American Girl to Open Shop-in-Shop Boutiques in Mexico

AmericanGirlAmerican Girl has partnered with El Palacio de Hierro, Mexico’s largest high-end retailer, to bring its line of products to Mexico, the company’s second international location.

Visitors to the new American Girl specialty boutiques will find a curated assortment of the company’s most popular products, including the My American Girl personalized, contemporary doll line and the annually-launched Girl of the Year dolls. They will also carry a selection of the company’s Dress Like Your Doll clothing for girls, as well as American Girl books, which will be translated into Spanish. In addition, there will be the signature Doll Hair Salon.

 The first two American Girl shop-in-shop boutiques will open next summer at El Palacio de Hierro’s Perisur and Interlomas locations in Mexico City, followed by a third boutique at the Polanco location in next fall.

Build-A-Bear Workshop Opens Pop-Up Shop in Times Square

Times_Square_Grand_Opening_PhotoJust in time for the holidays, Build-A-Bear Workshop has opened a new pop-up workshop in Times Square, New York. Primly located at 1619 Broadway, this new shop is officially open to the public after a ceremonious ribbon cutting by Build-A-Bear CEO Sharon John Tuesday morning.

The new store celebrates the arrival of Olaf, Elsa Bear, and Anna Bear, merchandise that is exclusively available at Build-A-Bear Workshops.

The first 200 guests to arrive were invited to build a “Stuffed with Hugs” bear that will be donated to a local charity.

Six-Year-Old from Ohio Creates Winning Outfit for Super Lottie

Oct9.LottieUK toymaker Arklu has announced the winning design for its Lottie doll superhero competition, which was part of a campaign launched to demonstrate that girls can be superheroes, too. The contest was independently judged by the Brave Girls Alliance.

The winning design was inspired by 6-year-old Lily from Ohio. As part of her entry, Lily was asked to define Super Lottie’s abilities. She said Lottie’s superpowers should include “the power to be anything, to do anything, and to make the world a better place. She is unique and special in her own way.”

The set marks the first time that a crowd-sourced design by a child has gone into commercial production.

Lottie dolls were created with a focus on maintaining wholesome characteristics. The dolls have a healthy, childlike body shape, wear childlike clothing (no make-up, high heels, or tattoos), and represent wholesome pastimes. This year, Arklu also introduced a range of dolls exploring gender-empowering, adventurous themes.

Lottie’s new outfit and a matching kids costume inspired by Lily’s design are available now.

COMMENTARY: Bath Time Is Play Time in My House

I’m a lucky mom (for many reasons), but in the context of this post I’m lucky because my kids love taking baths. It’s one less thing to fight about. However, the reason they don’t mind cleaning up is that it’s fun. It’s not the getting clean part they enjoy (Lena has tried to make me forget about that portion of the experience many times), but the playing. Entertaining a 4-year-old in the tub is very different from distracting an 8-month-old, but bath toys have come a long way since I was a kid (plastic cup and Dawn dish soap, anyone?), and I’ve got a whole array of toys to get the job done. [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...]

Animal Alphabet Singers Teaches Children Letters A to Z

Think Smart GamesThink Smart Games has launched Animal Alphabet Singers, an app for kids ages 2 to 6 for iOS. The fully interactive app teaches children the alphabet using animal association, visual and audio hints, and world-class animation.

The developmental team behind Animal Alphabet Singers includes experts such as Grammy and Emmy-award winner Christopher Cerf, best known for his work on Sesame Street and Between the Lions. The educational team was lead by educational professionals, and experts including Marilyn Jager Adams, Ph. D. and Jane Aaron. Performers from children’s shows such as Sesame Street, The Muppets, and more also have entertaining voice performances in the app.

COMMENTARY: Monkeez (and Others) Help Kids Make A Difference

monkeezIt’s the season of toys and giving, as the holidays are quickly approaching. December’s cheerful spirit is evident throughout the city, on social media, and in toy stores worldwide. Christmas lights are hanging everywhere, department stores are adorned with pops of red and green, and children are on their best behavior, hoping to fall on the right side of the naughty-or-nice list. Santa is taking last-minute requests from children who will surely receive their prizes for being good girls and boys all year long.

When I was a kid, my parents always took part in Operation Christmas Child, an organization that collects shoeboxes full of toys and non-perishable items to be given to children who wouldn’t otherwise have a Christmas gift to open, during this time of year. I loved getting to help put toys together to send to kids around the world, though I didn’t really understand exactly what it meant. Now, I see kids crying in department stores wanting their toys now, and I see lists of toys growing longer and longer. I’m all for it—‘tis the season—but I think it’s important that kids learn to receive with a grateful attitude, rather than an expectant one.

