by Laurie Schacht - Toy Insider Mom
The 111th American International Toy Fair is headed to New York City once again. Those of us in the toy business wait all year to be part of the action (and usually the snowstorms that accompany this show). For me it's playtime!
Although the public would love this trade show, it is exclusively for the industry and the press. Members of the media are invited for a preview of what's new and what's hot this year in children's toys. As the publisher of The Toy Book, the leading trade magazine in the toy industry, we've been putting together our Toy Fair issue that is distributed at the show, which gives us a sneak peek at the toys that your kids will be asking for this year.
While I've already had my first look at many of the toys that will hit shelves in 2014, the toys that will be showcased at Toy Fair have already caught the attention of retailers, meaning that the toy companies will move forward and begin production on these products. Here's a sneak peak at some of the toys that will be exhibited.
Technology continues to be a big force in kids' toys, as it is a big part of our day-to-day lives. Robots will once again have a big year. Look for Silverlit's Blue-Bot that allows kids to use the power of their smartphones to control the Bluetooth robot. Kids can move him in all directions by simply sliding a finger across their device's screen. When kids speak into their phones, Blue-Bot broadcasts their voices. By switching him to dance mode, Blue-Bot performs a "moon dance" to music. Kids can also mix sound effects using their smartphones. Most importantly, and what we will see much of this year, Blue-Bot has programmable features. This robot can be used in a stand-alone mode, in which kids can program up to 50 moves for the Blue-Bot to do on his own.
Activity and construction is still a favorite category for me, for parents, and for kids. Toys in this category provide extra play value, with kids building and creating their own final product to play with. You can expect plenty of new and affordable fun this year in the activity and construction category. Laser Pegs, a company that allows kids to build with light-up bricks, will introduce a full line of National Geographic Kids sets that will include oceans, animals, dinosaurs, space, and landmarks.
For our younger builders, Mega Bloks will offer its new SpongeBob Squarepants construction line. Playvisions will also debut Sands Alive to keep little hands and minds busy. Sands Alive is a "can't stop touching it" organic compound that feels like a soft, sandy, doughy mixture that can be molded, packed, or poured, just like real sand.
I've always loved dolls. From the time my three daughters were born, my home has become filled with dolls for them and for me! Adora Doll knows how to keep infants happy with SnuggleTime Babies. These dolls have extra plush bodies, come with removable hoodies, and yarn pigtails, and are 100% machine washable.
Nothing brings the story to life quite like puppets, and my favorite ones come from Folkmanis. Folkmanis' puppets are lifelike, soft, and have many different ways to move them. The company's new Wolf Pup puppet is more snuggly than it is fierce. Fresh from his den with fluffy soft brown and white fur, the Wolf Pup features perky ears, blue eyes, and a moveable muzzle.
With kids and grownups playing everything online, games and puzzles can prove to be a tough category in the toy business these days. But pulling those classic games out of the closet every once in awhile is a quick reminder that there is no better way to get families and friends together to laugh and have fun than by playing a game. And the category offers so many ways to play! There are easy games that require no reading so toddlers can get in on the fun, brain games, funny games, trivia games, and more.
Up for a little twist on charades? Reverse Charades is a new game from USAopoly that shakes up the classic game. A full team acts out the clues for just one person to guess. Teams have 60-seconds on each turn, bringing lots of people and fun together in this fast-paced guessing game.
For those ages 14-and-up, Creative Whack introduces the Big Ball of Whacks, which is nearly 50% larger than the original. It has a more complex construction that allows for tons of possibilities. It features 36 design pieces and 192 rare Earth magnets, making the ball snap together in a satisfying way.
Additionally, Cardinal will celebrate 70-years of bringing games and puzzles to kids of all ages this year. The company will present a new line of Color Your Own puzzles that feature favorites such as Disney, Marvel, Mattel, Sanrio, Hasbro, and Despicable Me characters.
Is this all? Not a chance! As I walk the Toy Fair show floor, I'll see more than 1,100 different toy manufacturers showcasing thousands upon thousands of toys. The good news is: I get to play!