China Toy Fair


COMMENTARY: Classic Games Are Revived with Modern Twists

5CF7F28B50569047F5EEB18A916E5462The summer months are known for spontaneous beach trips, an abundance of delicious ice cream, and, of course, the much-dreaded summer storms that come with unbearable heat. But the next time the weather is uncompromising, consider having a family game night in, though I know what you’re thinking: Please, not another children’s game.

It can be difficult choosing a game everyone agrees on; parents are frequently disconnected, and youngsters who are a few years apart in age constantly battle over which game should be the one played. But a new trend in the toy industry could stop these common issues before game night even begins. I am constantly seeing companies revisiting old games and giving them a modern twist, and these simple alterations often involve modern technologies to pique younger players’ interest. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Lighting Up Imaginative Play: Light-Up Toys Provide Magical Fun For Kids

When I attended Fall Toy Preview in October, I had a conversation with a few industry executives about how when companies expand their line to include glow-in-the-dark or light-up SKUs, it often signals the end of the brand. They referred to glow-in-the-dark and light-up products as a “last resort,” and said it typically means that there are no other possible innovations for the product line.

However, I know a certain 4-year-old boy who would absolutely disagree with this idea, along with his 8-year-old sister (aka my niece and nephew!). LED lights have a strange magic to them—especially for kids. The bright colors they provide, just like glow-in-the-dark effects, seem like something out of a fantasy story that kids go crazy over—no matter how simple the technology actually is. There are some great new products hitting the market that reflect how great glow can be, here are some of my favorites:

TRACERTRACK_24

 

Tracer Racers, from Skullduggery, utilize Light Trail Technology as they blaze streaks of light on the glow-in-the-dark track. That’s right—LEDs AND glow play patterns. Lights galore! Magic frenzy!—and there’s more! Each Tracer Racer beams down purple light rays from its undercarriage onto the track, which is specially engineered to emit glow remnants only after the racer has passed. The new Tracer Racer drag racing sets include a 10-foot single lane set including one racer, an 8-foot double lane set with two racers, and a 12-foot double lane loop set with a light-up finish gate and two racers. The company will also introduce trucks to the line this year. Kids ages 6 and up are sure to enjoy all of the amazing light-up elements in this toy. [Read more...]

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...]

COMMENTARY: Fun in a Flash: Quick Games for Families

Flash_Pack_3DOn rainy days, classic favorites such as Scrabble and Monopoly are perfect to entertain kids. But some busy families might not have hours to devote to board games. There are great new games on the market that take only a few minutes to play, but will keep kids entertained when they are in the mood for a game or two.

In Flash!, from Blue Orange Games, players race to complete eight challenges of dice combinations as they try to rack up the most points. Combinations include six of a kind, a straight, all odd numbers, all even numbers, and two sets of three. The first player to complete the challenge picks up the chip worth the most points. Players continue rolling until all players earn a chip. Straight-forward and easy to learn, game play only takes about 10 minutes. There are enough sets of brightly-colored dice for up to six players ages 7 and up. [Read more...]