by Tina Manzer
Once again, ASTRA’s Marketplace proved to be THE place to spot potential bestsellers in the specialty market. Here’s what retailers at the show recommended.
At the License 2 Play booth with Harold Herskowitz from Toys for Thought, Lakewood, New Jersey
“Squishing toys are so popular right now – kids squeeze them really small and watch them expand slowly. Squeezables (1) are scented, the characters are fun and original, and the packaging is just right for impulse sales. [Trend guru Steve Starobinsky from Diverse Insights, just back from the Tokyo Toy Show, said it’s “SQUISHY EVERYTHING” in Japan. “It’s a big deal there, and it’s percolating here in the North American market.”]
“Let me show you this game, Boom Blast Stix (2). You lock the sticks and stack them on the game package very carefully. They’re springs, and if you’re not gentle, they unlock and go flying all over the place. It’s a funny family game.
“FlipSlide (3) is a cross between Rubik’s Cube and Simon. It’s an electronic game but you don’t need batteries – it charges like a cell phone.
“With Brickmates Stack by Numbers kits (4), kids can build a 3-D puzzle by following the numbers and colors on the template. It tells them how high to stack them, up to three levels. The pieces are LEGO compatible.”
At lunch with Kate Noreen from MudPuddles toys & books, Sherwood, Oregon
“Grippies magnetic building sets (5) from Guidecraft have molded plastic pieces with many different textures on their surface so they’re very tactile and grippable for kids 18 months and older. We loved the colors and different sets of shapes – Curves, Links, Stackers, Windows (with colored, translucent sections) and Builders. Grippies are considered a STEM toy because they introduce basic principles of engineering and geometry.
“We just played Cha-Cha Chihuahua (6) from Gamewright, an ASTRA Best Toys for Kids finalist. The goal is to get the most Chihuahuas on the dance floor, and it’s very funny and silly. Two to four preschool players draw cards to move the doggies – the pieces and graphics are adorable. It only takes about 15 minutes to play.
“Another children’s game with a funny name is Mole Rats in Space (7) from Peaceable Kingdom, for kids age 7 and up. It also is a Best Toys for Kids finalist. It’s a cooperative game. The players work together to help the Mole Rats escape from the snakes that have invaded their space station.”
Chatting with Carah Killian from Beyond the Blackboard in Denver
“You should check out Little Kids’ Magic Kitchen line of food-making kits for kids … really for kids of all ages! The tools are fun, colorful and easy to use – with no batteries – and you have a completed treat in minutes.
There are four kits: a Pull Pops popsicle maker (8) that freezes yogurt, fruit and juice; a Milk Shake Maker (9) that spins and shakes; a cold plate Ice Cream Maker (10) that transforms flavored cream; and – my favorite – the Slushie Maker (11). You pour any chilled beverage into the special cup (it has ‘patented freeze technology’) and squeeze it for about a minute. There are no powders or pre-packaged food items in the kits. You just use the ingredients you have at home.
At booth 1758 with Elisabeth Dahl from Calico Toy Shoppe on Bainbridge Island, Washington; and Sherry Phipps from School Crossing in Williamsburg, Virginia
Elisabeth said, “We couldn’t get enough of these Eggmazing Egg Decorators (12) at Easter time. It went viral on Facebook and the inventor sold out. The machine holds and spins the eggs, and you use markers to make designs. There’s no mess or fuss with dyes or vinegar. It comes with eight nontoxic, quick-drying pens and you need four AA batteries.”
Sherry said, “People just love it! Look how fun it is! We just kept demoing it. The minute shoppers saw it working they bought it. “And now they have the TreeMendous Ornament Decorator!” (13)
After the show from Christine Osborne, Wonder Works in Charleston, South Carolina
“From Fat Brain Toys, I absolutely love the Whirly Squigz (14).
Klickity (15) is like a big fidget cube for babies. When you push the pink bumpy ball in, the blue ball on the other side pushes out. There are colored knobs that click like pen tops, and the ball on top spins. It has sounds, textures, and movement – perfect for sensory exploration.
The Soft n Slo Squishies from ORB (16) are great examples of the latest trend coming from Japan. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and even rare colors!
Odyssey Toys’ AutoMoto Transformer (17) is so awesome! It goes from a car to a transformer that responds to voice directives.
Marky Sparky’s Faux Bow Pro (18) shoots 200 feet and it’s very accurate.
The tubes of Plus-Plus Bricks (19) are hugely popular – we cannot keep the display stand full! They contain a mix of more than 70 of the unique little plastic bricks from Denmark. Everyone likes the vibrant colors.
Laser X from Toysmith (20) is a real laser tag game for two people – it comes with two blasters and two receiver vests.
It features sound effects and light effects that help players keep track of shots and hits.
With Zipes Speed Pipes from Neat-Oh! (21), you can build a track that remote-control vehicles speed through, not on. The cars light up so it’s awesome and fun to play in the dark. Build it any way you want, with lots of loops, in the air, up the wall, flat on the floor.”