TDmonthly Magazine!
February 2009 | Vol. VIII - No. 2
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Why the Recession Is Good for Kids … and Toys

Experts Say Tight Economy Calls for Back-to-Basics Play


“[The recession] will force us to think about what’s really good for children.” Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek
“The recession could be the best thing that's ever happened to children's toys,” Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, a child development expert and professor at Temple University, told TDmonthly in late January. Her outlook that the dire economic climate “will force us to think about what’s really good for children” gives hope to the specialty industry that aims to do just that, recession or not.

Certainly, many classic toys that promote open-ended play or boast durable materials carry a lower price tag in comparison to the ever-increasing number of electronics hitting store shelves. Though the video game industry posted record-breaking sales in 2008, child development experts still encourage traditional play, especially for parents seeking low-cost, high-value items.

“Take along the Frisbee on the next family outing,” advised Stevanne Auerbach, also known as Dr. Toy, of the Institute for Childhood Resources. “Play … does not have to cost a lot.”

BANK ON BUILDING

Construction toys, available in a variety of price ranges, are great for children to use as a platform for creative play, Hirsh-Pasek recommended, and “a cardboard box is not a bad way to go” when designing a cost-effective puppet theater. Finger puppets by Folkmanis or animal figures by Safari Ltd. or Schleich could be used in performances, perhaps paired with a decorate-your-own Calafant Castle or Treehouse from Creative Toyshop.

In the construction category, Infinitoy’s Zoob sets, Wedgits by Imagability, Hape’s Quadrilla and K'Nex kits fit the bill for birthday presents, according to Owner Patti Tepper-Rasmussen of Learning Tree Toys in Oklahoma City.

ACTIVELY DESIGN AND CHALLENGE THE MIND

Kits by Design Your Own, Bead Bazaar and Scientific Explorer, recommended by Diana Nelson, president of Kazoo Toys in Denver, are good bets because they encourage activity and creativity. As Hirsh-Pasek pointed out, a good plaything is “90-percent child and 10-percent toy.”

Dr. Toy suggested everything from paper dolls and games to finger paints and puzzles when considering reasonably priced items that still contribute to a child’s development. Mind-challenging Scramble Squares by b. dazzle, inc., the recipient of multiple Dr. Toy awards, make great gifts, she told TDmonthly, and are “under $10, which makes them a real bargain.”

For babies, Tepper-Rasmussen suggested items from HABA, WOW, International Playthings and Sevi due to “reliability in terms of safety standards and fair pricing.”

See these and other recession-friendly suggestions below:




MSRP: $7.49
Age Range: 3 and up
Launch Date: January 1999
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Puppets



This magical bunny pops out of a magician's hat. Fully poked out, this rabbit's just 5" high. Launch date: 1999.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 21991      (added 1/2/2009)
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MSRP: $9.99
Age Range: 8 and up
Launch Date: February 2009
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Robotics
Novelties



Joining the company's family of micro-robotic creatures, this six-legged ant features thin, mobile antennas and travels very quickly. Launch date: February 15, 2009.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 22244      (added 1/28/2009)
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MSRP: $20.99
Age Range: 2 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Construction



This open-ended building set introduces kids to the spatial world of angles, color association and unlimited geometric design. With large components, this toddler-safe product offers the same open-ended fun kids find while building with WEDGITS Junior and Deluxe sets. The geometric shapes nest, and each set contains 15 pieces of primary-colored building blocks that can be configured in virtually unlimited configurations. The Starter Set is compatible with all other WEDGITS sets.
— “You can start very young with these,” said Patty Tepper-Rasmussen of Learning Tree in Oklahoma City, Okla. She sells approximately 10 to 12 WEDGITS sets each month. Idanna Smith of Juggles in Wakefield, R.I., named WEDGITS as a top seller in her store.
— “We came up with the starter set to meet the concerns of parents of toddlers regarding choking hazards. The pieces are big, so that all kids in the family can play with them without worrying about the littlest ones,” Rob McKinley, vice-president of sales and marketing for Imagability, told TDmonthly.
— The simple, open-ended play afforded by Wedgits makes it a favorite at toy stores and earned it a TDmonthly Top Seller 2007 award.
Jillie Beans Toys & More in Westminster, Colo., has carried Wedgits, a consistent best seller, since the store’s opening in 2006. “These are an educational toy and parents love that they start at age 1 and you can continue using the early sets even as the child grows older,” reported Storeowner Valerie Elsea in April 2010.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 12551      (added 5/2/2007)
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MSRP: $8.95
Age Range: 4 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: American-Made
Gifts
Novelties



