COMMENTARY: Endangered Species Toys Can Help Raise Environmental Awareness

CuipoGund

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...]

COMMENTARY: Celebrating Canada Day—Toy Style!

In case you didn’t know, this past Tuesday was the national day of Canada! Here at The Toy Book, we’re lucky enough to work with tons of awesome Canadian toy companies, and to show both our support and Canada pride, here are some of our favorite toys from great Canadian toy manufacturers:

WowWee.MipWowWee

From WowWee, we always know to expect something innovative and hi-tech, such as last year’s 32-inch-long Roboraptor. In keeping up with the robo-trend, WowWee recently rolled out MiP, a unique, dual-wheel balancing interactive robot that utilizes GestureSense technology. With MiP, kids can control the robot through a Bluetooth link to any smart device using a free app. There are fun games to play with MiP, and kids can even make it dance to songs from their iTunes library. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Making the Most of the Fourth of July

Time is flying, and it’s hard to believe that next weekend is already the Fourth of July. For many families, this means barbecues, friends and family, music, and to top it all off, a spectacular fireworks display. Many Fourth of Julys from my childhood were spent at the beach or someone’s pool, and the days always seemed to last forever—in a good way. While the grown-ups mingled, we kids would embark on a day of adventure—exploring, playing, competing, and forging relationships. Here are some toys to give kids everything they need for a fantastic Fourth of July:

butterflynet

Toysmith’s Fish-Butterfly Net is a classic way to keep kids entertained for hours in the great outdoors. This multi-purpose net lets kids catch insects on land, minnows in the water, or fireflies once the sun goes down. I remember spending hours with my friends and cousins outside at the docks, waiting to plunge the net in at just the right time to catch the tiny fish that flickered in the sun beams. Bonus points if there’s a pond nearby for catching frogs. [Read more...]

OP-ED: Sustainability, and Why It’s Good for Business

By Brian MacKinnon, Toy State senior vice president of sales

BrianMacKinnon.picFirst and foremost, toy makers are committed to providing retailers with high quality products. But if we can do this in an environmentally friendly way and be more profitable—well, now we are talking!

Over the past few months, Toy State has been part of a Wal-Mart-sponsored pilot program, RedE, intended to educate companies on ways to utilize sustainability best practices to both save energy over time as well as increase profitability. This past April, we were proud to be recognized by Wal-Mart as a global leader in this effort.

Let me share with you what we’ve learned through this pilot program so far: [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Games Are Fun, and Can Keep Kids Thinkin’ Over Summer Vacation

I think any kid would back me up when I make the claim that the best part about summer vacation is having no school. As a youngster, the summer meant the beach, sports, barbeques, and playing outside all day, which made it my favorite time of year. However, summer can also mean reading, keeping up with topics, and building on concepts that were learned months before. That list isn’t always a kid’s favorite cup of tea, but something that they all love is toys and games.

The door in the educational category for toys is now wide open, especially with schools under extra pressure because of Common Core standards. There are quite a few games to keep kids’ noggins churning while having fun, which is one of the best ways to keep them engaged and interested while school is out. Some examples of such are these new games from Funnybone Toys:

cubu-1-250x250Cubu plays on visual illusions to confuse players as they try to follow number and color sequences. This game forces players to use both sides of their brain at the same time, which stimulates the mind in a way that you wouldn’t expect. The challenge lies in keeping up with the number, color, and position of boxes on the cards, while the key hurdle is identifying the pattern and seeing what cards you have in your hand to make your next move. The game lasts until someone reaches 100 points and is declared the winner. The instructions also offer a speed round of Cubu and alternate ways to play the game. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Video Game-Based Toys Can Ease Kids into Other Kinds of Play

KNEX.SuperMarioDesertIt’s summertime, which for a lot of kids means playing outside in the sunshine, swimming, and maybe even going on trips to visit nature. But for others, summer means staying indoors and playing video games all day. It’s probably best to moderate any activity that involves staring at a screen; however, the question is, how to get video game-obsessed kids to take up a different form of play? The answer may be toys based on popular video game titles, and there are quite a few of those available right now.

