Out with the Old, in with the New: a 2012 Toy Fair Recap

Well, it’s that time of year again. Hundreds of toy manufacturers and game publishers from around the world are converging on New York to show off their latest products to retailers, buyer, the media, and, of course, reviewers like us. The 2013 Toy Fair, organized by the Toy Industry Association, will feature roughly 100,000 products, including 7,000 debuts—every type of toy, game, electronic entertainment, and indoor-or outdoor activity imaginable. Here are some of our favorite new products from 2012. We’ll be telling you about 2013’s offerings throughout the year.
crayola digital light designerCrayola Digital Light Designer
This fun and adaptable new artistic medium lets children draw, imagine, and create using a special stylus and colored LED lights (which means no crayons to smash into your carpets and no tiny pieces to collect). Kids and adults can design their own games, create moving text messages, and even do full-motion animation, all on a spinning, 360-degree domed drawing surface. Save up to fifty creations. Runs on batteries but can also be plugged in to keep the fun going even longer. Ages 4+. crayola.com
broboBrobo
Billed as “huggable night-light toys,” these plush robot friends are designed to help young children learn to be brave in the dark. Kids take Brobo (or one of his many pals) to bed and can control the light themselves: Touch Brobo’s hands to his chest and he glows with a soft, comforting light (with a 5-minute auto shutoff feature). As with so many toys these days, parents and kids can extend the Brobo experience with animated webisodes, games, and books that encourage friendship, family, adventure, and learning. Ages 2+. brobo.com
rockboard descenderRockboard Descender
Who says you have to shred on a smooth surface? Rockboard’s Descender is a true all-terrain board that uses high-performance tank-like treads to make skateboarding a year-round experience. Yes, you can even use the Descender in the mud and snow. One of the nicest features is that it holds up to 200 pounds, so dad can get out there and make a fool of himself. Don’t forget to wear a helmet. Ages 6+. rockboard.com
dino dig uncle milton national geographicDino Dig
Education meet fun….and dinosaurs. National Geographic has partnered with Uncle Milton to create and absolutely wonderful way for parents and kids to spend quality time together. Each kit lets kids (and their parent-assistants) excavate—and assemble—the bones of a very accurate scale model of a dinosaur. Tools, a brush, and safety glasses included (no batteries required!), but you’ll make a real mess. Also comes with great learning materials. Ages 6+. unclemilton.com
la dee da dollsLa Dee Da Dolls
If you’re concerned about the body-image messages young girls get (and if you’ve got a tween- or teen daughter, you should be), you’ll love these adorable dolls. To start with they’re dressed in a way you’d be happy to see your daughter emulate—not the typical half-naked, overly sexy, body disproportionate dolls that many feel encourage eating disorders and self-image issues. Yes, their heads are out of scale, but the chest isn’t, which is something else moms and dads will appreciate. Plus, they’re pretty, stylish, fun, glittery, and colorful which the girls will appreciate. These dolls also encourage travel and learning about new cultures. Ages 5+. ladeeda.com
safariltd amazing creaturesIncredible Creatures
These amazingly realistic models are a great way to have fun and learn a ton about animals. There are a few dozen options, ranging from sea otters and pufferfish to bald eagles and honeybees. Some are larger-than-life-size (like the bee), other are smaller (like the otter), and some are exactly the right size. Ages 4+. safariltd.com

Out with the Old, in with the New: a 2012 Toy Fair Recap

Well, it’s that time of year again. Hundreds of toy manufacturers and game publishers from around the world are converging on New York to show off their latest products to retailers, buyer, the media, and, of course, reviewers like us. The 2013 Toy Fair, organized by the Toy Industry Association, will feature roughly 100,000 products, including 7,000 debuts—every type of toy, game, electronic entertainment, and indoor-or outdoor activity imaginable. Here are some of our favorite new products from 2012. We’ll be telling you about 2013’s offerings throughout the year.