Dolphins are playful, have individual personalities and adapt well to humans, making them a popular sea mammal to kids and adults alike, making for a very enjoyable Scramble Squares® Puzzle.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 19266      (added 6/5/2008)
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Age Range: 5 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Action Figures



Get your business buzzing with these cute bumble bee mini replicas! Perfect as an impulse item near the register. Offered loose in sturdy acetate bins with 192 pieces per bin. Minis average .75” to 1” in length. Hand painted, phthalate and lead free. Ages 5+. Safari Ltd. exceeds all safety standards. Safari Ltd's products are 100% guaranteed. See the entire collection at www.safariltd.com.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 22132      (added 1/22/2009)
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MSRP: $6.49
Age Range: 3 and up
SKU or Item #: 13650
Launch Date: January 2009
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Animal Figures
Collectibles
Educational



America’s No. 1 horse breed is one of 33 new animals available. It is extremely realistic and hand painted for a natural finish. "Schleich is the world’s leading designer of high-quality, realistic animal and historical figurines and fantasy play worlds for children and collectors of all ages," Martin Gour, marketing director for Schleich North America, Inc., told TDmonthly. Launch date: January 2009.
— Schleich animals were listed as top sellers in spring 2009 at At Once All Agog in Limerick, Maine, by Storeowner Candace Gooch. “This June, my store will take part in a merchandising program with Schleich,” she told TDmonthly. “I will be putting in two, 4’ backlit Schleich displays for farm and wild animals.”
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 21606      (added 12/8/2008)
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Age Range: 2 to 5
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Vehicles - Small Toy
Preschool



Suitable for children ages 1 1/2 to 5 years, this colorful, friction-powered harvester has a rotating thresher and an automatic baler that drops bales (three included in set) as the vehicle moves. It also features a swivel grain arm and comes with a farmer figurine.
— “Wow Toys have been the favorite,” Bill Rayment, owner of Toy Crossing in Harbor Beach, Mich., told TDmonthly about infant and toddler toys in March 2009.
— Three of 64 retailers named Wow Toys as a top-selling infant and toddler line in spring 2009.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 22264      (added 1/29/2009)
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MSRP: $24.99
Age Range: 2 and up
Specialty: Yes (as of 2012)
SKU or Item #: TBD
Launch Date: March 2009
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Plush
Preschool
Vehicles - Small Toy



This set of three different trucks includes a dump truck, fire engine and bulldozer. All have the same, popular, velvet-like flocking as the other Rubbabu vehicles, but have movable parts to encourage active play. Launch date: March 2009. (Product was formerly dist. by Plasmart)
Awards: 2010 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Best Toy Award, Gold Seal.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 21020      (added 10/27/2008)
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Age Range: 5 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Novelties
General Toys



Kids today can enjoy this classic metal toy as much as their parents did when they were children. Awards: TDmonthly Classic 2008.
— Original Slinkys are one of the top-10 best sellers at the Lollipop Shop in Jonesborough, Tenn., and Kiawah Island, S.C., Co-owner Jeff Gurley told TDmonthly in spring 2008.
— “Slinkys are still doing very well,” Ray Goodhart of Ages & Stages Toy Box in Golden, Colo., told TDmonthly in May 2008, noting that they sell “probably 15 to 20” per month.
— “Slinky — nostalgia does very well,” Linda Hill, owner of Emerald Isle Toys in Emerald Isle, N.C., told TDmonthly in May 2008. “[We sell] 50 per year … [to] kids — not parents — looking for older toys.”
— In May 2008, three of 55 retailers named the Slinky as one of their best-selling novelty items. Original Slinkys are a top-10 best seller at the Lollipop Shop in Jonesborough, Tenn., and Kiawah Island, S.C., Co-owner Jeff Gurley told TDmonthly in spring 2008.

