China Toy Fair


COMMENTARY: Why I Love Elmo

by Laurie Schacht, Toy Insider Mom

bighugsI’ve loved Elmo for as long as I can remember … and I’m not alone! He spans generations of boys, girls, kids, and adults. And while one might be able to argue that Mickey Mouse has the same appeal (and in many ways he does), every year there’s a brand new Elmo for a brand new group of kids to bring home and to love. But be warned, not all Elmo’s are alike.

When my kids were toddlers Elmo came in the form of a simple stuffed animal. He was cherished by all my girls, but especially my oldest, now 23. Today, she still adores him. I’ve actually had my ups and downs with Elmo (though my true love for him never really falters) as he has engaged in the world of technology.

Every holiday season I’m asked, “What’s the new Tickle Me Elmo this year?” and I think to myself, “I hope there isn’t one.”  Yes, Tickle Me Elmo, from Fisher-Price, was a retailer’s and a manufacturer’s dream toy—a toy retailers couldn’t keep in stock because demand was so high, and at the time, no one had ever seen such innovation in plush. Add the Elmo factor and it was a solid hit (followed by a few more, such as the extreme version). But while it was sold out everywhere, sold for huge markups by individuals, and fought over in stores—and as cool as the innovation was—this was not my favorite Elmo. I could never watch Elmo laugh or roll over on the floor, pounding the floor and laughing, without full out laughing myself. The problem was that I was just watching. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: D3Publisher’s Upcoming Slate Captures What Makes Cartoons Great

Licensed video games can be a risky proposition. After all, a recognizable title doesn’t necessarily mean high quality. Having personally experienced some lows in licensed games over the years, I felt it was my duty to attend D3Publisher of America Inc.’s showcase ahead of the holidays, though I had my share of reservations. But despite my trepidation, a few hours later, I walked out suitably impressed. Each licensed game’s creative team seemed to get what makes their respective source material unique, resulting in a product likely to please even hardcore fans. Here’s a rundown of the games:

Oct4.Ben10Ben 10 Omniverse 2: This title is based on a cartoon franchise that has been on TV since 2005, and revolves around Ben Tennyson, who in the most recent series, Ben 10: Omniverse, is a teenage superhero who can transform into 10 different alien forms. What makes the character interesting is that he must select the appropriate guise for any given situation, as each form has its own advantages and disadvantages. D3’s new game takes this basic characteristic and combines it with the “endless running” genre: For about half the game, Ben hurtles down a series of corridors, encountering one obstacle after another, with a very limited time to react. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Kids Love to Make Stuff

Kids love to make stuff. Arts and crafts, do-it-yourself kits, construction sets—you name it. I loved crafts as a kid, especially the kinds that didn’t quickly run out of the included supplies, so I could start over if it wasn’t quite right the first time.

Christine.Oct7.b

Recently, I took home Schylling’s Metal Pot Holder Loom. It was the first time I’d made one of those over-under hook-and-loop pot holders since elementary school. Even back then, I remember taking great pains to get the weave tight, so there weren’t gaps or curves. This time was no different, except that the loom is now significantly larger. The kit includes a metal loom, a metal hook, a plastic crochet hook, an instruction manual, and enough loops to create two pot holders and still have some left over. One quiet weeknight, I settled in with a good show on TV and started making a pot holder. The little girl in me still enjoyed the process, and I put thought into the design before beginning. The result was an even, tight, and pretty awesome-looking kitchen accessory, if I do say so myself. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Halloween Toys Extend the Spooky Season

It’s that spooky time of year again! Stores are setting up Halloween-themed displays, such as Toys “R” Us‘ Trick “R” Treat Boo-tiques in store and online, which are stocked with Halloween must-haves to help parents and their little ones prepare for the spooky season. The seasonal costume stores are popping up again all over the city—and I could not be more excited. With a flair for the dramatic, Halloween is one of my favorite times of year. It’s full of fun disguises and costume, elaborate makeup and wigs, and, of course, candy.

