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September 2006 | Vol. V - No. 9
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Back-to-School Products That Sell

Retailers Dish the Dirt on Popular Products


"Flashcards and learning books are always in demand."Kari Thomas, Little Learner
With additional reporting by regional correspondents Terri Lazzell and Brenda Ruggiero

Retailers across the country that spoke with TDmonthly Magazine said workbooks and activity books were among their top-selling back-to-school products, but that doesn’t stop educators and parents from purchasing everything from art supplies for open-ended play to brain-boosting games that the whole family can enjoy. Manufacturers agreed that keeping kids versatile will better allow them to adapt to ever-changing needs in the workforce later in life.

Games Enhance Learning
“Flashcards, workbooks and games are popular. Zingo is very popular. We also carry the Summer Bridge Activities books that are big sellers in May and June. We always have to reorder,” said Cathy Foland, manager of Imagination Station in Flint, Mich. Natalie Reese, manager of Angel’s Toy Barn in Greensburg, Pa., said that Summer Bridge books sell well at her store also.

“Flashcards and learning books are always in demand,” concurred Kari Thomas, co-owner of Little Learner in Lakeville, Minn. She added that the Barker Creek line of magnetic language pieces was her top pick for a back-to-school activity project. “It’s color coded — verbs are blue, nouns are red, etc.,” she explained to TDmonthly.

Jeri Dorsey, buyer at Kaboodle LLC in Carmel, Ind., said, “MightyMind from Leisure Learning Products Inc. is great. We have Leisure Learning shapes and cards to learn as they go.”

Leisure Learning Products president Richard Bendett said one trend he’s spotted is parents being “over eager” for their children to learn more from an earlier age. Education doesn’t stop when kids graduate from college and, therefore, it doesn’t begin when they enter school either. He said this is one reason his MightyMind puzzle packs have become popular in 23 countries, with materials translated into German, Arabic and Chinese, to name just a few languages.

Crafts and Toys Go to School
Beyond flashcards and books, other retailers said crafts and toys can also be marketed as great back-to-school products. Sonny, manager of Doodlehopper 4 Kids in Springfield, Va., for instance, said Carson-Dellosa Publishing, Scholastic and Penguin are good workbook suppliers, but he also mentioned Alex for crafts.

Grafton Stein, owner of Toys on the Square in Hummelston, Pa., said he moves a lot of Crayola Dough in all kinds of packaging and is currently pushing the Big Bad Booming Bugs by Little Kids. “We have all kinds of things to help out with projects at school, like dioramas that need clay, or any kinds of art supplies, science kits, slides, microscopes for different age ranges, digging kits,” he said.

Former teacher Markie Carlson, owner of Children’s Gift Shop in Northfield, Ill., saidMagneatos are kind of trendy and good sellers, as are Zoomorphs.”

Ira Kizner, in sales and marketing at Guidecraft Inc. (ToyDirectory), said Magneatos are a hit in the special needs market, but definitely have a place in kindergarten and first-grade classrooms as well. He’s noticed that educators “have become more open to different types of toys, more open-ended play. They’re not looking for the plain vanilla products so much anymore.”

In addition, what Mike Castor, owner of Pentwater Toybox in Pentwater, Mich., calls “toys that children can learn with” also sell well. He carries educational materials by Melissa & Doug.

The following is more information on best-selling back-to-school products.





MSRP: $15.00
Age Range: 4 to 8
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: General Games



Players try to fill their Zingo! cards with matching tiles from the Zingo Zinger. The first player to fill his or her card wins. Rules can be adjusted to favor more or less competition among players, and to vary the length of time each game requires. This game was a 2007 T.O.T.Y. Nominee for Specialty Toy of the Year. "It teaches memory, matching, vocabulary and social interaction skills. Kids have so much fun playing again and again; they don’t realize they’re learning essential thinking skills," Marketing Communications Manager Emily Peters of Thinkfun told TDmonthly.
—  “Customers use this game as their ‘standard’ party gift,” Owner Elaine Hackney of Boing! JP’s Toy Shop in Jamaica Plain, Mass. told TDmonthly in summer 2007.
— “We sell out as soon as they come in,” added Pam Horwitz, manager of Mr. Toad’s Toy Company in Naples, Fla. Four of 63 retailers singled out Zingo! as the hottest-selling game in their store. Seven percent of 56 retailers listed Zingo as a top-selling game in January 2009. Six of 38 retailers called it a best-selling game in Feb. 2010.
— “Zingo is a great game for 4- to 5-year olds,” Jamie Burdette, owner of LB Toys in Media, Pa., told TDmonthly about this game — a top seller in his store — in April 2008. “The basic Bingo concept starts to introduce words and spelling.”
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 3529      (added 5/10/2005)
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MSRP: $15.00
Age Range: 5 to 8
Launch Date: January 2004
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: General Games



