July 23, 2018

TDmonthly Magazine

March 2008 | Vol. VII - No. 3

Carving Out Simple Play

Wooden Toys and the Same Ol’ Games Stay Strong

By Julie L. Jones
March 2008

Many of the games that were popular around this time last year are still ringing up the most sales in specialty stores, 63 retailers reported to TDmonthly Magazine. And wooden toys, which account for at least half of store sales for 20 percent of the retailers surveyed, are maintaining their status as natural options with good play value — albeit now with a little extra attention from safety-conscious consumers.


Post recalls, seven retailers told TDmonthly they’ve noticed a shift in consumer preference for wooden toys, refusing items made in China and seeking those made on home soil in the United States.

“We’re concerned about toys covered in lead paint. We’re going more with water-based paint,” said Mary Ellen Cerney, owner of Dear Friends & Children in Duncan, Okla.

Melissa & Doug is “proven lead-free,” according to Janet at Deep River Toy Co. in Deep River, Conn., which may be one reason that well over half of the retailers reported it as a best-seller — giving it prominence on TDmonthly’s list of the Top-10 Most-Wanted Wooden Toys.


Customers at Learning Tree Toys, Books & Games in Oklahoma City are seeking “green toys, bamboo toys that replace wood,” said Owner Patti Tepper-Rasmussen. Certainly, a trend toward all things eco-friendly was noticeable at Toy Fair last month and is expected to be big this year.

Luke Rook, owner of Lulubell Toy Bodega in Tucson, Ariz., is considering a direct solution to safety issues, actually “looking into manufacturing non-toxic, recycled plastic toys.”


While wooden toys are a larger category than games for some stores (and certainly, there's crossover), nearly 30 percent of the specialty retailers TDmonthly spoke with said that games are responsible for 25 percent or more of their sales.

Aside from the outstanding favorites — including Bananagrams, Blokus by Educational Insights and Apples-to-Apples by Out of the Box Publishing — that made TDmonthly’s Top-10 Most-Wanted Games list, retailers also mentioned Honey Bee Tree by International Playthings, Ungame by Talicor and the Family Pastimes line.

Three retailers indicated that customers prefer American-made or not-made-in-China games. Steven Aarons, co-owner of Barston’s Child’s Play in Baltimore, told TDmonthly he appreciates German and other European games that are on the market from companies such as Rio Grande Games.

Danny Givens, owner of Little Dickens in Lynchburg, Va., sees a continuing thirst from the “grazing American public” for quick games. “They don’t have time. They want fewer directions and games that don’t take a long time to play,” he commented.


Play may be brisk for some, but “pieces in the games have become much more favorable,” according to Janet of Deep River Toy Co. “Figures are more substantial [and] baseball has little bats, more things of that sort.”

Kim Kutska, vice president of E-Commerce for Growing Tree Toys in State College, Pa., has noticed sales trending toward younger children rather than older, and games of logic are reigning supreme at Kaleidoscope Toys in Round Rock, Texas, Owner Terry Myers told TDmonthly.

See some wooden toys and games below, and check out more of the newest offerings in TDmonthly’s Notable and New Toys articles.

Piratissimo by RIO GRANDE GAMES

Piratissimo by RIO GRANDE GAMESThis game challenges two to four players/treasure hunters to beat their opponents in transporting 10 treasure pieces to a safe harbor. The hunters must watch out for other merciless pirates as they cruise the seas. Playing time is 25 to 45 minutes. 2/29/2008 (MSRP: $44.95; Age: 6 and Up)

Motor Home by PLANTOYS

Motor Home by PLANTOYSEquipped with a solar panel on top, this wooden vehicle reinforces eco-friendly ideas through play. It features wide doors for easy placement of furniture and dolls inside, and includes space that can function as a kitchen, bedroom and living room. Launch date: Early 2008.


Honey Bee Tree by INTERNATIONAL PLAYTHINGS LLCThe Honey Bee Tree is a best-seller from the iPlay Game line and is a recipient of the Family Fun Magazine’s Toy of the Year Award for 2002. Players remove the leaves from the trees and hope not to “awaken” the bees inside, providing experiences in cause-and-effect as well as logical thinking. It is ideal for two to four players and fun for the whole family. It is a recipient of the Dr. Toy Smart Play/Smart Toys Product Awards Program for 2006. 6/15/2006 (MSRP: $14.99; Age: 3 and Up)


Ungame by TALICOR / ARISTOPLAYPlayers progress along the playing board as they answer questions such as, “What are the four most important things in your life?” and “What do you think life would be like in 100 years?” This non-competitive game can be a great ice-breaker or a serious exchange of thoughts, feelings and ideas. For two to six players, The Ungame is also available in Christian and Catholic versions. 2/1/2005 (MSRP: $19.95; Age: 5 and Up)


Everyone is a driver working for the Yellow Bird Taxi Company. Each driver takes a shift driving the Taxi, doing your best for the company and leaving the Taxi in good shape for the next driver.