Where to Buy: Rocking Horse Toy Store; Berkira

ToyDirectory Product ID#: 19263      (added 6/4/2008)
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MSRP: $19.99
Age Range: 9 and up
SKU or Item #: A249
Launch Date: January 2008
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Science & Nature
Educational
General Toys



Inspired by her beloved King Charles, college student Elizabeth Rives created this fun-filled kit for kids and their pets while she was working part-time at Scientific Explorer. Pamper your Dog will have pets woofing with delight over yummy, nutritious dog cupcakes. Children can give their canine friend a healthy scrub with homemade shampoo, brush those long teeth with special doggie toothpaste, and learn the secrets of a great massage for their furry friend, as well as design a unique "dog tag" for an ID. Insights into canine thinking will turn kids into real dog psychologists. The kit "helps teach social responsibility in a fun way," Scientific Explorer's Vice President Susan Rives told TDmonthly. Launch date: 2008.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 21139      (added 10/29/2008)
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Wholesale Price: (Log in to view)
MSRP: $24.99
Age Range: 3 to 12
Launch Date: June 2008
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Creative Activities
Arts & Crafts
Eco-Friendly



With a treehouse kit made from high-quality, extra durable cardboard, all pieces come precut and easy to assemble. The child can decorate this treehouse with paint, crafting materials and get very creative. After decorating and building it, the kids can play with it and incorporate it in their every day play. Ideal size for play with 3" dolls or animal figurines. The material is 100% recyclable. Approximate size is 15" x 16" x 22". Launch date: June 1, 2008.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 21832      (added 12/12/2008)
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MSRP: $16.95
Age Range: 8 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Arts & Crafts



This pop art kit comes with bottle caps, charms, glitter and gooey glaze so that kids can make colorful, retro creations. The goo dries into a hard, shiny coating overnight. The caps feature safety-coated edges.
— “Klutz books are our main focus regarding arts and crafts for both boys and girls,” said owner Kevin Pohle of his Denver, Colo., toy store, The Wizard's Chest.
— “We sell a lot of Klutz books,” said Lesa Smith, owner of Whiz Kids in San Luis Obispo, Calif.
— Eighteen percent of 44 specialty retailers named Klutz as a best-selling product line in fall 2008.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 22018      (added 1/7/2009)
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MSRP: $24.00
Age Range: 6 and up
Launch Date: February 2009
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: General Games



There’s no crying over spilled milk or in this hilarious game a “spilled cow”. Pile up the hay/flower cards and carefully pull on the cow’s tail and balance him on top of the cards. Each
player uses the hayfork to harvest a card while trying not to tip over the cow. Whoever collects the most cards wins! The rules permit the cow to tip up to 3 times during a round. A more challenging variation of the game can be played with older children. Designed for 1 to 4 players. Launch date: February 2009.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 22225      (added 1/23/2009)
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Wholesale Price: (Log in to view)
MSRP: $19.99
Age Range: 6 and up
SKU or Item #: RHPK
Launch Date: June 2008
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Kits
Play Sets
Creative Activities



The kit allows kids to decorate their own, real hockey puck and stick. Kids will be able to express themselves while staying active and can easily spot their puck on the ice. Launch date: June 2008.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 18976      (added 5/21/2008)
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MSRP: $10.99
Age Range: 5 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Arts & Crafts



