It was iToy heaven on Wednesday, Feb 10, at the 110th annual International Toy Fair in Manhattan’s Javits Center. Ironically, the toy trade show follows a strict rule: no one under 18 year of age can enter, so actual children are not allowed. But that’s okay, because three-day toy festival had over 30,000 grown-ups in attendance this year. This year’s show featured 1,000 toy vendors from all over the world, showcasing 150,000 new games expected to hit store shelves in 2013.
“Last year, we saw a ton of apps integrated with toys — some were great and others weren’t,” said a spokesperson for the Toy Industry Association. “Toy makers did a better job this year by not incorporating technology just for the sake of it. The ones that did it, did it right this year.”
And among those that did it right: Barbie. The Mattel darling received an impressive digital makeover this year, as the new and improved iBarbie comes with a LED/touchscreen-enabled dress, which moves to the rhythm of whatever music you play on your iPhone/iPad.
Another heavy hitter on display was the iDollhouse, which appears surprisingly simple to assemble: you open the back of the iDollhouse case, slide in your iPad, lock it in, download the app, pair it up with Bluetooth and walla: you get a virtual playhouse that allows you to change the colors of the walls, move furniture around, add a photo from the iPad to the walls, and insert your digital versions of your family members into any which one of the rooms.
“I have never seen so many toys that incorporated an iPad into the play pattern,” Andrea Smith, Mashable’s Lifestyle Editor, who has been covering the event for years, told ABC News. “Last year was the iPod Touch, and iPhone, and I think this year it was all iPad, from Barbie to the Hot Wheels.”
Remember DiDi, Judy Jetson’s digital diary on the popular baby boomer classic, The Jetsons? Well, Lisa Frank has a similar, digital diary concept. No, these diaries don’t offer sarcastic comebacks the way DiDi did, but they do light up. In the 90s, you couldn’t walk through the “pink” section of a toy store without seeing Lisa Frank stickers all over--- here’s to hoping going techy ignites her a comeback.
Among the boy-geared iToys, the Tek Recon by Tech 4 Kids caught our eye. It’s is a toy gun slash smartphone combo, and the shtick is that is actually has ammo, a GPS system and radar. You put a smartphone on top to find out where your opponents or teammates are, so long as they also have a smart phone.
All in all, it seems that alas, you don’t have to look exclusively to Brookestone anymore for a tech fix. Instead, you can head to Toys “R” Us with your kids, where you’ll quickly discover that there’s nothing like an iPad to really bring their toys to life.
Now you may ask, where were the puzzles? In a hunt to find some old fashioned toys throughout the fair, we stumbled upon the KidKraft booth, a Dallas-based design and development company that creates toy, gift and furniture items for both its own KidKraft brand and private labels.
“Our specialty lies in good quality wood items, and we make children’s toys and furniture in the world of wood, ranging from dollhouses, kitchens, train tables and several play sets for boys,” said Marissa Epstein, a Sales Consultant for the company.
We asked Marissa how old-fashioned toys are keeping afloat amidst the tech savvy competition.
“You’d be surprised,” she laughed. “As tech develops, people are always looking for that classic heirloom toy that really brings them back. Skills like shape sorting and hand eye coordination are things that you don’t necessarily get from iPhone gadgets, so our toys really help develop those skills.”
“Not that it doesn’t exist on an iPad, but actually having something interactive and 3D, something that kids can see and touch, develops it so much more,” she added. “If a child holds a wooden elephant shape in their hands and see which shape it goes into, they can see and feel if it doesn’t match up on the puzzle. With an iPad they just get a red X on the screen, so we offer more of a hands on learning experience.”
One of the stores KidKraft caters to is Coquette, a children’s clothing and toy store located on East 4th Street and Avenue U.
“We love KidKraft because they represent quality. Our store sells a lot of their stuff,” said store president Bunny Ben-Hooren.
“We have a birthday cake that actually functions as a puzzle with two layers that need to be matched up. We also carry some of their fun accessories, like a cupcake and baking set, a vanity set and doll houses. The unique thing about us is that everything is personalized, so you chose what you like, pick what color you’d like it in, and we add your child’s names on it. Kids really gravitate to that approach, and the parent’s think it’s very cute.”
The only question is whether high tech Barbie would feel comfortable sitting in a wooden dollhouse? But then again, she is an old fashioned gal, so she shouldn’t have a problem.