COMMENTARY: Taking the Stress out of Travel

Seemingly endless construction and bumper-to-bumper traffic. Dead batteries in the PS Vita or Nintendo 3DS. No wi-fi connection and nothing good on the radio. Uncomfortable seatbelts and restless little bodies. Though road tripping is a great option for a large family looking for an affordable summer getaway, sometimes a long journey in a crowded car can make a vacation more stressful than it’s worth. Portable gaming systems can be great (especially when coupled with headphones), but sometimes battery-free options are a safer bet for long journeys. For parents just looking to relax, there are a few great products on the market sure to keep little ones occupied in the car for extended time periods.

Brain Box Animals, from University Games, is great for on-the-go fun. Players ages 8 and up choose a card from the box and study the picture on one side until the timer runs out. Then the players flip the card over to the question side and try to answer as many questions about the picture side as they can. The player who can answer the most questions correctly wins. Brain Box Animals helps kids stay entertained while practicing memorization and recognition and learning new information.

SeatPetsUncomfortable seatbelts are always a complaint with younger kids, but with SeatPets, from Jay at Play International, kids’ seatbelts stay in place. SeatPets are soft, cuddly animals that attach to the shoulder restraint portion of a seatbelt. Perfect for long carrides, SeatPets provide a soft cushion between the neck and the belt and a cozy pillow for naps. Each colorful, furry SeatPet has three pockets and two zippered compartments designed to store all of the things that kids want and need when they’re in the car including, MP3 players, hand-held games, toys, snacks, and an eight-ounce water bottle.

Stuffies.PrancineStuffies, from martFive LLC, are super-sized plush animals with seven top-secret pockets that are fun to discover and store all kinds of keepsakes. For parents who don’t want their car to turn into a second toy box during travel, Stuffies allows kids to bring a few of their favorites and keep them all safe in one place. In addition, every Stuffies toy comes with a surprise roll of collectible stickers and a free storybook from the Stuffies Adventures collection. Each book shares important lessons in fully illustrated, rhyming stories on topics including controlling tempers, using imaginations, volunteering, teamwork, and embracing chores.

TraykitTrayKit, from Kids Preferred, is a carry-on backpack that kids can pack themselves and carry on a trip using the handle or shoulder straps. TrayKit can be hung from the back of a seat or strapped to a tray table. When the kit is opened, kids have a play surface with raised sides so nothing falls to the floor. There are colors and patterns for boys and girls ages 3 and up, and the play surface can be cleaned easily. TrayKit accessories include passport holders, luggage tags, travel journal kits complete with pencils and erasers, and TravelBugs, which are small clip-on plush bugs in four styles.

Each of these products are noise-free, don’t require any batteries, and will provide easy entertainment for kids during long trips. There’s enough play value in these items to keep kids happy, while mom and dad stay stress-free (as long as the GPS doesn’t malfunction).

For more commentary from Marissa, check back each Monday afternoon. 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!

COMMENTARY: Toys Are More Fun Than Candy

Mattel’s North American team recently kicked off an Easter program called Save the Bunny, which launched with a clever celebrity PSA. The concept is to promote giving toys, rather than copious amounts of candy, for Easter. As part of the promotion, consumers who visit www.savechocolatebunnies.com will have a chance to win a Mattel toy every day this month, download exclusive coupons on toys from Mattel brands like Barbie, Hot Wheels, Fisher-Price, and Thomas & Friends, and win grand prize money.

As a parent and someone who loves toys, I whole-hardheartedly agree with this idea. Not only does my 3 year old not need a giant chocolate bunny, gallons of jelly beans, and piles of fluffy marshmallow chicks (OK, I’ll admit this is making me hungry), but I know from experience that I won’t actually let her eat it all, and I’ll end up eating it, which isn’t exactly part of my summer bikini plan (though I’m pregnant, so what’s the difference, right?). Anyway, she will have a lot more fun if I limit the candy to a few of her favorites, and fill that basket—er, strongly suggest the Easter Bunny fill that basket—with toys!

For retailers, signage suggesting spring/summer toys to fill Easter baskets should already be up, but it’s not too late! Many consumers wait until the last-minute to shop, especially with the holiday coming earlier this year. A special display of spring-like, small, basket-sized items makes shopping easy and promotes quick sales. The pharmacies already do this, toy stores should too! [Read more...]

Mattel Wants You to Help Take a Bite Out of Chocolate Bunny Extinction

Mattel’s North American team has week kicked off an Easter program called Save the Bunny.

The chocolate bunny has been an Easter tradition for more than 200 years, but the future of this holiday icon is… well, melting. This Easter, Mattel, the Endangered Chocolate Bunny Commission (ECBC), and celebrities such as Chris Harrison, Stephen Collins, and Kate Flannery, have come together to Save the Bunny with a special hare-raising and entertaining PSA.

Help support our chocolate friends and sweeten up Easter baskets with toys at www.savechocolatebunnies.com. Visitors to the site have the opportunity to win a Mattel toy, download exclusive coupons on toys from Mattel brands, and win grand prize money.

Creatures of Delight Fuse Fangs and Fun

There is a softer side to all kinds of fictitious creatures: from Yetis, aliens, and trolls, to dragons, human-devouring plants, and purple dinosaurs.

