China Toy Fair


COMMENTARY: Back to Basics: Sketch, Doodle, Paint, and Play

TF14Logo-cityDatesAfter Toy Fair 2013, the words “and there’s an app!” were ringing in my ears for weeks. This year, however, appcessories seemed more like a taboo than anything else, with most companies shying away from toys with app-enhanced features or reliability. Honestly, it was less than disappointing. I think keeping screen time and toy time separate is perfectly acceptable, and apparently, what kids and toy buyers prefer.

This year will truly mark a return to traditional play patterns. Rainbow Loom, a simple bracelet-making kit for kids, was huge in 2013, eventually snagging four Toy of the Year (TOTY) awards, including the overall Toy of the Year. That said, Toy Fair 2014 brought tons of cool innovations in the activities category, with companies fighting to be the next big thing once the Rainbow Loom craze comes to an end. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Lighting Up Imaginative Play: Light-Up Toys Provide Magical Fun For Kids

When I attended Fall Toy Preview in October, I had a conversation with a few industry executives about how when companies expand their line to include glow-in-the-dark or light-up SKUs, it often signals the end of the brand. They referred to glow-in-the-dark and light-up products as a “last resort,” and said it typically means that there are no other possible innovations for the product line.

However, I know a certain 4-year-old boy who would absolutely disagree with this idea, along with his 8-year-old sister (aka my niece and nephew!). LED lights have a strange magic to them—especially for kids. The bright colors they provide, just like glow-in-the-dark effects, seem like something out of a fantasy story that kids go crazy over—no matter how simple the technology actually is. There are some great new products hitting the market that reflect how great glow can be, here are some of my favorites:

TRACERTRACK_24

 

Tracer Racers, from Skullduggery, utilize Light Trail Technology as they blaze streaks of light on the glow-in-the-dark track. That’s right—LEDs AND glow play patterns. Lights galore! Magic frenzy!—and there’s more! Each Tracer Racer beams down purple light rays from its undercarriage onto the track, which is specially engineered to emit glow remnants only after the racer has passed. The new Tracer Racer drag racing sets include a 10-foot single lane set including one racer, an 8-foot double lane set with two racers, and a 12-foot double lane loop set with a light-up finish gate and two racers. The company will also introduce trucks to the line this year. Kids ages 6 and up are sure to enjoy all of the amazing light-up elements in this toy. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Inspirational Young Girls Can Change the World

American Girl has this wonderful program where they release a Girl of the Year doll, who comes along with stories, games, and activities that “celebrate what it means to be a girl today.” There’s a lot of dolls out there on the market that are providing great, positive messages to girls worldwide. Whether they are promoting positive body image, confidence, the drive to dream big, STEM education, or all of the above and more, girls have their pick of the litter when they are searching for a doll that is, in a sense, just like who they are or who they strive to be. American Girl announced their 2014 Girl of the Year on January 1: Isabelle, “an inspired dancer that finds her own way to shine.”

But some girls aren’t able to find that doll that would really make them feel special—and brave 10-year-old Melissa Shang has spoken out (adorably and politely) requesting that her favorite doll company, American Girl, make the 2015 Girl of the Year doll that is more like her.

Shang has Charcot-Marie-Tooth, a debilitating form of muscular dystrophy, and is leading one of the fastest-growing petitions right now on change.org for American Girl to create a Girl of the Year doll with a disability. Shang is truly an inspiration. In just over 72 hours of her starting the petition, more than 15,000 people have joined the campaign she has launched. [Read more...]

Rubie’s Has Costumes for Your Little Dog, Too

rubielogoRubie’s Pet Shop Boutique will introduce new pet costumes into The Wizard of Oz 75th Anniversary Costume Collection. The collection, in partnership with Warner Bros. Consumer Products, features iconic characters from the film.