Another great thing about the Halloween season though are themed toys, music, and other products that help kids celebrate the season in more ways than just trick-or-treating.

spotitSpot it! Halloween, from Blue Orange Games, is part of the company’s popular Spot it! line. The game is a card game featuring 55 circular cards packaged in a collectible tin canister that’s easy to travel with. There are dozens of spooky symbols, and each card features 8 of them. There are five different games you can play with Spot it!, but in every variation the goal is the same: be the first to spot matching symbols between two cards. The Jack-o-lanterns, cobwebs, ghouls, zombies, and more put players in the Halloween spirit. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Not All Science Toys are Created Equal

Not all science toys are created equal. Today’s kids live in a world oozing with technology, discovery, gizmos, and gadgets—and toy store shelves reflect this environment. Classics, such as volcano kits and fossil excavation sets, will always retain their charm and their ability to excite and inspire kids. However, more high-tech items, such as solar-powered robots and hovercrafts, are the toys of today—and tomorrow.

There is immeasurable value in science toys. Kids gain knowledge and understanding of the world around them by immersing themselves in a hands-on activity that lets them comprehend how things work, where things come from, or how to use one thing to power another. Providing kids with fun and exciting alternatives to mind-numbing video games or TV shows is a great way for parents and caregivers to encourage learning and positive play, even outside of school hours.

Hovercrafts, once a thing of sci-fi and fantasy, are now a reality. Thames & Kosmos offers kids the opportunity to build their own working hovercraft with the Air Stream Machines kit. The kit teaches kids about air mass and air pressure by letting them experiment with propellers, impellers, blower motors, and fans. Kids can even build a batting machine that suspends a ball on top of the stream of air. [Read more...]

Little Tikes Big Holiday Offering

Little Tikes is introducing new products for the holidays. These products range from ages as early as 6 months up to 5 years. These toys allow kids to interact with art, funny characters, and animals. They all support early development, including learning to crawl. These products include:
  • Lil’ Blabberz: Oolie is a funny, crazy character in the shape of a soft, fuzzy ball for kids ages 3 and up.
  • Activity Garden: The garden incorporates a variety of baby toys and activities to develop motor skills and cognitive ability. This activity gym can be configured in different ways to keep play exciting from kids ages 6 months to 3 years.
  • GiddyUp ‘N Go Pony: A toy pony named Thunder that allows kids ages 3 to 5 to develop coordination and balance.
  • I’m an Artist Station: This product allows toddlers ages 3 and up to be creative in art. The paper spins, kids add paint, and make creations.
  • Wiggimals: This toy sheep can assist babies in learning to crawl with its movement. Wiggimals is suitable for babies ages 6 months and up.

Musical Toys: An Inspiration to Pursue the Art

by Rachel Matthews, guest blogger

Not too long ago, the Kidz Bop kids found their way performing at venues in New York and New Jersey. Their collection of poppy, top 40 covers has allowed them to produce dozens of compilation albums, launch a U.S. star search, release books, video games, and toys.

The line-up of the group is in constant rotation as each member ages. Because of this rotation, many a child beg their parents for a singing lesson—especially in New York—after seeing a Kidz Bop performance. The chances of becoming a member is hard pressed as detailed by this young musician, but the combination of their U.S. talent search and brand gives hope to many children within the States.

Of course, aiming to sing for a band such as Kidz Bop is only part of what’s driving up sales in music -parents must by music-related toys to help further their children’s ambitions.

[Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Doc McStuffins Means More for Girls than Barbie

DOCBAG14107289When I was a kid, my mom worried about my sister’s obsessive interest in Barbie dolls and various baby dolls—not that there is anything wrong with these little girl staples. I think she just wanted to make sure that Anna understood that there was more to look forward to than having babies, looking like Barbie, and finding her Ken. When we got a little older, we had a board game called Mystery Date, where the sole objective was to find your perfect cutie for a mystery date. Similar to this was Dream Phone, a game that revolved around calling every boy in the deck of playing cards until you found Mr. Right. Maybe, though, rock bottom was Mall Madness, a game in which the winner is the girl who finds the best sale at the mall. And our parents wonder why we were boy-crazed teenagers who most loved to frequent the mall, meanwhile our brother, Jesse, is attending medical school—I blame my parents.

