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June 2009 | Vol. VIII - No. 6
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Top-10 Most-Wanted Activity Kits and Playsets

Friendly Figurines and Art Projects Fly Off Toy-Store Shelves

With additional reporting by Terri Hughes-Lazzell, Chris Lundy, Claudia Newcorn, J. D. Meisner and Brenda Ruggiero

In April 2009, TDmonthly Magazine surveyed 49 retailers around the country about their sales of activity kits and playsets. Open-ended activities and playthings are clearly a staple of the industry, stimulating intellect and imagination in children of all ages. With its extensive variety of themes, price points and activities, Playmobil topped storeowners’ sales as a perennial favorite.

“The best toy I sell is Playmobil, especially for boys, for fantasy. I love that open-ended play,” said Sheryl Guidera, owner of Kaleidoscope: The Parent Teacher Store in Capitola, Calif.

Craft kits from such companies as Alex and Creativity for Kids also earned mentions as go-to items for engaging children. Here are the top-10 best-selling activity kits and playsets.

MSRP: $34.99
Age Range: 4 and up
Launch Date: August 2009
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Play Sets

Kids can take their imaginations to the high seas with the rough-and-tumble Red Corsair. Crimson sails are emblazoned with the Jolly Roger, and the Red Corsair comes with three pirates, a cannon and other assorted accessories to dress up the deck. The boat floats and will accommodate the Playmobil motor, available as an add-on. Launch date: August 2009.
— “Playmobil is our best seller. Everything in that line is strong,” said Peggy Sebert, owner of Becky & Me Toys in Glenview, Ill., of her best-selling playsets in spring 2009.
— “Playmobil as a line. The pirate ship is probably the best in that line,” Dean Nelson, owner of Wizard Kids Toys in Toledo, Ohio, told TDmonthly during an April 2009 survey on playsets. 
— “As a brand, Playmobil is our No. 1 selling brand in store. All day long, everyday,” remarked Casey Sartain, buyer at Tutoring Toy in Salt Lake City, Utah. Eleven of 49 retailers surveyed in April 2009 named Playmobil as a best seller.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 23801      (added 5/21/2009)

MSRP: $19.95
Age Range: 9 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Books
Arts & Crafts
Creative Activities

Designed to give children ideas for creative filming while using the home video camera, this book includes a slate to mark takes, outlines gimmicks and gags, and provides step-by-step instructions on cool techniques, such as staging disappearances or fight scenes (where no one gets hurt). The guide is authored by John Cassidy and Nicholas Berger.
— “It's the Klutz that sells best,” said Patti Tepper-Rasmussen, owner of Learning Tree Toys in Oklahoma City, Okla., during an April 2009 survey of best-selling playsets and activity kits. 
— “Klutz is probably still my No. 1 seller. They have lots going on,” Pat Jensen, owner of Northwind Kites in Anchorage, Alaska, told TDmonthly
— “I sell a huge amount of Klutz books,” said Amy Barrett, owner of Lasso the Moon Wonderful Toys in Helena, Mont., in spring 2009.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 23161      (added 4/3/2009)

MSRP: $34.99
Age Range: 2 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Arts & Crafts

With My Giant Busy Box, kids can craft and create with two frames, four animal punch outs, 10 colors of dough, two peel-and-stick tissue art pictures, plenty of tissue paper, and glue. All the supplies come in a handy storage box with an easy tote-along handle.
— “It's awesome,” said Vicki Davis, owner of Children's Prep in Atlanta, Ga. In an April 2009 survey of best-selling activity kits and playsets, Davis reported sales of about a dozen per month.
— About 10 percent of 49 retailers named Alex as a best-selling activity kit line in spring 2009.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 23803      (added 5/21/2009)

MSRP: $6.99
Age Range: 4 and up
Gender: Girls
Category: Arts & Crafts
Creative Activities

Just the right size for a variety of tiny treasures, jewelry or other extra-special keepsakes, this miniature craft kit from Melissa & Doug comes with four pots of paint, a brush, glitter, white glue, and glittering gems to decorate the lidded, heart-shaped box.
— “It's a party favor. A cute and fun activity,” Linda Rocco, owner of Gummy Lump Toys in Medford, N.Y., told TDmonthly when asked about top-selling activity kits in spring 2009.
— Seven of 49 retailers surveyed in April 2009 listed Melissa & Doug as a top-selling activity brand in their stores.
— Bill Sartain, owner of Tutoring Toy in Salt Lake City, Utah, told TDmonthly in a May 2014 survey that items from the Melissa & Doug "Decorate Your Own..." line are their best-selling activity kits.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 23804      (added 5/21/2009)

MSRP: $17.99
Age Range: 7 and up
Gender: Girls
Category: Arts & Crafts
Fashion & Accessories

