China Toy Fair


COMMENTARY: Not Your Average R/C Toys

Give a child a R/C controller, and he or she will be occupied for hours, steering or flying whatever device it is around the room or outside. Give a child an iPhone and chances are your contacts will end up being deleted, you’ll be left with 350 pictures of the inside of your little boy or girl’s mouth, and your phone will soon self destruct—but, that’s about to change.

There’s no denying that it’s now essentially encrypted in children’s nature to be intrigued by new technology at increasingly younger ages—and let’s face it, most of the time they get the hang of it a lot quicker than adults. But instead of parents discouraging their children from toying around with iPhones, iPads, and tablets (because they’re of course not toys, they’re high-tech adult equipment that are soo not used for playing Candy Crush), they can instead support a productive way to use such devices with these awesome toys.

I was first introduced to Orbotix’s Sphero 2.0 when someone in the office put it on my desk and said, “Here, play with this.” I looked at the box a little confused wondering what it was, and as I starSP0SPHERO003ted to read the instructions (very helpful to figuring out how toys work), I realized that this was, hands down, one of the coolest toys I’ve ever played with. It’s simply a ball, not a fancy monster truck with huge wheels and the ability to smash into the wall, crumble into pieces, and put itself back together all while singing jingle bells—or something like that. But, it’s a robotic ball with an engine and it’s really, really fast and controlled by your phone. You just download the Sphero app on your iPhone, iPad, iTouch, or android device and using a Bluetooth connection your device transforms into a control that propels Sphero at speeds up to seven feet per second across the room and off ramps. The driving accuracy really impressed me because I do tend to be a little spazzy with toys like these, but it was actually easy to maneuver the toy around bends and turns and what not. Sphero 2.0 also lights up in a variety of neon colors which looks as spectacular as it is to play. There are also a ton of other apps available to engage Sphero in a variety of games. [Read more...]

Delta Children Gives Thanks to Families of Soldiers

Delta ChildrenIn the spirit of Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving, Delta Children gave thanks to those who sacrifice so much for the safety of our country by orchestrating a crib donation to the families of soldiers at Fort Drum. By teaming up with Golfers in Support of Our Troops, the two organizations will distribute cribs to the 2nd Battalion 87th Infantry Regiment to help ease the stress and holiday budgets for these families.

Delta Children recognizes the difficulty military families often face in preparing for a newborn while anticipating deployment, so as part of their Safe Sleep $1,000,000 crib giveaway campaign, Delta Children has not only committed to providing the highest product safety standards, but also to providing a safe-sleep environment for children.

The Toy Book Chats with Sherry Gunther-Shugarman, CEO, Popstar Club

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Sherry Gunther-Shugarman, CEO of Popstar Club, which is the manufacturer of the fresh, new doll line, The Beatrix Girls. Sherry gave me an overview of what makes her doll line so unique, and why girls are going to be clamoring for them this holiday season.

SherryGunther.BeatrixCEO

 

Where did you get the idea for Beatrix Girls?

The Beatrix Girls came out of the idea of tying music and dolls together. Ultimately the approach to this was to create a multiplatform brand that really reaches kids everywhere that they are, recognizing that kids are not just watching TV and they’re not just playing with dolls or toys, they’re not just online playing games or being social, they’re doing all of the above. A forward-thinking property really needed to have presence in all of those mediums and to have an integration between all of those formats ingrained in its DNA.

The webisodes are done in a very unique way. How did you come about using that style?

It’s interesting because the natural for me was to go with animation as I spent over 20 years in animation, but there were a lot of things that attracted me to doing it this way, creating webisodes that have the dolls featured interacting in real life. It comes out of the fact that the concept itself has the girls as real. So they’re real and they interact in our world. They’re a real pop star band, we9’re creating real music, not composed music like we would for a toy property or an animated show, but real, credible, pop music written by a platinum-winning writer/producer, mixed by a Grammy-winning engineer, so this is really relevant, today, great music and so we really want to sell them as true pop stars.

