HoliDAY of Play 2015

K’NEX Promotes Rachel Robbins to Vice President

K’NEX has promoted Rachel Robbins to vice president, legal affairs and general counsel. Hired in 2013, Robbins previously served as associate general counsel for K’NEX Brands, and prior to joining K’NEX, she was a partner in the Commercial Litigation group of the law firm Cozen O’Connor.

In her new position, Robbins will provide legal counsel to company management and business teams as to commercial relationships, as well as all general corporate matters, including contracts, employment, regulatory, and intellectual property.

K’Nex Releases New Building Sets for Plants vs. Zombies

PlantsvsZombiesWith new licensed building toys from K’Nex, fans of Plants vs. Zombies can now build and play with the characters from the game. The partnership between K’Nex and PopCap Games Inc. combines K’Nex building systems with the digital franchise for the first time ever.

Along with the first series of Mystery Figure Bags, the Plants vs. Zombies line includes the Pirate Ship Building Set, Wall-nut Bowling Building Set, Wild West Skirmish Building Set, and Jetpack Zombie Attack Building Set, all suitable for kids ages 5 and up; and the Cone Mech Building Set, Football Mech Building Set, and Pirate Seas Plank Walk Building Set, suitable for kids ages 7 and up.

COMMENTARY: Video Game-Based Toys Can Ease Kids into Other Kinds of Play

KNEX.SuperMarioDesertIt’s summertime, which for a lot of kids means playing outside in the sunshine, swimming, and maybe even going on trips to visit nature. But for others, summer means staying indoors and playing video games all day. It’s probably best to moderate any activity that involves staring at a screen; however, the question is, how to get video game-obsessed kids to take up a different form of play? The answer may be toys based on popular video game titles, and there are quite a few of those available right now.

We kick off our non-comprehensive list with K’NEX, which since 2010, has partnered with Nintendo on construction toys based on its popular Mario property. Recently, I spoke to an executive at the company, who said that no small part of the partnership’s success came from replicating game elements in K’NEX’s construction sets: For example, many of its Super Mario building sets have a mechanism that simulates the avatar’s in-game jumping ability. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Digital Properties and Toys Are a Match Made in Heaven

Today’s culture of apps and Internet memes has spawned a new category for licensees. These new digital brands have inspired toys that carry the excitement, reference, or joke of a digital property beyond its original state and into the physical world. Smartphones, apps, and the Internet have allowed people of all ages to swap images, play games, and contribute to digital communities faster than ever before. The appeal of a licensed toy can largely be attributed to an emotional connection—such as victory, challenge, or humor—to the property by a consumer. When I see a toy (or any other type of product) that I identify with a funny meme or a favorite app, I’m instantly drawn to it, almost like being in on an inside joke.

For the past few years, many a birthday card that I’ve given and received has featured cringeworthy images of a person (or several) in an array of ridiculous outfits, making odd facial expressions, in questionable poses, and more. Since 2009, Awkward Family Photos (AFP) has accrued nearly 2 million Facebook fans and currently offers plenty of products for fans to enjoy. AFP has also expanded its brand to include Awkward Family Pet Photos, adding a whole new hilarious dimension to the theme. Fans can purchase the AFP puzzle in either the pets or siblings versions, which feature 999 puzzle pieces and come together to create a collage of several awkward images.


Fans can also enjoy a rousing game of ridiculous photos, questions, and answers with the AFP Board Game, from All Things Equal. A player flips over a card featuring an Awkward Family Photo and reads an open-ended question aloud. The other players must come up with their own answers; the player with the best answer wins the round. [Read more...]

K’NEX Education to Exhibit at USA Science & Engineering Festival Expo

K’NEX Education will be participating in the third USA Science & Engineering Festival Expo and Book Fair, hosted by founding and presenting sponsor Lockheed Martin. Designed to inspire the next generation of innovators, the Festival Expo allows kids and adults to participate in more than 3,000 hands-on activities, as well as see more than 100 live stage performances.

The K’NEX Education Build and Learn Zone invites kids of all ages to have fun with hands-on learning while designing, building, investigating, problem solving, and evaluating scientific and design principles in action using K’NEX rods, connectors, gears, tires, and hubs at interactive building stations. Kids will have the opportunity to chat with K’NEX designers and engineers, and teachers can stop by and learn how K’NEX Education building sets can complement their STEM curriculum.

The Festival Expo is scheduled for the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., on April 26 and 27, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

K’NEX and Fox Release First Line of Family Guy Building Sets

Feb20.FamilyGuyK’NEX Brands, in partnership with Twentieth Century Fox Consumer Products, has released its first line of officially licensed building toys inspired by the animated comedy series Family Guy. The new product line combines the K’NEX building system with iconic characters and elements from the TV show, and is suitable for kids ages 8 and up.

