For 4 days every February, the International Toy Fair turns New York City’s Javits Center into Toyland, although it’s less March Of The Wooden Soldiers than full-scale plaything blitzkrieg. With every major toymaker on the planet — and 10 times that many you’ve never heard of — assembled and displaying more than 150,000 products, you might suspect there was some stuff that your kid (and you) would like under the tree or menorah next December. And you’d be very, very right.
The Car [vimeo https://vimeo.com/154869778 expand=1] Actev Arrow Smart-Kart
For kids, this thing is a legitimate driving machine. It has a steel frame, pneumatic tires, an F1-style steering wheel, and a lithium ion power plant that is, for all intents and purposes, a scaled down version of what’s in a Tesla. For you, it’s an app-powered kart with geofencing, speed control, obstacle detection, and a kill switch. Actev is Silicon Valley born and bred, and has all sorts of plans for customization and upgrades (It’s not a go kart, it’s a platform!), but you’re going to be jealous of your kid right out of the box.
Nerf Rebelle Platinum BowThe newest release from Nerf’s line for badass girls who like to go big brother hunting is, simply put, a beast. The largest Nerf bow ever stands more than 4-feet tall and includes the line’s first adjustable sight to help fire giant 24-inch composite arrows more than 100 feet with Everdeenish accuracy. It may be a while before toy stores are truly gender blind; in the meantime, Nerf just gave every kid a reason to head straight to the girls’ aisle.
LEGO FriendsLEGO sees you, girl who turned a juice bar into a flame-throwing, mecha-juice-bot. The Danish building toy giant caught some flack for dumbing down its product for girls when it released Friends in 2011, and while the line (and that color scheme) isn’t going anywhere, it’s nice to see new products depicting girls in more aspirational roles than smoothie makers. The latest sets include scientists discovering constellations, equestrians jumping horses, and adventure campers rock climbing over waterfalls to raft down the rapids. All that’s missing is a 4-foot longbow.
Barbie Fashionistas, Careers, President And Vice PresidentMattel made some noise last month when it announced its new Barbie Fashionista line, with 4 new dolls that resemble actual humans. The traditional, tall, curvy, and petite body shapes come in 7 skin tones, 22 eye colors, 30 hair colors, 24 hair styles, and 14 face sculpts, so just about every kid can find a Barbie to which they can physically relate. And it’s not just the physical proportions that have been updated — Barbie has new career options and political aspirations with the President And Vice President set. Welcome to 2016, when Barbie is only the third- or fourth-most cartoonish presidential candidate.
Barbie Fashionista, Barbie Careers
Barbie President and Vice President
The Rubber Duckie
Edwin The DuckWhat? Your kid’s rubber duckie bath toy isn’t also a nightlight, a Bluetooth speaker, and an app-connected toy that plays games, tells stories, and sings songs? How do you sleep at night? Maybe you need Edwin The Duck. After all, it even comes with an app that plays white noise and lullabies. And, yes, it’s still water tight and it still squeaks. The future of rubber duckies is now, man.
The Backyard Playground
Slackers NinjaLineYou could get your kid playing in the backyard by building an awesome tree house, but that sounds like a lot of work. Instead, give them this slackline ninja obstacle course with 9 different ropes, rings, bars, and other holds. It’s endorsed by American Ninja Warrior Brian Arnold, the first American to complete Stage 3 of Mount Midoriyama, which to you means nothing, but to your kid is ample reason to forget about that treehouse.
The Board Game
Pie Face ShowdownRussian Roulette with cream pies is hilarious, but an all-out button-mashing battle that ends with a cream pie to the face is … also hilarious. Sometimes the simplest things are the most satisfying. Hasbro’s follow-up to 2015’s runaway viral success is one of those things.
XylobaXyloba matches construction with music but forgoes the brick people singing about how awesome everything is. Instead, modular, interlocking wooden blocks, ramps, and tone bars form marble runs that produce different melodies as the marble strikes the chimes. There are 3 complexity levels and kits with instructions for playing specific songs, but since everything is interchangeable you can give your kid anything and let them build until you can’t take anymore glockenspiel.
The Musical Instrument
LoogLoog hasn’t stopped making their build-it-yourself, 3-string, beginner acoustic and electric guitars that both look and sound gorgeous. They’ve just wrapped up their printed instruction and Loog Academy online lessons into a highly functional, simple app packed with chord charts, song lessons, a tuner, and a 3-speed metronome disguised as a hand-clapping monkey. Because music is better with hand claps, and everything is better with monkeys.
The STEM Toy For Tiny Coders
Fisher-Price Think And Learn Code-A-PillarCode-A-Pillar is the best of 2 worlds: it teaches coding skills while steadfastly remaining a cuddly caterpillar. Preschoolers can infinitely rearrange his segments to make him move in all directions and take paths to targets, which, believe it or not, is sequencing and programming. A companion app (of course) will expand on the counting and patterning challenges for little kids. And he lights up in 8 different colors! Finally, a STEM toy that gets you.
The Coloring Book
PirastaThese beautiful posters of maps and fantasy scenes are all drawn by different illustrators, printed on recycled paper with vegetable ink, and huge. At 63″ x 36″, your kids can learn coloring and wallpapering — how practical. If you’re partial to your perfect paint job, grab the book of 20 smaller (14″ x 10″) coloring sheets. Don’t worry, they all piece together to form one giant poster when your kid changes your mind.
The 3D Printer
3Doodler StartYou might recognize the 3Doodler because it’s designed by the folks who brought you the original 3D printing pen that helped turn your unrecognizable drawings into unrecognizable sculptures. What makes this one kid-friendly is the proprietary bioplastic thread, which comes out cool and hardens in seconds, so you can touch and shape it without getting burned; the pen itself has no hot points. Also, it’s big and chunky, which makes it way easier to manipulate with fingers that are little and chunky.
Mixed By Me Thinking Putty KitMaking glittery, glow-in-the-dark putty that can turn a near-infinite number of colors and never dries out doesn’t require a toxic chemistry lab in the basement. It just requires …. more putty. Start with a blob of clear Thinking Putty, press it together with a pinch of other Thinking Putty, and mash it up. These kits come with 3 color mixers, 3 special effects, and 5 tins of the clear stuff, but you can keep buying tins for more colors and more effects until the basement is just one massive multi-colored putty ball. No word on whether it can pull the comics off the funny pages, though.
The Star Wars Thing [youtube https://youtu.be/Mu_-y9-Am3Y expand=1] Sphero Force Band
Because Sphero really wasn’t cool enough, they made it so you can literally use the Force to control BB-8 with a few flicks of the wrist. Just to be clear, this only works on Sphero BB-8. You are not actually a Jedi.
The Kickstarter [vimeo https://vimeo.com/153560344 expand=1] Fourple
Take Connect Four, make it 3-dimensional so you can win in any direction (including the elusive diagonal staircase), toss in artistic 3D puzzles and pattern and spatial recognition challenges, then build it all out of beautiful hardwood birch, and you get Fourple. Well, you will, if this game can get Kickstarted.
The Instant Messenger
Turtle MailThis cute little wooden toy mailbox is equipped with WiFi and a roll of thermal paper to deliver printed photo and text messages to your kid instantly when you send it, or at predetermined times when you know you might be forced to miss a special moment. Now your kid can experience the joy of receiving a letter (remember letters?) more than once a year when they get that token $15 birthday check from Grandma. Shout out to Grandma.
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