Friday , 18 April 2014

Toy Fair 2013 – Day 1

It’s hard to believe, but I’m in New York for my 10th Toy Fair. Which sounds like a lot, until you discover Toy Fair is celebrating its 110th birthday this year. Also, a lot of other retailers I know have been attending this show since before I was born. Even after all this time, I’m still a relative newbie around here.

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For some reason (Oh — probably because Toy Fair takes place in the northeast during the month of February), Toy Fair often coincides with snow. In 2006 (my 3rd Toy Fair), New York City was hit by a Nor’easter that dumped almost 27 inches of snow on Manhattan (the biggest accumulation in the city’s history). Toy Fair started on the second day of the storm, and I will never forget the slow, careful drive down an eerily empty West Side Highway to the Javits Center that morning.

This year, we had to contend with the aftermath of the Blizzard of 2013. The storm clobbered Boston with over 2 feet of snow, but Connecticut was even more hard-hit in some areas. The train we’d planned to take on Saturday evening was canceled, so we drove instead, gingerly navigating four-lane highways near Hartford that had no visible asphalt. New York City was spared the brunt of the storm this time, so the slushy sidewalks seemed pretty manageable after the towering heaps of snow we’d left behind.

Enough about the weather. How was the show?

I’m only in New York for two days this year, so yesterday I polished off the lower level of the Javits Center today, leaving the larger upper level for today. I saw a bunch of interesting things. Here are a few highlights.

This was definitely The Year of the ‘Stache. There were SO many mustache items. My favorite was Stache Tats — temporary mustache tattoos that are both hilarious and convenient. But you can see the extent of it in the photo above – that’s a variation on the old classic “Barrel of Monkeys” game — but instead of blue monkeys, you’re hooking black mustaches.

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Tiny Love came out with a new variation on their iconic Gymini (celebrating its 20th anniversary this year!). The Next Generation Gym starts in “crib mode” with the sides snapped up for extra coziness. Then it can be used as a full-on play gym, and then it converts to a tunnel with learning activities built into the sides. A really nice idea.

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There were (as always) lots of interesting stuffed animal concepts to see, ranging from patriotic…

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… to solar…

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… to utterly ridiculous.
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Waba Fun has a new sand substance to rival Bubber, their last hit. Kinetic Sand is 90% real sand, with a non-toxic binding agent mixed in. It’s hard to describe exactly how it feels, but it’s a sensory delight and it miraculously leaves your hands completely clean and dry.

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Our friends at Wishbone Design in New Zealand have come up with another gorgeous toy design that grows with your child. Like the Wishbone Bike and the Wishbone Flip, their new wagon can adapt in a number of clever ways to suit a wide range of ages.

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Mindware had a few great new games, including PicWits, a game similar to Apples to Apples — only using photos and captions. It’s rated for 10+, but if you extract a few of the more “mature” picture cards, you can easily play this with any child who can read.

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Plan Toys has had a great response to their new Planwood material, a composite made from the renewable wood waste that comes from the manufacturing of their solid wood and plywood toys. They were showing off several nice, new Planwood toys, including these adorable castle blocks.

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Oh, and I also got to hang out with Jamie and meet Bob McGrath from Sesame Street (for the second time at Toy Fair — when you’ve been around as long as I have…).

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Overall, it was a successful day. Time to head over to the Javits Center and conquer the rest of the show. Wish me luck. You can see the rest of my Day 1 photos on my Flickr photostream. I’ll try to get captions done ASAP. No time now!

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