““I’m expecting to have to order several more harmonicas.” — Sue Cooke, Mother Goose Toy Shop
Of the 32 specialty toy-store owners recently surveyed by TDmonthly Magazine in an effort to gauge musical toy sales, 25 cited plain musical instruments with little to no electronic pizzazz. Old-fashioned instruments such as xylophones, recorders, kazoos and toy pianos were named often, and harmonicas received nine best-selling mentions. Also see TDmonthly's Top-10 Most-Wanted Musical Toys.
Some of the newest musical toys for kids include Woodstock Chimes’ Woodstock Conga Drum, featuring sturdy wooden construction and authentic sound, and colorful Harmonica Necklaces by Village Square.
Peter Scott, owner of Perfect Toy in Avon, Conn., noted that “guitars have seemed to be on the rise [in the] last year or so.”
New guitar models include the LP RythMix by Latin Percussion, Leapfrog’s Learn & Groove Animal Sounds Guitar and iToys’ Doodlebops version.
“I’m expecting to have to order several more harmonicas in the next month or so,” said Sue Cooke, owner of Mother Goose Toy Shop in Litchfield, Conn. “Someone always wants a harmonica.”
But harmonicas aren’t the only wind-blown instruments selling.
“What sells the most are old metal kazoos and wood recorders,” said Connie Hallinan, owner of Golden Aspen Toys in Flagstaff, Ariz. “No matter what the manufacturer is, they sell out.”
“We've had customers ask for different kinds of whistles because their children's speech therapists had recommended them,” added Mary Sisson, owner of Kazoodles in Vancouver, Wash. “They help develop the oral muscles and help a child develop breath support for speech.”
Wooden Music Makers are going out of style, according to one retailer.
“We used to sell a lot of them by Peeleman-McLaughlin,” Cheryl Pyles, manager of Toyland in Milford, N.H., told TDmonthly. “Lately, not so much.”
Owner Susan Castor of Pentwater Toy Box in Pentwater, Mich., however, sells 30 to 40 units a month of a Children’s Music Maker — her top seller.
Although Neurosmith’s electronic musical plush dolls such as Sunshine Symphony used to sell quickly, there’s now a consensus among toy retailers that electronic musical toys are becoming yesterday’s news.
“I'm noticing a trend away from electronics,” said Jude Larene, owner of Izilla Toys in Seattle. “When we first opened, we sold a lot of the Neurosmith stuff. It's … pretty interactive for an electronic toy. But I don't sell it right now. People are more interested in hands-on wood instruments, little guitars, stuff like that.”
“People want interactive and not electronic,” agreed Luke Rook, owner of LuLuBell Toy Bodega Tucson, Ariz.
WHAT TO MAKE OF IT
"Music is essential for the child's fullest development,” Stevanne Auerbach, Ph.D., aka Dr. Toy, told TDmonthly. “Listening to music helps them to experience the pleasure of sounds and helps them to relate to rhythm and motion. Learning to play, starting with the simplest instruments, develops mental and social experiences, coordination and many other complex skills."
Traditional musical instruments — and more accurately, wind-blown musical instruments — are in. So see which of these you can add to your store, and remember to check out the market’s newest offerings.
See below some of the musical toys that can help children develop and have a singin’ good time:
Children can easily make music on this solid wood instrument by sliding a song sheet under the strings and plucking the string above each note. It comes with tuner pick, a spare wire and 12 songs, including “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and “Rock-a-Bye Baby.” — “The Music Maker is really popular,” said Steve Ellerhoff, manager at Finnegan's Toys and Gifts in Portland, Ore. Ellerhoff was part of a January 2010 survey of 48 retailers concerning their best-selling musical items. — “The Music Maker, made by European Expressions, is popular because it's a no-brainer musical instrument,” Steve Shelton, owner of Magical Moon Toys in Logan, Utah, told TDmonthly in early 2010. “[Kids] can follow along right out of the box.” ― “One day we got in six, and sold three the first hour they were in the store,” said Mary Sisson, co-owner of Kazoodles in Vancouver, Wash. (see her talk about the Music Maker in the attached video).
This plush toy puts classical music at a baby's fingertips. This huggable, plush activity toy plays beautiful classical music, while sparkling lights flash. It features four musical compositions, activated by a simple touch, and can also be used in a long-play lullaby mode. Fun tactile activities include a crinkle, squeak, beads and teether. It is a versatile crib, floor or take-along toy with high-quality sound. “I really like the Sunshine Symphony by Neurosmith,” Manager Jane Worm of Crackerjacks, Inc. in Easton, Md., told TDmonthly when asked about 2006 holiday best sellers. It's a good value and makes a nice baby gift, seconded Michael Ziegenhagen, owner of Playmatters in Cleveland.
Preschool pop stars The Doodlebops are starring in a new line of musical toys that includes this dancemat, which helps kids move and groove to the music. It gives children what they need to put on their own Doodlebops concert at home. Launch date: August 2007.
This lightweight, waterproof book is hand washable and includes a pressure-sensitive melody module that is heat sealed into the cover and plays when a child presses the red circle. An adorable baby panda illustrates the classic bedtime song, which ends happily with Mama Panda’s good catch. The 5.5” square book contains lyrics to the first verse to encourage word recognition and pre-reading skills. “Our waterproof bath books are musical! Music not only has been found to encourage cognitive skill development in young children but it also is a wonderful distraction for a cranky toddler,” Owner Amy Kallman Epstein of The Straight Edge told TDmonthly.
The iJuke is a treat for both the eyes and ears. Modeled after a traditional jukebox, this renovated version features a universal iPod docking station in addition to its visual spectacle of percolating bubble tubes and neon lighting.