The object of the game is to deliver as many of the 15 customers as you can to their destinations, and earn as much money as you can.

The game ends in one of two ways. All the customers get delivered, or your taxi gets hauled off the road with too many Demerit Points against it.

There's lots to do before the night is over besides just delivering fares to their destinations. Events are happening all over the city, while there are speeding tickets to deal with, grabbing that necessary cup of coffee when you get tired, getting through traffic jams, past construction sites, watching out for thieves, keeping an eye on the gas gauge or fixing failing brakes.

It will be a night to remember, no matter what happens!

Includes: 17 x 17" board, Yellow Bird Taxi card, sets of where, event, special places and gear cards, money, taxi mover, pawn, daily record card, rules for easy and hard games.

1-8 Players 11/6/2007 (MSRP: $16.25; Age: 9 and Up)

Farm Wooden Chunky Puzzle by MELISSA & DOUG

Farm Wooden Chunky Puzzle by MELISSA & DOUGThe jumbo puzzle features thick puzzle pieces that are hand-painted, feature full-color images and are capable of standing on their own for additional play. When assembled, the puzzle measures 12" x 11" x 4/5". The puzzle promotes creativity and matching skills. Launch date: June 2006.
– “Melissa & Doug…we sell two or three of their products every day. The best selling one is their puzzles,” Steve Ricks, owner of My Story House Toys in Roswell, Ga., told TDmonthly.
– Over 63 percent of retailers who spoke with TDmonthly named a Melissa & Doug product as their best-selling wooden toy item. Melissa & Doug wooden animal puzzles are very popular at The Toy Shop in Lexington, Ky., the owner told TDmonthly. “We sell one or two a day.”
— “Klutz books have been steady sellers for us,” Melodie Ingwersen, owner of Creative Kids Toy Shop in Columbia, S.C., told TDmonthly in March 2008. 2/21/2008 (MSRP: $9.99; Age: 2 to 5)

Flibbix Super Set™ by MERILLIAN, LLC.

Flibbix Super Set™ by MERILLIAN, LLC.Flibbix™ Super Set by Merillian is the fun and exciting new game where you can build your own board game, make your own rules and then play. It's super easy, lots of fun, and lets you rebuild and replay your game as much as you want. The Super Set gives you even more cards and game board tiles, with 35 more tiles than Flibbix, including three-way and four-way intersections! These let you build crazy game boards that go different directions and cross-cross paths to bring your game to an even greater level of fun. 2/7/2008 (Age: 7 and Up)

Puzzle Stool with Sports by CUBBYHOLE TOYS

These stools come with 3-5 of the sports pieces depending on the name. Letters available in primary, pastel or jewel colored letters. Each is made with non-toxic paint and sealers. Available in 8- and 12-letter sizes. Made in the USA. 2/27/2008

Hula Hippos™ by GAMEWRIGHT

Hula Hippos™ by GAMEWRIGHTIn this simple, fast-paced action game, players spin the hula-hoop and then quickly flick their wooden hippos so the hippos end up inside the hoop when the hoop stops spinning. The first player to get four hippos into the hoop wins. The game comes with 24 wooden hippos, one wooden hoop and instructions in both English and Spanish. The game lasts approximately ten minutes and is intended for two to four players. Launch date: 2008. 2/26/2008 (MSRP: $11.99; Age: 6 and Up)

Eyes of the Jungle by FAMILY PASTIMES

Trouble is stirring in the jungle. Village children have disappeared, temples have been robbed, rare animals captured...

A call for help reaches our hidden camp. We slip into the dark and dangerous Interior. Our mission is to protect and save. We are the eyes and ears of the jungle — the Jungle Rangers. Skill and cleverness will be needed to make the rescues and return alive. Imaginations will be challenged because we must use whatever resources we find to overcome the deadly dangers. But our very best resource is ourselves, working as a team, eyes and ears for each other. Careful thinking, bold imagination and cooperative teamwork are encouraged.

