Valentine’s Day is coming up, and many people will give roses, chocolates, and jewelry to the objects of their affections. But lest we forget, toys and games also make fine presents. Looking around the toy industry, it’s clear that a number of companies were aware of potential opportunities, and responded with cool Valentine’s Day-themed products. But I also found some items that, even if they weren’t packaged specifically for the hearts-and-flowers holiday, are still perfect for the occasion. Here’s a brief rundown, though as usual, this is by no means an exhaustive list:
Plush dolls, from Aurora World Inc.: These dolls come in all shapes and sizes, and several of them sport that most familiar of Valentine’s Day icons: the heart. For example, Pink Promise, a soft, two-toned elephant, has heart prints all around the insides of its huge ears. There’s also Sad Sam & Honey, a pair of adorably sad-looking basset hounds, each bearing a heart with an “I Love You” message. Aurora World also has YooHoo & Friends, a trio of pastel-colored chimpanzees that not only present Valentine’s Day messages such as “Be Mine!” and “XOXO!,” but squeak when squeezed.
While the dolls I just mentioned are tailor-made for February 14, even if you take away the pink dye and hearts, these are still terrific plush animals. Both Sad Sam & Honey and YooHoo & Friends have big eyes and emotive facial expressions, which make them easy to empathize with and feel affection toward. Pink Promise, on the other hand, benefits from sheer generousness of proportions: It comes in four sizes, one as large as 22 inches from trunk to end. As such, this elephant is a potential pillar of emotional strength, and isn’t that what we all want for Valentine’s Day? Aurora World plush is suitable for all ages.
BePuzzled Original 3D Crystal Puzzles and Hanayama Amour Cast Puzzle Brain Teaser, from University Games: Not only do these puzzles come together to form 3-D objects, but said objects include all the classic Valentine’s Day images. There are roses, hearts, even gemstones for those who feel like being a little extra showy in their puzzle-giving. A word of warning: The line comes in two levels of difficulty, and personally, I found the second-level 3-D heart to be pretty challenging. Another highlight of the BePuzzled brand is the Hanayama Amour Brain Teaser, which features a heart-shaped metal plate and interlocking rings with male and female symbols. The fun is in detaching both rings from the plate, and then re-shaping the puzzle; however, this is not nearly as simple as it sounds. Amour underscores the dual nature of romantic entanglements, which can be simultaneously simple yet profoundly complicated. Or maybe it’s just a cool puzzle.
Either way, come Valentine’s Day, you might find yourself spending extra time at the table with your sweetheart as you try to piece these together, which for some is probably a selling point. All puzzles mentioned are suitable for ages 12 and up.
Tattoo Valentines, from Peaceable Kingdom: Another Valentine’s Day classic is getting a tattoo, which, let’s be realistic, is a potentially terrible idea if it involves, say, a person’s name. Why not give the gift of a temporary tattoo instead? Peaceable Kingdom’s line comes in a variety of different themes, including Dinosaur, Kitty, Butterfly, and Crazy Critters. All feature heart-shaped motifs and are easy to apply: Just peel off the plastic sheath, place face-down on skin, and press with a damp cloth for 30 seconds. Tattoo Valentines are suitable for ages 3 and up and make a great gift for kids. Yet even as a world-weary grown-up, it’s a lot of fun having, say, a roaring T-Rex on one’s skin–doubly so if there’s someone with a Triceratops tattoo that you can (playfully) terrorize with it.
In closing, with all this talk about toys and Valentine’s Day, I’m reminded of a few years back, when I was hanging out in the Lower East Side with a woman I only barely knew. We were wandering around in the rain when she stopped to look at a plush lamb lying in a puddle on the sidewalk. After picking it up, she spent 10 minutes trying to put the lamb out of harm’s way, up on some signage bolted to a light pole. But she wasn’t quite tall enough to reach. My initial instinct was to avoid touching a damp, grimy toy left for dead in the street; but at that particular moment, there was something appealing about the whimsicality of what was going on. So I took the doll, climbed the pole a short ways, and perched it a good six-and-a-half feet above ground level, where it presumably lived happily ever after.
As for the lady and I, we got married a few years later. If I learned anything on that fateful rainy day, it was the importance of making someone else happy, and how toys can help do that. So this Friday, bring somebody a toy or game if you think it will make their holiday special. Meanwhile, if you’re reading this, Kari, Happy Valentine’s Day!
For more commentary from Phil, check back often. Views expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Toy Book as a whole. We hope that you will share your comments and feedback below. Until next time!