What’s New at Toy Fair ‘15

At this point, I’ve lost track of the number of Toy Fairs I’ve attended – 20? 25? – yet the number never dulls that pre-event excitement about What’s new–and What’s next?

Earlier this week at Toy Fair 2015, much of the talk centered around licensed products based on the upcoming versions of Star Wars and Jurassic Park, as well as the new Minions movie. “STEM” was this year’s buzz word, although, if truth be told, some seemed to apply the term to products that didn’t really seem to teach much of anything.

Tech toys continued to grow their presence – it still amazes me to think that, just a few years ago, there was no such category. Since we have represented many tech toys here at Child’s Play, I thought I’d share some of the latest developments. Robots and 3D ruled:

  •  WowWee introduced its R.E.V. (Robotic Enhanced Vehicles) line. These battling toys are equipped with a proprietary indoor GPS system that enables them to sense their surroundings and navigate accordingly. Kids download an app to play.
  • Tech 4 Kids partnered with Irwin Toy for the 3D Creation Maker. Using an applicator with a unique gel, children trace a design onto a template that gets inserted into the 3D Maker. After 10 seconds the gel turns solid, allowing kids to build multi-dimensional structures.
  • PieceMaker invited retailers to custom print 3D toys, on demand. Shoppers would use the touch-screen PieceMaker kiosk to browse the digital product gallery and choose, customize and create their one-of-a-kind toy, then send it to print.
  • Makey Makey let you use everyday objects, such as Play Doh or a banana, to control a computer.
  • And strange as it feels to put her in the tech toy category, Mattel’s Barbie no longer just stood around looking pretty. Now, she’s interactive. The new Hello Barbie can use speech recognition technology and cloud-based software to actually have conversations with kids.

Crafts – the total opposite of the tech trend — caught my eye this year, too.

  •  The ever-imaginative Alex Toys introduced DIY crafts kits for boys. Instead of accessories featuring feathers and sparkles, they can make young-manly things like duct tape wallets.
  • Fashion Angels offered Upcycling, kits to encourage tween girls to make fun items such as t-shirts, purses and bracelets from plastic bottles and other items that would otherwise wind up in the trash.
  • Kids can design their own sunglasses with Creativity for Kids’ Decorate Your Own Sunnies kit, which contained three pairs of sunglasses along with rhinestones and other summer fun essentials.

Construction toys are currently one of the best growing categories, and while LEGO is now the world’s largest toy company, others launched some intriguing new lines.

  • LED light up blocks from Laser Pegs, which are compatible with LEGO, have been enhanced with tinted bricks and sound activated illumination.
  • Made of wood with silicone, FatBrain’s Joinx construction set has connecting prongs that bend and flex. Because it does not have fixed angles,  kids can make customized shapes.
  • For those who would rather destruct than construct, SmartLab Toys had the Demolition Lab: Wrecking Ball. Kids can build the abandoned schoolhouse that comes in the kit — then knock it down.

Other fun findings:

  •  Loved the Girl Scout cookie baker oven from Wicked Cool Toys that allows kids to make the organization’s iconic cookies at home. It comes complete with tools and mixes.
  • YuHuHugs DreamHut opened to reveal a play area with playroom, chalkboard, magnetic walls, an interchangeable background and a shelf to hold a tablet — then closed back up to save space.
  • Just plain pretty was Locker Lookz, a decorative line featuring everything from wall coverings to mirrors to lamps and other accessories.

Of course, what actually happens with these toys depends on the response from retailers, customers and media. Which products will actually make it to toy store shelves later this year? Stay tuned.