COMMENTARY: Smart Technology Spans New Categories

by Reyne Rice, trend hunter, toy trend expert, industry analyst, and consultant

Resized,Reyne_RiceSmart tech for kids is no longer buzzword lingo. It has become a reality and has grown to encompass so much more than just technology added to toys to make them interesting or “tech-y.” Today, kids’ technology-enhanced products offer engaging and explorative play patterns that span a wide spectrum of categories. And while there are new technologies being used in these toys, the thrill is in the play experience, not in the technology itself. New technology enhances and extends play patterns way beyond how kids were playing in past decades. Plus, parents, older siblings, caregivers, and educators are all using new technology that companies are translating into toys and tech products for kids’ worldwide.

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COMMENTARY: Toy Fair 2015 Shows Off Toymakers’ Tech-Savvy Side

The Meccanoid G15 KS, from Spin Master

We all know that kids are more tech-savvy at the age of 2 than most of us will ever be. Living in the digital age comes instinctively for kids, and the fact that they have the ability to understand and use technology so early on lets toy manufacturers create some really, really cool tech toys for kids of all ages. Below is a roundup of favorite tech-y playthings from North American International Toy Fair, in no particular order:
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Tech 4 Kids and Irwin Toy Brings the 3D Creation Maker to Toy Fair

3DMakerTech 4 Kids has partnered with Irwin Toy on the first kid-friendly 3D Creation Maker, which will appear in prototype form at North American International Toy Fair. Using an applicator with a unique gel, children trace a design onto a template that is inserted into the 3D Creation Maker. After 10 seconds, the gel turns into a solid, allowing kids to build multi-dimensional structures. Unlike other 3-D design systems, the patent pending process is done safely with light and not heat. The gel is available in multiple colors, including a special glow-in-the-dark formula, and the 3D Creation Maker comes with a variety of pre-designed templates.

The free downloadable 3D Magic App, available for both Android and iOS devices, lets kids create whatever structures they dream up, turning them into templates for use with the 3D Creation Maker.

Nitro Grinders Exclusive at Toys “R” Us, Canada Through September

Microsoft Word - Tech4Kids - Nitro Grinders Final.docxThis summer, Tech 4 Kids launched Nitro Grinders exclusively in Canada, and through September 25, the new toy line will be available only at Toys “R” Us, Canada.

Nitro Grinders Series 1 launched with 56 characters that can ride and glide over obstacles without falling over. Customizable wheels and ramps are also available for extended play. Each highly detailed character belongs to one of five themes: Mechanimals, Wasteland, Elementals, Space Frontier, and Metropolis. The Metropolis collection will be an ongoing Toys “R” Us exclusive.

“The collectible market has been waiting for something new, unique and exciting,” says Brad Pedersen, president, Tech 4 Kids, “Nitro Grinders combines all the qualities kids look for when picking favorites: customization, creativity, and collectability.”

Nitro Grinders retail exclusively at Toys “R” Us, Canada, and will roll out nationwide beginning in mid-October.

Tech 4 Kids Launches Nitro Grinders

Tech4KidsThe newest collectible from Tech 4 Kids, Nitro Grinders, has made its global debut in Canada, where it will be sold exclusively this summer. Kids use their fingers to make Nitro Grinders jump, spin, and grind over obstacles without falling over. Series 1 has 56 characters to collect, including special sets with customizable wheels and ramps. Nitro Grinders will be available in the U.S. this December.

Tech 4 Kids Partners with Flappy Bird to Launch Licensed Toys

Tech4KidslogoTech 4 Kids is partnering with the most downloaded game of 2014, Flappy Bird, for new toy and lifestyle products in time for the game’s re-launch.

First to enter the market this October is Flappy Bird Mash’Ems, available in six different Flappy Bird characters. These will follow the popular Mash’Ems trend that continues to grow with kids of all ages.

Tech 4 Kids will announce further branded items through the end of the year.

COMMENTARY: Easter Is the Other Big Holiday

I don’t know about you, but in my family, Easter is the “other” big holiday. It gets as much attention as Christmas and Thanksgiving, complete with family from near and far, a feast, candy, and, of course, Easter baskets. My sister and I are both in our 20s, but who says grown-ups can’t still get excited to open their Easter baskets and see what goodies await? While Easter isn’t the time for lots of presents, our baskets usually contain some candy, a few small trinkets, and one bigger gift. This Sunday, when kids across the country open their Easter baskets, some may be lucky enough to receive any of the following fun spring toys.

airhogsskywinder

Spin Master Air Hogs Skywinder is an awesome choice for a kid’s “big” basket gift. Kids toss the R/C stunt rocket into the air and squeeze the trigger on the remote. The rocket flies, dives, hovers, and loops, and is lightweight enough that it can be used indoors. It flies high, though, so kids will enjoy it most outside—a perfect reason to go outdoors and celebrate spring! [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Easing Kids’ Nighttime Fears One Toy at a Time

It’s 9 p.m.—already well past bedtime—and your little one is still buzzing about the house in his or her favorite footie pajamas begging to play with just one more toy for just five more minutes. Whether it’s because they are restless or afraid of the dark, looming shadows in their room, getting kids down at the end of a long day can be a challenge. While you’d probably like the toy box to stay shut so you can get them off to bed, there are actually some great toys on the market that can assist you in this (often) headache-inducing process.

