With additional reporting by regional correspondents Virginia Davis, Elizabeth Greenspan, Terri Hughes-Lazzell, Krista Lebednik and Brenda Ruggiero
Classic Hop Ball sales are still hopping, as are stomping toys and textured balls, 67 retailers told TDmonthly Magazine. Here are the toys that retailers say are keeping their kids and cash registers in tip-top shape:
Made in Italy, Gymnic’s Hop Balls are the very best quality in hopping balls! Made from super strong, yet soft latex-free vinyl material for long lasting use and durability. Great exercise product for indoors and smooth safe outdoor surfaces. Promotes children’s body coordination, balance, lymph circulation and provides a fun work out while hopping on the ball. Special patented handgrip safety handle. Ages 5 years and up with adult supervision. — “Hop Balls from Toymarketing International — I think it’s just a classic kids' toy. They’ve been around forever,” said Kim Duff, manager at Giggles Toys & More in Bozeman, Mont. — “I sell a lot of those Hop Balls … They’re fun. Kids like to hop around,” noted Amy Barrett, owner of Lasso the Moon Wonderful Toys in Helena, Mont. — TDmonthly spoke with Jennifer Blacklock, sales and marketing representative for Toymarketing International, about why the Hop Fantasy is popular: “They’re made of heavy-duty vinyl, which makes them long lasting. They’re latex-free. They’re very durable. They have a patented handgrip. They’re made in Italy. It’s a better-made, higher quality, European-made product. It’s a phenomenal product. It’s been around for more than 25 years.”
Available in red, pink or blue, more than 10 million of these classic balls have been sold. Once inflated, they measure 9” in diameter. “You blow these up with a straw and bounce them on the carpeting and grass,” said Ricki Block, owner of Ariel’s Child in New Windsor, N.Y. — “I do sell a lot of Gertie Balls to people doing physical therapy. Gertie balls are by far number one,” commented Gage Brownell, manager at Belmont Toys in Belmont, Mass. — “A lot of Gertie Balls. They’re great. They travel well. Kids like the texture,” seconded Karen Williams-Fox, manager of Woodbury Mountain Toys in Montpelier, Vt. — Lisa Orman, public relations rep for Small World Toys, explained toTDmonthly, “Gertie balls have a unique, slightly sticky surface that makes them extra easy to throw and catch — even for the youngest kids. Because Gertie balls are light and soft, they can be used for both indoor and outdoor play. It is also the only ball that travels small: Deflate for easy packing, then re-inflate quickly with the included straw.”
Stomp on the launch pad and a blast of air propels the Ultra Stomp Rocket over 200' in the air. The kit contains four rockets with the OG-1 Nosecone. “We are the original creator. Stomp Rockets started the "stompin' revolution," Cynthia Peeks of D&L Co. told TDmonthly, stressing that Stomp Rockets are known for their name, quality and safety. Awards: TDmonthly Top Seller 2008; iParenting Media, iParenting Hot; Dr. Toy Best Children´s Vacation Toy. — Retailers surveyed by TDmonthly have been naming Ultra Stomp Rocket as a best-seller since 2006. — Four of 45 retailers who spoke to TDmonthly in summer 2007 said the Stomp Rocket's success makes it a choice gift, reporting unit sales figures from four to dozens a month. Nine percent of 66 retailers named the Stomp Rocket as a best-selling gift for boys in July 2008. "We sell about 75 a month," Marilyn Walker, owner of Play Fair Toys in Boulder, Colo., told TDmonthly in early 2009. Thirteen percent of 47 retailers told TDmonthly in June 2009 that Stomp Rockets are a best seller for boys. “It's probably been the dang Stomp Rocket for about 15 years now. They just fly out,” Tye Steinbach, owner of Thinker Toys in Portland, Ore., said when asked about his most popular outdoor toy. Nine of 37 retailers named Stomp Rockets as a best-selling outdoor item in spring 2010. — Despite multiple complaints about its durability, the Ultra Stomp Rocket received an average of 4.5 stars among 217 Amazon.com customers for being fun for all ages and pleasantly surprising when it comes to the distance the rockets can be launched. The toy is best used in open areas. Rockets are easy to lose and break, but refills are easy and cheap to find! (12.17.2012)
The easy-grip rubber Dora the Explorer Playground Balls come in 5”, 8”, and 16” sizes. They can be used to play a variety of games. It’s part of the Dora the Explorer theme kids have come to love. — “The kids are controlling it. It’s their game and their ball. ‘If I don’t like it. I’ll take my ball and go home,’” is how Greg Bonner of Heights Toy Center in Little Rock, Ark. explained the attraction of owning the ball for kids. — “A lot of pitch-and-play stuff from Franklin Sports,” sells well, was the endorsement given by Rick Henry, owner of Stellabella Toys in Cambridge, Mass. — The popularity of the “Dora the Explorer” universe continues as the kids TV network, Nick Jr., will air an hour-long movie special in Fall 2006.
