July 2010 | Vol. IX - No. 7
WATCH VIDEOS: TDmonthly Goes Inside ... Thinker Things, Calif.
Thinking About Toys Pays Off
Jane Naisbitt, an elementary school teacher, opened Thinker Things toy store in Del Mar, Calif., in 1974, when son John was still in high school. Jane chose educational and fun toys to stock her shelves. Her emphasis on quality earned her the community's loyalty for decades.
See a TDmonthly Magazine video interview with John, below. Then scroll down to watch 30 of the store's top sellers on video. (more coming)
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Jane and John are still busy buying for and working the floor at Thinker Things. In October 2009, though, they decided to close the Del Mar shop and reopen in nearby Solana Beach. The new location is better situated, easier to get to, and has more space for the toys and games their customers love.
How do they find new toys to keep their customers satisfied? Trade organizations and TDmonthly Magazine are two of the best ways to learn about what's new, said John. Paying attention to customer requests is also essential.
Here are the toys customers think about at Thinker Things:
Flip-n-Stack Monkeys includes everything you need to create a perfect monkey tower: four super-magnetic monkeys, one launcher, and a target landing pad. Multiple stacking options allows for the monkeys to be stacked in different arrangements.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 26227 (added 12/1/2009)
Jewel Water Garden Starter Kit Eco-Aquarium by WILD CREATIONS
Other products from WILD CREATIONS
Part of the Wild Creations eco-aquarium line, this balanced ecosystem offers a low-maintenance way for children or adults to enjoy an aquarium environment. This starter kit comes with the Jewel Water Garden, a snail, two little frogs, food and care pack, and choice of base.
— Nine percent of 43 specialty retailers told TDmonthly Wild Creations’ Eco-Aquarium was a best seller in late spring 2010.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 22597 (added 2/25/2009)
This fabric-covered toy has bold, bright geometric prints to help baby focus and lots of brilliant colors to stimulate visual development. The screen is a large, true-reflection mirror that reflects baby’s image. Colorful tabs on the top of the screen announce their colors in English and Spanish when baby pushes them. The keys can be pressed to hear colors in English and Spanish, musical notes, or silly rhymes and sounds. When it’s time for a break, baby can close the laptop and tote it around using the fabric handle. "This toy encourages language development by exposing baby to colors and rhymes and music, all activities that help baby's brain build connections," Peggy Barrett, PR consultant at Barrett Marketing Communications, told TDmonthly. Launch date: July 2, 2009.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 24088 (added 6/11/2009)
This large drum comes with an adjustable lanyard and toddler hand size's drumsticks that are perfect for beating on the big drum.
— "We are all occasionally guilty of under rating the value of simpler toys, but you can't do better for gross motor planning, grasping, or cause and effect for your toddler than a drum like the natural wood Big Drum from Plan Toys. The drum sticks are the right size for toddlers and the drum has a really nice woody sort of sound. Another great product from Plan Toys," Jennifer Shuman, owner of 1SmartNoodle, told TDmonthly at Toy Fair 2010.
— Plan Toys is one of Owner Donna Fredericks’ best-selling wooden lines at The Play House Toy Store in Durham, N.C.
