belts, making these toys anything but child’s play.

Owner of Hollywood Heroes and star of the reality TV show Toy Hunter, Jordan Hembrough poses with a plush version of himself.

Owner of the shop and star of the Travel Channel series Toy Hunter, Jordan Hembrough is an expert in the art of toy collecting, with more than 25 years of professional experience dealing toys. However, toys were always an integral part of Hembrough’s life. From schoolyard selling, Hembrough entered the big-time after college, when he secured a job as a buyer for StarLog, a chain of science-fiction-focused retail stores. Despite a lack of business background, Hembrough eventually went on to launch his own company, Hollywood Heroes. “I had the passion, and I think sometimes passion will drive you more than a business plan,” he says. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Back to School Goes Full STEAM Ahead

The back-to-school season usually means the smell of newly sharpened pencils, a new wardrobe, and denial that the precious summer months have come to a close. You’ve probably heard the acronym STEAM being thrown around here and there, but this movement is making a bigger impact on the toy industry than ever before.

STEAM puts an emphasis on science, technology, engineering, art, and math, and these concepts have definitely made their way to back-to-school gear. But companies are doing a lot more than just making educational toys. They’re creating products that have value added to them—something kids appreciate without even knowing, and parents love for all of the extra benefits. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Battery-Powered Toys Are Still as Relevant as Ever

VTech.chompandcountdino

VTech’s Chomp & Stomp Dino

Toy stores today offer kids an ever-impressive selection of playthings that do more and more each year. From video games to talking plush, appcessories to robotics, it seems like there is no end in sight for innovation in the toy industry. I’ve often wondered just how far toys will go—it seems that literally anything is possible these days, with the right amount of willpower and support. Will we see invisibility cloaks? Toys that let kids fly? Time machines? The list goes on and on. [Read more...]

License to Build: Familiar Properties Fill Up the Shelves of the Construction Aisle

This article was originally published in the July/August 2014 issue of The Toy Book. To read the entire digital issue, click here.

The construction play pattern has always allowed kids to create buildable worlds and adventures straight from their imaginations. But with a recent surge of licensed toys entering the category, kids are able to build more and more familiar worlds based on their favorite existing properties. According to The NPD Group, dollar sales of licensed building sets grew by 6 percent from 2011 to 2013. As the world becomes more multi-media driven, licensed properties are deeply integrated into kids’ daily lives. Established building toy companies, as well as those looking to get their feet wet in the category, are jumping on the bandwagon with characters and environments that are already a staple among kids—and even collectors. [Read more...]