A different adventure each time. Tricky strategies entice adults as well. Take great care, amigos!

Includes: 13" x 18" board, valuables, dangers, resources, special chart.

1-10 Players 11/6/2007 (MSRP: $10.50; Age: 8 and Up)

3"3/4 French Classic Ebony on Black/Ash board Chess Set by WORLDWISE IMPORTS

3"3/4 French Classic Ebony on Black/Ash board Chess Set by WORLDWISE IMPORTSWorldWise Imports has created a distinctive line of chess sets for the specialty game and gift markets. Their designers have matched wooden men and boards to create ready-made sets, presented in European-style presentation boxes. 2/28/2008


Pengoloo by BLUE ORANGE GAMESThe wooden game will help children enhance their memory skills. The game invites children to guess which penguin is hiding which brightly colored egg. Each egg hides perfectly inside each penguin. Launch date: 2008.
— In late fall 2009, Sue Banducci of Games Unlimited in Danville, Calif., estimated sales of 150 to 200 Pengoloo games in December. Two of 44 specialty retailers named the game as one of their overall best sellers. (Watch the Pengoloo Video Watch Video) 2/14/2008 (Age: 4 and Up)

Custom Puzzle by J.C. AYER & COMPANY

Custom Puzzle by J.C. AYER & COMPANYThis picture shows the intricate design of a custom jigsaw puzzle by J.C. Ayer & Company. Customers can submit their own photos and specify names, dates or holidays to be part of the puzzle's shape. These puzzles stand out in the marketplace because of "the effort by me and also by the customer to make something specifically for the person who gets the puzzle," Founder Jim Ayer told TDmonthly. "Most puzzles are bought from me as gifts." 2/28/2008


Destruct 3© by UNCLE SKUNKLE TOYS, INC.Players build the tower, roll the dice to determine the destructive device and then knock down the tower with the Catapult, the Pendulum or the Ramp. The entire set is made from beautiful, sustainable rubber-tree wood. This game received a 2007-2008 Informal Education Products Award. Launch date: June 2008. 1/29/2008 (MSRP: $69.99; Age: 8 and Up)


The Big Taboo® by WINNING MOVES GAMESPlayers race against time to guess as many words as possible. Depending on where a player lands on the board, he or she may have to draw a word, provide clues in as few words as possible, rely on Classic Taboo, or invite Bendy Bob, a new flexible friend, to help guess the correct word. The game contains 252 cards, three pawns, a Bendy Bob plush character, a game board, a sand timer, a sketch pad and a pencil. Launch date: Spring 2008. 2/26/2008 (MSRP: $36.95; Age: 13 and Up)

Tiki Topple™ by GAMEWRIGHT

Tiki Topple™ by GAMEWRIGHTIn this fast-paced strategy game, players try to maneuver their secret tikis to the top of the nine-tiki totem by playing the right combination of action cards. Each game comes with 55 cards, nine custom tiki pieces, four playing pawns, a game board and rules in both English and Spanish. Launch date: 2008. 2/26/2008 (MSRP: $15.99; Age: 10 and Up)

Schoolhouse Naturals Push Pulls by MAPLE LANDMARK WOODCRAFT CO.

Schoolhouse Naturals Push Pulls by MAPLE LANDMARK WOODCRAFT CO.Made of 100-percent maple, products in the Schoolhouse Naturals' line have either no finish or an earth-based finish, such as beeswax or whey. The smooth, wooden Push Pulls come in bunny, bus and elephant varieties and have holes in the front for a string so that a child can still utilize the toy when he or she starts walking. (Watch the Schoolhouse Naturals Push Pulls Video Watch Video) 2/18/2008 (MSRP: $19.00)

Forster Woodsies Motorized Engraving Tool & Wood Set by LOEW-CORNELL INC.

