September 2008 | Vol. VII - No. 9
TDmonthly’s Top-10 Most-Wanted Educational Products
Games, Puzzles and Gear for School Top the List
With additional reporting by Sharri Hefner, Terri Hughes-Lazzell, Chris Lundy, Claudia Newcorn and Brenda Ruggiero
TDmonthly Magazine recently surveyed more than 60 specialty retailers around the country about their strongest-selling educational toys and school supplies. Despite overwhelming emphasis that they select products based on a sense of educational value, many did not carry a large selection of traditional school supplies. There are, however, a number of standbys: workbooks from School Zone Publishing, Carson Dellosa and Teacher Created Resources, and backpacks from Crocodile Creek. Games to stimulate logical thought, problem solving and specific curricular skills, such as language, also continue to be a strong part of the educational market. Most popular is the developmental jack-of-all-trades, the puzzle — and Melissa and Doug’s line of wooden puzzles was the star.
Here are the top-10 best-selling educational toys and school supplies:
Designed to aid fine-motor, hand-eye and creative skills, this wooden puzzle has seven bug-shaped pieces that are easy to grasp and can be placed upright for play. There’s a picture underneath each piece. It measures 1” x 9” x 12” when assembled.
— “These are traditional toys. Every kid needs some basics," Catherine Higgins, owner of Stone Soup in Bar Harbor, Maine, told TDmonthly in July of 2008.
— Kathy Yuri, manager of Hammond Toys in Orem, Utah, told TDmonthly her Melissa & Doug puzzles are educational favorites: “Because they're made out of wood, they're more sturdy for the kids.”
— Almost 15 percent of retailers surveyed in summer 2008 named Melissa & Doug puzzles as one of their best-selling educational toys.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 20037 (added 8/12/2008)
This workbook includes exercises on basic early-math skills, including writing numbers, sequencing, and matching words to numerals for numbers 0 through 10. The write-in book is illustrated with fun images to interest the child and help them remember what they are learning.
— “We carry a bunch of their workbooks,” Sue Banducci, owner of Games Unlimited in Danville, Calif., told TDmonthly about School Zone.
— “Math in general gets requested a lot,” said Merrick Smith, owner of Piccolo Mondo in Portland, Ore., of her customers’ needs in school supplies.
— Ten percent of the 68 retailers surveyed said in July 2008 that, of their educational products and school supplies, workbooks are the strongest sellers.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 20038 (added 8/12/2008)
These full-color flash cards are printed on extra-heavy card-stock to withstand even the most curious babies. Photos of real animals accompany the animal's name in English, Spanish and French, as well as fun facts to help give context, such as the animal's habitat. The set comes with play suggestions.
— “Flashcards have been huge,” said Merrick Smith of Piccolo Mondo in Portland, Ore., in July 2008. "Flash of Brilliance is great for younger kids."
— Seven percent of 68 retailers said flashcards are their top-selling educational product.
— “Flash of Brilliance is popular with my customers because they’re sturdy and the quality of the graphics is good. That speaks to parents and younger children a lot,” said Janet Gregory, owner of Over the Rainbow Toy Store in Anchorage, Alaska.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 20039 (added 8/12/2008)
Manufactured out of durable polyester, this brightly colored backpack is sized for a younger child. It features adjustable, padded straps, a smaller front zipper compartment, and a mesh pocket for a water bottle on one side along with printed dinosaur graphics.
— Teresa Ford, owner of Kids Ketch in Lewes, Del., told TDmonthly she sells an average of 10 per month of this product — her top-selling backpack.
— Ten percent of retailers said in July 2008 that backpacks top their sales of school supplies.
— “They’re made of great quality materials, where a lot of children’s backpacks are a little cheaper. The big buzz right now is that they conform to all U.S. and European safety standards, as well,” said Jeff Saad, Crocodile Creek’s Northwest sales representative.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 20040 (added 8/12/2008)
¡Estrella! Star! Any way you say it, Bilingual Zingo!® is the new way to have fun while learning a new language. This version of the best-selling Zingo! game lets players test their Spanish/English skills while building word association, improving short-term memory and teaching shape and pattern recognition.
— “I think educational is anything that makes your brain think,” Robin Ellerman, owner of Trains N Toys in North Canton, OH, told TDmonthly in July 2008, having referenced Zingo! as a top seller.
— “We carry ThinkFun games because they have a learning base behind them,” said Jill Jernigan, owner of J. Christopher in Jonesboro, Ark., when asked about her best-selling educational products in summer 2008. Twenty percent of 68 retailers told TDmonthly that games are their strongest educational product category.