Animation oftentimes, especially when doing them based on a product or especially dolls, skews a little bit younger, and we really wanted to have the cool factor and have these be edgier. The medium that we used felt so much more current and fresh and innovative and YouTube generation-like and it felt much more fitting to the brand itself. It gives the dolls the credibility of being real in our world. They have a real human manager, they perform in real venues, so it allows us to play up that real factor for them. And then the scale gives us a lot of humor opportunities for 12-inch dolls interacting in a life-size world.

The really nice side effect that we found is that girls are really responding to the fact that they can relate to the way it was done because it was shot on purpose with hands showing and manipulating the dolls. The idea was that kids could really relate to it and feel like I can do that, I can get four dolls and with my friends create a scene and a scenario.

 

For some reason it reminds me of Mr. Bill, the old SNL skit.

That’s kind of what we were going for. We were going for rather than just sort of just straight, weak, almost too young-skewing animation. We wanted it to be edgier and quirky and fun and hilarious and this medium allowed us to do that, to have that feel to it.

[Read more...]

GoldieBlox Announced as Finalist in Intuit’s Small Business Big Game Competition

GoldieBloxGoldieBlox, an Oakland, Calif. toy company that produces construction sets aimed at girls, has secured a spot as a finalist in Intuit’s Small Business Big Game competition, created to celebrate the success of small businesses. The top four have been narrowed down from almost 15,000 entries.

The competition was created to reward one small business with the prize of a professionally produced television commercial to air during the Super Bowl on February 2. The lucky company will also receive an all-expenses paid trip to New York for the Big Game viewing party with a few surprise guests, a meeting with entrepreneur and reality TV star of Giuliana and Bill, Bill Rancic, and free lifetime use of Intuit QuickBooks and other Intuit resources and business solutions.

Now through December 1, votes can be cast by anyone at www.SmallBusinessBigGame.com.

Delta Children Releases New Lightning McQueen Bed

Cars Convertible BedDelta Children has released its convertible Lightning McQueen bed from Disney’s Cars, which isn’t only just for bedtime. Under the hood there’s built-in storage space that converts to an oversized toy box once the twin bed is in place, and there are even working headlights and a steering wheel for added play and fun.

The best part is, not having to worry about your toddler outgrowing the bed. The crib mattress can easily be switched out for a twin mattress while still preserving the same cool, sleek look.

COMMENTARY: Toys to Brave the Chilly Weather

Fall is one of the most beautiful times of the year, but it can also start to get very chilly. I know that in New York City, I’m layering my clothes and bundling up, preparing for (an always windy) winter. Fall for kids means back to school and less outdoor play, which can lead to a bummed out little one. Outdoor play is fun because it’s physical—you run faster, the toys fly higher, and of course there’s always the option of shooting water out of most of those toys. But just because the play is moving inside and becoming a little less physical, doesn’t mean it has to be less fun.

The holidays mean gift-giving, and while guides like our Toy Insider 2013 Holiday Gift Guide are packed with a ton of options, including scooters and flying toys, I’ve also got some suggestions of toys to give that kids can enjoy right away—without having to play in the cold weather.

drawsomethingThe Draw Something Party game, from Hasbro, is a great game for the whole family. Based on the popular app, Draw Something Party allows players to draw on the double-sided, glowing drawing screen with their finger or the stylus included. The person drawing selects one of the three words on the card, holds the glowing screen between him or herself and the guesser, and places the card with the scrambled letter facing the guesser. As the screen glows and the drawer draws, the guesser tries to figure out what is being drawn using the scrambled letters as a guide. And just like in the app, the difficulty of the word yields a different amount of coins when guessed correctly. [Read more...]

Romo Enters Exclusive Retail Partnership with Brookstone

ROMOIn an exclusive retail partnership, Romotive Inc.’s Romo, the iPhone or iPod touch-powered personal robot, will now be sold at Brookstone stores through the end of the year.

