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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The Wizard of Oz Celebrates 75 Years with New Toys

Dorothy Wizard of OzTo celebrate the 75th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz, Warner Bros. is launching a comprehensive campaign that includes toys and games from top licensees. Among them is McDonald’s, which will feature limited-edition The Wizard of Oz toys in Happy Meals at more than 14,000 locations in the U.S. and Canada from September 20 to October 10.

The Happy Meal program features six adorable stylized figures based on popular characters in the film. Kids can receive Dorothy, Scarecrow, Wicked Witch of the West, Tin Man, Glinda the Good Witch, or Cowardly Lion. In addition, each figure comes with a Yellow Brick Road base to stand on, and all the bases can connect to recreate The Wizard of Oz friends walking down the Yellow Brick Road.

Toy and game partners supporting the milestone anniversary include Jazwares, Mattel, and Adora Dolls, the latter of which will be introducing special-edition Wizard of Oz Toddlers. Meanwhile, commemorative collections of toys are expected to be part of “The Wizard of Oz’ 75th Anniversary Celebration,” scheduled to debut on QVC on September 26 at 9 p.m.

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.

Voting Opens for 2014 Toy Industry Hall of Fame Inductees

HallofFame2014logoThe Toy Industry Association (TIA) has opened its annual ballot to determine the next inductees into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame. The voting period will extend to September 13. This year’s candidates were chosen from a slate of 24 highly-qualified nominees submitted for consideration by members of the Hall of Fame (HOF) Committee. All of the nominees left notable marks on the North American toy industry.

Living candidates for induction into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame included:

  •     Jill Barad, former CEO, Mattel
  •     Horst Brandstätter, president and sole owner, PLAYMOBIL/geobra Brandstätter GmbH & Co. KG
  •     Thomas Chan, chairman and CEO, Playmates Toys Inc.
  •     Joel Glickman, founder, K’NEX Brands
  •     Bruce Raiffe, president, Gund, division of Enesco, LLC

Candidates for posthumous induction into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame included:

Responses are due by September 13. Designated points of contact at TIA member companies, former Hall of Fame inductees, and recent TIA Board members are invited to rank their choices in the living and posthumous categories.

The inductees will be honored during the Toy of the Year (TOTY) awards ceremony on February 15 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, which officially launches Toy Fair Week in New York City.

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...]

Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and Mattel Partner for Hot Wheels World’s Best Driver

hot-wheelsWarner Bros. Interactive Entertainment has partnered with Mattel Inc. for the global distribution, sales, and trade marketing of the upcoming Hot Wheels World’s Best Driver video game launching on September 17 in North America for Xbox 360, PlayStation3, Wii U, Nintendo 3DS, and PC.

In Hot Wheels World’s Best Driver, players join the ranks of Team Hot Wheels and compete in dozens of fast-paced, replayable challenges highlighting the driving styles of the different teams. Featuring 24 Hot Wheels vehicles and set in four under-the-radar test facilities around the world, the game pushes players to their limits to see if they have what it takes to become Hot Wheels World’s Best Driver.

Mattel is also bringing the Hot Wheels brand to life with a real-life crew of stunt drivers taking stunt-driving to the next level with never-before-seen, gravity-defying stunts in life-size Hot Wheels cars. This year, Mattel continues to introduce new Hot Wheels content, including a 22-minute World’s Best Driver movie on the Hot Wheels YouTube channel and HotWheels.com.

Hot Wheels: World’s Best Driver is being developed by Firebrand Games.

COMMENTARY: The Many Incarnations of Apples to Apples

Christine.August12.2Apples to Apples has emerged as a go-to party favorite for players of all ages. Since its debut in 1999, the game has become incredibly popular and has been reinvented time and time again to cater to different audiences. It is now published by Mattel and is available online and at retailers worldwide.

Apples to Apples

Apples to Apples Party Box contains more than 1,000 cards. Each player begins with seven red cards that contain “Things.” One player selects a green card and reads the “Description” aloud. The other players must then decide which of their red cards is the best match for the green card. For example, if the green card says “A day at the park,” players must choose the best card to fit that card. Players can select anything from the literal (perhaps “picnic”) to the silly (“dancing clowns”) to the ironic (“sad and lonely”). The player that read the green card must shuffle the cards and then pick the one they like best. The player that put in the winning card keeps the green card. The first player to get five green cards wins. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Girls and Boys Just Wanna Have Fun!

My poor brother grew up in a family full of nothing-but-girls. I’m convinced that this is the reason that he ended up with all of the cool toys. In true oldest sibling fashion, I wasn’t stopped by the sharpie-engraved “Jesse” label on the toys that cluttered his bedroom. I had to test every toy that came through our house, girl- or boy-intended; it made no difference to me. It wasn’t lost on me that all of Jesse’s toys were made to go fast or flaunt tricks, while my sister and I played with stationary toys, dolls, and Easy-Bake Ovens. The phrase that frequently exited my adolescent mouth comes to mind: “But it’s not fair!” The speedy and daring toys are just as fun for girls as they are for boys, and here are some current toys to prove it:6474_300_300

The Hot Wheels cars frequented our home quite often, and many Christmas lists as well. Any time we went to the mall, somehow Jesse managed to make sure he was leaving with one. Mattel‘s well-loved brand that is synonymous with speed just released its Triple Track Twister. With three tracks, two controllers and one huge crash zone, it is multi-car mayhem. Kids can hit the red diverter to send cars on a collision course, or blast through the blue tunnel to take on a new track. The coolest thing about this toy is that it includes an iPad stand and Action Capture app that brings the track to life. My brother and I would have loved this Hot Wheels racetrack with equal measure.

BF40F27550569047F5155E7CBCF0B0D4Another name that has been helping little boys and girls create speed and wreak havoc in good fun is Nerf, from Hasbro. The Nerf Rapidstrike CS-18 is the new streamlined lightweight blaster that has serious firepower and shoots up to 75 feet. The blaster’s acceleration trigger powers up the motor for super-speed firing. The clip holds all 18 of the included darts, and it’s see-through for instant firepower checks.

For more commentary from Kara, 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!

Mattel Co-Sponsors Children’s Institute Inc.’s Back-to-School Giveaway

Mattel and nearly 20 other sponsors provided support for the second Watts Back-to-School Giveaway, which furnished much-needed educational resources for children pre-school age to 12th grade. The event was hosted by Philanthropic Society Los Angeles, a support group of Children’s Institute Inc. (CII).
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The Watts Back-to-School Giveaway benefited approximately 4,000 to 5,000 children and their families who live in one of Los Angeles’ most challenged communities. They receive services from CII—a nationally recognized organization that helps children and youth severely affected by community and family violence.

In addition to receiving filled backpacks, attendees learned about good nutrition and healthy cooking through demos and snacks from the Watts Healthy Farmers Market. They also received useful community information from partners of the giveaway, which was not a public event.