Just got back from Mattel and Fisher-Price’s pre Toy Fair preview….lots of fun things to report –but I’m waiting for the list about which toys/pictures can be shared now. Most of the showroom was under embargo until Toy Fair starts.
I used to play Jenga all the time. It’s my kind of game–you have to be decisive and you’ll know within moments if you win or lose. So I was pretty psyched when I saw the new Jenga Max (Parker Brothers/Hasbro) at Toy Fair…it looked great. I then stopped thinking about it. My mind was quickly full of Barbie Nail Printers and toys that read your brain waves. Then about two weeks ago–I realized that we hadn’t received Jenga Max. Oh no! So we just got to try it out. Read our review and you can watch our demo.
At toy fair this year there was a booth that caught my attention…while most booths are chockful of game/ dolls/toys/electronics/candy…this booth had a chair. I was at the very end of toy fair–I’m pretty “toyed” out by then, but I stopped.
The cardboard chair from eliafun.com had a very modern appeal. It comes undecorated (left) with big bold stickers (a la Marimekko)…that also looked like fun (and something a parent wouldn’t mind having around). Our testers really enjoyed working on the chair….the directions were easy to follow and one of our testers was delighted that the chair is reversible giving her more options about decorating! She and her mom are thinking about decoupage. Their site has lots of creative ideas for decorating. The chair holds up to 200 lbs. – impressive. Michael Gross, the President (and an architect/engineer), also points out that the chair is completely recyclable. Michael’s background is evident in the construction and design of the chair. We’ve seen many cardboard products in the past – many with extensive pre-printing on them – making them more like 3D coloring books. What I really liked about this chair besides the design–was the open-endedness of the project. The chair retails for $34.99. The site also indicates that a table is in the works.
One of the coolest looking toys hands down at toy fair was the new Color Blaster Hot Wheels set–the cars change COLOR when they get wet. If it works this will be so much fun. Stay tuned!
As you know the time frame for the new safety regulations under the CPSIA have been extended by a year. We asked Jim Becker, the co-partner of becker & mayer! some questions about the regs and the new direction of their science/activity kits under the SmartLab brand.
How has the last year of changing safety regulations affected your business?
Because we’ve been selling a lot of products to major retailers over the last few years, we’ve been in the thick of safety regulations for a while now. So we are ahead of the curve, so to speak. I would guess the effects on us are probably less than for other companies.
There are certain kits that we just won’t be able to sell anymore. For others, it’s an added extra expense. And for new products, we really have to design around the safety regulations.
Do you think the extra year before the enforcement of the new CPSIA was necessary?
Yes, because manufacturers need time to redesign their products to meet the regulations.
What was the goal of new redesign [rebrand] of your kits?
While we love the SmartLab dog, as do all of our loyal customers, we decided to rebrand in a way that showcases the components. Our goal was to retain the fun of the dog but focus on the excitement of the product.
What is your favorite kit in the new line?
You-Build-It RoboXplorer…We really created something entirely new that allows kids to build a robotic mechanism that is not only fun to play with, but also teaches kids the fundamentals of robotics. One of the greatest features is kids get to experiment and change things learning through trial and error—the best way to learn!
(SEO: we haven’t tested this one yet.)
What was your favorite toy as a kid?
Legos…I loved to endlessly build things. As a teenager, I graduated to building simple electronics, so my other favorite “toy” was a soldering iron. And, I still have it!
We loved the concept of these new vehicles from Kid Galaxy when we first saw them at Toy Fair. Happily, they work really well. The figure in the middle (left) has a built-in motor. Once you place it in the vehicle the truck will move forward and you can see the pistons moving–also cool. It’s fun that the motor is also a character that can be used for spinning stories. Our testers really liked the Dump Truck and the Pick’n’ Plow. The mechanism on the Lift ‘n’ Load wasn’t as sturdy as the others. These are interesting and engaging vehicles for preschoolers. We’re giving Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Awards to both the Dump and Pick ‘n’ Plow Truck.
With everyone cutting back on their expensive coffee habits, you can enjoy a pretend cafe latte or cappuccino with this new pretend setting from Step 2. The Cafe Barista looks like fun–we really liked the “steamed milk” sound effect. Looking forward to testing this one. Will be available later this year. Be on the look out for more and more toys that focus on food…both real and plastic.
I have to confess–we’re huge Star Wars fans here so we were really psyched to see Jakks Pacific’s new line of 3D kites that feature Luke’s X-Wing, Darth Vader’s Tie Fighter and Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon. So cool! We can’t wait to test them–each include a 15′ tail. Suggested retail wil be $24.00. And if you can think warm weather (the temp is dropping rapidly here in nyc)…there also promises to be Star Wars inflatables for the pool. If you’re a SW fan, these will have great appeal ($39.99). Jakks Pacific also has a new line of collectable marbles (they’re making a come back…apparently)…they look neat. They come with little stands–at $3.99 each, not sure how these will appeal to parents. They may find a great audience in the SW’s collectors – of course they’ll never never take them out their packaging.
As we walk the aisles at Javits, we quickly discovered a new trend in toyland. All things Egyptian are big again. Most looked really promising. The highlight for us was the new Playmobil Egyptian themed playset complete with a Pyramid (that opens up with lots of hidden compartments inside), a Sphinx, a Royal Ship and other really wonderfully executed accessory sets. They’ll be available for the holidays. We also saw Hieroglypics Blocks from Uncle Goose that looked right on target for kids interested in all things Egyptian. We look forward to testing both.
Start your engines! Little Kids, the maker of all things bubbles, is introducing new battery operated Nascar Bubble Racers. The concept seems right on target for fans of all things Nascar…and then there’s the added bonus of bubbles… They also are introducing No-Spill Bubble Blitzers…for some reason I just love saying Bubble Blitzers…say it a few times and you’ll see what I mean. These are promised to come with “Bubble Booster Technology”…so that there is a continuous feed of bubble solution to the wand. There are purists that believe that the point of bubbles is to actually make the bubble happen the old fashion way—I take a more moderate position, knowing that sometimes it’s just so much fun to make a ton of bubbles all at once.