Tom Kopian, artist and creator behind Creatures of Delight, a line of specialty, handcrafted monster toys, works with a small team and his 11-year partner, Stewart Buffaloe, to make one-of-a-kind creatures using a variety of molds and his patented latex-fiber blend material.

Large Feed Me Creature

The creatures are a combination of creepy and cute and appeal to a broad demographic. Though the line is composed mostly of traditionally scary, fictional monsters, their vibrant color palettes and bright-white smiles make them appeal to girls as much as boys. “I think essentially the toys are gender neutral. They are rough and tough monsters, so it can be a boy thing, but girls like some of the cuter pieces like Snarl, Floyd, and the Grudges. It is not definitively a boy or girl thing,” Kopian explains. [Read more...]

All the New Specialty Games and Puzzles Fit to Print, and Then Some

The Toy Book‘s July/August issue showcases new puzzles and games for mass and specialty retail. We received dozens of submissions fit to print, beyond what fit on our printed pages. Here’s a look at 10 more specialty games and puzzles after the jump.

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Uglydoll Tin Toys – One of My New Favorite Things

You know how everyone always wants to know what Oprah’s Favorite Things are? Well, there might be one or two people who want to know what my favorite things are, and Schylling’s Uglydoll Tin Toy line is definitely on my list. The line features the fantastic Uglydoll characters from Pretty Ugly, LLC, and includes tin trucks that double as coin banks or pencil holders, cars, wind up tin robots, a jack in the box, an alarm clock, and keepsake boxes.

New Angelina Ballerina PSA Featuring Larry King

Apparently, Larry King has some moves. Check out this PSA of King, Nigel Lythgoe (executive producer of So You Think You Can Dance and American Idol), and kids’ character Angelina Ballerina promoting the health benefits of dance.

Produced by Hit Entertainment and the Dizzy Feet Foundation, the PSA is part of the Dance 4 Your Life national health campaign launched by the Larry King Cardiac Foundation and the Dizzy Feet Foundation, aiming to get people dancing their way to a healthier lifestyle.

Disney Store Times Square Opens With Grand Celebration

Last week, Disney Store celebrated the grand opening of its Times Square location with appearances by celebrities, New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and more. The celebration kicked off with a colorful parade of Disney characters—including Mickey Mouse, Cinderella, and Buzz Lightyear—as they arrived by horse-drawn carriages and classic cars and traveled down a trail of Pixie dust.

Hosted by Robin Roberts from ABC’s Good Morning America, other celebrity appearances included Melissa Joan Hart of ABC Family’s Melissa & Joey; Anika Noni Rose, voice of Princess Tiana from Disney’s The Princess and the Frog; ESPN’s Jesse Palmer; actress Brooke Shields; Bloomberg; Walt Disney Co. President and CEO Robert Iger; and more.

The two-level, 20,000-plus square foot Disney Store in Times Square boasts a 2,250-square-foot digital billboard, a two-story Disney Princess castle with a “talking” Magic Mirror, colorful Lucite trees throughout the store that showcase custom Disney content, and a 350-square-foot Disney Store Theatre that features a 12-foot screen, playing Disney film clips, videos, and more. Kids can also build a customized Disney·Pixar Cars-branded Ridemarkerz car or purchase exclusive New York City-inspired Disney merchandise.

[Read more...]

Bandai Introduces New Babysitting-Free Tamagotchis

Bandai America Incorporated has introduced a new generation of Tamagotchis, the virtual pets that allow kids to act like caregivers. The new TamaTown Tama-Go by Tamagotchi–available in dozens of Gotchi figures–is redesigned with a new high-contrast, four gray-scale display screen, a changeable design faceplate, and includes the new “pause” option that eliminates the need to babysit.

Also, caregivers can go online at www.tamatown.com to play games and nurture their Gotchi characters in simulated worlds, including Swirly Sweet City, Forest Falls, and Flower Hills Park.

To celebrate the release of TamaTown Tama-Go, Bandai has teamed up with select Toys “R” Us stores to demo the product on the first and second Saturdays in October (October 2 and October 9). Bandai is also sponsoring the “Oh My Gotchi!” Sweepsakes, giving entrants the chance to win a Swarovski-encrusted TamaTown Tama-Go toy and more. The contest runs through November 28. For more information, visit www.tamatown.com.

K.I.D.S. Hopes to Raise $100 million Through SMS

Kids in Distressed Situations (K.I.D.S.), Inc., unveiled its plan to project a 15-second PSA on a jumbotron in Times Square. Beginning August 15 and continuing until October 15, mobile phone users who text “HAPPYKIDS 25″ to 27138 will trigger a $25 donation to its cause.  According to K.I.D.S., each $25 donation will help distribute $250 worth of donated products to children and parents. The PSA will run in Times Square on the CBS Spectacular jumbotron facing the north side of 42nd Street between 7th and 8th Avenues.

As part of the organization’s 25th anniversary, K.I.D.S. also hopes to raise $100 million worth of products for distressed and underprivileged children, including basic necessities, toys, clothing, and other comforts.

For more information, visit K.I.D.S.’s Facebook and Twitter pages.