One of the things I like about ASTRA, the American Specialty Retailing Association, is that it inhabits a kind of alternative universe from the mass market oriented Toy Industry Association. The TIA is an organization that represent the interests of the larger, mass market oriented toy companies. ASTRA, on the other hand, is an organization founded by independent retailers with an eye towards the interests of the smaller, independently owned retailer and toy company.
It is with that in mind that I enjoyed reviewing ASTRA's pics for "Best Toys for Kids." They make an interesting contrast with the Toy of the Year Awards from the Toy Industry Association. There is no right or wrong. They are both worthy and, in fact, put them together and you have a pretty well rounded look at what toy professionals consider to be the best toys. (The ASTRA and the TIA Toy of the Year winners are listed on the second page of this article.)
- The first thing you notice is that there is zero overlap between the two lists. Its pretty amazing, when you think about it, but two lists celebrating the best in toys had no points of agreement. Obviously the criteria and orientation differ but it is still surprising.
- Another point of differentiation is that none of the ASTRA winners come from the toy industry's largest companies. The Toy of the Year Award list includes Disney, Hasbro, Spin Master, Fisher-Price and Lego. You won't find any of them on the ASTRA list.
- ASTRA makes no references to gender in its awards. Yes, there is an award for "Pretend – Doll Play" but it does not indicate that it is for girls. It shows that you can provide an award that may have a gender orientation without tagging it with a gender label.
- ASTRA's list does not contain any licensed brands or characters with the exception of Rubiks.
With lists as different as these two are we can take satisfaction that we work in an industry that has so much in common yet can come to such different conclusions. Bottom line: Diversity in outlook is as important as diversity in product.
Kidoozie Counting Pogo Jumper – International Playthings
Slackers Ninjaline Intro Kit b4Adventure – Brand 44 LLC
Choose Your Own Category
Rock and Roll It! Piano – MukikiM Toys
Classic Play 0-7 Years
Rat-A-Tat Cat – Gamewright
WOW Flip ‘n’ Tip Fred – Reeves International, Inc.
Classic Play 8+ Years
Snap Circuits Jr. – Elenco Electronics
Rubik Cube 3×3 – Winning Moves
Constructive Play 0-7 Years
Robot Engineer – Thames & Kosmos
Constructive Play 8+ Years
Geckobot – Thames & Kosmos
Creative Arts Play 3-7 Years
Craft-tastic Kindness Kit – Ann Williams
Fuzzeez Husky – The Orb Factory
Creative Arts Play 8+ Years
Peacock Silk Painting – Hotaling/Djeco
Sew Mini Treats – Klutz
SpinAgain – Fat Brain Toy Co.
Game Play 3-5 Years
Little Red Riding Hood – SmartGames
Balance Beans – ThinkFun
Game Play 6+ Years
Happy Salmon – North Star Games
Game Play 8+ Years
Dr. Eureka – Blue Orange Games
Code & Go Robot Mouse Activity Set – Learning Resources
Pretend – Doll Play
Pretend – Fantasy Play
Pretend – Role Play
Calico Critters Seaside Ice Cream Shop – International Playthings
Hot Ice Crystals – Thames & Kosmos
TIA Toy of the Year Award Winners
Doc McStuffins Pet Vet Checkup Center by Just Play took home the overall “Toy of the Year” award prize and was named “Preschool Toy of the Year.”
Uptown Espresso Kitchen by KidKraft LLC snagged the admirable “People’s Choice” award for gaining the most online votes from consumers.
Recognizing an outstanding toy that inspires creative play through various forms of activity, the Activity Toy of the Year was presented to Bunchems (Spin Master Corp.)
Recognizing an outstanding toy developed for boys of any age, the Boy Toy of the Year was presented to LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens Millenium Falcon (The LEGO Group)
Recognizing an app-cessory or other physical toy that interacts with a smartphone, tablet or gaming device, the e-Connected Toy of the Year was presented to Disney Infinity 3.0 Edition (Disney)
Recognizing an outstanding toy that helps children develop special skills and knowledge through play, the Educational Toy of the Year was presented to VEX Robotics Robotic Arm (HEXBUG)
Recognizing an outstanding children’s board, card, CD-ROM or electronic game, the Game of the Year was presented to PIE FACE GAME (Hasbro, Inc.)
Recognizing an outstanding toy developed for girls of any age, the Girl Toy of the Year was presented to Shopkins Scoops Ice Cream Truck (Moose Toys)
Recognizing an outstanding toy developed for infants and toddlers up to 36 months, the Infant/Toddler Toy of the Year was presented to Bright Beats Dance & Move BeatBo (Fisher-Price)
Recognizing an outstanding toy that combines innovation and play value, the Innovative Toy of the Year was presented to
Meccanoid G15 (Spin Master Corp.)
Recognizing an outstanding toy that is designed for outdoor play, the Outdoor Toy of the Year was presented to Razor GFD Fury (Razor USA LLC)
Recognizing an outstanding toy developed for preschool-aged children (ages 3-5), the Preschool Toy of the Year was presented to Doc McStuffins Pet Vet Checkup Center (Just Play)
Recognizing a property that has had the greatest success spreading its brand throughout the industry, the Property of the Year was presented to Star Wars (Disney/Lucasfilm Licensing)
Recognizing an outstanding toy that is distributed primarily through specialty toy retailers, the Specialty Toy of the Year was presented to Tumble Trax™ Magnetic Marble Run (Learning Resources)