COMMENTARY: At Toy Fair 2015, Classic, Low-Tech Play Is Alive and Well

Crayola Cling Maker, from Crayola

Tech toys that make you feel cooler than Marty McFly were in abundance at the North American International Toy Fair this week, such as robots that imitate your movements and a Segway-like device that tracks your thoughts. But not all of the toys at the Jacob K. Javits Center were reminiscent of what Captain Kirk probably played with as a child. There were also some stellar construction sets, high-quality hand puppets, and wooden toys that make you say, “wow.” Classic play is not dead, and not all quality toys require a microchip. Some of the most innovative new products for kids feature little to no tech at all. Here are our favorite low-tech new toys from Toy Fair: [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Toy Fair 2015 Shows Off Toymakers’ Tech-Savvy Side

The Meccanoid G15 KS, from Spin Master

We all know that kids are more tech-savvy at the age of 2 than most of us will ever be. Living in the digital age comes instinctively for kids, and the fact that they have the ability to understand and use technology so early on lets toy manufacturers create some really, really cool tech toys for kids of all ages. Below is a roundup of favorite tech-y playthings from North American International Toy Fair, in no particular order:
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COMMENTARY: The Toy Industry Celebrates Valentine’s Day

SkylandersPopFizzOh, Valentine’s Day—the holiday people love, and the holiday people love to hate. Whichever way you see it, Valentine’s Day is at least a good enough excuse to eat a lot of chocolate, binge-watch romcoms, snuggle up with your favorite plush, and play with Valentine’s Day-themed toys. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Disney Frozen Poised to Dominate Again, or, We Welcome Our New Toy Overlords from Arendelle

FrozenFever2It’s the age of Frozen, and not just because of this freezing weather we’ve been having.

If you work in the toy industry, you’re probably familiar with Disney Frozen as a powerhouse license. According to data from The NPD Group, it was the top gainer among all toy properties last year, generating $531 million in toy sales across more than 39 categories. This is well and good for the toy companies fortunate enough to have partnered up with Team Elsa. On the flip side, if recent events are any indication, not having the license for Disney Frozen has the potential to be hazardous. [Read more...]

GUEST COMMENTARY: International CES Explodes with Family-Friendly Tech

by Reyne Rice, toy trends analyst and consultant

Meccanoid G15 KS, from Spin Master

During the first week of January, International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2015 unveiled the latest consumer electronics innovations. Kids, families, and educators were among the target audiences for this new world of technology, which extended across all exhibitor areas. Here are some of the family tech-focused highlights from the show: [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Hey, Toy Industry! It’s Not Too Late for New Year’s Resolutions

NewYearsconfettiAh, the start of a new year. Typically, it’s the time in which we take stock of what we have, consider how we can make our lives even better, and then “resolve” to carry out those plans. It’s with this in mind that I’ve put together a list of New Year’s resolutions–not for myself, mind you; I’ve already composed that list, which is why this commentary is up at deadline, instead of several hours past. No, I’m talking about resolutions that I’d like the toy industry to consider taking on. Because as absolutely perfect as a thing is, there’s nothing like a detached observer’s unsolicited advice to make it even more perfect, am I right? [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: I Don’t Know Art, But I Know What I Like (and That Includes Books about Lego)

Everybody loves Lego. But naturally, not everyone loves it in the same way. For some, what they find most appealing is the look of the bricks, which can capture the shape of an object—whether we’re talking about the Empire State Building or the Batmobile—while retaining an element of whimsy. For others, what makes Lego so awesome is the infinite number of possibilities it presents; that is, the fact that with enough pieces (and the right ones), a person can construct whatever they want. The only limiting factor is one’s imagination. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Sibling Rivalries Exist in the Toy World, Too

FrozenproductsA real-life sibling rivalry exists between Disney’s Frozen Elsa and Anna products—with one sister clearly winning. According to a Wall Street Journal article published last month, Disney marketing executives expected the sisters to be equals in popularity. As such, they were caught off-guard by the overwhelming preference for Elsa, who outsells Anna in dolls, toys, costumes, and other items. Disney, in response, makes sure to keep Elsa items in-stock at stores: For example, about 10 percent more Elsa dolls are stocked than Anna ones at Wal-Mart, according to the same Wall Street Journal article.

To help combat the Frozen sibling rivalry, companies are selling dolls with both sisters, and sales data from last holiday season shows that girls want to play with dolls or role-play with costumes featuring both characters. In turn, companies such as Jakks Pacific, as well as retailers like Toys “R” Us, are making and selling products, respectively, that involve the two sisters. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: What We Talk About When We Talk About Why Boys Don’t Play with Dolls on TV

NBWQDQUTdfblBOa-580x326-noPadIn a perfect world, toys would be toys and there would be no grand toy judge to pound his or her gavel and declare which ones are for boys and which are for girls–okay, that doesn’t actually happen, but rarely do kids get to decide which toys they want to play with before it’s already been preconceived as a boy or girl toy.

There have been many strides made towards creating toys that intend to promote gender equality—just check out this commentary, New Toys Inspire Girls to Cross Sterotypical Boundaries, from Alexi Velasquez, or, Dolls for Boys Are a Sign of the Times, from our own Phil Guie. Yet it seems that toy companies continually miss the mark.

Pinkifying “boy” toys doesn’t close a gender gap, and marketing toys that have previously been deemed “boyish” in a way that will appeal to girls may be smart for sales, but it’s important that we look beyond the toys themselves, and at the advertising campaigns that drive them. That’s where we really see the effect that it has on the way kids play. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: This Holiday Season, Let’s Not Forget the Value of Games

Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 3.21.15 PMJust this weekend, I attended a party at a friend’s house—a “FriendsGiving” gathering hosted by her and her husband. After a delicious pre-holiday feast of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and veggies, we decided to let the food settle while playing a game of celebrity Charades. Our game was spontaneous, so we worked with what was at hand: post-it notes, a pen, and a salad bowl. We tore up the post-its, wrote the names of celebrities, and tossed them into the bowl before breaking into teams and doing our best Michael Jackson, George Washington, and Vanna White impressions.

This reminded me that games aren’t just for kids. Somewhere along the line, the concept of “fun and games” became synonomous with youth, a lack of responsibility, and blissful ignorance. But one could make the argument that grown-ups need games even more than kids sometimes, to help us unwind, loosen up, and chill out at the end of a busy day or a hectic work week. [Read more...]