— Gary Green, owner of The Toy Box of Asheville in Asheville, N.C., told TDmonthly in a January 2012 survey about musical products that they sold 30 of this item each month during the holiday shopping season.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 27134 (added 2/16/2010)
This activity features a scratch garden filled with bright flowers and lively fairies. Kids will see their artwork blossom on rainbow-swirled and gold, silver and purple glitter pages. They can use the sketch pages to draw their own designs. Scratch & Sketch "inspire[s] kids of all ages to become more creative and imaginative," Rasheen Hewlett, marketing assistant for Peter Pauper Press, told TDmonthly. Launch date: 2007.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 22281 (added 1/30/2009)
Sticky MosaicsŪ Riding School by THE ORB FACTORY LIMITED
Other products from THE ORB FACTORY LIMITED
Kids can create four fabulous designs with this kit, which includes numbered templates and a number-to-color matching legend designed to make it fun and simple. It comes with four templates, four wall hangers and more than 3,000 sticky foam and jewel pieces. "Our number-to-color matching system ensures a perfect picture every time. A child does not need to be artistic to create their own masterpiece to give as a gift or hang on their wall," Damien Crocker, sales and marketing representative for The Orb Factory Limited, told TDmonthly. Launch date: June 15, 2009.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 23859 (added 5/22/2009)
Sticky MosaicsŪ Dear Diary by THE ORB FACTORY LIMITED
Other products from THE ORB FACTORY LIMITED
Girls simply peel, stick, and follow the numbered pattern to create their own shimmering Diary, which features a heart-shaped lock, a lipstick pen and reflective cover. "Of course, our top-quality designs always set our kits apart, but even more than that is the added value involved when fitting a craft activity and a completely functional Diary into one package. When you combine top-quality design with amazing value, you get a truly incredible product," Damien Crocker, U.S. Specialty Sales Manager, The Orb Factory Limited, told TDmonthly. Launch date: March 15, 2010.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 26921 (added 2/4/2010)
Stick 'N Style™ Blinglets by THE ORB FACTORY LIMITED
Other products from THE ORB FACTORY LIMITED
With Stick 'N Style craft kits, girls can use a wide variety of jewels to create their own shimmering bracelets. "Aside from being incredibly easy to use, this new kit offers over 700 jewel tiles and 12 bracelets of varied thickness. Not only are there more than 700 jewels, but there are 17 varieties, making the combinations endless. There is no numbered pattern in this kit, so each design is unique!" Damien Crocker, U.S. Specialty Sales Manager, The Orb Factory Limited, told TDmonthly. Launch date: March 15, 2010.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 26911 (added 2/4/2010)
This kit gives some structure to free-form building with planks, including an idea book with instructions for building ball-track structures, ramps, funnels and more. It allows for scientific experimentation as kids test rolling the two included lightweight balls to see if they move as anticipated.
— "A new concept kit will help kids build bigger and better — simple, open-ended and smart," said John MacDougall, owner of Golden Apple Learning Store in Pleasanton, Calif., at Toy Fair 2010.
— It was also a top-two favorite at ASTRA's Share the Fair event during Toy Fair 2010.
— In an April 2012 survey, Elmer Carranza, manager of Doodlehopper 4 Kids in Springfield, Va., told TDmonthly that KEVA blocks are their best selling construction toy.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 27299 (added 2/19/2010)
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This motorized fork automatically winds up pasta for a meal with less mess, more satisfying bites and 100 percent twirling fun. The fork requires two AAA batteries (not included) and the metal prong-end is dishwasher safe. Launch date: June 2003.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 14135 (added 7/18/2007)
The 44 pieces in this kit from Elenco Electronics include a miniature motor and a working solar panel. Children can assemble six different machines and watch their creations come to life while learning how the energy in sunlight converts to powerful electricity. A detailed instruction manual is included with the kit.
― “I can't keep those in stock,” remarked Casey Sartain, buyer for Tutoring Toy in Salt Lake City, Utah, of Elenco's 6-in-1 Solar Kit. Sartain listed the 6-in-1 Solar Kit as his best-selling activity kit during an April 2010 survey of 48 storeowners.
— In a Fall 2013 survey, Kim Emigh, manager of e-commerce at Growing Tree Toys in State College, Pa., told TDmonthly that this solar kit is one of their best-selling science toys.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 28662 (added 5/26/2010)
The Kanoodle case holds two solitaire games that challenge the player to build colorful 2D puzzles and 3D pyramids. Once a child picks a design from the included puzzle book, he or she puts some of the pieces into place as shown, then fills the empty spots with the remaining pieces. Only one of hundreds of possible combinations actually completes the puzzle.
— Three of 68 specialty retailers named Kanoodle when asked about their top-selling toy or game in October 2008.
— Dean Smith, co-owner of JaZams in Pennington, N.J., told TDmonthly in October 2008 his store sells about 24 units of Kanoodle each month.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 20962 (added 10/17/2008)
Draw a line and the vehicle will follow! It is more than just a race set; it’s a craft activity that encourages children to be creative allowing for many ways to play. With the official Doodle Track marker and the included play mat, the Doodle Track car will follow a continuous line drawn on the mat by the marker. The Doodle Track car also comes with colorful, stick-on decals for customization. Set includes: Doodle Track Car, Washable Marker, Stick-On Decals, Playmat Track and Instructions.