Crayola Digital Light Designer
crayola digital light designerThis fun and adaptable new artistic medium lets children draw, imagine, and create using a special stylus and colored LED lights (which means no crayons to smash into your carpets and no tiny pieces to collect). Kids and adults can design their own games, create moving text messages, and even do full-motion animation, all on a spinning, 360-degree domed drawing surface. Save up to fifty creations. Runs on batteries but can also be plugged in to keep the fun going even longer. Ages 4+. crayola.com

Brobo
broboBilled as “huggable night-light toys,” these plush robot friends are designed to help young children learn to be brave in the dark. Kids take Brobo (or one of his many pals) to bed and can control the light themselves: Touch Brobo’s hands to his chest and he glows with a soft, comforting light (with a 5-minute auto shutoff feature). As with so many toys these days, parents and kids can extend the Brobo experience with animated webisodes, games, and books that encourage friendship, family, adventure, and learning. Ages 2+. brobo.com

Rockboard Descender
rockboard descenderWho says you have to shred on a smooth surface? Rockboard’s Descender is a true all-terrain board that uses high-performance tank-like treads to make skateboarding a year-round experience. Yes, you can even use the Descender in the mud and snow. One of the nicest features is that it holds up to 200 pounds, so dad can get out there and make a fool of himself. Don’t forget to wear a helmet. Ages 6+. rockboard.com

Dino Dig
dino dig uncle milton national geographicEducation meet fun….and dinosaurs. National Geographic has partnered with Uncle Milton to create and absolutely wonderful way for parents and kids to spend quality time together. Each kit lets kids (and their parent-assistants) excavate—and assemble—the bones of a very accurate scale model of a dinosaur. Tools, a brush, and safety glasses included (no batteries required!), but you’ll make a real mess. Also comes with great learning materials. Ages 6+. unclemilton.com

La Dee Da Dolls
la dee da dollsIf you’re concerned about the body-image messages young girls get (and if you’ve got a tween- or teen daughter, you should be), you’ll love these adorable dolls. To start with they’re dressed in a way you’d be happy to see your daughter emulate—not the typical half-naked, overly sexy, body disproportionate dolls that many feel encourage eating disorders and self-image issues. Yes, their heads are out of scale, but the chest isn’t, which is something else moms and dads will appreciate. Plus, they’re pretty, stylish, fun, glittery, and colorful which the girls will appreciate. These dolls also encourage travel and learning about new cultures. Ages 5+. ladeeda.com

Incredible Creatures
safariltd amazing creaturesThese amazingly realistic models are a great way to have fun and learn a ton about animals. There are a few dozen options, ranging from sea otters and pufferfish to bald eagles and honeybees. Some are larger-than-life-size (like the bee), other are smaller (like the otter), and some are exactly the right size. Ages 4+. safariltd.com

The Art of Childhood

If you’re like most parents, your refrigerator and walls are covered with your children’s art. But their creative play does a lot more than just make you proud. Kids who are involved in the arts are often more self-confident and self-reliant. Art helps kids improve fine-motor skills, follow directions better, and get along with peers. Various studies have shown that kids who are involved with the arts are more likely to excel academically, participate in math and science fairs, and win awards for writing. Here are some great sets that will help your child find his or her inner Picasso. So roll up your sleeves and get ready to have some fun.

crayola ultimate art caseCrayola’s Ultimate Art Case (www.crayolastore.com) is perfect for the young artist on the go. It comes pre-loaded with all the basic supplies to keep your little Rembrandt busy for hours—pencils, markers, watercolors, brushes, stencils, and more. With lots of internal compartments, organization is easy. And there’s plenty of extra space to store paper, glue, scissors, or anything else that might spark creativity. $15.99. Ages 4 and up.  

stand up easel from melissa and dougMelissa and Doug easels (www.melissaanddoug.com) come in two sizes. If you have a larger room or space, the Deluxe Standing Wooden Art Easel($79.99) is ideal. It includes a dry-erase board, chalkboard, locking paper-roll holder, child-safe paper cutter, easy-to-use clips to keep the paper steady, and a good-sized plastic tray for holding supplies. The easel is adjustable, so it can keep growing right along with your child.

table top easel from melissa and dougIf you have less space or want something a bit more portable, try the Tabletop Art Easel ($39.99). Like it’s standing cousin, this one includes chalk- and dry-erase boards. But it’s also magnetic and comes with markers, chalk, and magnets. There are two supplies trays, one of which has cup-sized holes to hold paint or brush-washing water. If your young artist is especially prolific, you can also buy a separate supply and accessory kit ($34.99) that works with either easel or on its own. Comes with poster paint, spill-proof paint cups, brushes, jumbo rainbow chalk, a roll of paper, and more. Ages 3 and up.

kiwi crate from kiwicrateKiwi Crate (www.kiwicrate.com) is a subscription service that delivers a new art project-in-a-box. Each one is designed around a certain theme (such as science, dinosaurs, gardening, colors, animals, superheroes, etc.) and includes three related project ideas and all the materials you need. Just add inspiration and you’re ready to go. There’s additional, related material online. Kits are reviewed by experts and tested by kids and cover a range of developmental areas including creating, discovering, communication, gross- and fine-motor skills. $19.95/month. Ages 3-7.