Young ladies can combine the soft and silky lip balm base with a variety of yummy flavors to create their own lip sensations. Simply soften the base in a bath of warm water and then add the flavorings. Mix up fun fruity combinations and add a hint of color, too. Cool cosmetic tins that come with the balm kit can be decorated with layers of fun sticker designs and labels. It's a fun, creative, and practical way for a girl to learn and role play.
— "Make Your Own Lip Balm from Creativity for Kids: It's a craft kit that gives you all the materials to make your own," said Mary Sisson, owner of Kazoodles in Vancouver, Wash., when asked about popular gift items for girls in her store.
— “The lip balm from Creativity for Kids does very well,” Ron Kutchik, owner of Grand Slam Toys in Kodiak, Alaska, said when asked about best-selling activity kits in spring 2009.
— About half of 49 retailers surveyed about their sales in activity kits or playsets mentioned craft items as top sellers in April 2009. Three of 39 retailers identified lip balm kits as a best seller for tween girls in fall 2009.
— “Creativity for Kids. The Make Your Own Lip Balm kit is best,” said Amy Hofsetter, owner of The Toy Store  in Atlanta, Ga., of her top-selling item for tweens in September 2010.
— Three of 44 retailers said Creativity for Kids supplies their best-selling items for tweens.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 14509      (added 8/7/2007)

MSRP: $21.99
Age Range: 3 and up
Gender: Girls
Category: Play Sets

Cloverleaf Corners is a busy little town, complete with a ballet studio. With this playset from International Playthings, children can tell the story of aspiring ballerina Britney Bunny. The set includes three tiny dresses that fit the poseable, flocked bunny character, a mirror, and a ballet bar. Britney Bunny's Ballet Set integrates fully with the wide variety of other Calico Critters sets.
— “Calico Critters is fabulous, for the fantasy. All girls love those,” said Sheryl Guidera, owner of Kaleidoscope: The Parent Teacher Store in Capitola, Calif., in April 2009. 
— “[We] sell a ton of them,” Becca Bramhall, owner of Dandelion Toys in Fort Collins, Colo., told TDmonthly when she listed Calico Critters as her best-selling playset line in spring 2009.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 23805      (added 5/21/2009)

MSRP: $19.99
Gender: Girls
Category: Science & Nature

This net habitat (almost like a Chinese lantern) encloses caterpillars, food and the setting for a caterpillar’s eventual metamorphosis. It requires mail-sent larvae. “The Butterfly Garden not only shows actual insect metamorphosis, but it does so in just three weeks' time. Many other animal habitats can take up to six months for any changes to occur. This makes it a perfect item for kids who have short attention spans and is an ideal science project for any classroom,” John White, marketing director of Insect Lore, told TDmonthly.
— Fred Rosenberg of On the Park in Kingwood, Texas, named this as his No. 1 seller in May 2008, with sales of 50 to 60 units monthly. “I just can't keep them in stock right now,” he told TDmonthly. “We have a display on our counter with the real butterflies so people can see it go through the process,” said Kim Emigh, VP of e-commerce at Growing Tree Toys in State College, Pa.
— 25% of 64 retailers surveyed in August 2008 named this as their top-selling nature toy, reporting average sales of 12 per month. Five of 38 retailers named Insect Lore’s butterfly habitats as best-selling science and nature products in late summer 2009. In an August 2010 survey, 21 percent of 43 specialty retailers said Insect Lore is a top-selling science and nature brand. Five retailers specifically cited Butterfly Garden as a best seller.
— As of 5/21/2012, the Butterfly Garden had spent more than 1,600 days in the top-100 best-selling toys and games at and has 4.4 out of 5 stars from 461 reviews.
AWARDS: 2010 TDmonthly Top Seller
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 3975      (added 7/18/2005)

MSRP: $16.95
Age Range: 3 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Creative Activities
General Toys
Puzzles & Skill

With no complicated instructions or directions, this product is ideal for the younger child. It includes just Wikki Stix and a sturdy write-on/wipe-off board for hours of play, plus a cartoon-style booklet for Mom to read, providing ideas and encouraging creativity. It also comes with zip-lock carry bag for convenient take -along in the car, on a trip or to Grandma's house. The set includes 84 Wikki Stix in two lengths. It is a winner of the Parents' Choice Classic Toy Award.
— “We're doing well with Wikki Stix,” Jason Curtis of Funtopia in Middletown, Calif., told TDmonthly in March 2009. “I've been really motivated to actively sell them because they're U.S. made and everyone is asking for the Bendaroos that are being show on TV.”
— Three of 64 retailers named Wikki Stix as a best-selling travel toy in spring 2009.
— “Wikki Stix are on fire,” said Gail Dunton, manager at Toy Chest in West Hartford, Conn., during an April 2009 survey on best-selling playsets and activity kits.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 2640      (added 11/18/2004)

Age Range: 1 and up
Gender: Girls
Category: Play Sets

Bright colored and super-chunky for little hands, Polly's Pony Adventure includes six pieces to accompany a child on a horse-riding adventure. The car and horse trailer attach easily with magnets, getting the two characters and their two horses ready to go on the road.  Other arena-side accessories, as well as the push-button tailgate and shape-sorting roof of the trailer, add to the fun.
— “Wow toys are my best seller, bar none,” said Ron Kutchik, owner of Grand Slam Toys in Kodiak, Alaska. Kutchik listed Wow Toys as not only his best-selling playset in an April 2009 survey, but also as a long-time top seller in his entire inventory.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 23806      (added 5/21/2009)

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Marie RavenWriter'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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