The older I get, the more bittersweet the holidays become. The music, ice-skating, tacky sweater parties, and family time are wonderful, but the receiving of gifts isn’t as satisfying as it was when Barbie dolls and Polly Pockets filled my Christmas wish list. It’s now apparent to me that so many kids spend Christmas without basic necessities, and certainly without gifts to open. I started researching major toy companies and realized that there are so many that donate to this cause in various ways. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Keeping It Fresh for Kids Sends Them Running to the Store

So many toys and video games are introduced each year. Many of them succeed at selling in and selling through, others flop, but manufacturers who have the wherewithal to get involved with their customers have the opportunity to draw in more customers, and to get their currently satisfied customers talking about their purchase and even send them running back to buy more.

disney-infinity-figurines-300x229One company that I’ve recently noticed to be doing an excellent job at this is Disney Interactive, with its Disney Infinity lineup. Disney Infinity, in case you’re somehow unaware, is a video game with a physical toy component. The toys are figures of favorite Disney characters. When a gamer owns a character’s figure, they can transport that character into their game, unlocking new worlds and ways to play.

Kids love collecting, so they are going to want to collect all the figures, and at $13.99 for one figure or $30.99 for a three pack, it’s not unreasonable for gift givers to purchase them as a birthday or holiday gift. What’s brilliant, however, is letting kids have some ownership. The tagline “Play in Their Worlds or Create Your Own” might sound a bit intimidating to the average adult. “Create my own world? I don’t know anything about video game coding!” To a kid, it sounds like magic, and it kind of is. Kids can easily create their own world—called a Toy Box—and then show their friends, who can bring over their own figures and they can play together in this newly created Toy Box. Even more amazing, they can share their new Toy Box with players all over the world. A bit heady for a kid, no?

Fantastic, but here’s the really brilliant part. Disney Interactive issues challenges to players to create their own Toy Boxes with a certain theme, for example, the recent Contraption Challenge, where players were tasked to create “crazy, unique and exciting contraptions that perform simple tasks.” The top five submissions were showcased on a Disney Infinity Toy Box Top Five Countdown webisode and will no doubt be downloaded by thousands of kids around the world. Now that’s exciting.

Each Thursday a new challenge is issued, so gamers are continuously being engaged and made to feel like part of a community. Parents are happy because their child is not only making their purchase worthwhile by continuing to play with it, but they are being creative while doing so. That in turn, yields more sales. Because when kids then ask for more figures to enhance their game play experience, parents are more likely to buy.

Check back regularly for more toy industry commentary from Jackie. 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: Preparing for Baby, Part 3

We recently featured Kids Preferred’s Bunnies by the Bay Buddy Blankets on the cover of Specialty Toys & Gifts’ June issue. (In case you’re unaware, Specialty Toys & Gifts is our NEW TEMPLATEmagazine for specialty toy retailers, and it runs within every issue of The Toy Book.) Bunnies by the Bay is a super sweet line of high-end toys, plush, apparel, and books for infants and toddlers. They even have adorable mini plush backpacks that are perfect for taking toddler essentials (books, snacks, small toys) on the go.

I recently wrote about the Mamas & PapasBaby Snug with Activity Tray. Mamas and Papas is another company that tends toward the high end with its products. They recently introduced me to their soon-to-be-released Bobbin Rocking Horse. At $199 it’s a bit on the pricey side, mamas__papas__bobbin_rocking_horsebut it’s a classic item that will last for many years. It features soft chunky corduroy fabric and solid wood handles for easy gripping, and has a soft and tactile rope mane and tail. Its frame is made of solid wood. It has a classic but modern look in neutral colors that parents won’t mind keeping out on display.

To move away from toys just for a moment, I’ve been noticing the company Boon Inc. quite a bit lately as Boon.GrassI’ve been preparing for baby. They do a super modern take on baby necessities, such as bottle warmers, feeding products, bath time, and storage. The company’s Grass Countertop Drying Rack and accessories are a lot of fun and would really brighten up a countertop rather than giving off the typical “I have a baby therefore my countertop is always cluttered with bottle parts” vibe.

Check back regularly for more baby product reviews from Jackie. 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: Playmobil Brings Summer to the Construction Aisle

Construction toy company Playmobil has a number of new offerings that will enhance any kid’s summer play experience. Growing up in Hawaii, my summers (or any season, for that matter) were spent outdoors—on the beach, hiking a valley trail, or in a park. I was also into construction toys, so I’m stoked to see Playmobil combining outdoor play with my favorite play pattern. The new Fire Flyer and the Deep Sea Submarine with Underwater Motor will take kids from the air to the water.

PLAY 8755 32 #The Playmobil Fire Flyer, for kids ages 6 and up, is a light-weight, hand-launched glider in black, red, and yellow with flame detailing on the side. The glider, designed for outdoor play, includes a pilot mini figure that kids can sit in the cockpit. It also comes with a golden pilot badge kids can wear, which I love (or would’ve loved as a kid, considering I was obsessed with collecting wings from flight attendants on all our family trips). The glider is made from an ultra-light material making it safe for kids to play a game of catch on the beach or in the park. [Read more...]