McstuffinsThere’s a new toy that really got me thinking about this: Doc McStuffins Get Better Check-Up Center, from Just Play, based on the Doc McStuffins series, from Disney Junior. This center includes 10 pieces that will make kids wish they were in the medical field. It’s perfect for role play—this time as a doctor, not a boy-crazy professional shopper. The set includes Lambie, featured in Disney Junior’s Doc McStuffins series, and she will play patient to Doc McStuffins, activating sounds and phrases. There is a light-up x-ray machine, a movable scale, a growth chart, and a Band-Aid dispenser. This set could keep kids busy for hours, and it includes lights and sound for Doc McStuffins diagnosis. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Be a Rock Star—Through Play!

From the ages of 9 to about—oh I don’t know—now, few things got me more excited than hearing a Spice Girls song. I remember the days of standing in front of my mirror with a hair brush belting out all of Britney Spears‘ greatest hits. Everyone—whether you have an extreme case of stage fright or, like myself, were a diva-beyond-compare since the age of 5—loves the fantasy of being a rock star. It takes a lot of guts and gall—and boy does it seem glamorous.

We all know from reading the news that not all roads to rock stardom are as shiny, bright, and full of great shoes as we all hope for them to be. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t still love the fantasy. With the upgrade of technology being incorporated into toys, kids’ fantasies of being a rock star are becoming truly, well, spectacular. Here are some great toys that will get kids—and kids at heart—up in front of that mirror belting into a hairbrush.

superstarThe Barbie Build ‘n Play Super Star Stage, from Mega Bloks, allows girls ages 5 and up to build their own two-story stage that features real lights and sounds that move to the music. The set comes with approximately 290 pieces, including sparkling blocks for a touch of extra glimmer. The Super Star Stage has three songs that will get kids up and dancing. Super Star Barbie, Raquelle, and Teresa figures are included with tons of fabulous accessories to make their rock show glam, including microphones, guitars, a DJ booth, a keyboard, and an elevator with a spinning feature. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Billy’s Got the Toddler Beat

As a 24 year-old, one would hope that it would take a fairly fascinating toy to really pique my interest. While it does take probably less than you would imagine (I am admittedly a kid at heart), there is one toddler plaything that I simply can’t get enough of—Billy Beats Dancing Piano. This musical DJ, from Mega Bloks, does it all. Billy is a too-cute-to-handle, dancing piano that is the culmination of all things enjoyed by toddlers. I know that if Billy had been around in my toddler hay-day, his batteries would have needed very frequent changing. My short attention span made it difficult to entertain me, and Billy Beats is four sources of entertainment in one—singing, music playing, dancing, and block building. Win, win, win, and win!

billybeatsHe has eight classic preschool songs in his repertoire, and he knows them all in three styles—with standard piano sounds, barnyard animal sounds, and a funky DJ-style. Kids can mix-and-match the sounds in the “Discover Music” mode. The “Dance Along” option makes Billy dance along as the song plays. The keys light up and Billy shakes his little piano booty. I think my favorite is the “Teach Me” setting. Billy Beats’ keys will light up in the order of the notes in the song. Toddler musicians can follow along, playing the song. If they make a mistake, Billy Beats lets out an adorable little giggle; if they get it right, he plays the song back for them—and of course adds a little jig.

Staying true to the Mega Bloks First Builders brand, Billy Beats is a construction toy that is fully compatible with all Mega Bloks First Builders blocks. They can be stored in the space under his red cap, and built up over his keys and on top of his head. Along with the included blocks, Billy Beats comes with stickers of sheet music that kids can play on his light-up keyboard.

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!