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: 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: Disney Princesses Evolve with the Modern Woman

Princess2Since Disney’s first princess, Snow White, made her debut in 1937, Disney’s “princess criteria” has continued to evolve with the conventions of each generation. The brand has received a lot of negative commentary on the overly feminine, submissive nature of all of its earliest princesses. I would argue, however, that Disney has done a phenomenal job of representing the women of each generation. In the 30s, 40s, and 50s, when Snow White, Cinderella, and Princess Aurora reigned supreme, but still appeared—I will admit—a bit overly “damsel in distress,” this was the average woman of the early 1900s. Like it or not, many women of this time married for security or relied on men to do things that they did not realize they were capable of doing. In our day and age, Cinderella would take a trip to Century 21 and find something much trendier than that glass slipper, Aurora would wake up and smell the coffee, and Belle would text her dad to come pick her up from Beast’s castle.

You’ll notice that Disney did very little else with princesses after a few damsel films; then, in 1989, Ariel the underwater princess, was introduced. Since then, the princess craze has taken over a little at a time. I find that it’s because there’s a princess for every girl and every personality. While our generation has seen many women take a stand against oppression and inequality, Disney’s representation of women has changed as well. The brand presented its first women of color, Pocahantas, Mulan, and now Tiana in The Princess and the Frog. Today’s princess is a do-it-yourself girl like Merida, from Brave, who refuses to marry her betrothed and faces her fair share of adversity with, well, bravery. Jasmine stands up to her father and says she will only marry for love; Ariel goes after her man instead of waiting on him. Many parents fear that little girls are consumed with this idea of being a “royal highness,” but I think it’s healthy for children, especially now with the recent additions, to see this representation of bravery, courage, class, and elegance. And let’s be fair: every girl loves to play dress-up, whether it’s Snow White, Mulan, or Merida. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Yogarilla Gets Kids Active

yogarillaToday nearly one in three children are overweight, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, emphasizing the importance of getting kids moving and active. It’s one of the reasons First Lady Michelle Obama launched her Let’s Move campaign and also a good reason to take a look at our picks for physical and active toys in our newly launched 2013 Spring & Summer Toy Insider.

As a registered yoga teacher, I’m a big advocate for the benefits kids can receive by practicing yogic postures, exercises, and breathing. Yoga for kids is incredibly popular, with whole yoga studios, such as New York City’s Yogi Beans and Karma Kids, offering an array of kids’ classes. Thankfully, you don’t have to be in NYC or have a trained yoga teacher on hand in order to practice. Super Duper Publications has released its Yogarilla Exercises and Activities, a set of 55 flash cards featuring traditional and original yoga poses taught by an incredibly agile and funny gorilla, OTis.

According to master yoga teacher Stephanie Adams, who developed one of the first kids’ yoga teacher trainings in the country, children enter the world as natural yogis—they have naturally pliable joints and flexible muscles. “Yoga encourages kids to explore their natural flexibility and to become stronger through natural and functional physical movement using their own body weight,” she says.

Yogarilla exercises will help kids to build strength and fitness, hone their balance, increase range of motion, develop fine motor skills, build body awareness, and even develop language skills. It’s a holistic approach to getting active.

The Yogarilla cards feature 55 traditional and original yoga poses sorted by starting position and color-coded for easy identification. It includes 10 standing, 10 seated, 10 prone, 10 supine, and 10 hands-and-knees poses, along with three partner poses and two breathing exercises. Kids will love the creative names for the traditional poses. Instead of complicated Sanskrit names like Natarajasana or Virabhadrasana, kids get fun names like Dancer, or Surfer, or Flat Flamingo.

OTis, who acts as kids’ guide to yoga, gives full directions on getting into poses safely, along with additional challenges if kids are mastering poses quickly, or adaptations for kids with special needs or just needing a little extra help.

The cards, which come in a handy carrying case, also feature activities and suggestions for mixing and matching cards to create a full practice. Teachers, occupational therapists, speech therapists, and even parents will like some of the practice suggestions to help kids develop skills, such as rhythm, interpersonal skills, verbal skills, and vocabulary. Yogarilla is appropriate for kids 3 and up.

Check out our listing of Yogarilla, along with other active toys, in our Spring & Summer Toy Insider.

For more commentary from Loren, 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!

Toy Insider Mom Shows GMA Live the Hottest Toys from the American International Toy Fair

PHOTO: Toy Insider Mom Joins Barbie’s Moving Crew

Toy Insider Mom and The Toy Book publisher Laurie Schacht helps Barbie move out of her Malibu Dreamhouse. For more info on Barbie’s move, click here.

ABC Gets Political with the Toy Insider Mom

Check out Toy Insider Mom Laurie Schacht on ABC’s Money Matters segment as she highlights her favorite Election 2012-themed toys! For more information on Schacht or The Toy Insider, visit www.thetoyinsider.com, Twitter, and Facebook.

Toy Insider Mom Laurie Schacht to Be a Giftees Judge

Laurie is co-Publisher of The Toy Insider, CTO (chief toy officer) for The Toy Book and The Licensing Book, and the contributing toy editor for Woman’s Day magazine, as well as Founder of The Big Toy Book. Laurie has appeared in major media outlets such as USA Today and The Today Show.

This year, Laurie will be on the panel of judges for Gifts.com‘s annual Giftee awards. Read her “Meet the Giftees Judges” Q&A here.

How to Best Work With Bloggers and Toy Industry Experts at Toy Fair

Fourth in a series of posts on preparing for the annual trade event.

by Julie Livingston, director, business development and accounts, Child’s Play Communications

In addition to the hoards of journalists from traditional media channels covering Toy Fair, exhibitors should also consider outreach to bloggers (specifically, mom bloggers who write product reviews) and toy industry experts who cover the annual event.  Both influential in their own right, the clout these individuals carry can be particularly valuable to small and mid-sized toy companies, driving brand awareness, social media prominence, and, ultimately, sales.

Getting your toy featured on the right product review blog is a marvelous way to generate grassroots buzz for your product. According to a recent study conducted by Child’s Play Communications and the NPD Group, 79 percent of all American moms with children under the age of 18 are active in social media. Of that number, about one in four have made purchasing decisions as a result of a social media recommendation; more than half (55 percent) said they made their purchase because of a recommendation from a personal review blog

To reach moms where they “live,” it is essential that toy and youth entertainment companies have a strong presence among mom bloggers. To clarify, a mom blogger is a mother, generally with young preschool-aged children, who blogs on a regular basis. Many of the mom bloggers we work with at Child’s Play turned to blogging as an outlet following earlier careers as journalists, writers, and marketers. Some were involved in other aspects of business, and many are moms looking to express themselves while connecting with other moms to share experiences and life lessons. These women are smart, dedicated, and energetic.

[Read more...]

The Toy Insider’s Hot 20 Toys for the Holidays

Have you seen The Toy Insider‘s Hot 20 toy picks for this holiday season? You can get a quick rundown by watching the video above, which shows some of the Hot 20 toys that are sure to be on kids’ wish lists this year.

For a full list of the Hot 20, click here.

The Toy Insider will also release an extended list of 110 toy recommendations for the holiday season in the November 17th issue of Woman’s Day, on newsstands November 1. Plus, even more recommendations will be posted on www.thetoyinsider.com.

For more information, visit www.thetoyinsider.com, follow @thetoyinsider on Twitter, or become a Fan on Facebook at www.facebook.com/toyinsider. The holidays are approaching!