Buildable Family Guy figure two-packs come in Brian & Meg, Stewie & Lois, and Peter & Chris Buildable Figures. Family Guy: Stewie and Time Machine Building Set includes a buildable Stewie figure dressed in his pajamas, as well as enough K’NEX rods, connectors, and bricks to build his time machine complete with working door. Family Guy: Peter and Station Wagon Building Set includes a buildable Peter figure dressed in his work suit, and enough K’NEX pieces to build a moving replica of the family’s red station wagon, which has a work seat for Peter.

K’NEX Hosts Hands-on STEM Workshop for Local Teachers

knexstemOn January 7, K’NEX will host a Forces, Energy & Motion STEM Workshop for 25 teachers from Bucks and Montgomery Counties in Pennsylvania. The workshop is aimed at providing teachers with the tools they need to get students excited about STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). K’NEX Education will help teachers prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s STEM jobs, as our country faces a critical shortage of qualified STEM workers.

During the workshop, teachers will progress through a series of meaningful and rigorous science, technology, engineering, and mathematics activities designed to guide their learning and challenge them to use critical thinking and problem solving skills, much like their students would in the classroom.

The K’NEX Education workshop will take place at K’NEX headquarters in Hatfield, Pa. from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. on January 7.


Toys “R” Us Stores Nationwide Remain Open 87 Continuous Hours Ahead of Christmas

toysrusToys “R” Us stores nationwide will remain open for 87 consecutive hours for last-minute shoppers. Beginning at 6 a.m. on December 21 and continuing through 9 p.m. on Christmas Eve, gift-givers can shop day and night for toys, including those that can only be found at Toys “R” Us.

Bargain hunters can also take advantage of savings and deals, as well as the company’s Price Match Guarantee, every day leading up to Christmas. Select discounts available at Toys “R” Us from December 20 through December 21 include buy one, get one free deals on all Chuggington Engines and Totally Me! by Victoria Justice crafts; buy one, get one 50 percent off all FAO Schwarz toys; and more.

Meanwhile, beginning December 22 through December 24, select discounts include buy one, get one free deals on all K’NEX building sets; buy one, get one 40 percent off all Disney Pixar Cars and Disney Planes die cast vehicles, and play sets; discounts on Disney Infinity Starter Packs; and more.

COMMENTARY: Boo! Halloween Toys That Outlast the Season

by Laurie Schacht, Toy Insider Mom

zombieLast year was a pretty tough Halloween on the east coast. Just a few days before the holiday, Hurricane Sandy shut off our lights, devastated our coasts, and in my neck of the woods, pretty much canceled parties and trick-or-treating. So this year I hope to see all our favorite ghosts and goblins make a big comeback.   

Who will you be this year? The Marvel superheroes will be strong sellers. Lets face it: what kid doesn’t want to save the world—and what adult doesn’t want a few hours to be “that hot” at a grown up party dressed up as Iron Man or Wonder Woman!

For little girls, if you haven’t purchased their Doc McStuffins or Sofia the First costumes yet, good luck finding them. I’ve yet to meet a 4-year-old girl that hadn’t loved one or both of these new favorite characters. Boys are loving Jake and his Never Land Pirates, Skylanders, Trash Pack Kids, and Slugterra.

But it’s not just in the costume. There are some great additions to the two hottest video games with Halloween themes this year that I need to share. Skylanders Giants released their special Halloween edition called Eye-Brawl. It’s sports a pumpkin head and a skeleton head at his feet. Disney Infinity will let kids build their own Halloween town in Toy Box mode, with the Pumpkin King throwing pumpkins at other characters, including the newly released Jack Skellington. [Read more...]

K’NEX Introduces Four New K’NEX Education Building Sets

Ideal for classroom and home use, K’NEX Education sets offer hands-on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) learning for kids ages 9 and up. The new K’NEX Education sets are designed for small groups of students (between three and four kids), and bacsoon_logoteach concepts through problem solving, discovery, exploratory learning, and critical thinking. As kids build, they will have to use each other as a resource for investigating, discussing, and evaluating each scientific and design principle in action. These four new sets include: Simple Machines, Solar Energy, Wind and Water Energy, and Force and Motion.

Simple and Compound Machines – Offering hands-on learning the K’NEX Education Simple and Compound Machines Building Set is designed to expand upon middle school students’ knowledge of simple machines concepts. Students will be able to investigate, explore, and experiment with the K’NEX simple machine models as they analyze, synthesize, and evaluate information. The included teacher’s guide features student inquiry sheets and worksheets for the models highlighted, and asks questions and presents challenges that can be used to help students think more deeply about the concepts involved.  The set includes 332 K’NEX parts. [Read more...]