The Blast Pad Advanced Missile Launch System comes with telescoping technology that expands to almost 3'. The carrying case holds up to six soft-tipped missiles and the Flex Launch tube can’t kink to restrict airflow. Mark Rappaport, founder of Marky Sparky, invented his first toy when he was 9, according to his website. The Blast Pad was the winner of the 2003 Creative Child Magazine Preferred Choice Award. — “We sold more than 500 during Christmas  alone,” said Lee Ann Stern, general manager for the 11-year-old Village Toy Shop in Easton, Mass. Amanda Toupes, manager of Magic Box in New Orleans, added, “Some of [the missiles] get 200' in the air.” — This toy is "sans pareil," according to Michael Ziegenhagen, owner of four Playmatters stores in Cleveland. "It has broad appeal as an outdoor boy toy" and has been one of his best sellers for four years. — “These have sold well for us from day one,” Co-owner Jude Larene of Izilla Toys in Seattle told TDmonthly in mid-2007. “It's a kid magnet at the park.”
Gymnic Line’s Rody Horse is a favorite with children to learn balancing and coordination while they hop on it. (A base is available for transforming to a Rocking Rody Horse.) Rody is used in therapy for handicapped children, owing to its softness and ride-on qualities. Made of super-strong, latex-free vinyl, Rody inflates according to the size and weight of a child with a hand or foot pump. The maximum inflated height to “saddle” is 12". Rody is recommended for kids ages 3 and up, with adult supervision. Awards: A TDmonthly Classics Award for being an all-time favorite toy. — As of 7/21/2011 this product had 4.5 out of 5 stars from 145 reviews on Amazon.com. — “We do more Rody Horse [than any other physical fitness toy]. They look like a horse. They’re more unique and kids love them,” said Jenny Goodlund, manager of JT Puffin’s in Madison, Wis. — Jennifer Blacklock, sales and marketing representative for Toymarketing International, told TDmonthly, “Even though the Rody is for 2- to 4-year-olds, my 7-year-old rides it and loves it. He plays games with it with his little brother. It’s just a really good toy that teaches balance and coordination. It’s fun exercise — what we need more of in this society today.”
The new Fun Gripper Ball Toss is portable and safe. It can be played like a simple version of darts. Also available are Fun Gripper Football Toss, Fun Gripper Basketball Toss and Fun Gripper Toss & Target Game. — "It's light weight, it's bright colors; kids tend to like that," were the reasons Jackie Englehart, assistant manager of the Great Rocky Mountain Toy Company in Bozeman, Mont., gave TDmonthly for why Gripper balls sell well in her store. Rick Henry, owner of Stellabella Toys in Cambridge, Mass., agreed. — "They're just very, very, popular," added Tony Hoyt, owner of Hummingbird Toys & Treats in Arlee, Mont. — "The little ones can grip them easier,” explained Greg Bonner of Heights Toy Center in Little Rock, Ark.
A pediatric nurse and gymnastics coach designed this new and innovative toy. It comes with a board and three different-sized balls. Kids stomp on the board and the ball pops up. They can catch the ball, hit it, kick it or do lots of things with it. It keeps kids busy while developing their motor skills, without them even knowing. It comes in three versions: for younger kids, older kids, and a baseball version. — “The KikaFlik is hot,” said Peggy Sebert, owner of Becky & Me in Glenview, Ill. — “KikaFlik: They’re fun. You jump on them and the ball goes flying,” explained Paula Bolte, owner of Imaginations Toy & Furniture Co. in Blacksburg, Va. — The KikaFlik has won a Dr. Toy award, Parents Choice award and Creative Child’s seal of excellence.
The Virtual Speed Baseball is just like a real baseball, with a leather cover and stitching. The difference is that it clocks the speed of a throw with an LCD display that’s powered by non-replaceable batteries. So, although you can throw it, you can’t hit it. It’s a specialty item that’s neat for all kids but can be used as a training tool for up-and-coming baseball players, too. — “Small World Toys has a baseball that you can throw and it will tell you how fast you’re throwing. That’s been popular,” described Terri Bracken, owner of Earth Explorers Toys in Zionsville, Ind. — “Virtual Speed Baseball,” was the answer given by Warren Brown, owner of French’s Toy Shop in Concord, N.H. when asked about top-selling fitness toys in his store. — Lisa Orman, public relations rep for Small World Toys told TDmonthly, “Children love to challenge themselves, and the Virtual Speed Baseball allows them to challenge themselves again and again, and try to beat their ‘best throw.’ It lasts for more than 100,000 throws!”
Writer's Bio: Dennis Furlan is a freelance writer who lives just outside of Toronto, Canada. He works on a variety of writing and editorial jobs with clients and publications worldwide. Dennis is proud to be part of the TDmonthly team, serving as a regional correspondent for the northwestern U.S. Read more articles by this author