Intended for kids ages 8 and up, Romo’s charming personality and advanced robotic technology will have your kid engaged in endless hours of play, as he or she is faced with challenging missions while journeying through the galaxy. With features, including a hilarious personality, the opportunity to unlock new abilities and features by completing programming missions, and tracking software that allows Romo to follow certain objects, faces, and paths you create for him, there are endless ways to play and learn with Romo.

Romo can even be controlled using Wi-Fi from any iOS device that allows users to direct his dynamic facial expressions and send him on adventures throughout the house. The Telepresence feature allows kids to control Romo from anywhere in the world while streaming two-way video and audio.

Romo is available for iPhone 5, iPhone 5S, iPod touch (4th and 5th generation), iPhone 4, and iPhone 4S for $149.00 at Brookstone, Brookstone.com, and Romotive.com.

COMMENTARY: Costumes Aren’t Just for Halloween

Halloween may be over, but costumes are still alive and well in many households. I don’t know about you, but I definitely got more than one night’s use out of my costumes as a kid. In fact, we had a whole dress-up box full of Halloween costumes, dance recital outfits, wigs, tutus, etc. My mom would find extras at yard sales or after-Halloween clearance sales. My neighborhood friends and I used them all year long, whether playing house, coming up with plays and performances (that our parents graciously endured), or just for the fun of it. Here are a few fun costumes that kids can enjoy any time, inspired by some of my favorite disguises of Halloweens past: [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: GeoSafari Laptop Is Fun and Challenging

Growing up, we’d pack up the car and take the 8+ hour road trip from Rhode Island to Virginia to visit my mom’s side of the family several times a year. In those days, before the commercialized Internet (much less wireless Internet), tablets, apps, and before most people even had a basic cell phone, my sister and I entertained ourselves with books, magazines, car games, audio books, and my favorite of all: GeoSafari.

The GeoSafari model I had in the 1990s was like this one (for sale on eBay)

The GeoSafari model I had in the 1990s was like this one (for sale on eBay)

Educational Insights’ GeoSafari Laptop looked different back in the ’90s than it does today, but the concept and overall user experience is mostly the same. By the third grade, I was a whiz at geography. I could identify every state and state capital, the oceans and seas, mountain ranges, rivers, Central and South American countries and capitals, and more. While GeoSafari isn’t just about geography, it was what I used the most. (To this day, I still kick myself for not trying out for Where In the World is Carmen San Diego? I totally would have won that trip at the end.) I credit GeoSafari for my enthusiasm for geography and maps, which I still have to this day. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Tech Toys That Extend Beyond the Screen

TT12This year, for the first time ever, the Toy Insider released a list of top tech toys for the holiday season in its gift guide called the Top Tech 12. This list promotes the belief that we have here about a “well-balanced toy box.” In a world that has new technology each day—and tons of digital, innovative toys for kids—it’s easy to get caught up in buying the newest, most glamorous toys out there without really knowing if it’s the right toy for your kid. The Toy Insider’s goal with this list is to help shoppers sift through all of the options out there for forward-thinking and impressive tech-based toys that incorporate the latest in digital play, creativity, and innovation.

Shameless self-promotion aside, tech toys are becoming harder and harder to sift through, so finding the perfect one for every kid can be difficult.  Of course, many in the industry, wandering the shopping aisles, and generally existing around toys know about Skylanders Swap Force and Disney Infinity, two new innovative video game platforms that mix digital and physical play, but they aren’t the only toys out there with exciting new technology. All of the toys on our Top Tech 12 list are great, but I picked a few favorites that are not only great technology innovations, but they also give kids other options of physical play—so they aren’t glued to a screen all day.

robodog_dalmatian_p9_go_pee_copy (1)Zoomer, from Spin Master, is a trainable robotic dog that is the perfect option for kids that want a pet and parents that want a clean house. Zoomer can be trained to respond to a bunch of different commands and tricks in three different languages (English, Spanish, and French). Zoomer learns kids’ voices and how to respond to these commands. He is adorably cute and lifelike. Left to his own devices, he’ll wander around the room, just like a real puppy. Zoomer’s LED lights blink and react making him seem more alive than your typical robots. [Read more...]