— Kara Fitchner, manager of Out of the Blue in Albuquerque, N.M., said ThinkFun games are strong sellers in her store because “[We] tend to sell more strategy-based games because they bring out that logical thinking.”
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 15430 (added 9/27/2007)
The fast-moving word game consists of 144 ivory-like letter tiles in a zippered banana pouch. Players place the tiles face down on the table and randomly select 21 tiles. They turn their letters right-side up simultaneously and proceed to form as many intersecting and interconnecting words as possible, rearranging their own letters as many times as desired throughout the game. Awards: TDmonthly Top Seller 2007; 2009 TOTY Game of the YEAR, 2006 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal; 2007 iParenting; 2007 Parents' Choice Recommended; 2007 Dr. Toy Best Products. (Read Review)
— This product has been making the TDmonthly Best-sellers lists since 2007.
— As of 05/13/2011 this product had 4.8 out of 5 stars from 456 reviews on Amazon.com.
— Eight of 66 retailers vouched for its best-selling status in May 2008; seven of 63 did in Sept. 2008. Shani Watmough of Planet Toys in Rockland, Maine, said her store sells 60 per month. Fifteen of 38 named it a top-selling game in Feb. 2010.
— As of April 5, 2010, Bananagrams had spent 570 days in the top-100 best-selling toys and games on Amazon.com.
— According to owner Brett Sommer of Figpickels Toy Emporium in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, “It was the 2009 game of the year. The brilliant packaging definitely helps this product."
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 8301 (added 6/19/2006)
MightyMind by LEISURE LEARNING PRODUCTS INC.
Other products from LEISURE LEARNING PRODUCTS INC.
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)
This 13.5” x 10” wooden case holds a colorful array of 113 pieces: 32 fine tip markers, 28 colored pencils, 24 oil pastels, 20 crayons, two drawing pencils, a ruler, an eraser, a pencil sharpener, a fold-out drawing board and two easel clips. It includes drawers to hold supplies, and opens to show a fold-up easel.
— When asked about top-selling educational products, Terry Watkins, employee of Interactive Toys, Crafts and More in Cle Elum, Wash., said, “Paints and watercolors, and we sell a lot of crayons.”
— “[Customers] like [art supplies] because they are educational and keep the child busy,” said Donna Stone, manager of The Perfect Present in Suwanee, Ga.
— Ten percent of retailers told TDmonthly in summer 2008 that art supplies are their top-selling educational and school-supply items.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 20041 (added 8/12/2008)
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With this kit, children can mix more than 15 flavor combinations to create their own crazy concoctions and make huge amounts of homemade gum. “This kit contributes to a child’s educational development because it involves a lot of creativity,” Susan Rives of product development for Scientific Explorer told TDmonthly. “Kids are encouraged to come up with their own custom gum flavor….After they’re satisfied with the gum, they can design its packaging.” Launch date: August 2006.
— “Scientific Explorer science kits. [Kids] can make candy, do slime, the bubble gum factory, dino kits,” Denis Hofsetter, owner of The Toy Store in Atlanta, Ga., listed some favorites in his best-selling educational line.
— “In the science and nature category, we sold 45 last month,” Margy Pein, owner of Tree House Toy Shop in Cumberland, Md., told TDmonthly in July 2008.
— Twelve percent of retailers said science kits and related activities account for their top-selling educational products.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 10410 (added 12/5/2006)
Bright colored and educational, this space-themed lunchbox from Crocodile Creek features a full-color illustration of the solar system on the zippered front pouch. The planets are named in large print on the lunch box's edge. Measuring 10" W x 7.5" H x 3" D, it can be hand washed in warm water with mild soap.
— “The best-selling is probably lunch boxes,” said Gwen Bowden, manager of Doodlehopper For Kids in Springfield, Va., when asked about top-selling school supplies in July 2008.
— Of 68 retailers surveyed, 7 percent named lunch boxes as their best-selling school supply item.
— “The new pocket in the front of the lunch boxes gives kids a great place for their silverware or their snacks, and parents like them because they can be easily wiped clean, they are free from PVC and phthalates, and … they conform to all U.S. and European safety standards,” Crocodile Creek’s Northwest sales representative, Jeff Saad, told TDmonthly.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 20042 (added 8/12/2008)
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Writer's Bio: Marie Raven has a long history with the specialty toy industry as a family business. In addition to freelancing for TDmonthly Magazine, she writes creative and technical material for various other businesses. Read more articles by this author
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