We had a fantastic first day at the 2014 International Toy Fair in New York City. We started outside the show with Laser Peg’s “Pegasaur” and met the designer whose team took 4 weeks to assemble this dinosaur. It’s prettier than the picture–dare I say a dino is pretty? The countdown began with a parade led by the Power Rangers and capped off with Alicia Keys cutting the opening ribbon to the show. Here’s what the buzz is as I see it:
- STEAM is the hot word this year. The Toy Industry has added the “A” for arts to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) as we ramp up learning in these areas to improve overall proficiency and test scores. I saw many companies adding science kits, and science companies adding art kits to their product lines. Ravensburger added to its new series of science kits that were introduced last year including “Fueling Future Cars” which teaches about alternative fuel and includes a solar panel. Faber Castell’s Creativity for Kids expanded its line of Creativity Cans, containing objects for open ended play, discovery and projects. Now let’s just add the “L” to STEAM to highlight the importance of language skills which are integral to learning all those disciplines.
- Licensed products continue to be popular from Disney princesses and pets to Doc McStuffins and Cars. One of my favorites is Wonder Forge’s Royal Pet Salon Game with is a matching, pretend play game where players look for items associated with the different rooms in a Disney pet’s home. Look for the mirror, ring, or perfume. Little girls will love the cute pet figures and these girls did.
- Play schemes are popular. Smart Toys and Games introduced three new SmartMax sets that incorporate a play scheme with more features and detail to round out the sets. They added shutters to the house in “Home Sweet Home” and chutes to the factory in “Factory with Car.” More detail and features spark a child’s imagination and take their story in new directions for language learning.
- Multi-function toys contain depth of learning and more play potential. HABA makes excellent learning toys that require some exploration and inquiry by the child. Their new “Matching Game, Who Lives Where?” contains several stand up chunky wooden animals with different sized cardboard houses to match. Children can nest or stack the homes by number and house the animals according to clues drawn on the outside of their homes. Hape introduced a darling kitchen on wheels that is portable and collapses to a smaller size for tiny play spaces. What I like is they included chalkboard surfaces to write menus or even allow the kitchen to become a restaurant announcing specials of the day and prices.
- Make and play is still popular, especially with the new promotion of the arts in toys. From Käthe Kruse dolls with their own set of clothes to make (the stitching is done for you, just cut them out of the cloth) to Faber Castell’s “Connector Pens” that cleverly use markers with an added connecting piece, turning an art tool into a construction piece. One of the highlights today was chatting with the artist who created a dinosaur out of the pens and some paper (see on the left of his desk)!
Stay tuned…that was just my first day!