The Wizard of Oz 75th Anniversary Costume Collection is available in a variety of pet sizes, ranging from small to extra-large. Characters include Dorothy, Tin Man, Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion, the Wicked Witch of the West, Glinda the Good Witch, and the Winged Monkey. “At Rubie’s Pet Shop Boutique, it is our goal to capture the spirit of these beloved characters and create costumes for the entire family to enjoy, including their pets!” said Erin Breig, Rubie’s Sales and Product Development.

The complete Wizard of Oz 75th Anniversary Costume Collection includes costumes, accessories, wigs, and masks and décor. It is available both online and in retail locations worldwide.

Tamagotchi L.i.f.e. Selects Brooklyn Teenager As Hometown Heroes Winner

imageFans of the Tamagotchi L.i.f.e. brand have selected 17-year-old Francesca Chaney and her non-profit Girls Advocating and Innovating the Nation (G.A.I.N.) organization as the winner of the latest edition of its bi-monthly Hometown Heroes program.

For receiving the largest amount of votes in the latest competition, Bandai Co. Ltd. and Sync Beatz Entertainment are awarding a $5,000 contribution to Ms. Chaney and the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based group she launched in 2011. With its roots as a mentoring program to help younger girls facing self-esteem issues, the G.A.I.N. mission took on a more ambitious agenda when recognizing the need to address more issues in local communities. As a result, they provide young women with the tools and resources to speak up and allow their voices to be heard on topics of their concern and address issues together, empower each other, and positively innovate their society. Their motto is “Every Girl Must Gain.” Through weekly discussions, community outreach, and empowerment workshops for youth, G.A.I.N. has positively impacted the lives of thousands of youth. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: The (Other!) Reason for the Season

While I understand and respect that the holiday season has religious roots, toys, gifts, and giving have become a huge part of American tradition—and I don’t think this is such a bad thing. As frustrating as it can be to deal with 600 impossible twist ties and Hefty bags full of plastic packaging on Christmas morning, toys bring families together. After mom and dad (or in this case, Aunt Marissa!) get to see their elated kids (or super adorable nieces and nephew!) open exactly what they’ve wanted all year long, the first thing they want to do is start playing.

Courtney (8), Aunt Marissa, Matthew (5), and our pal Stomper!

Courtney (8), Aunt Marissa, Matthew (5), and our pal Stomper!

My niece Courtney can’t even get through unwrapping her mountain of presents before saying “Can I open this one?!” And that’s where the fun comes in: When Dad arrives wielding his trusty screwdriver and a Tupperware container full of batteries (and this super awesome plastic package ripper thingy that if you don’t have you need to go out and buy RIGHT now!), Mom stands by tossing wrapping paper into garbage bags (and putting everyone’s coffee mugs on coasters, thanks Mom!), and there I sit cross-legged on the floor, instruction booklet diligently in hand, reading glasses securely fastened. Even if Santa gets all of the Christmas glory, it’s the gift-givers who get the toy out of the package, insert the batteries, and help teach kids how to play. It’s the gift-givers who get to see the excitement on their kids’ faces, who get the big fat thank you hug, and who get to watch kids enjoy their Christmas prizes. It’s really just one giant bonding experience (with maybe a few “how do you turn the damn thing on?!” and “It’s like they don’t WANT you to open it!” comments thrown in between all of the sap-fest family time). [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: USAopoly Gives Classic Games a Licensed Twist

You may love Monopoly, but it’s okay to admit that sometimes you get a little tired of playing the same game over and over again. Games become classics because they span generations, and they’re well-designed and challenging. In a way, they can become timeless. But you can only force your grandma to mortgage all of her properties and hand over all her piles of pastel-colored money so many times before enough is enough. Her little thimble token—and your interest and passion for the game—has been defeated.

