March 5, 2014

Apps, unicorns and talking toys lead trend parade

Zombies, mustaches and duct-tape crafts are still popular, too.

Rants, raves, reviews and resources for Dallas-Fort Worth parents

Every year, manufacturers of every toy, game, electronic device, and outdoor plaything you can imagine descend on New York for Toy Fair.

It’s a completely overwhelming wonderland for your inner child — and the ParentsPlay team is right there to cover it all. Our goal was to find out which trends will dominate the industry this year.

Some things, like monsters, zombies, mustaches, and duct-tape crafts (which we picked last year as trends to look for) are still holding strong. But there are also a number of new trends waiting to pounce on this year’s unsuspecting toy buyers. Here are our favorites:

There’s an app for that. Really. Have a teddy bear? There’s an app to go with it. New robot? App. Learning Portuguese? App. There are even toothbrushes with apps (no kidding). It’s crazy. App-arently we’re getting app-ed out.

Interactive talking toys. Dolls, bears and robots that respond to speech, do as you request, answer questions, sing and tell stories.

Unicorns. Nearly every major manufacturer has at least one, as a doll’s “pet” or as a stand-alone product.

Retro. Some toys, like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, are back with a new look. Others, like the Fisher-Price dial-up rotary phone, look exactly like they did when they first came out decades ago.

Weaving. The Rainbow Loom is the standout in this category, but there are all sorts of other kits for weaving everything from bracelets and potholders to scarves and rugs.

STEAM. If you haven’t heard of it, you will. STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. But what about the right side of your brain? Adding Art turns STEM into STEAM — and we love it. This will be big for teachers, homeschoolers and every parent who does more than park the kids in front of an iPhone or TV all day.

Everything goes potty. Really. You can clean up after your bear or doll, or play games about it. We even saw unicorns that “produce” rainbows. Gross? Yep. But funny (just ask any kid, most dads and some moms).

Blind packs. These are small bags that cost about $4 and contain a mystery toy. Lego has been doing this for years. But in 2014, about half the booths we visited had their own version. Playmobil, Reeves Horses, Trash Packs — you name it and there’s a blind pack for it.

Cats, cats, and more cats. From Grumpy Cat to Lil Bub, every cat you’ve ever seen on YouTube is available as a plush stuffie and joins the ranks of “Boo, the World’s Cutest Dog” in the Cute and Fluffy Hall of Fame. Go Internet!

GoPro-type cameras. We saw at least a dozen cameras (from as many manufacturers) designed to mount on bicycle handlebars or helmets, clip onto the brim of a hat, or attach to a remote-controlled helicopter. One was even a watch. Some relay video to a device via Bluetooth, others put it on an SD chip. Most shoot straight ahead, but we saw one that captures front and back, and another that shoots 360 degrees.

They’re relatively inexpensive and fun, but, annoyingly, very few are waterproof (or even splash-resistant) and most don’t even have waterproof cases that you could buy separately. Weird. We all know that they are going to end up in the pool, the lake, the toilet or the sink.

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