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Toy Fair 2013: Are There Any Original Ideas Anymore?
- BY AMY KRAFT
- 10:00 AM
Maybe I’ve been going to Toy Fair too long. I’ve lost count, but I’m guessing this was probably my tenth Toy Fair in New York City. I’m starting to get a little cynical. Every year things seem to get more and more derivative, but this year I saw some things that for me crossed the line into theft of intellectual property, particularly in some big booths of some big companies. I got to thinking, what does it mean to be original? As I put together this list of products, I decided that original in this context means to take existing play patterns but put a unique spin on them. These are the toys that stood out as having something unique to offer.
Toobalink: This ingenius building toy is enhance by the fact that you can use the connector pieces with toilet paper and paper towel cardboard tubes. The more tubes you collect, the bigger you can build.
Build your own beautiful (and beautiful-sounding) Loog guitar. Photo: Amy Kraft
Loog: I’ve heard about this DIY guitar, but Toy Fair is the first time I got my hands on one. Kids will learn about the instrument by building it, and then they can learn the basics of playing guitar on three strings instead of the more intimidating six-string guitar. This was what I most wanted for myself at Toy Fair.
Goldie Blox, great for maker girls. Photo: Amy Kraft
Goldie Blox: I first saw Goldie Blox at Maker Faire where they fit right in, and they were a breath of fresh air at Toy Fair. Goldie Blox are designed to get girls interested in engineering by pairing building toys with storybooks about a girl who likes to invent things.
MoonScope, AquaScope, Crime Solver Scope, and Binoculars, part of Nancy B’s Science Club. Photo: Amy Kraft
Nancy B Science Club: From Educational Insights, this is another product line that got STEM right for girls. They could have simply slapped girly colors on science tools as so many have done before them, but instead, they pair the tools with activity journals designed to spark experiments and ideas, and to follow more social play patterns exhibited by girls.
My 2-year-old got a pre-Toy Fair look at Tagamoto. Photo: Amy Kraft
Tagamoto: Tagamoto is the latest from Innovation First, creators of Hexbug. Indeed, when Santa brought Tagamoto for my kids, my daughter proclaimed, “It’s like Hexbugs, but better!” Kids assemble the roadway and then “code the road,” customizing the track to make the cars behave in certain ways. They’ll come to a stop at a stop sign, honk their horn, turn on their headlights or radio, and more.
Schmovie: The Hilarious Game of Outlandish Films. Photo: Amy Kraft
Schmovie: Schmovie is a game created by my friend Sara Farber with her husband, Bryan Wilson. The goal is to come up with hilarious movie titles based on random combinations of characters and genres. Here are some examples from their very active Facebook page: A drama about a fancy bowling team?Downton Alley. An action film about a deranged handyman? Dye Hard with a Varnish. A sci-fi film about a fashionista scientist? Logan’s Runway. You get the idea.
Obos: I want to collect them all. Photo: Amy Kraft
Obos: I fell in love with these little figurines with rearrangeable features. What’s nice about these toys is that in addition to the adorable factor and the build-it-yourself play, there’s virtually no packaging. Just remove the piece of paper around the outside and you’re ready to start building.
Little electronic bits from Little Bits. Photo: Amy Kraft
Little Bits: Little Bits are “a little bit of geeky fun.” A little bit is an understatement. These circuit-builders are not only super easy to use, but thanks to their size, they’re very easy to incorporate into a ton of different projects. Though the sets themselves don’t come with a lot of project ideas, their website is full of projects that inspire. Plus, they’re coming out with new inclusive project sets, like a cardboard cat that shakes when you touch its tongue.
Make your own toolbox jewelry with Klutz. Photo: Amy Kraft
Klutz: Sure you’ll see project kits for kids all around Toy Fair, but the Klutz kits are the ones I come back to time and time again, not only for quality but also for great ideas. (They’re my go-to gift for just about every birthday party.) Among the new kits that caught my eye this year is Toolbox Jewelry, designed with a special eye to get dads interested in crafting with their kids. Plus, what a great way to reuse the extra nuts and bolts you have sifting around in the bottom of the toolbox.
The pressure’s on! What’s Activision going to do with Skylanders next year?
And, of course, there’s what’s become the cornerstone of Toy Fair originality, Skylanders. I’ve already talked about their new Swap Force launch, but it’s just delightful and impressive to watch this video game company keep pace with the fleeting toy industry.