This game lets two to six young players choose between competing and cooperating. It encourages healthy competition as kids race to form three-letter words faster than their opponents. Whoever forms the most words wins. Parents (or older kids) can combine forces with little ones to help them learn how to spell new three-letter words. The game contains 72 letter tiles, 36 word cards, Gnu's stand and instructions. "What’s Gnu? is designed as an essential learning tool to help younger kids develop important language and vocabulary skills. It's perfect for multiple players and the rapid-fire game play keeps kids coming back again and again," said Emily Peters, marketing communications manager for ThinkFun. Launch date: 2004.
— "ThinkFun: They have a lot of very popular games," said Gwen Bowden, manager of Doodlehopper 4 Kids in Springfield, Va.
— "ThinkFun games: What’s Gnu?" is a best-selling game according to Jamie Burdette, owner of LB Toys in Media, Pa.
— In fall 2009, two of 40 specialty retailers named games by Thinkfun when polled about best-selling educational items.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7999      (added 5/25/2006)
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MSRP: $29.99
Age Range: 12 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Card Games



Each player selects a card from his or her hand that seems best described by a card played by the judge. If the judge picks that card, that player wins the round. Everyone gets a chance to be the judge. The Party Box version comes complete with more than 1,000 cards — the entire collection of cards from the original core game plus Expansion Sets 1 and 2.
— “Teachers love this game. It crossed the border from teacher outlets to retail toy stores. There’s a Junior to Adult version,” said Roberta Edwards, owner of Wishes Toys & Gifts in La Quinta, Calif.
— This has been a consistently solid seller for Tree Top Kids in Fairfax, Va., according to Susie Waterstreet, vice president of marketing.
— “Believe it or not, I had the Junior age 7 and up, Junior 9 and up and Party Box kinds and I only have one 9 and up left,” said Trish Garlock, owner of Treasured Child in La Grange, Ky.
—  As of 1.06.2011 this product had 4.5 out of 5 stars from 340 reviews on Amazon.com and was No. 10 on the top 100 bestselling toys and games. Pros: Encourages creative thinking; fun for large groups. Cons: requires at least 4 people to play; not for children under 12.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 6637      (added 1/20/2006)
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MSRP: $14.99
Age Range: 8 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: General Games



This delightful go-everywhere family game will wow kids as well as adults with the thrill of spelling short words up, down and all around the crossword tray. Being imaginative and a good speller of two-, three-, four- and five-letter words will make you worthy of the title “ultimate word nerd.” When you are done playing, simply close the lid on the word tray … all the letter cubes are neatly stored inside. It's new for 2006.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7636      (added 4/20/2006)
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MSRP: $12.95
Age Range: 5 to 10
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: School Supplies



This educational game is played just like Bingo, only kids cover pictures instead of numbers. It helps children to develop listening skills, visual discrimination and critical thinking skills. It’s great in the classroom as a positive reward or to expand a theme unit and can be played by 3 to 30 players in  kindergarten through fourth grade. Each game contains 30 player cards and 36 50-question cards. Reading skills are not required.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 8508      (added 7/10/2006)
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MSRP: $29.99
Age Range: 8 and up
Gender: Boys
Category: General Games



Did you know that snot keeps your lungs clean? Or that some bullfrogs are cannibals? Learn this and more as you travel around the game board answering queasy questions. Land on a Gross-Out space, and you may have to check another player for toe jam or describe the last time you threw up! Every time you answer a question or complete a Gross-Out, stretch your slime on the score line. Stretch it to 10 and complete a Lab Experiment to win the game! A dose of gross helps science make sense. Includes a game board, 110 Question cards, 50 Gross-Out cards, 30 Lab cards, a die and a jar of slime. For 2 to 4 players.
— “This is one disgusting game,” commented Dolores Hopson, assistant manager of the Barnes & Noble in Macon, Ga. “Kids love it, and even the parents like it.”
— It was rated the No. 1 gross toy on Amazon.com for the week of October 16, 2005.
— Silly Goose Toy Store owner Diane Ross said this game sells “extremely well” and has since it first came in.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 5221      (added 10/27/2005)
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MSRP: $12.95
Age Range: 12 to 13
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Educational



This long-established best-seller helps students maintain and extend scholastic and reading skills while school is out for the summer. Each workbook includes enrichment activities, incentive contracts, a certificate of completion and flashcards. Children complete one page a day of curriculum-based exercises in math, reading, writing and language arts. It is endorsed by principals, curriculum directors, teachers and parents for use in classroom settings and at home.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 8509      (added 7/10/2006)
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MSRP: $4.85
Age Range: 10 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Construction



Already popular in Japan, the basic, colorful “head” pods of Pontiki are only 1” to 2” long. Mini-geometric parts are stored inside the pods and can be used as hands, feet or eyes.
— Pontiki has an officially licensed “Franny K. Stein” version, based on the popular book series by Jim Benton.
— “The sets build on each other,” explains Sandy Friedman, owner of Accipter in Raleigh, N.C., where the toy is selling very well.
— “They’re an impulse item,” says Wendy Kramer, manager of Big Fun Toys in Hoboken, N.J. She keeps them by the counter for quick sales.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 3787      (added 6/15/2005)
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MSRP: $19.95
Age Range: 8 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: General Games



