Toy stores around the country are gearing up for a busy holiday season thanks to a strong economy and a slate of innovative new offerings.
A survey of toy store owners, online recommendations, and feedback from kids have uncovered more than a dozen ideas ranging from unusual infant teething books to teen board games, most available now at your neighborhood toy store.
New this year is the line of Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty ($8 to $20) that is made in the U.S. by individuals with intellectual and physical disabilities. The putty never dries out and is billed as stress relieving, hand exercising, mind-expanding and addicting fun. Each type has different attributes (glow in the dark, magnetic, etc.).
Write Brain Story Mats ($15) are literacy-building, illustrated art posters that include space for kids ages 5 and up to write their own original stories inspired by the images and prompts. Kids control the story and interpret the posters however they like. The same company offers hardcover kits for kids to Write Your Own Book ($13).
Early readers will enjoy the new line of large phonic flip board books by Sara Ball like “Flip-O-Saurus” and “Flip-O-Storic” ($16). By turning the flaps, kids can put together 1,000 imaginary dinosaurs, like the Stegodocus, the Oviplosaurus or the Diploraptops.
For the younger set, small brightly-colored 3D fabric books for infants continue to be popular, with such titles as “Silly Tails,” “Dino Tails,” and “Pony Tails.” These soft and squishy books offer unique color, texture and movement on each page. ($16.50)
Also new among the top educational toys are two options from ThinkFun. In Clue Master, young players (8 and up) use deductive reasoning to place Tippy’s chew bones, tennis balls and food bowls in the correct order to unlock the secret door and send Tippy home ($12.99). In Yoga Spinner, players give the spinner a whirl, choose the corresponding card, and perform the pose pictured to win the pose card. ($14.99)
Fact-filled books with local themes are popular this year, and there are several options from which to choose. “The City by the Bay” by Tricia Brown is a detailed overview of our nearest city, San Francisco. The State Shape book “California,” by Eric Bruun ($10) includes historical factoids plus famous figures, geography, industry and the environment. Available in all states.
In the category of “ick,” products in the Slimeball line ($15 to $30) are selling briskly this year. Kids throw, sling shot, and play dodgeball with the mess-free, non-stick rubber balls.
Marble mazes continue to be popular and the Extreme Marble Maze by Techno Gears, with 300 plus pieces to keep kids busy, is a recent winner of “Toy of the Year” ($30 to $50).
Other creative toy options are available from StikBot Studio ($6 to $26). Kids can create and animate small figures and then use an app to edit, enhance, and share their creations. (Ages 4 and up).
The Nuts & Bolts line of construction sets lets kids create their own reptiles, prehistoric beasts, and snakes from plastic and metal parts with hand tools that are included in the sets. With 200 pieces, these sets are best for ages 8 and up ($12 to $20).