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May 2006 | Vol. V - No. 5




Tools:

En Route to Building a Better Brain

Smart Families Travel With Educational Toys


“Families today have busy lives and whatever tools they can use to enjoy their vacation and free time more are in great demand.” Sam Reich-Dagnen, founder of Braincandy
For as long as there have been planes, trains and automobiles, parents have been searching for ways to keep their children entertained. Both portable and enjoyable, multimedia products for kids on the go are emerging as family favorites.

“For kids, it doesn’t matter if a trip takes one hour or 10 — it’s a long trip,” explained Peter Petracco, owner of Wonderbrains.com, an Internet retailer specializing in educational toys and games.

Petracco believes that a good travel toy has three essential elements. “First and foremost, it has to be engaging. The toy could be the greatest in the world, but if it doesn’t capture the child’s interest, who cares? Second, the item has to be self-contained, meaning that the child should be able to play with it by him or herself with limited adult interaction. Finally, there should be as few pieces as possible. Obviously, the more pieces there are, the more likely they will get lost or dropped.”

Modern technology is aiding bored travelers. Sam Reich-Dagnen, founder of Braincandy, cites the increasing popularity of portable DVD players as a breakthrough in educational travel activities for children.

“Families today have busy lives, and whatever tools they can use to enjoy their vacation and free time more are in great demand,” said Reich-Dagnen.

Portable DVD players, CD players and even mp3 players have become major players in the travel toy/activity market. The Baby Einstein Company (ToyShow) has a number of new releases in its award-winning music and DVD collection that tie in nicely with travel, such as the Discover Along: On the Farm CD and booklet and the Meet the Orchestra DVD.

Hasbro has introduced the two portable video players to attract kids of almost all age ranges. The VideoNow JR system focuses on the preschool kids, while VideoNow system and the VuGo are geared toward the tween to teen set.

But, even with the popularity of new electronic interactive toys, many of the classic games and activities are hot selling items. Michelle Gietz, owner of Where’d You Get That Toys of Williamstown, Mass., has families pass through all the time during the tourist season. “The Rubik’s Cubes and the 20Q electronic game are flying off the shelves. Parents are looking for something different, something portable and something to keep kids interested until the next stop. For us, it’s not about the bells and whistles, but about what kids are interested in and what travels well.”

Sometimes keeping everyone happy and sane requires some creative thinking. “Don’t always assume that toys that are labeled as travel toys are the only option during a trip,” Petracco suggested.

For example, nature kits that center on bugs, leaves or another element of the natural world are a fun way to enjoy the rest stops along the way. Plus it allows kids to burn off some of that pent up energy from sitting in the car for so long.

Don’t forget about rewards for good behavior, either. Petracco and his wife make sure to pack a few games and other toys in a suitcase for use later in the trip. “We tell the kids that if they can behave in the car, that once we get settled at our destination, we can play one of the games or play with the toy. It’s a great incentive for them.”

Finding the perfect travel toys and activities can start the vacation off on the right foot.

Remember, the whole point of going on a family trip is to spend some relaxing, quality time with each other. Why not start during the first few miles?

What follows is more information about smart travel toys.




MSRP: $19.95
Age Range: 6 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Educational



Math Whiz plays like a video game and teaches like electronic flash cards. The portable, handheld unit quizzes kids on addition, subtraction, division and multiplication and works as a full-function calculator with the switch of a button. It includes lights and sounds for instant feedback, comes with eight skill levels and requires two AAA batteries (not included). Colors may vary.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7672      (added 4/21/2006)
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MSRP: $29.98
Age Range: 6 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Educational



Kids can discover more than 400 fascinating facts about animals in the jungle. An interactive talking quiz map makes it fun for kids to learn about what these amazing creatures eat, live and do. It rewards correct answers and provides information on missed questions. It measures approximately 13" x 15" and requires three AA batteries (not included).
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7673      (added 4/21/2006)
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MSRP: $19.95
Age Range: 8 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: General Games



This all-knowing handheld features “artificial intelligence” and can read minds. Players simply think of something, and then answer a series of questions. If the machine guesses within 20 questions, it wins. “20Q is an artificial intelligence, an electronic toy, a website and a phenomenon. Teachers everywhere…tell us how much fun it is to use 20Q with early readers in their classrooms, and as a motivator and reward for older kids,” Radica USA told TDmonthly.
— "A travel game we have for older children is 20 Questions. … the whole family can enjoy this one," said Peter, owner of Mr. Toad’s Toy Company in Naples, Fla.
— “The most perfect gift imaginable,” said DeeDee McMillen, co-owner of McMillen’s Magic in Trenton, N.J.
— Retailers have told TDmonthly that 20Q answers this pertinent question: What toy with wide appeal will boost my monthly totals? Since 20Q seems poised to do it again in 4Q, it’s been honored with a TDmonthly Top Seller 2007 award.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 3083      (added 3/1/2005)
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MSRP: $29.99
Age Range: 3 to 6
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Electronics



