Seeing seas of laughing children blowing bubbles, tossing around a ball, jumping rope, playing games, riding bikes and generally enjoying all the wonderful spoils of summer always makes me smile.
Toymakers can take credit for much of this fun and excitement as they continue to develop cool new toys to help kids survive and truly enjoy the dog days of summer.
In fact, 15% of toy sales are typically rung up between now and back-to-school and account for $3B in sales, according to Jim Silver, editor-in-chief of TimetoPlayMag.com who sponsored the recently held Time to Play Spring Showcase.
Trends were everywhere with outdoor, indoor, movie and fun in the sun toys the themes sprinkled throughout the event.
Companies such as Growums (with a cool online component) and Peachtree Playthings (via a Miracle-Gro Kids license) created gardening kits that inspire kids' to become one with the soil. Interestingly, 98% of kids who grow their own vegetables eat them, according to the American Gardening Association.
Outdoor toys were abundant with Maui Toys showing off its new Sky Ball products, while Little Kids spread the word about the Blastos! Mini Bubble Blaster, motorized bubble blowers filled with premium solution that makes bigger, stronger bubbles. Zing had an exciting selection of action toys including its Zing-Shot Launcher, a soft foam ball slingshot that launches over 45 feet and Zip-Bak Bow, a soft foam arrow which can be shot over 95 feet; and PrimeTime Toys made a splash with great water/pool toys including a Splash Disc, Splash Golf and Super Splash Bombs Launcher.
Kids on the go will certainly enjoy Razor's new Graffiti Scooter (equipped with chalk) and E Spark (what kid wouldn't love sparks as they ride?).
Raining outside? If families can't make it to the theatre to watch a movie, kids can certainly hang out with their favorite characters from this summer's hot movies.
Hasbro touted a range of role play and action figures for "Transformers: Dark of the Moon;" "Captain America" and "Thor," while Disney Consumer Products drove interest for "Cars 2" with a broad range of toys, including its first wood line developed in-house by Toys "R" Us. Spin Master, too, had a selection of vehicles, figures and playsets since acquiring the rights to create all toys for ages 4+.
Other playthings sure to make it into kids' summer wishlists were "Kung Fu Panda 2" figures from Mattel; a range of "Green Lantern" products (packaged with the superheroes special ring) shown by Warner Bros. Consumer Products; and action figures and playsets inspired by "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" from JAKKS Pacific. Even Schleich took a lead on "Smurfs" with its first licensed line in quite a while based on the new 3D movie as well as the classic characters.
- Fisher-Price with the I Can Play Sports line featuring golf, bowling, basketball and baseball for toddlers.
- Melissa & Doug with a U.S.A. License Plate game that will keep kids occupied for hours;
- Blip with new licenses including Disney Princess, Hello Kitty, Marvel and Cars 2 for Squinkies;
- Wild Creations with Flipoutz, interactive bracelets with a range of different "coins" that be collected and traded and fit into the bracelet.
- Well Made with Series 2 of Pet Cakes, plush that fit inside a cupcake and;
- A line of Poptropica Toys from Jazwares based on the online world conceived by Jeff Kinney, author of "Diary of a Wimpy Kid."
Consumers will have to wait a few more months for one of the most unique products spotted at the show. 3D Breakthrough Puzzles from MEGA Brands (due in fall) which unites traditional flat art jigsaw puzzles with 3D technology. The puzzles, available in three levels of complexity, have a 2-D background that is put together first and then a specially-designed image is constructed with clips and attached to the puzzle. Toys "R" Us is taking a lead role in merchandising the product selling frames alongside the puzzles.
With all these great toys already heading to shelves, I'm sure I'll be spending my summer grinning from ear to ear.