Just the cozy cottage backyard birds are looking for, the Home Tweet Home bird-house has a real thatched roof and unique décor as provided by the child. The wooden house has various windows for the residents, pegs for perches on the outside, and attached twine to hang from. It includes weatherproof paint in six colors, a paintbrush and instructions.
— “Alex is strong in the arts and crafts area,” said Randy Horn, owner of Learning Express in Glen Ellyn, Ill.
— “We've done well with the Alex craft kits this year,” said Richard Belanger, owner of Scalliwag Toys in Belleville, Ontario.
— Sixteen percent of 44 retailers listed Alex as their top-selling craft kit supplier in fall 2008.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 22016      (added 1/7/2009)
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Age Range: 8 and up
Launch Date: October 2008
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Arts & Crafts
Fashion & Accessories



Designed to allow girls to weave their own jewelry, this kit comes with a wooden loom, glass beads, a needle, thread and instructions.
- “Bead Bazaar is No. 1,” said Jenny Thomas, owner of Applause! Give Your Kids a Hand, in Bracebridge, Ontario, Canada, when discussing best-selling jewelry items.
- Six percent of retailers told TDmonthly in September 2008 that Bead Bazaar is one of their top-selling lines.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 20643      (added 9/19/2008)
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This plush planetarium projects a starry night sky onto bedroom walls and the ceiling, illuminating with red, blue and green lights.
— Kate Tanner, owner of Kidstop Toy & Book Store in Scottsdale, Ariz., was impressed with this product at Toy Fair 2008, noting, “the Twilight Turtle was extremely popular over the holidays.”
— “I love this collection,” Owner Michelle Smith of Piccolo Mondo Toys in Portland, Ore., told TDmonthly of this good seller at the end of 2008.
THIS PRODUCT IS NO LONGER AVAILABLE. SEE THE RE-LAUNCHED TWILIGHT LADYBUG HERE.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 16304      (added 11/28/2007)
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MSRP: $35.00
Age Range: 8 and up
SKU or Item #: 861000000045
Launch Date: February 2008
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Puzzles & Skill
Creative Activities
General Toys



The new Ball of Whacks features six brilliantly contrasting colors, creating 30 magnetic pyramids that can be arranged into a multitude of shapes and mosaics. Additionally, the pieces can be configured according to the included color-design challenges for even more brain-teasing fun. Launch date: February 2008.
— “Unlike most brain-teasers or puzzles, there are no wrong ways to play with the Ball of Whacks,” Creative Whack Company Communications Director Lynn Araujo told TDmonthly. “Every time you pick it up, you'll be inspired to find new ways to play with it.”
— The Ball of Whacks is a best seller at Kazoodles in Vancouver, Wash., Co-owner Mary Sisson told TDmonthly in early 2008.

Past Videos:
ASTRA 2008
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 16814      (added 12/28/2007)
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Age Range: 5 and up
Launch Date: February 2009
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Eco-Friendly
Sporting Goods & Accessories
American-Made



Made from recycled plastic milk containers, this sturdy flying disc weighs approximately 130 grams. Launch date: February 15, 2009.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 22321      (added 1/30/2009)
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This colorful construction kit contains four pieces each of the five ZOOB shapes in sparkly shades. They come in a reusable tube that includes instructions for 17 simple projects, including a giraffe, rocket man, cell phone and tiara.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 22322      (added 1/30/2009)
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MSRP: $7.99
Age Range: 3 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Construction
Animal Figures
Preschool



Little kids can build colorful baby penguins with the 24 chunky pieces that come in this set, packaged in an easy-to-carry storage case.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 22325      (added 1/30/2009)
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Age Range: 0 to 1
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Plush
Infant & Toddler



This colorful bunny features fabric and plastic, as well as a ringing bell and ears that make a rustling sound. It helps develop a baby's senses and gross motor skills.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 22326      (added 1/30/2009)
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Julie L. JonesWriter's Bio: Julie L. Jones has written articles for both newspapers and magazines. Before joining the staff of TDmonthly Magazine, she worked as a communications writer and provided editorial support for a market research company. Read more articles by this author

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