VideoNow Jr. is the first full-color personal video player designed specifically for preschoolers. Now kids can bring Dora, Blue, Barney and other favorite television and movie friends on the road.
— According to a Hasbro press release, more than 1.2 million black-and-white players were sold in its first year alone, and Hasbro expects the new, color version to be equally, if not more, popular.
— The extensive library includes top children’s programming from popular channels such as Nick Jr., Sesame Workshop and HIT Entertainment.
— VideoNow Jr. was a top-selling kid’s electronic device on Wal-Mart.com when it was first released.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 3456      (added 4/28/2005)
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MSRP: $12.99
Age Range: 3 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Construction



With the Kid K’NEX Footed Friends building set from K’NEX, large chunky feet, big rabbit ears and huge bug eyes go together easily to create new friends. Kids can build on the storage case too. With 55 easy-snap large pieces it’s an excellent value for young builders. The Knex Footed Friends Construction Set includes 55 pieces and instructions.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7674      (added 4/21/2006)
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MSRP: $25.99
Age Range: 8 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Books



The Klutz Kids Travel Book is a 48-page backseat survival kit. This super high-quality book comes with a built-in clipboard, 100-page notepad, 47 page activity book and a conveniently attached zipper pouch full of markers, yarn, dice, string and more. Mazes, Cat's Cradle Loop, Hidden Pictures, Parcheesi Board, License Plate Bingo and Classic Song Lyrics are just a few of the activities included in this ultimate travel kit. It’s a winner of the Parent's Choice Gold Award.
— Two of 40 retailers who spoke with TDmonthly in March 2008 singled out this kit as their stores’ best-selling travel item.
— Amy, owner of Babies to Kids in Flagstaff, Ariz., told TDmonthly that her store sells “over 20 per month” of this item.
— In March 2008, Amy Oliver, owner of Giggles in South Hamilton, Mass., named this kit as one of her stores’ best-selling travel products.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7675      (added 4/21/2006)
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MSRP: $8.99
Age Range: 4 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Audio & CD



It's an all new guessing game on CD that the whole family will enjoy. From power tools to 10-pin bowling, Road Games 1: Sound Effects challenges families to put their listening skills to the test — whether en route to the cottage or running errands around town. Over 80 digitally-recorded sound effects are included, categories ranging from easy to almost impossible.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7676      (added 4/21/2006)
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MSRP: $8.99
Age Range: 6 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Audio & CD



This is B - I - N - G - O on the move. It includes hours of fun with a CD and Bingo Cards and makes that far away destination seem just around the corner. It includes bingo cards, pencils and instructions.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7677      (added 4/21/2006)
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MSRP: $14.99
Age Range: 3 to 8
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Videos & DVDs



This is a DVD for kids on the go (cars, planes and trains). Hosted by Miles The Goose, the DVD is packed with classic travel games, sing-alongs featuring Rebecca Frezza and the Big Truck Band, videos, stories and travel fun facts that will not only entertain children but educate them as well.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 3870      (added 6/29/2005)
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MSRP: $19.99
Age Range: 0 to 4
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Videos & DVDs



"Braincandy, My 5 Senses" is the first DVD in a series of six, whose content focuses on young children learning about themselves as they learn about the world. The Braincandy recipe encourages active experimentation rather than passive drills and repetition. Braincandy uses a creative combination of engaging puppet characters representing the five senses introducing the host, Bruce Brain, “real” kids engaged in captivating, sensory oriented activities, and innovative animations that show how the senses work. A variety of multi-genre, "kidified" music forms a textured backdrop that gets young children up and moving! Ideal for children ages 6 months to 4 years old, the DVD/video lays the foundation for independent thinking as well as social and emotional development. Winner of 10 toy industry awards and endorsements, including Dr Toy's "100 Best Toys for 2005" and the "Top 10 Audio/Video Products" for 2005. (Read Review)
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 4162      (added 8/15/2005)
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MSRP: $9.99
Age Range: 3 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Arts & Crafts



Kids can scribble in all the right places with Scribble to Go from Alex. This carry-all pad and marker set is great for quick doodles and scribbles to keep little ones busy while mom and dad are preoccupied. This Scribble to Go set sits perfectly in a lap so kids can bring it along in the car, the train, the plane ... anywhere! Scribble to Go from Alex comes with 15 markers in a rainbow of brilliant colors and a scribble pad with 30 sheets of white paper that measure 6" by 9". It’s great for little artists on the go.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7678      (added 4/21/2006)
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