USAopoly has solved this problem by taking our favorite classic games and slapping a license or five on them, making each edition more appealing and unique to the players. Properties include The Smurfs, The Wizard of Oz, My Little Pony, and many, many more, to appeal to all generations, collectors, and fans. The great thing about these licensed games is that they give your traditional family favorites a big twist—and turn it into a whole new game! So if you’re tiring of the same old games in your closet, these would be some great additions to your next family game night.

drwho_mn_3dbt_webI’m not one who’s all about sci-fi shows and aliens and such, but I have to admit that I find BBC‘s Doctor Who series highly addicting—and The Doctor has quite the cult following that will back me up on that. Now fans can travel through time and space with their favorite Doctor with USAopoly’s Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Collector’s Edition of Monopoly.  Two to six plays ages 8 and up can buy, sell, and trade iconic episodes, spaceships, and landmarks, spanning billions of years across the Doctor Who universe. The Poison Sky, A Good Man Goes to War, The Daleks, and the Arc of Infinity are all able to be purchased by time travelers. [Read more...]

Hasbro Is Named One of America’s Most Community-Minded Companies in the Civic 50

Hasbro logoThe Civic 50, an annual initiative that recognizes companies that go above and beyond to improve the quality of life in the communities where they do business, has named Hasbro Inc. one of America’s most community-minded companies.

Between Hasbro’s philanthropic programs that aim to help the lives of children in need through play and the power of service, and the Team Hasbro employee volunteer program that gives employees four hours of paid time off per month to volunteer with child-focused organizations, they company has been recognized in The Civic 50 for the second consecutive year. Additionally, Hasbro was also recognized in two other categories, including Best in Consumer Discretionary Industry and Best in Mid-Cap Market. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Nightmarish Christmas Gifts Delight Burton Fans This Season

While my folks are tuning into the Hallmark channel for the sappy Christmas movies that make them cry year after year, and my niece and nephew obsess over Buddy from Elf, I’m still stuck on a classic Christmas favorite that is often misappropriated by Halloween: The Nightmare Before Christmas. The movie isn’t called A Dream Before Halloween. For me, that’s enough reasoning to say it is, in fact—no matter how creepy—a Christmas movie.

Nightmare Before Christmas MonopolyUSAopoly will bring this cult classic into homes this holiday season in a whole new way with Monopoly: The Nightmare Before Christmas Collector’s Edition. Players can buy, sell, and trade iconic movie locations, such as Jack’s Tower, Oogie Boogie’s Casino, Sally’s Alley, Dr. Finkelstein’s Laboratory, Town Square Fountain, and (my favorite) Spiral Hill. This completely customized game features imagery of all the greatest characters from the film, with Jack and Sally front and center, as well as six collectible pewter tokens, including Jack’s Skull, Sally, the Mayor’s Hearse, Oogie Boogi, Zombie Duck, and Evil Teddy. Just like the classic, this game is designed for two to six players ages 8 and up and is sure to please all Nightmare fans. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: 1996: The Best Christmas Ever

1996. It was the year of the New York Yankees, the Chicago Bulls, the Dallas Cowboys. It was the year of Jerry Maguire and the Macarena. It was the year of Bill Clinton’s reelection. But most importantly, 1996 marked the best Christmas ever, with toy companies cranking out some of kids’ favorite toys of all time.

Cabbage Patch Snacktime KidWho could forget the Cabbage Patch Snacktime Kids dolls, from Mattel? Those pudgy-faced, yarn-haired little cuties each had a motorized mouth, and kids could feed their doll a french fry, a pretzel stick, a banana, and other yummy snacks. This was one of the toys my mom admits to pushing other moms out of the way for at Toys “R” Us on Black Friday morning. The food, which the dolls realistically chewed when kids inserted it into their mouths, fell into a backpack on the doll’s back, so kids could feed them over and over again. Of course, this beacon of glory was shortly recalled after the holiday season, as kids were getting their hair, skin, and fingers stuck in the doll’s mouth (as you can imagine, this resulted in many unhappy parents and kids with bald spots). While I made sure my hair was secured tightly in a ponytail while playing, my Snacktime Kid remained one of my favorite toys through ’97.

[Read more...]