Soothing the Savage Infant and Toddler

We often think of the first few years of childhood as a time of total dependence on dad, mom, and anyone else who’s willing to change diapers and clean up vomit. But while that’s true, those early years are also a time when kids start hurtling towards independence, trying to do everything on their own, whether that’s crawling, walking, eating, reading, using the big-kid toilet, or anything else. This week we take a look at a number of toys that little ones will want to do on their own. You may need to be around to help or explain a few things, but even the smallest humans need some “me time.”

zing stikbotStikBots (Zing)
Got a budding animator in your home? If so, this is definitely for you (as long as your child is old enough not to put small things in his or her mouth). The idea is pretty simple: kids can pose the cute plastic figures and use the free StikBot Studios app (for iOS or Android only) to create their very own stop-action. Suction cups where hands and feet would be allow the StikBots to do all sorts of neat tricks. The Bots themselves don’t always hold their posed position and the app can be confusing for very little kids, but overall, it’s a really fun way to bring out your child’s creativity. Ages 4+. $9.99 for a kit with two Bots and a tripod. http://www.stikbot.toys/

sleeperheroSleeperHero (SleeperHero)
When kids are little, bedtime can be tough on everyone: they may be afraid of the dark or of being alone, and you may be afraid (then angry) that you’ll be up all night dealing with them. SleeperHero is a doll-book combo that’s aimed at eliminating some of that nighttime tension. The book is about a child who has trouble falling asleep in his own bed but is befriended by SleeperHero, who’s there to comfort and banish the bad guys and monsters hiding under the bed. For the parents, the doll has a light on his chest that glows red when it’s time for the child to stay in bed, then changes to green when it’s okay to run around and wake everyone up. Naturally, you can set both times. Ages 3+. $49.99. http://www.sleeperhero.com/


troboTROBO (Trobo)
If you’re completely opposed to exposing young children to technology, you’re out of luck here. But if you agree that technology can be wonderful in moderation and with an adult around, you’ll love TROBO. This friendly plush toy pairs with an iPad or iPhone and tells stories to your child. The stories subtly expose toddlers to science and technology concepts, and by incorporating your child’s name and a cartoon avatar, he or she becomes part of the story—and stays interested, which hopefully builds a love of learning. TROBO isn’t quite out yet, but he’ll be available just in time for the Holidays. Pre-order at http://www.herecomestrobo.com/




tiny love mobile + crib toyDouble-Sided Crib Toy and Hide and Seek Mobile (Tiny Love)
The crib toy attaches to the inside of your baby’s crib and lets your baby pound, bang, poke, and twist five colorful elements that produce a variety of sounds and effects. Flip it over and it switches to nighttime mode, with softly twinkling lights and soothing music.  The mobile is not your father’s (or even your) mobile. Sure it has adorable animals that gently go round and round, accompanied by music. But these figures also play hide and seek with your baby, sometimes hiding behind something that looks like a leaf, sometimes not. The mobile also gives your baby some control over the music. 0-24 months. Prices vary. http://www.tinylove.com/

Toy Trends to Watch in 2013

Going to Toy Fair is always a bit overwhelming. To start with, hundreds of manufacturers from all over the world are showcasing thousands of products.  Some are amazing, innovative, and creative. Some are copycats or retreads, and some are just plain awful. But what’s especially fun is trying to predict which of the trends we’re seeing will actually become hits—and which will bomb. Here are a few categories we think are worth watching.  Some of these are already hot—and we believe will get even hotter. Some are just appearing but will be all the rage in 2013. Over the next few months your parents@play team will bring you reviews of these and many, many other categories.  

nerf bowArchery. With the amazing success of the movies Hunger Games, Brave, and the Avengers—all of which featured archers—it was only a matter of time until bows and arrows took their place alongside swords as the low-tech weapons of choice for today’s young adventurers. Everyone from well-known brands like Nerf (hasbro.com) and Zing (zingtoystore.com) to tiny brands you’ve never heard of (but will soon), have introduced bows or crossbows that fire a variety of (safe) projectiles.

mystixx beforemyxixx afterZombies and Vampires. The Twilight series, Dark Shadows, and animated fare like Frankenweenie and ParaNorman have taken vampires and zombies out of the crypt and enrolled them in high school. The Monster High girls have been out for a while. But some of the most fun—and most creative—are the face-changing Mystixx Vampires (mystixx.com). At first  glance you’ve got a cute-as-a-button doll. Turn the head around, rearrange the hair, and you’ve got one stylin’ vampire.

