COMMENTARY: Kids Getting Older Younger—Or Younger Older?

Everyone always talks about how kids are getting older younger. Kids as young as 8 years old are swapping their Barbie dolls and Transformers for iPods and tablets—but this isn’t the case for everyone. There are big kids everywhere, and toys have a funny little habit of bringing an adult’s inner-child giggling wildly to the surface.

Nostalgia is a huge trend in toys today—classic properties such as The Smurfs, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Pac-Man have resurfaced and are engaging a whole new generation. Traditional toys, such as Hasbro’s Easy Bake Oven, Kahootz’s Spirograph, and POOF-Slinky’s Slinky, all still appeal to young kids the same way they did decades ago. However, adults and older kids will find just as much fun in new products primarily targeted toward youngsters, too.

RainbowLoom.Butterfly Blossom braceletThis weekend, I was loomed. A family friend’s daughter, Karli, had her wrist covered in the colorful rubber bracelets that are a product of Rainbow Loom, from Choon’s Designs. A huge craze among kids, I was enamored by the bracelets and begged her to teach me how to make one. She did, and of course, hers came out better. I’ve been staring at it on my wrist every day since she made it for me, and I was extremely tempted to purchase my own loom when I went into a Michael’s craft store and saw the enormous display (but I thought to myself: “You’re 23 years old, Marissa! Taking home product samples is one thing, but you cannot justify BUYING a toy!”).

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Mariposa Returns in Barbie Mariposa & the Fairy Princess

mariposaThis fall, Barbie flutters back onto the small screen as Mariposa in the new movie Barbie Mariposa & the Fairy Princess, available now. As the 26th direct-to-DVD and Blu-ray combo pack release for the iconic doll, Barbie will enchant girls with this all-new tale of adventure and friendship.

Mariposa is the royal ambassador sent to bring peace between her land, Flutterfield, and its rival, the Crystal Fairies of Shimmervale. Despite a rocky start, Mariposa becomes fast friends with the princess Catania. The adventure begins when Mariposa encounters an evil fairy plotting to destroy Shimmervale. Mariposa rushes to her friend’s side to help save the fairy land and together they prove the best way to make a friend is to be a friend. Girls can create their own magical moments with a line of themed dolls and toys currently available at retailers nationwide.

Barbie’s Staying Put in New Malibu Dreamhouse

BarbieDreamhouse2013Over the past year, Barbie, the original California girl, traveled the world to find the perfect place to call home. After touring New York, Paris, even the Australian outback, she is staying in the beachside city of Malibu, Calif., in a newly renovated, three-story Dreamhouse from Mattel.

Barbie&houseThe new Dreamhouse play set features ocean views, six rooms with details that include pink “stainless steel” appliances, and two pull string elevators. It expands from the center to reveal spacious living areas and a main elevator. Meanwhile, the second elevator transports Barbie’s doll outfits between her closet and the bathroom.

Other details include lights and sounds throughout the house as well as a working doorbell. The 2013 Dreamhouse play set is suitable for kids ages 3 and up.

Barbie Partners with Girl Scouts for First Barbie Patch

barbie-logogirlscoutsBarbie and Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) partnered to create the first-ever Barbie “Be Anything, Do Everything” patch. The participation patch is designed to inspire the next generation of female leaders by encouraging girls to explore career possibilities through new program activities. The Barbie doll has been featured with more than 135 careers for more than five decades, and GSUSA has been dedicated to building girls of courage, confidence, and character for more than 100 years. In the spirit of Barbie doll’s career path and GSUSA’s heritage, the “Be Anything, Do Everything” participation patch allows Girl Scout Daisies and Brownies (girls in kindergarten through third grade) to explore career choices through the “I Can Be…” activity booklet.

The partnership is founded on the development of activities that encourage and inspire girls around the country to explore a variety of careers. With the core theme “Be Anything, Do Everything,” this partnership reaches girls online and offline, and includes an activity booklet, special patch, and a digital game and poll.

COMMENTARY: Shaping Moral Values Through Play

Photographer Dennis Di Laura Stylist Xu Job# 1249680A retouch: Peter Kaye

Toys are so much more than just playthings. All children learn through play, and aside from basic skill building, toys can teach kids moral values and help them enhance and embrace their individuality. Being “different” is often shunned at the grade school level, especially with increased bullying in schools and on the Internet. Kids need to learn how to love what makes them unique and build their self-esteem, and there are many toys on the market that help them do exactly that.

Consumers are often critical of Barbie, from Mattel, arguing that her appearance is unrealistic and leads girls to feel self-conscious about their less-than perfect bodies. However, let’s not forget that first and foremost, Barbie teaches girls that they can be anything they want, including a chef, a scientist, a doctor, and a veterinarian. Though she may love her mascara, she is a power woman at heart and she gives kids the confidence they need to pursue their dreams. In the July/August edition of The Toy Book, we featured dolls of all shapes and sizes, and many of them teach kids important moral values, including nurturing techniques, celebration of individuality, and the importance of environmental conservation. Check out the full dolls showcase on page 31.

