Archive for February, 2016

Toy Fair Trends to Watch: Part One

Thursday, February 25th, 2016





Recently, our intrepid team walked (and walked…and walked…) the floors of the annual Toy Fair at Javits Center in New York City. We looked at thousands of toys and, yes, we played with more than a few. What caught our attention, aside from bright colors and whirring robots, were these three trends. We’re eager to see where they go in 2016—and equally excited to get all the new toys, kits, games and crafts into our testers’ hands.

tatoo lounge


Giving Back Can Be Playful

We all want kids to learn that giving back to their community is a good thing. That lesson is more likely to stick when fun is involved, which is why we love the idea of Fairly Painless Tattoo Lounge for Charity from Renegade Made. Rather than an old-fashioned lemonade stand, kids set up a tabletop tattoo parlor. After applying the 125 temporary tattoos to mostly-willing customers (we’re looking at you, Dad!), kids can donate the proceeds to the charity of their choice.



STEM Is Spreading Robot Mouse Coding Set_Product

Like a virus. It seems as if every toy company now has at least one STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, in case you’re not up on the lingo) toy. Generally, we think that’s a good thing, although we know some will rise to the top, like valedictorians of their class. So watch our upcoming awards, both spring and fall, to see which entries are worthy of a spot in your playroom. One contender: Learning Essentials STEM Robot Mouse Coding Activity Set. Kids set up a maze, place a piece of cheese at one end and a plastic mouse at the other, then push buttons to program the robotic rodent so it can reach its treat. Squeaks of glee are almost guaranteed. Admittance to Stanford is not.


sew miniThe Maker Movement Is Still Strong 

Kids like to make things, there’s no denying that: backyard forts, baking-soda-and-vinegar volcanoes, origami frogs, chocolate cupcakes, and spitball launching contraptions. We love freeform creativity, but there’s also a place on the make-your-own-stuff spectrum for instructional kits. Especially when the end result is really cute. Like kawaii cute. Take Klutz’s Sew Mini Treats, for example. Tiny pieces of toast, sweet slices of watermelon, and winking cookies are all part of the felt smorgasbord kids can create and customize. Bonus: they’ll learn sewing skills.




Ellen Harter Wall headshot

The Author:

Ellen Harter Wall spent fourteen years reviewing toys, books, and other products at FamilyFun magazine. She’s especially fond of toys that make her laugh, games that teach spatial skills, stories of adventure, and has been known to join her three sons in playing a video game or two. [She also has a reputation for beating game demonstrators at Toy Fair. Not that she’s competitive or anything.]

The Parents’ Choice Small Screen Awards

Thursday, February 11th, 2016

clayperson in orange chair

Kids are spending a lot of time in front of a screen. They’re playing on screen-based devices and they’re learning from them too. For parents in search of a balance between the two, we’re pleased to announce the Spring 2016 Parents’ Choice Small Screen Awards.

Whether your DVD player is for your TV, computer or back seat of your minivan, youngsters can learn Spanish, jumble numbers or come to terms with the responsibilities of being a new big brother. Our newest award-winning websites take young learners on missions in history, science, scouting and more.

Gaming console play experiences will be richer with Skylanders and rock concert ticket scalpers will be less rich because of Guitar Hero Live. Think kids software is on the way out? Rebelle and Zoombinis will challenge your assumption and your kids’ creativity and problem solving.

If you’re not sure what to do with your child’s growing appetite, the Parents’ Choice Mobile App Awards offer choices fun snacks and full meals of playful learning. For preschoolers mastering shapes, to teaching elementary grade learners to code in an hour, arctic explorers and epic readers, and environmentalists to Charles Darwin devotees there’s an app in waiting.

Have fun, play well, and learn something along the way.