DinoRoar.Baby'sFirst.GoldbergerPart of the Baby’s First line, from Goldberger Toys, Dino Roar is great for kids who get scared when bedtime rolls around. The adorable baby doll is dressed in a pink or blue dinosaur costume, so both boys and girls can enjoy the security Dino provides. Little ones can press Dino’s belly for a “roar” sound that’s sure to intimidate any scary monsters lingering in the closet or under the bed. Dino’s glowing face and soft feel give kids ages 18 months and up security while falling asleep.

StarShineWatchdogs.KellytoyFor kids a bit older, Starshine Watchdogs, from Kellytoy USA, are ready to protect and serve at bedtime. Orion (blue) and Skye (pink) are cuddly plush puppies. They each say reassuring phrases, such as “don’t worry, I’m here,” and “all secure, sleep tight.” By pressing Orion or Skye’s right paw, the included Star Light nightlight illuminates the room, but automatically shuts off after a few minutes. Parents can even purchase additional Star Lights for other areas of the house, in case kids need to get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom or get a glass of water. The bright star on the puppies’ chest also glows when kids press their left paw. These pups are great for travel.

Hello Kitty Lullalight, from Tech 4 Kids

Hello Kitty Lullalight, from Tech 4 Kids

Night lights are great for kids who have trouble with the dark, but throwing their favorite characters into the mix can make them feel even more secure at night. Spot Lite is a line of light-up character-based products from Tech 4 Kids. Including in the line are Lullalights, which are dome-shaped nightlights that glow and play lullabies. Featuring characters including the Smurfs, Hello Kitty, and Moshi Monsters, Lullalights project a colorful character image on the bedroom ceiling. Nite Friends are shaped nightlights also featuring kids’ favorite characters. They have an auto shut-off and are wireless, making them great for travel.

Jake.WallFriends.UncleMilton

Wall Friends, from Uncle Milton, not only serve as a nightlight, but as a piece of room décor. Available in multiple popular characters including Doc McStuffins, Cinderella, Jake the Pirate, Lightning McQueen, Minnie, and Mickey, Wall Friends easily adhere to bedroom walls. Each Wall Friends includes a remote, so kids can interact with them and hear their favorite characters say familiar phrases without getting out of bed. Wall Friends even feature two brightness settings and an auto shut-off.

All of these innovative products provide parents with an easy way to get their kids safely settled into bed at night. Easing their fears in a fun way with plush, dolls, or their favorite characters will make them stop begging to sleep in mom and dad’s room, and keep them better rested for the busy day on the horizon.

For more commentary from Marissa, 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!

COMMENTARY: Big Rewards for a Little Bit of Cash

Sometimes kids deserve a special little treat—whether they refrain from crying at the dentist, got an extra star on their homework assignment, or behaved well on a long shopping trip, it’s nice to reward them for good behavior. Candy is a cheap, instant, and enjoyable treat, but we all know kids can do with a little less sugar (and, in turn, fewer painful dentist visits!).  There are some great inexpensive toys with lots of play value that will help reward kids for good behavior without breaking the bank or causing cavities.

ABSW Telepods Jedi vs Sith Multi-PacksAngry Birds Star Wars Telepods, from Hasbro, are sold in two-figure packs for less than $10. Kids can teleport the collectible figures right into the Angry Birds Star Wars II app, from Rovio Entertainment, on iOS and Android devices. Each figure has a unique QR code on the bottom, so kids can distinguish their characters from their friends’, even if they have the same ones. With more than 30 figures to collect, Hasbro also has compatible play sets at higher price points. With both virtual and physical play, Telepods is a great choice for a quick treat that will keep kids engaged for a long time. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Spanning Generations: Modern Takes on Classic Brands

Nostalgia is a growing trend in the toy and licensing industry, but recently many classic brands have been given a modern reboot. The modernized take on classic brands offer fun for consumers both young and old, spanning generations and providing licensees with multiple new opportunities. Today, some modernized takes on old favorites live along side their predecessors.

PlaymatesToys.BasicMutagenOozeTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT), for example, launched in the 1980s. A huge, revolutionary boys’ property, the brand was given a reboot last year when a new TMNT animated series launched in September on Nickelodeon. The brand has seen massive success in the toy industry, with partners including Playmates Toys with a full line of figures and play sets, bubbles and water toys from Little Kids, and awesome electronics from Sakar International, including adorable TMNT earbuds. In addition to producing toys based on the new animated series, Playmates Toys also offers a classic collection including all four turtles, which reflects the look of the characters in the original series. [Read more...]