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COMMENTARY: Dolls: Inspiring Kids Through Play

For years, Mattel‘s Barbie has been held under very close scrutiny for her appearance. She is often criticized for her unrealistic body type and the kind of message that sends to girls. But, of course, Barbie’s good qualities should not be overlooked. She is a smart woman with quite an impressive resume. Another quality Barbie is famous for is her vast array of careers. Barbie can be anything that she wants to be—and so can the kids that play with her. I use Barbie as an example because she is probably the most popular and widely known doll on the market, but there are many other dolls out there that have positive messages for young girls attached to them—and they come in many different shapes and sizes.

zelfsMoose Toys has introduced the Zelfs, collectible dolls that live in a “fab-itat” in the secret garden of Zardenia. This dolls, a little reminiscent of Troll dolls, feature colorful, spiketacular hair that can be style in all sorts of different ways. Each Zelf has its own unique persona and a Zelf power that is represented by a Zelf mark. The Zelf currently on my desk, Angelala, has the Zelf power of kindness. Each Zelf also comes with matching charms and hair accessories (Angelala’s got a pretty fabulous harp). The new line includes small, medium, and large Zelfs, and the Venus Fly Trap Spin Salon Playset that twirls and swirls each Zelf’s hair with the push of a button. [Read more...]

Barbie Reaches for the Stars with Mars Explorer Barbie Doll

The Barbie brand has long empowered girls to dream big and explore a world without limits. But this year, Barbie is embarking on a mission that is especially out of this world with the Career of the Year Mars Explorer Barbie doll, from Mattel.

MARS Teaser Image

Made in collaboration with NASA, the Mars Explorer Barbie doll is outfitted in a stylish space suit with pink reflective accents, helmet, space pack, and pink space boots. Representing Barbie’s 2013 Career of the Year, the Mars Explorer Barbie doll arrives in time to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Mars Rover Curiosity landing on August 6. Currently, Barbie has a resume featuring more than 130 careers and growing.

COMMENTARY: Nineties Nostalgia

Ah, to be a kid again. In some ways, being an editor at The Toy Book lets me get close. Last week, we spent several days reviewing and testing product submissions for our spring edition of The Toy Insider. Over the weekend, a friend compared this to “Big,” a movie in which a boy magically gets the body of a grown man and becomes wildly successful in the toy industry. His young mind provided valuable insight that can fade as we become adults. This thought prompted me to reminisce about some of my favorite toys growing up.

Skip-It: I think the commercial may have had a lot to do with how much fun I perceived this toy to be; nonetheless, I loved my Skip-It. I had it in pink, and my sister had it in yellow. The idea was to skip over it as you swung it around your ankle, while the ball at the end kept count of the skips. The counter was far from accurate, but it still made for some fierce competition.

Christine.April2_5Barbie Beauty Bath: Of the countless Barbie play sets, dolls, and accessories I accumulated as a child, the Barbie Beauty Bath goes down as one of my favorites. The set featured a tub, showerhead, and tile-like back wall, and the shower actually functioned by pumping water through the showerhead.

Creepy Crawlers: Although I can’t recall the commercial for this one, I do remember it being the driving force behind this request. Kids would pour the liquid into the bug-shaped molds, and then, after they set, they became squishy, gummy-like bug figures. This was great, until a family friend ruined his suit after accidentally placing his arm into the wet mold. Oops.

Christine.April2_4Cherry Merry Muffin: Cherry Merry Muffin and her friends were named for their respective scents. Each doll came with several accessories that girls could collect and use on the dolls or themselves.

Puppy Surprise: This was an exciting plush toy because it came in several colors, and the number of puppies in the dog’s belly was a mystery until the toy came out of the box. It came with up to five individual plush puppies inside, and the tummy pocket was a great place to store the puppies or other small objects. (Or Halloween candy for forbidden bedtime consumption…not that I did that…okay, I did that.)

What were some of your favorite toys? If you have kids, do they like any of the same things? Let us know in the comment section!

For more commentary from Christine, check back each Tuesday 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...]

Barbie Celebrates 54 Years as the No. 1 Fashion Doll

Photographer Krista Borden Stylist Sheryl Fedrick Job 1249463 RetoucherIn celebration of the Barbie doll’s 54th birthday, dolls of all ages can commemorate their own special day with the new Birthday Wishes Barbie Doll. Barbie celebrated on March 9, the same day the famous doll made her first appearance at the New York Toy Fair in 1959. The new Birthday Wishes doll is available now at BarbieCollector.com and at retailers nationwide.