January 27, 2009
The folks at Mattel see four major trends for the new season…As we go through toy fair–we’ll be adding to the list and putting their trends to the test to see if they apply across the board.
1. Customization- Kids have the ability to use self-expression through their toys. We do see this with more and more on-line/product based tie ins where kids are able to customize their play experiences.
2. Simply Social- With the economy in turmoil, board games and other products for the home are now part of a clever marketing campaign that encourages nesting and entertaining closer to home. Makes sense–and from our point of view any opportunity to connect with family and friends is a plus.
3. Active Play- this trend continues from last year with toys that encourage kids to get up and move–often with an electronic plug in component of course. This is the Wii generation after all.
4. High Value Toys- I love this spin….in other words inexpensive toys–classics that are still a great value. Lets face it, the industry knows that your toy dollars are more restricted — and the price points of many products are being brought down to get under that magic $20 bar. All good news for consumers.
December 15, 2008
Here’s a link to the piece we did with BusinessWeek TV’s anchor Jill Bennett about the best toys under $25. Read It! Play It! with Babies and Toddlers.
October 21, 2008
It was bound to happen. Hasbro acquired Cranium this year—and as with most acquisitions the remaining slate of products gets smaller and smaller. (Zooreka, Balloon Lagoon, Conga and Family Fun Game among the causalities.) Many of our favorite games for the past few years designed specifically for preschoolers and early school age kids came from Cranium. The games were graphically pleasing, the game play was fun and decidedly age appropriate. The overall feeling of the company was so positive it was hard not to “catch” their enthusiasm for board games. Our yearly meeting with one of the founders often felt like we were with the Willy Wonka of toys. We’ll miss that whole team and hope that Hasbro supports the remaining Cranium games. They were truly a bright spot in the toy industry.
On the bright side there are two new Cranium games that have been introduced this year, Cranium Duck Duck 123 and Polar Bear ABC — both games we liked very much.
December 5, 2007
One of our favorite games this year has to do with listening. Diggity Dog (International Playthings $19.99) asks players to listen to the number of times the big electronic dog barks – and then the player must move his game piece that many times. When you land on the space, your magnetized dog picks up a bone. If the color on the bone matches your dog, you keep the bone in your dog house. One of our parent testers loved that kids really had to concentrate and listen. The games involves simple counting and color concepts. The kids loved the sound effects! A good choice for kids 3 & up. For other award winning games visit www.toyportfolio.com.
November 20, 2007
If you have kids under six, the answer is probably more times than you would like to remember. For many of us we start out with fond memories from our own childhood (the game was introduced in 1949). “How cool is this?” you may say to yourself when you share the game with your kids for the first 20 times. But slowly it comes over you, “did my parents have that same sense of dread when I would run with the box and ask to play it again and again?”
Unlike so many other games for young children, Candy Land has stood the test of time because it is so straightforward and reinforces concepts that young children are working on mastering (counting, color concepts).
Don’t despair! Hasbro’s new Candy Land Castle game is a great alternative for weary parents. The new version has a clever castle form that has a lever (we love levers) –that dispenses a game piece. The goal is to fill up your game board with all of the colors in Candy Land — borrowing on another classic favorite, bingo. While we often complain about ugly plastic design, there’s something pleasing about the castle and playing pieces with this set. For other board games that tested well this season, visit www.toyportfolio.com.