Preschool pop stars The Doodlebops know how to rock. This guitar is a miniature replica of the guitar Rooney Doodle jams on. “The fun and funky product line-up enables preschoolers to immerse themselves in the roles of the hip and active characters on the show,” Brook Hefner, public relations representative for Cookie Jar Entertainment, told TDmonthly. Launch date: August 2007.
Until now, this product has been available only in the souvenir market, where it sells in major museums, national parks and historical venues, and at music events, jazz and blues fests, country music award shows and symphony orchestra performances. Kids of all ages love to wear it, and it really works.
No matter whether kids slap it, tap it or bang on it, the Woodstock Conga Drum has a great tone. Children can get their salsa going and drum away. This musical instrument features authentic wood construction, chrome-plated steel hardware and a durable drumhead. A drum key is included. “The Woodstock Conga Drum is a professional-quality instrument that is scaled down to a size suitable for children. It's got an authentic conga drum look, but even more importantly, it has authentic conga drum sound,” Web Development Director Peggy Daniel of Woodstock Percussion told TDmonthly. Launch date: June 2007.
This high-quality musical instrument is chromatically tuned and features lovely chime-like notes that are produced by little hammers striking precision-ground, German steel music rods (versus the conventional taut wires used in full-sized pianos). Schoenhut's patented Learning System, with its play-by-color teaching method, makes playing simple and fun. A removable color strip fits behind the keys to guide small fingers from chord to chord, and is also suitable for use on adult-sized keyboards. The accompanying songbook contains a collection of familiar tunes. Launch date: July 2007.
This pretty-in-pink Escalade is decked out with a working FM radio and rear speakers, open-and-close doors, see-through windows, chrome wheels, reverse-drive, a Power Lock® Brake System, and a 12-volt battery and charger. It has two forward speed settings: 2.5 mph and 5 mph.
Toddlers can now invite another friend to join the band and play LeapFrog’s new Learn & Groove Animal Sounds Guitar. The colorful guitar, complete with whammy bar and fret button, introduces numbers and animals in English or Spanish, while encouraging little ones’ exploration of music and guitar sound effects. The guitar’s three fun learning modes—numbers, animals and music—will keep kids jamming and learning. Launch date: July 2007.
This mini guitar allows users to jam with digital music devices such as iPods and MP3 players. It features a selection of background rhythms and sounds that can be played on their own or combined with other music. It requires two AAA batteries (included). “The iPod market is very hot right now, [and] what sets us apart from other iPod accessories is that we are a musical instrument line that is small enough to fit in your pocket and perfect for traveling,” Junior Account Executive Jennifer Romer of Bender Hammerling Group told TDmonthly. Launch date: January 2007.
This 30” fully tunable acoustic guitar is kid-sized and fun to play. Kids and parents alike will appreciate the quality hardwood construction, durable high-gloss finish and amazing sound. The package includes a guitar strap, two picks, a full set of replacement strings, protective string post covers for added safety and an "Introduction to Guitar" booklet complete with chord cards for beginners. Launch date: July 2007.
This wonderful 22-1/2" scale Juba Clownfish guitar with a built-in speaker and volume control knob requires a 9-volt battery. It also can be plugged into an amplifier (sold separately). Perfect for children and adults alike, it has 20 frets, a rosewood fretboard and quality tuners. Goldfish kids’ guitars are twice the quality of toy-store guitars at the same price. This guitar may also be enjoyed by teens and adults as a travel instrument.
This dynamic, new line of 44-key baby grand and upright pianos, launched to coincide with Schoenhut’s 135th anniversary, features true piano sound … without the use of electronics. The mid-sized piano is less intimidating for small children who want to learn to play the piano. This line is not intended to replace Schoenhut’s vintage models that feature chime-like tones, such as those originally developed by Albert Schoenhut in 1872. Rather, the introduction is in response to requests from customers for a “new” sound. It’s available in black, white or red. Launch date: January 2007. — If parents wish to start their kids on the piano before they’re ready for the real baby grand, this stunningly beautiful instrument with authentic piano sound is the way to go. It received a TDmonthly Top Toy 2007 award for innovation in mechanics and design within the category of musical instruments for children, as well as its ability to grace any space while furthering a young child’s music education.
Kids can learn to play guitar by plugging into a TV and following the color-coded images that guide them through a song. As they gain skills, they gain points, too. The guitar comes with a song cartridge that features six songs to learn chords with. Each cartridge also includes a jam-session mode so little ones can let loose. Launch date: July 2007.
Eric Clapton in Cream, Angus Young of AC/DC, Lars Frederiksen of Rancid — they’re all notorious Gibson SG guitar players. Now tweens, “who are the target audience,” according to Josslynne Lingard Welch of Litzky Public Relations, can have their own Gibson-inspired guitar in their own tween size: The Power Tour. Launch date: August 2007.
The Melody Harp makes it easy for kids and adults to sound like they've taken music lessons for years. Users simply slide a song sheet under the strings, fold down the "tab" to hold the music in place and follow the "dots" with their pick. he Melody Harp is designed with extra strong string posts. They will not bend under string pressure, making it easier to tune and stay in tune. Music is printed on durable and easy-to-keep-clean glossy catalog cover stock. The words to each song are printed right on each music sheet. Includes 12 song sheets. — Marc Holcomb, owner of Toys & Co. in Greensboro, N.C., told TDmonthly in a January 2012 survey that they sell 4-5 units of the Melody Harp each month.
Have fun with our new "Country Music Jamboree." Our same high quality musical washboard also comes with an outstanding 10 hole Harmonica and Jaw Harp. Also included are three metal thimbles for a brilliant sound. Perfect for the "Zydeco" sound.