This all-knowing handheld features “artificial intelligence” and can read minds. Players simply think of something, and then answer a series of questions. If the machine guesses within 20 questions, it wins. “20Q is an artificial intelligence, an electronic toy, a website and a phenomenon. Teachers everywhere…tell us how much fun it is to use 20Q with early readers in their classrooms, and as a motivator and reward for older kids,” Radica USA told TDmonthly.
— "A travel game we have for older children is 20 Questions. … the whole family can enjoy this one," said Peter, owner of Mr. Toad’s Toy Company in Naples, Fla.
— “The most perfect gift imaginable,” said DeeDee McMillen, co-owner of McMillen’s Magic in Trenton, N.J.
— Retailers have told TDmonthly that 20Q answers this pertinent question: What toy with wide appeal will boost my monthly totals? Since 20Q seems poised to do it again in 4Q, it’s been honored with a TDmonthly Top Seller 2007 award.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 3083      (added 3/1/2005)
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MSRP: $10.95
Age Range: 10 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Card Games
Educational
School Supplies



This set includes double-sided, 4" by 4" cards that come in three levels of difficulty.  The object of the game is to make 24 using all four numbers displayed on the card, using each only once.  Players can add, subtract, multiply and divide.  There is at least one solution to every card.
— In a November 2013 survey, Dean Smith, owner of JaZams in Princeton, N.J., told TDmonthly that the 24 game is a best-selling educational toy in the store.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 8511      (added 7/10/2006)
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Age Range: 0 to 5
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Educational



Specially developed for early learning, Crayola Dough gives little fingers a soft texture and the brightest, most vibrant colors available. The airtight container keeps dough crumble-free and ready for play at any time. It is available in assorted colors.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 8512      (added 7/10/2006)
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MSRP: $15.99
Age Range: 4 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: School Supplies



This kit includes everything kids need to create beautiful artwork and keep it neat and organized, too. A durable carrying case (18" by 8") includes 16 broad-tip markers, 10 fine-tip markers, 14 crayons, 12 colored pencils, 8 watercolor paints, a paintbrush, scissors, a drawing pencil, sharpener, eraser, note pad, ruler and glue. The kit won an Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Award.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 8514      (added 7/10/2006)
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MSRP: $4.99
Age Range: 3 to 4
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Books



Written by Nancy Jolson Leber and Liane B. Onish, this activity book allows kids to continue on the road to early learning. With this book, children will learn many concepts for early literacy, including: colors, shapes, numbers and opposites. Plus, using familiar nursery rhymes, children can start to prepare for reading by developing listening comprehension skills. Designed for preschoolers, these workbooks feature straightforward directions, uncluttered design and engaging activities.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 8517      (added 7/10/2006)
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MSRP: $4.99
Age Range: 3 to 4
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Books



Written by Nancy Jolson Leber and Liane B. Onish, this activity book allows kids to continue on the road to early learning. With rhyming words, games to learn syllables, skills to learn phonemic awareness and opportunities to practice writing both upper- and lowercase letters, this book is just right for preschoolers. The book features straightforward directions, uncluttered design and engaging activities.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 8518      (added 7/10/2006)
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MSRP: $69.99
Age Range: 5 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Educational



Teachers across the country are praising award-winning magnetic Kidwords. These color-coded words make it easy for children to learn grammar. By simply replacing a green word with another green word, children can instantly see what a noun’s job is in a sentence. Teachers and parents can watch their children’s reading and writing abilities soar when they repeat that same exercise with verbs, adjectives, pronouns, etc. This top-selling kit includes five individual Kidwords sets — more than 400 magnetic words, punctuation marks, several blank tiles and a blue magnetic Kidboard.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 8510      (added 7/10/2006)
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MSRP: $16.95
Age Range: 3 to 6
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: General Games



MightyMind is a creative play-alone activity for children ages 3 to 6. MightyMind was an original winner of the Parent's Choice Toy of the Year award. It has been three times nominated by Parenting Magazine to the Toy Hall of Fame. It sells in 22 countries from Europe to Asia. MightyMind and its sequel, SuperMind, keep kids busy and happy for more than half an hour. No reading or language is required, and it teaches kids everything they need to know to solve and build complex jigsaw puzzles. MightyMind  "Makes Kids Smarter."
— Mighty Mind is a favorite in Amy Barrett's store, Lasso the Moon Wonderful Toys in Helena, Mont. “ Some educational packaging is unappealing and doesn't let you know what it can do for your child. … This really lets you know what's going on.”
— “They can take them in the car and the pieces stick inside the tin box,” Terri Watkins, an employee at Interactive Toys Crafts and More in Cle Elum, Wash., told TDmonthly about the magnetic version of Mighty Mind, an evergreen seller.
— Dalene Lockhart, owner Toy Town in Casper, Wyo., said in July 2008 that “customers like it because it's expandable and goes from ages 3-8, and keeps kids busy for a long time.”
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 5697      (added 11/28/2005)
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