Toy Fair 2012
By Tecca Tech Lifestyle Editor Jennifer Jolly
The ten hottest toys to inspire, educate and wow kids (and parents) over the next year.
I could get in some serious trouble at the Toy Fair. While they don’t allow children on the miles-long show room floor, big kids like me touched, tapped, poked, prodded, played with and yes, even broke, plenty of toys all on our own.
The biggest take-away this year, toymakers are betting that you and/or your kids already own (or will soon buy) an iGadget (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad). The price of admission to many of this year’s must-have toys is a touch of tech.
Here are my top ten “editor’s choice” picks:
1. Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn AppTivity Monkey
Ages: 6 months+
In Stores: July 2012
This is a plush toy with an iPhone or iPod touch case embedded in its belly. Download the free app and then place the smart device in the monkey’s case, where it is well protected, so your child can interact with an app by squeezing the monkey’s paws to learn about numbers, letters, colors, and more. Even without an iGadget, kids can listen to songs and phrases.
2. Master Moves Mickey
In Stores: August 2012
Move over Elmo, Master Moves Mickey is taking it to a whole new level with his music and moves! In the latest feature plush from Fisher-Price and Disney, Mickey Mouse is dialed up in his freshest dance gear and ready to get down with a whole new set of 15 break dancing moves. With a signature handstand, Mickey’s moves are hotter and hipper than ever! He even teaches you how to bust a move on your own.
3. VTech- Switch & Go Dinos
In Stores: Fall 2012
Here’s an interesting twist on the ole’ Transformers idea. It’s a toy car that turns into a dinosaur, with a built-in LCD screen for customized animation, dinosaur and vehicle sound effects and educational dinosaur facts. In dinosaur mode, action buttons trigger interesting facts about each dinosaur as they come to life to exclaim up to 30 expressions, such as, “I’m a herbivore. I chow down on plants.” and “They call me spine-lizard because of the long spines on my back.”
4. The Nat Geo WILD ANTEATER BUG VAC by Uncle Milton
In Stores: Fall 2012
I’m all about getting kids outside to explore, play and learn about the world at large. This toy is perfect for that. At the touch of a button concealed under this Baby Anteater’s “Tail”, you can quickly and safely collect and observe live ants and other small critters. Then, you can remove the Baby Anteater’s “belly” and a look at the bugs inside via built-in microscope. When you’re finished with the close-up observation, kids can safely release the critters back into their environment. No harm, no fowl, no “ew” factor for squeamish moms who aren’t so crazy about those creepy-crawlers.
5. Activision Skylander’s Giants
In Stores: October 2012
Skylanders broke ground bringing perennial child favorite’s – action figures – into the videogaming world. So, it’s a toy and it comes to life when you put it on the “Portal of Power” and it appears in a video game. New features unveiled at the Toy Fair include bigger, better and monster-sized Skylanders’s Giants and action figures that light up when they get near the Portal.
6. Mattel’s Digital Camera Barbie
Barbie dolls have come a long way since the days when they were pitched mainly as wife material for a matching Ken doll (sold separately). You can buy Computer Engineer Barbie, Chef Barbie, and even Doctor Barbie. And soon … Digital Camera Barbie?
The new offering from toy giant Mattel is exactly what it sounds like — a Barbie doll that doubles as a digital camera. By pressing Barbie’s belt buckle, your child can turn on a lens hidden in Barbie’s back to take up to 100 photos. Photos can be viewed using a screen built in to Barbie’s shirt or uploaded to a computer via an included USB cord. With a retail price of $50, she may very well be the weirdest possible way to introduce your girl, aged 6 and up, to the world of digital photography.
7. Mattel’s AppTivity Line:
In Stores: May/July 2012
Cost: $20 (for different sets)
Matchbox cars are a childhood staple of boys and girls alike. But forget about playing with them on rugs and on plastic roadways. Matchbox cars are about to leap into the 21st century thanks to Mattel‘s new AppTivity line.
Once you download the required app from the app store, your child can use the AppTivity toy — in this case, a special $20 AppTivity Matchbox car — to interact with your Apple product, driving the car on a virtual roadway.
8. Hasbro Nerf Lazer Tag
In Stores: August 2012
Cost: $40 (single blaster) $70 (sets of two guns)
Nerf blasters are a favorite around my house, and many a weekend you’ll find my husband, daughter and I battling it out with shrieks of laughter. Now, Hasbro is taking it to the next level, a gun with slots for your iPhone or iPod touch. The gadget becomes the player’s sight and a heads-up display. Let the full-on lazer tag begin. The on-screen display shows crosshairs, targets, and a radar of opponents’ locations within 250 feet. But what’s even better than a videogame: up to 24 people can play at once.
9. Smart Lab’s Recon 6.0 Programmable Robot
In Stores: Now!
Here’s a great toy for the budding rocket scientist. The Rover is a toy, a robot, and a tool for learning. A child programs ReCon 6.0 to navigate specified courses that can deliver a treat to a pet, surprise a family member with a personalized message, carry a soda, guard a bedroom or just dance. The Rover teaches early programming, basic math and problem solving. No computer required. It also comes with a microphone, speaker, LCD screen, cargo hold, headlights and triangular track system, similar to all-terrain vehicles.
10. Regal Elite Force Flyers RC helicopters
Ages: 10+ (indoor) 14+ (outdoor)
In Stores: May 2012
Cost: $50 for indoor flyers, $100 for outside
Put in the hands of a child, this new RC helicopter than you control via power pack on the back of your hand will dazzle, wow and awe. I couldn’t stop crashing the darn thing. Still, it’s one of the coolest toys I saw all week.
The new Force Flyer is controlled, literally, by a wave of the hand. To pilot the Force Flyer, you need to first strap a wearable control pad onto the back of your hand. You use your thumb to control the speed of the helicopter’s rotors and thus the helicopter’s height (it soars up to 100 feet). Turning your hand in either direction tells the helicopter to turn in that same direction using the glove’s built-in accelerometer similar to that in a Wii remote.
The crashesilient (I should know) helicopter comes with a battery that you can recharge via USB. Unfortunately, you only get about 10 minutes of play time out of a full 20 minute charge — enough for a child with a short attention span.
Supposedly, these little Force Flyer helicopters have been built to last. Tech journalists have been doing nothing but crashing the things all week long, and they’re still buzzing.
Note: Tecca writers Fox Van Allen, Randy Nelson and Marielle Moon also contributed to this report