Toy Fair 2015, the biggest industry event of the year, is still roaring, but I’ve returned to snowy Boston for our first report back! After I’ve had a chance to confer with our buying team, we’ll be letting you know what fantastic new toys you can expect on our shelves, but for today, I’m going to concentrate on trends I spotted at the show.
1) Toys that converge with devices.
Kids LOVE the glowing screens on smartphones and tablets, and while there are plenty of educational activities available on devices for kids of all ages, hands-on play is absolutely crucial for development. So, countless toy companies this year are attempting to split the difference by creating physical toys that interact seamlessly with devices.
Some are better than others: we love the Tiggly line, which utilizes rubberized shapes with silicone touch points. Waba Fun, best known for Bubber, were showing a digital-interactive modeling dough product that isn’t quite finished yet – that could be nifty when it’s done.
We were also intrigued by the LightUp kits, which utilize magnetic circuit pieces to create simple electronic devices – their newest set will teach programming, and everything interacts with your tablet.
Schylling is introducing a Smart Guitar which plays using your phone – you just strap your phone onto the guitar, and tilting it changes the tone. Super nifty!
And of course there are always robots, robots, and more robots:
The pixellated world of the wildly popular Minecraft game, plus some grownup nostalgia for the days of 8-bit games, has inspired a miniature pixel craze. Along with LEGO Minecraft toys, we saw a bunch of pixellated craft kits from favorite brands including Orb Factory and Fashion Angels.
3) Tactile fun!
Toys that simply feel good in your hands never go out of style, and they’re extra great for kids with assorted sensory issues. Sands Alive continues to be the king of tactile toys, with a cookie-dough feel that makes it irresistible to play with; I’ll come back to that with a review of their glowing sand tomorrow, though!
Fat Brain Toy also has a variety of toys that feel great in your hands – along with their bestselling Tobbles, they’ve been expanding on their fun suction-cup toys, including Squigz and the Teeter Popper. This year, they have smaller Squigz coming out for older kids, and a few other toys whose appeal is all about the feel: the Rolligo, for babies, is a curvy frame that holds multicolored soft, rubbery balls which can be removed, or just used to roll the Rolligo forward. I also loved the Mod Mobiles, which let kids as young as age 2 customize fanciful cars with lovely squishy foam pieces.
The Rolligo (and, my apologies for the pictures, which don’t do justice to the vibrant colors of this product):
Kid O is always a favorite as well, and I love their new stackers which use grooved surfaces to lock the stacked pieces in place – not only do the grooves feel nifty, but they’ll also help your toddler to be more successful at stacking higher with less frustration.
4) Girl power!
This is a theme that comes and goes over the years, but there are some awesome new toys this year that are designed to give girls confidence and help them to explore and imagine!
Of course, Goldieblox is at the head of the pack, with their terrific building sets and storybooks. Their booth featured an entrancing contraption that uses every single Goldieblox piece! I was also thrilled to see that following the success of the Zipline set, they’re going to be introducing a new action figure: Ruby, who will teach girls about coding. Isn’t it cool that they decided that their second action figure would be their first African-American character?
Here’s Ruby, sitting down for a coffee break:
And the amazing contraption:
We’re also big boosters for Lottie, a fashion doll designed with the proportions of a real little girl. There’s a lot of Lottie coming out for the next year, and while she’s definitely interested in fashion and ballet, Lottie also is experimenting with archeology, astronomy, and fighting crime, among other things.
I was also really excited about the new LEGO Disney Princess sets: one of the unique things about this collection is that they include environments that go beyond the scenes in the classic movies, so kids can invent their own scenarios for their favorite characters, along with reenacting scenes from the movies. Ariel’s sea castle is simply awesome. AWESOME.
Finally, our eagle eye spotted, in the middle of a LEGO pirate set, a girl pirate! We’re so glad that LEGO is listening to parent feedback and adding female characters in with their more “boy” branded toys, so girls who love pirates, superheroes, and other less-girly characters can feel like they belong as well.
I’m not even going to make the obvious “Let It Go” joke – suffice to say that “Frozen” is still the number one licensing property this year, and that we’ll be stuffing our shelves with as many Frozen-related toys as we can to satiate your child’s love for Elsa, Anna, and the rest of the gang.
Of course, you don’t need a crystal ball to predict that the Disney Princess Frozen LEGO set is going to be a top-seller! LEGO is only releasing one Frozen set, since they didn’t want it to overshadow the rest of their new Princess sets, but I suspect you know a kid or two, or ten, or ten thousand, who will want one.
The LEGO Frozen Castle:
A giant Elsa:
A slightly droopy Olaf:
6) Woodland creatures are definitely hot this year, especially foxes. Foxes are everywhere!
Do foxes and hedgehogs get along in real life? Because they’re definitely buddies at Toy Fair this year!
A HaPe hedgehog:
7) Finally, I noticed a lot of offbeat animals in general in this year’s show. Here are a few of my favorite weird critters.
Manhattan Toy: an anglerfish!!!???
Janod mix-and-match triceratops:
A Folkmanis octopus puppet (the picture doesn’t do it justice, it’s really realistic!):
A llama at Breyer:
And, a downright terrifying goat-headed dragon at Schleich!