We kick off our non-comprehensive list with K’NEX, which since 2010, has partnered with Nintendo on construction toys based on its popular Mario property. Recently, I spoke to an executive at the company, who said that no small part of the partnership’s success came from replicating game elements in K’NEX’s construction sets: For example, many of its Super Mario building sets have a mechanism that simulates the avatar’s in-game jumping ability. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Discover the World of Dora and Friends

dora-and-friends-about-the-show-mainImageKids’ favorite explorer Dora will introduce a whole new group of friends in this summer’s new Nickelodeon series Dora and Friends: Into the City. Friends Alana, Emma, Naiya, Kate, and Pablo will all be available in a product line developed by Fisher-Price. The line goes beyond traditional characters such as Boots, Perrito, and even that mischievous Swiper the Fox and brings kids a fresh range of all-new friends that Dora meets in the show’s beautiful pan-Latino metropolis, Playa Verde.

These new, friendly faces will be an instant hit among kids who can choose to collect all of the friends, or obsess over their favorites. I’m naturally drawn to red-headed characters, so I already know that Kate is definitely going to be my favorite—but I’ll give the others a chance to be my favorite, too. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Summer Is Here!

Yes, yes, I know that summer actually starts next month. But for all intents and purposes, Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer, and for the next three months, we’ll be cramming in as many cookouts, camping trips, beach days, and family get-togethers as we can. Kids have already started the countdown to the end of the school year, and after the long, harsh winter we had here in the northeast this year, they’re ready to get out and make the most of their summer vacation. Here are some great outdoor toys that will make it a summer to remember:

slipnslide

The Slip ‘n Slide Wave Rider, from Wham-O, is an obvious go-to for a hot summer day. This 16-foot slide is a classic way for kids ages 5 to 12 to cool off and have hours of fun. Hydro-glide technology creates water beads on the surface, giving kids a fast ride, and the included boogie board gives an even smoother time as kids slide alongside the water bumper and into the splash pool. The bumper also continuously sprays water, guaranteeing a cool, wet ride. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Teen Titans Go! Has Licensed Toys Ready to Go

Phil.TeenTitans1.RobinFunkoIt’s been a good year for superhero comics on TV, what with the success of DC Comics’ Arrow and Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., not to mention the planned fall arrivals of The Flash and Gotham. But let’s not forget the animated side of small screen super-heroics, as the second season of Teen Titans Go! premieres next month. The series resurrects Teen Titans, which aired during the mid-to-late 2000s, as something wackier and anarchic. Both shows are based on the long-running comic book of the same name, which is centered on some of the best-known teenage characters in DC’s pantheon.

Along with everyone’s favorite young sidekick, Robin, the cast includes Starfire, Cyborg, Raven, and Beast Boy. While adept at defeating evil-doers, Teen Titans Go! more often depicts them hanging out unsupervised at their team headquarters, at which point trouble worse than any super-villain tends to break out. The series is a fun romp, not to mention a good antidote to the spate of more serious, live-action superhero adaptations of late. Teen Titans Go! is currently licensed by a number of toy companies, with items for collectors, young kids, and everyone in between. But in all cases, the property’s lighthearted attitude shines through. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: These Chocolate Chip Cookie-Themed Toys Are as Sweet as the Real Thing

Happy holidays, everybody! In honor of May 15, aka National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day, named after the delectable treat invented at a Massachusetts restaurant during the 1930s, here are some toys featuring either the real thing or a synthetic one.

It was a little surprising to find so many playthings featuring the classic snack, but it makes sense: First, the chocolate chip cookie is every bit as iconic as any character in kids’ licensing. Secondly, in general, little kids are as passionate for cookies as they are for toys, so a cookie-based toy lets them have their cake and eat it, too (though not literally, unless you add a few extra eggs into the batter. But I digress).

Either way, these items gladden our hearts and make our mouths water just by looking at them:

NewSproutsBakeItcroppedNew Sprouts Bake It!, from Learning Resources: This 15-piece collection of baking tools lets kids indulge their ambitions with baking sheets, large bowl, measuring cup, and more. Best of all, the set comes with four toy chocolate chip cookies, which kids can practice lifting off the baking sheet with the toy spatula (A good skill to have mastered before eventually moving on to the real thing). Suitable for kids ages 2 and up. [Read more...]