For older kids or those who may want a bit of a challenge, EK Success Crafts (www.eksuccessbrands.com) has kits and individual supplies for scrapbooking, needlecraft, jewelry making, embossing, painting, creating personalized thank-you notes, and more. Perfect for family projects. Prices vary depending on the product.

paper punk from paperpunkPaper Punk (www.paperpunk.com) is an interesting combination of origami and building blocks. Start by folding paper into geometric shapes, which you then connect using adhesive dots (included) to create a variety of cool things that are a cross between an art project and a toy. You can buy individual kits for snakes, cars, snowmen, robots, dogs, cats, and birthday cakes, or use your paper blocks to build anything you want. Then customize to your heart’s content. $18.95 each. Ages 6 and up.

The Art of Childhood

If you’re like most parents, your refrigerator and walls are covered with your children’s art. But their creative play does a lot more than just make you proud. Kids who are involved in the arts are often more self-confident and self-reliant. Art helps kids improve fine-motor skills, follow directions better, and get along with peers. Various studies have shown that kids who are involved with the arts are more likely to excel academically, participate in math and science fairs, and win awards for writing. Here are some great sets that will help your child find his or her inner Picasso. So roll up your sleeves and get ready to have some fun.

crayola ultimate art caseCrayola’s Ultimate Art Case (www.crayolastore.com) is perfect for the young artist on the go. It comes pre-loaded with all the basic supplies to keep your little Rembrandt busy for hours—pencils, markers, watercolors, brushes, stencils, and more. With lots of internal compartments, organization is easy. And there’s plenty of extra space to store paper, glue, scissors, or anything else that might spark creativity. $15.99. Ages 4 and up.

stand up easel from melissa and dougMelissa and Doug easels come in two sizes. If you have a larger room or space, the Deluxe Standing Wooden Art Easel($79.99) is ideal. It includes a dry-erase board, chalkboard, locking paper-roll holder, child-safe paper cutter, easy-to-use clips to keep the paper steady, and a good-sized plastic tray for holding supplies. The easel is adjustable, so it can keep growing right along with your child.

table top easel from melissa and dougIf you have less space or want something a bit more portable, try the Tabletop Art Easel ($39.99). Like it’s standing cousin, this one includes chalk- and dry-erase boards. But it’s also magnetic and comes with markers, chalk, and magnets. There are two supplies trays, one of which has cup-sized holes to hold paint or brush-washing water. If your young artist is especially prolific, you can also buy a separate supply and accessory kit ($34.99) that works with either easel or on its own. Comes with poster paint, spill-proof paint cups, brushes, jumbo rainbow chalk, a roll of paper, and more. Ages 3 and up.

kiwi crate from kiwicrateKiwi Crate is a subscription service that delivers a new art project-in-a-box. Each one is designed around a certain theme (such as science, dinosaurs, gardening, colors, animals, superheroes, etc.) and includes three related project ideas and all the materials you need. Just add inspiration and you’re ready to go. There’s additional, related material online. Kits are reviewed by experts and tested by kids and cover a range of developmental areas including creating, discovering, communication, gross- and fine-motor skills. $19.95/month. Ages 3-7.

For older kids or those who may want a bit of a challenge, EK Success Crafts (www.eksuccessbrands.com) has kits and individual supplies for scrapbooking, needlecraft, jewelry making, embossing, painting, creating personalized thank-you notes, and more. Perfect for family projects. Prices vary depending on the product.

paper punk from paperpunkPaper Punk (www.paperpunk.com) is an interesting combination of origami and building blocks. Start by folding paper into geometric shapes, which you then connect using adhesive dots (included) to create a variety of cool things that are a cross between an art project and a toy. You can buy individual kits for snakes, cars, snowmen, robots, dogs, cats, and birthday cakes, or use your paper blocks to build anything you want. Then customize to your heart’s content. $18.95 each. Ages 6 and up.