Aunt Jean's Toys and Treats
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 23812 (added 5/21/2009)
Children can build a realistic miniature army Jeep with this 100-block set.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 28947 (added 6/16/2010)
This target toss game is designed for use in recreation centers, schools, backyards and resorts. The set includes six balls and is designed for two to six players.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 28946 (added 6/16/2010)
This 11" by 7" by 8" portable playhouse includes three fairy friends, a bee fairy, a table and chairs, and a slide. The removable roof allows for easy access to the inside.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 28945 (added 6/16/2010)
Early Learning Stack and Nest Birds by EARLY LEARNING CENTRE
Other products from EARLY LEARNING CENTRE
These three cute birds can be stacked and nested like Russian dolls. This set is designed to help children develop spacial, counting and fine motor skills.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 28944 (added 6/16/2010)
Kids can fire up this "power drill," grab some bolts and create a mosaic masterpiece. Designed to build coordination, the kit includes a power drill, screwdriver, wrench, three interchangeable drill bits, 20 bolts, an 11.5" pegboard and 20 idea cards.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 28943 (added 6/16/2010)
This tranquil kinetic sculpture features "magic" jellyfish that bob and swim through a stylish mini-aquarium. The product includes multi-colored LED lighting, a "magic fish" bag, "magic fish" food, two plastic containers, a spoon, a siphon, a magnifer and instructions. It measures 9.7” x 7.3” x 2.5.”
Where to buy:
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 28942 (added 6/16/2010)
This kinetic sculpture features an underwater volcano. The product includes motion Beads, multi-colored LED lights, an A/C Pump and a power adapter. It measures 9.7" x 7.3" x 2.5."
Where to buy:
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 28941 (added 6/16/2010)
At bedtime, this dragon plush becomes a nighttime music box. With his glowing star and illuminated nose, Walter is designed to comfort children until they drift off to sleep.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 28940 (added 6/16/2010)
This magnetic dress-up set features two double-sided wooden figures that can be dressed for every occasion. An extensive wardrobe of magnetic tops and tights, reusable vinyl shoes and hair accessories are included in a portable zippered fashion-designer portfolio.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 28939 (added 6/16/2010)
The My Pillow Pets panda comes with a velcro closure that when opened transforms him into a pillow. This soft black and white plush measures 18" x 9" x 9."
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 28938 (added 6/16/2010)
This complete drum set for preschoolers comes with two drums, a metal cymbal, a guiro and two drumsticks. The drums are made of hardwood topped with durable latex drumheads. The set stands 13" tall and is designed to help children develop an early sense of rhythm and music.
— In a December 2012 survey, Peg Scholtes, owner of Capitol Kids LTD in Madison, Wisc., told TDmonthly that PlanToys brand instruments were her bestselling musical toys.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 28937 (added 6/16/2010)
Miracle Pounding is designed to add excitement to a traditional ball pounding activity. When children hit the ball with the wooden mallet the toy pushes out a different ball, ready to pounded again.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 28936 (added 6/16/2010)
Young children can create colorful mosaics with the Fantacolor Junior peg board set. The set includes eight pattern cards, a clear peg board and 48 colorful pegs that are large enough for preschool-age children to handle. This toy is designed to help children develop motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 28935 (added 6/16/2010)
These big beautiful birds are 38" tall from the control to the bottom of the puppet's feet. The flamingo puppet is available in pink, orange and rainbow colors.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 28934 (added 6/16/2010)
This high-performance yo-yo features a polycarbonate flared gap design, stainless steel ball bearings and a fast-break response system that resists wear and reduces maintenance.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 28933 (added 6/16/2010)
This set includes two high-quality hardcover pop-up books (8.5"L x 8.5"W and 6.25"L x 6.25"W), stickers, eight markers and pop-up designs. Just add drawings, photographs and imagination. Illustrated instructions include story starter ideas and step-by-step pop-up ideas.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 29243 (added 6/30/2010)
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Writer's Bio: ALISON MAREK is an award-winning writer, director and cartoonist whose work has been published by Fairchild Publications and DC Comics (Piranha Press), broadcast on Showtime and other cable networks, and viewed worldwide in film festivals. See her short films and print work on www.alisonmarek.com. Watch her nefarious villains in the web series www.MuggsMovers.com. Get inspired by her cartoons "Daily ARFFirmations to Unleash Your Inner Fido" at www.ARFFirmations.com. Phew! And then ... Read more articles by this author
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