HoliDAY of Play 2015

Walmart Releases Chosen by Kids List of Top Toys for the Holiday Season

walmartWalmart has released its Chosen by Kids list, which features the top toys of the year as chosen by 1,000 kids. The retailer asked them to choose their favorite toys from among the newest items by Hasbro, Mattel, Spin Master, and Zing. For consumers’ convenience during this upcoming shopping season, the list is organized by gender and age, as well as by the categories Future Foodies, Veterinarians in Training, Dreaming Design Stars, and Adventure-Seekers in the Making.

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Kidz Bop Extends National Tour, with Sponsorship by Build-A-Bear Workshop

KidzBopNationalTourThe Kidz Bop Kids will embark on a national tour this holiday season, and tickets officially go on sale today. The holiday shows were scheduled following the success of the Kidz Bop Kids’ Make Some Noise spring and summer tour.

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COMMENTARY: Let the Games (Surrounding Video Game Console Exclusives) Begin

SSC_Hammer Slam Bowser_FIN_HiResThis past Tuesday started out innocently enough. We were monitoring the news out of Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) when the announcement broke: As part of an agreement between Disney Interactive, Lucasfilm, and Sony, this fall will see the arrival of a special version of the upcoming Disney Infinity 3.0. The limited-edition Star Wars Saga Starter Pack will offer fans the chance to play as Boba Fett, the popular bounty hunter from the Star Wars movies. It will also allow players access to a much-anticipated Disney Infinity Play Set one month before it arrives on shelves, and even more importantly—at least, for the purposes of this commentary—the deal is only available for Sony’s PlayStation system.

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Hasbro Participates in Community Service Projects in 33 Countries Worldwide for Second Global Day of Joy

HasbroGlobalDayHasbro Inc. celebrated its second Global Day of Joy on December 4, a volunteer initiative designed to spread cheer and bring positive change to children in 33 countries. Team Hasbro employees volunteered with more than 100 charitable organizations worldwide to deliver toys and games to children, provide meals for the homeless, renovate playrooms, and host Hasbro Game Day for the event.

Hasbro’s Global Day of Joy is one of the company’s largest global efforts, and this year’s day lasted 27 full business hours from the start of the day in Australia to the close of business in Los Angeles. Service programs from around the world included hand-delivering toys and games to school children; volunteering at an Operation Smile mission in Colombia; character visits to Miami Children’s Hospital; and sorting and packing thousands of toys and games to the organizations Toys for Tots, SeriousFun Children’s Network, and Give Kids the World.

During this year’s holiday season, Hasbro expects to donate more than half a million toys and games to organization benefitting children, valued at $6 million.

Build-A-Bear Workshop, Toys for Tots Join Team Santa for the Holidays

BABW_NewCircleLogoBuild-A-Bear Workshop will launch a national Stuffed with Hugs event November 14 to 16, where guests will be invited to join Team Santa and make a special bear for free to donate to Toys For Tots. The store has supported The Marine Toys for Tots Foundation for the seventh year in a row during the holiday season, donating $7.8 million worth of toys.

Also through December 14, Build-A-Bear Workshop guests can visit any store nationwide to make or donate new, unwrapped toys for local children in need. The company will match each donation up to 20,000 with a Build-A-Bear stuffed animal. Donations can also be made at checkout in stores and online at buildabear.com through December 31.

FedEx and UPS Hiring More Workers to Avoid Holiday Delays

As reported by ABC News, FedEx and United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS) are hiring more workers to avoid the delays that plagued last year’s holiday season.

FedEx plans to hire 50,000 seasonal workers, up from 40,000 last year, while UPS will add up to 95,000 people, up from 85,000. Last year, both companies scrambled to hire more seasonal employees than they had planned.

FedEx also expects to invest $1.2 billion in its ground-shipping network in its current fiscal year, with most of that going to increase capacity and automation. The company said that the improvements have sped up ground delivery by a day or more in more than two-thirds of the U.S. UPS has also invested to boost shipping capacity during the holidays.

Last December, the delivery giants were caught off-guard by bad weather and a surge in last-minute online shopping, leading to an estimated 2 million packages arriving late for the holidays.

About 1.3 million express packages handled by UPS and 618,000 carried by FedEx failed to get delivered on time last Christmas Eve, with UPS and FedEx at fault roughly 30 percent of the time, according to ShipMatrix Inc. In most cases, retailers promised guaranteed express delivery, but didn’t pay the delivery companies for that speedier service.

The retail federation’s online division, Shop.org, predicts that online sales in November and December will rise 8 to 11 percent over last year.

Pound Puppies to Come Back for the Holidays

The popular 1980s toy line, Pound Puppies, is making a comeback in time for the holiday season, courtesy of Funrise Toy Corp. The line is a collection of plush puppies that come complete with their own breed specific fun fact card and heart shaped dog tag. Kids can write their puppy’s name on he tag and register it online to receive a printable adoption certificate.

Kids can choose from a beagle, labrador, bulldog, or poodle that come in 12-inch plush, 6-inch plush, and a 3.5-inch plush keychain.

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...]

Hasbro Employees Worldwide Make the Holidays Brighter for Children in Need

HasbroHasbro Inc. helped spread joy to thousands of underserved children in 35 countries through its first Global Day of Joy. The initiative empowered Hasbro’s 5,000 employees from its global headquarters in Rhode Island to its offices across Latin America, Europe, and Asia Pacific to become holiday elves and to be a part of community service projects designed to bring joy over the holidays to children in need. Team Hasbro employees volunteered with more than 100 charitable organizations worldwide.

Examples of the different types of service projects that took place on Hasbro’s Global Day of Joy included a special celebration for children in Colombia who have received life changing cleft palate procedures from Operation Smile, featuring a contest that teamed Hasbro employees with the children to “create” their greatest smile using Play-Doh; working with SOS Children’s Villages in five countries to transform outdated play areas, host special Game Day events, and deliver toys and games to the orphaned children who live there, including those in Russia, Peru, and Austria; assembly and packaging of more than 136,000 meals that were delivered to 25 food pantries and schools across Rhode Island in partnership with Outreach Inc., a U.S.-based hunger relief organization; and the delivery of tens of thousands of toys and games to charitable organizations across the globe.

During the 2013 holiday season alone, Hasbro expects to donate more than $3 million worth of toys and games to children and approximately $15 million in total philanthropic support worldwide.

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.

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