Forster Woodsies Motorized Engraving Tool & Wood Set by LOEW-CORNELL INC.This set comes with assorted wood shapes and a special tool that allows children to customize their projects with three different engraving heads. Launch date: 2008. 2/18/2008

Snorre - Bead Baby by SELECTA SPIELZEUG

Snorre - Bead Baby by SELECTA SPIELZEUGThis 7 cm Viking cheerfully watches over Baby while he sleeps. He features a helmet, shield and bright colors on his wooden frame.
— Selecta’s push toys were listed as top sellers by Owner Candace Gooch at At Once All Agog in Limerick, Maine, in May 2009. “It’s a shame that Selecta decided to pull out of the USA market due to CSPIA’s testing requirements,” she told TDmonthly. “I figure if a product meets the EU’s testing standards, then it should be fine for the USA. There are so many fantastic and safe European toys that our children will miss out on.” 2/14/2008


Blue Sky Airport by TOP SHELF HOLDINGS LLCYoung minds are "cleared for take-off" with this two-level passenger terminal featuring a boarding gate, check-in counter, runway, control tower and baggage claim area with a working carousel. Flexible wooden figures of various ethnicities include two pilots, a flight attendant, two passengers, and a tarmac worker to direct the three-seat passenger jet as it taxis up to the gate. Launch date: June 15, 2008. 2/13/2008 (MSRP: $119.95; Age: 3 and Up)

Locomotive Pull Toy With Sound by HEROS TOYS

Locomotive Pull Toy With Sound by HEROS TOYSThe colorful wooden train with makes a clacking sound as it is pulled. The German-made train is manufactured to EN71 standards. Launch date: February 1998. 1/29/2008 (MSRP: $34.50; Age: 1 and Up)

My Little Scoots – Fire Truck by MAPLE LANDMARK WOODCRAFT CO.

My Little Scoots – Fire Truck by MAPLE LANDMARK WOODCRAFT CO.The truck measures approximately 4” in length and is available in 18 different designs. Each scoot is made from pine and sanded smooth before finishing. “All of our finishes are non-toxic,” Maple Landmark Marketing Manager Barbara Rainville told TDmonthly. Launch date: January 1, 1995. 1/29/2008 (MSRP: $5.90; Age: 2 and Up)

Amtrak F-40 Three Car Passenger Set by WHITTLE TOY COMPANY

Amtrak F-40 Three Car Passenger Set by WHITTLE TOY COMPANYAmtrak has been serving our nation's railroad passenger service since 1971. This Amtrak Superliner three piece set is replicated with outstanding detail and is a perfect addition to any wooden railway system. This train set consists of a F-40 diesel engine, baggage car, and Superliner Coach Car. 1/25/2008 (Age: 3 and Up)

Pony "Lucky" by NIC TOYS

Pony "Lucky" by NIC TOYSThe low seat allows children as young as two to safely climb onto the pony by themselves. The feet are safely placed on the entirely enclosed rocker. The 67cm x 30cm x 42cm rocker’s footplate can even be removed and used as a seesaw. 1/18/2008

Anamalz Rhino by HAPE

Anamalz Rhino by HAPEAmusing faces and poses make Anamalz simply irresistible. The Australian-designed animals can be moved to look left, right and run or stand on their legs and perform. Each animal is made of renewable wood and textiles and are entirely environmentally-friendly and child safe. Launch date: February 2008.
Awards: Dr. Toy 10 Best Creative Products for 2011; Dr. Toy 100 Best Children’s Products for 2011.
— “No two pieces of Anamalz are the same, as each are handcrafted from grained wood, resulting in individual toys of character and originality,” Robin Lehnert of HaPe International told TDmonthly. “In addition, every animal also bears a unique code on the bottom of one of their feet, allowing the proud new owner to register the toy online, name the animals and print out a personal certificate.”
THIS PRODUCT IS NO LONGER SOLD BY HAPE (Watch the Anamalz Rhino Video Watch Video) 1/3/2008 (MSRP: $5.95; Age: 3 and Up)

Arranging Game Paletti by HABA USA/HABERMAASS CORP.

Who makes which pattern where? Paletti is just the thing. Shapes in three different depths makes for unusual relief effects. 36 pieces. Made of beechwood. Frame approx. 10" x 10". 12/7/2007 (MSRP: $40.00)


Rapid 4® Wood by UNCLE SKUNKLE TOYS, INC.The wooden version of the quick-connection game involves both luck and strategy. Players take turns dropping marbles through the maze of levers in order to get a winning combination of four marbles in a vertical, horizontal or diagonal. The removal of a fifth marble in a column allows for continuous play and unexpected twists. The beautiful, fold-up wood design makes Rapid 4® Wood attractive when left out in a den and a snap to pack up and take on vacation. This product is a Dr. Toy Best Product Award winner. Launch date: June 2008. 2/4/2008 (MSRP: $44.95; Age: 8 and Up)

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