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...]

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...]

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

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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...]

COMMENTARY: Even More Smart Devices Are Available for Kids

Toy companies creating kid-friendly and parent-approved technology has been a trend for some time, with no signs of slowing down in sight. In the recent past, tablets such as the Kurio 7s and LeapFrog LeapPad Ultra dominated the kiddie-tech market with durable rubber casings, safe settings, and easy-to-set parental controls. Now, however, manufacturers are focusing on putting different devices in the hands and on the wrists of kids. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Sports Video Games Are Getting More Realistic All the Time

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NHL 15, from EA Sports

Face it, sports fans: People of all ages love watching football, baseball, basketball, etc., and ever since the first video game based on any sport was released for home consoles, people have loved playing sports video games. I myself grew up with the Madden NFL and NBA Live series, both from Electronic Arts (EA Games), and I still remember the thrill of throwing a Dan Marino touchdown, or making Shaquille O’Neal uncharacteristically fire up a three-pointer. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Classic Games Are Revived with Modern Twists

5CF7F28B50569047F5EEB18A916E5462The summer months are known for spontaneous beach trips, an abundance of delicious ice cream, and, of course, the much-dreaded summer storms that come with unbearable heat. But the next time the weather is uncompromising, consider having a family game night in, though I know what you’re thinking: Please, not another children’s game.

It can be difficult choosing a game everyone agrees on; parents are frequently disconnected, and youngsters who are a few years apart in age constantly battle over which game should be the one played. But a new trend in the toy industry could stop these common issues before game night even begins. I am constantly seeing companies revisiting old games and giving them a modern twist, and these simple alterations often involve modern technologies to pique younger players’ interest. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: New Toys Inspire Girls to Cross Stereotypical Boundaries

Some girls like to play with dolls, while others might enjoy more crafty activities. But some girls also want to take charge at an early age and are interested in subjects that are stereotypically dominated by men. Recently, there has been an emergence of toys that help young girls develop an early interest in areas such as business, math, and science, as toy companies follow the trend of encouraging young girls to follow their dreams to the career path of their choice.

Alexi.July24Fashion Angels will be launching a line of products this fall called It’s My Biz, designed to encourage tween girls to consider careers in business. Barbie launched Entrepreneur Barbie this year, drawing inspiration from female entrepreneurs who have started their own businesses, such as Rent the Runway, Girls Who Code, and Genuine Insights. Finally, Debbie Sterling, the creator of Goldieblox, created her product with the mindset of “disrupting the pink aisle” and building girls’ confidence in their spatial abilities to develop an early interest in math and science, areas usually dominated by men. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Endangered Species Toys Can Help Raise Environmental Awareness

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Endangered species stuffed animals, from Gund and Cuipo

Animal-themed toys are nothing new, but in recent months, I’ve been noticing a focus on endangered species. Shortly after Toy Fair 2014, BeginAgain released its Balance Boat: Endangered Animal Edition, a stacking toy featuring rubberwood versions of the panda, rhinoceros, tortoise, and more. Meanwhile, Green Tones by Hohner put out Endangered Animal Shakers, beautifully carved rubberwood musical toys that depict an owl, leopard, and turtle.

And on the plush front, Wild Republic has added vulnerable species such as the Siberian Tiger to its Cuddlekins line. Last but not least, Gund and Cuipo have collaborated on stuffed animals based on the endangered sun bear, emperor monkey, and three-toed sloth, among others. [Read more...]