stacetat mustacheMoustaches. Maybe it started with the Got Milk? mustache campaign. Or maybe it was the Movember campaign when men around the world grow their facial hair during the month of November to raise awareness of prostate cancer and other men’s health concerns. But however it happened, mustaches are hot. And not just for men and boys—plenty of girls are getting in on the act as well. We especially liked the Ha! Ha! Moustache game from Haywire Group (haywiregroup.com) where player try to identify famous (or infamous) people based on a cardboard mustache and a handful of clues. And Stachetats (stachetats.com) has a line of wild and colorful temporary upper lip decorations for every taste.

melissa and doug duct tapeDuct tape. Once upon a time duct tape was grey, sticky, boring, and available only in hardware stores. Today, there are entire aisles in arts and crafts stores devoted to far less sticky, and definitely not boring duct tapes in dozens of colors and patterns. Specialty companies like Creativity for Kids (creativityforkids.com) and Klutz (klutz.com) have wonderfully colorful kits that are built around duct tape. And so do some of the giants, like Melissa and Doug.

mattel angry birdsFrom app to reality. Another interesting trend is to take popular apps like Fruit Ninja and Angry Birds and turn them into real-life games. Sometimes there’s a branding double whammy, such as when Star Wars character start flying through the air knocking down structures.

 

Pink and glitter. Just about anything you can imagine–building systems like Lego and Megabloks, science kits, tattoos, cameras, mustaches, sports equipment, action figures, and even guns and other weapons—are now available in pink and glitter.

Toy Trends to Watch in 2013

Going to Toy Fair is always a bit overwhelming. To start with, hundreds of manufacturers from all over the world are showcasing thousands of products.  Some are amazing, innovative, and creative. Some are copycats or retreads, and some are just plain awful. But what’s especially fun is trying to predict which of the trends we’re seeing will actually become hits—and which will bomb. Here are a few categories we think are worth watching.  Some of these are already hot—and we believe will get even hotter. Some are just appearing but will be all the rage in 2013. Over the next few months your parents@play team will bring you reviews of these and many, many other categories.

Archery
nerf bowWith the amazing success of the movies Hunger Games, Brave, and the Avengers—all of which featured archers—it was only a matter of time until bows and arrows took their place alongside swords as the low-tech weapons of choice for today’s young adventurers. Everyone from well-known brands like Nerf (hasbro.com) and Zing (zingtoystore.com) to tiny brands you’ve never heard of (but will soon), have introduced bows or crossbows that fire a variety of (safe) projectiles.

Zombies and Vampires
mystixx beforemyxixx afterThe Twilight series, Dark Shadows, and animated fare like Frankenweenie and ParaNorman have taken vampires and zombies out of the crypt and enrolled them in high school. The Monster High girls have been out for a while. But some of the most fun—and most creative—are the face-changing Mystixx Vampires (mystixx.com). At first  glance you’ve got a cute-as-a-button doll. Turn the head around, rearrange the hair, and you’ve got one stylin’ vampire.

Moustaches
stacetat mustacheMaybe it started with the Got Milk? mustache campaign. Or maybe it was the Movember campaign when men around the world grow their facial hair during the month of November to raise awareness of prostate cancer and other men’s health concerns. But however it happened, mustaches are hot. And not just for men and boys—plenty of girls are getting in on the act as well. We especially liked the Ha! Ha! Moustache game from Haywire Group (haywiregroup.com) where player try to identify famous (or infamous) people based on a cardboard mustache and a handful of clues. And Stachetats (stachetats.com) has a line of wild and colorful temporary upper lip decorations for every taste.

Duct tape
melissa and doug duct tapeOnce upon a time duct tape was grey, sticky, boring, and available only in hardware stores. Today, there are entire aisles in arts and crafts stores devoted to far less sticky, and definitely not boring duct tapes in dozens of colors and patterns. Specialty companies like Creativity for Kids (creativityforkids.com) and Klutz (klutz.com) have wonderfully colorful kits that are built around duct tape. And so do some of the giants, like Melissa and Doug.

From app to reality
mattel angry birdsAnother interesting trend is to take popular apps like Fruit Ninja and Angry Birds and turn them into real-life games. Sometimes there’s a branding double whammy, such as when Star Wars character start flying through the air knocking down structures.

Pink and glitter
Just about anything you can imagine–building systems like Lego and Megabloks, science kits, tattoos, cameras, mustaches, sports equipment, action figures, and even guns and other weapons—are now available in pink and glitter.