I just returned home from New York City after scouring the halls of the Jacob Javitt's Center at the 110th annual Toy Fair, meeting with companies and looking for the "next best toy" that our children will be begging us to purchase in 2013. Here are some of my Toy Fair 2013 highlights and my picks for some of the top new toys for 2013.
Skylanders toys and accessories are insanely popular with both kids and adult gamers. In addition to an awesome demo of the new Skylanders Swap Force toys which will allow kids to customize their Skylanders with unique features by actually swapping the top and the bottom with another toy, this license has now exploded into various plush toys from Just Play, and role play items and construction sets with MegaBrands.
Disney unveiled several new toys from Spinmaster and Fisher-Price that will be released in conjunction with the new animated movie from Disney-Pixar Monsters University, a prequel to Monsters, Inc., which arrives in movie theaters in June 2013. The line will feature several playsets, with the highlight being the Sulley Monster Mask from Spinmaster. While the child is wearing the mask, Sulley's features will move and react to the child's actions after they move their eyebrows or open and close their mouth so they can give their best scary monster rendition.
Barbie toys are are more fashionable than ever. Aside from some new traditional Barbie playsets like the Life in the Dreamhouse Fashion Vending machine, Mattel has designed an iPad accessory that will allow kids to use their iPad to create their own make-over with the Barbie Digital Makeover Mirror. In December 2012, the MegaBloks Barbie construction sets debuted. At Toy Fair, MegaBloks released a number additional Barbie construction sets for 2013, including a rockin Build N' Style Star stage that plays music and has working lights.
Last year, the LEGO Friends line was popular amongst kids, despite a lot of industry and media conflict on releasing building toys designed strictly for girls. New additions to LEGO Friends this year will include a party boat and pool. Fans of Jake and the Neverland Pirates on Disney Junior, will be able to create their own boat and playsets out of DUPLO blocks. The LEGO Ninjago toy line has new additions, as well as the expansion of the new Legends of Chima line which debuted on January 1, 2013. New for August 2013 will include buildable CHI action figures and an awesome Lion Chi Temple (retails for $119.99).
Hasbro unveiled a new line of dart blasters for girls with Rebelle featuring stylish pink cross bows that include collectible darts, as well as Cuddles, an adorable monkey from the Furreal Friends line that responds to touch and voice. Play-Doh has a new formulate, Play-Doh plus, an airer version of the traditional recipe that's great for decorating.
At Toy Fair 2012, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles debuted, and this year the popular turtles have a new Shellraiser remote control vehicle that launches sewer lids, a pop-up pizza box playset and turtles that fling swords or pizzas. There are several new LEGO playsets that were available in January, and Little Kids debuted Teenage Mutant Ninja themed water toys and bubble blowers.
Disney Junior shows are extremely popular with preschool children. Last year, the Doc McStuffins Time for Your Check-Up Doll couldn't be found anywhere and what toys were available, were limited for purchase. This year, there were several, larger toys and playsets revealed with the Doc McStuffin's check-up center and play clinic from Just Play. The brand new Sofia the First toy line will expand with a memory board game from Wonder Forge called Royal Prep Academy, and will include playsets from Mattel, and a transforming role play dress and magical emulet from Jakks Pacific.
While I didn't see a lot of new tablet toys the VTech InnoTab2 and Kurio from Technosource are including more accessories and downloadable content. VTech has launched a version of the InnoTab2, the InnoTab2 Baby which is the same product, but it is purchased with a protective bumper and has content geared for younger kids.
This year as usual, many companies were reporting apps in conjunction with their toys to enhance the experience, I saw an increase in what I'll call "baby tech" where the iPad, iPod, iPhone, iPad mini or various tablet devices could be included into a baby activity arch from Fisher-Price or an activity table from VTech. Fisher-Price also demonstrated toys like a farm that sit on top of the iPad and have pieces that interact with the app. It will be interesting to see how consumers react with products like this despite overwhelming negativity from the American Academy of Pediatrics regarding the use of screen time for kids under the age of 2. To me, as long as the experiences are focused more on the toys using devices as high resolution screens that would otherwise not be cost-effective to put in a toy, that's one thing, but the toys and experiences for kids should be focused on developmental experiences, and not another way to just to passively put our kids in front of a screen.
Last year there were a lot of toys for tweens and teens that housed the iPad or iPhone, and the re-launch of the ever popular Furby. This year, I felt like there was a big surge in robotic remote control technology. These new toys are smart, and can learn to respond to various touch and voice commands, while still bringing spontaneity to play using interactive experiences. New toys I saw this year will include Boomer an interactive puppy dog from Spinmaster, Cuddles the Monkey from Furreal Friends, and a Tyrannosaurus Rex Switch and Go Dinosaur from VTech.