Toys that are reshaping the industry
“The streets are a poor kid’s PlayStation”
― Mokokoma Mokhonoana
The toy business isn’t all fun and games. It’s a serious business — but toy makers still face plenty of challenges. Chief among them: fighting the technological tide and trying to convince kids (and grownups) that a physical game or plaything is more worthy of their attention than the digital equivalent.
To find out just how they’re doing that, we chose six of the newer toys that caught our eye.
6. Dino Pet
Dinosaurs never go out of style. And dino-themed toys are expected to become even bigger in the coming year, with the release of “Jurassic World”, the fourth film in the Jurrasic Park series.
Dino Pet plays into this trend — it’s described as a dino-shaped “micro aquarium” — but it’s also a science experiment and teaching tool in its own right. The aquarium holds hundreds of dinoflagellates, described as “a type of single-celled plankton” (and yes, the tiny creatures are included in the $60 Dino Pet package). The cool part: the organisms emit a bluish light at night, demonstrating the phenomenon known as bioluminescence. Buy it here.
5. Kinetic Sand
Sure, kids still play with Play-Doh, but lately, they’ve also been playing with Kinetic Sand — a moldable sand that’s part real sand, part “silicone-based organic polymer”. The product, comes in a variety of colors, has been giving Play-Doh a run for the money since its launch.
There’s also a version that floats, allowing kids to make a sand castle that can stay atop the water. Prices for items in the sand line run from $7 to $30. Buy it here.
4. Crazy Cart
The battery-powered Crazy Cart is an attempt to re-create the whirling experience of being aboard an amusement park bumper car ride (minus the bumping, however).
Despite the cart’s $400 price tag, it has caught on with a certain set, racking up sales of 110,000 units since its mid-2013 launch. The only problem: Adults wanted to ride what was essentially a kiddie vehicle. So, Razor is now launching an XL version just for them. But adults will have to pay for the privilege: The XL runs $800 — not exactly cheap scooter territory. Buy it here.
3. Snowtime Anytime
This winter’s record-breaking snows may have prompted many snowball fights. But these days, the fighting is also taking place indoors, thanks to Snowtime Anytime, These are essentially fabric “snowballs” that have the texture and feel of the real thing, save for the frozen factor. The idea is to take the snowy fun into the comfort of your home.
You can get snowballs (a 30-pack runs $30) and accessories (think inflatable snow fort) and while you might think Snowtime Anytime would be especially big in places where it doesn’t snow, apparently Minnesota is the top market! Buy it here.
2. Urban Dictionary Game
Urban Dictionary has long been the place to go online when you want to know the meaning of any term that’s becoming part of the vernacular, from “awkward arm” (the “arm that has nowhere to go when cuddling”) to “za” (a “really obnoxious word for pizza”). And now it’s become the basis for a board game that’s something of a cross between Trivial Pursuit and Pictionary.
Buffalo Games is readying it for release later in 2015, hoping to take advantage of the booming market for games, and especially grownup games (the Urban Dictionary game comes with a “parental advisory” warning). Buy it here.
1. Hello Barbie
How do you make an old-school doll relevant in the interactive world? If you’re toy giant Mattel. you make it, well, interactive. That’s the idea behind Hello Barbie, which the company is readying for release in the fall of 2015. It’s a $75 Barbie that not only talks, but also picks up on personality cues and even references current events. It’s all possible through cloud-based technology — this is a Barbie that needs to be regularly “updated.”
But as trendy as Hello Barbie may be, she won’t come with any cool Barbie accessories, like a Barbie Glam Convertible. Still, a Mattel rep notes: “You can take her jacket on and off.”