Ahh the Toy Fair—the name alone gets me excited. I still remember the first time I went when the former owner of The Craft Studio, Barbara. I literally felt like I was in fantasyland—so much magic all under one roof!! The notion alone that all of the vendors and retailers there all work with such a happy thing—toys—made me elated! Every year I visit my favorite brands to say “hi” and see what’s new, but I also love perusing the aisles to see if there are any hidden gems tucked away in a slow traffic spot. I have found some of my most favorite products and vendors that way and this year neither the newbies nor the big dogs on the main level disappointed—I think everyone was looking to strike hard and make toy magic!
Fashion Angels has always been a super popular brand for me and this year I was blown away. I absolutely love the direction they are going with innovative projects and packaging, and awesome licensing—like the new spin off of Monster High, Ever After High (trust me your tweens will be begging for this soon). But what I really loved was their new “It’s My Biz” line all about being an entrepreneur. While there were only prototypes of the items on display, the creative kits knocked my socks off with the depth in which they taught kids to start a business plan, and how to execute it to make their dreams a reality. Being an entrepreneur myself, of course I was giddy about this, but on a deeper level I was more excited that girls would have something to play with that will teach them that if they work hard enough, their dreams can come true. A nod to Mattel as well: they came out with a rad entrepreneur Barbie this year.
As far as my other favorite toy giants, Creativity for Kids never ceases to amaze me (I just want to live in their kits). Just when I think they can’t think of anything new, they blow my mind with kits like a design your own fedora or duct tape dragsters. The Hex Bug seems to keep crawling in with cool new things (watch out for their Transformers licensed Hex Bug Warriors that will have boys so excited to combine both the awesome Hex Bug technology with such a great license). Think Fun just keeps getting smarter and smarter—I love their new Robot Turtles game as it teaches kids as young as 4 the concept of programming! Orb Factory is another one that brings out the 8-year-old girl in me, just when you thought you could do no more with sticky foam tiles: Boom! They come out with a sticky mosaic piggy bank (and much more)!
There are also lots of great new products from new or newish companies that will make a big splash in 2014. A company called Geared for Imagination has an amazing take on building modular cars—kids will go nuts for them and parents will love how easy they are to assemble with safe screws, parts that fit together super-easily, and tension wheels that actually make for a sick ride for little ones’ fingers! Another great product to look out for is called Tattoos Alive, which literally stopped me in my tracks. An old fashioned stick and spit tattoo (non-toxic, of course) that, when you download an app for your smartphone or iPad and place your device over the tattoo, it appears on-screen as if it is literally jumping and dancing off of your skin. I totally freaked out and I am a grown woman, so I can’t imagine what the kids will think of it!
So parents: breathe easy! 2014 is going to rock your socks off with innovative, educational, new, and most importantly, unbelievably fun toys. Cheers to imagination and play!
Lindsey Peers is the owner of The Craft Studio.