05/14/2012 1:36 pm
I recently became aware of a great line of games and toys from an innovative company, Fat Brain Toys. The background on the company is kind of fun – they started out as an online retailer, carrying the top specialty brands and featuring the newest products. However, even with the thousands of skus that they carry, they were still asked for products which they did not have simply because no such products existed. Scouring trade shows for such customer requests turned up nothing. So they decided, if we can’t find it, we will make it ourselves. And thus began the wholesale division of Fat Brain Toys.
What that story reveals is that their line of products is innovative and unique. They have no reason to knock of existing toys, they are simply filling the gap where products did not exist. The result is a fun group of games and toys that get you thinking outside of the box and featuring people’s different strengths. For example, what quickly became a family favorite in this household, is the game Palette. With graphic designing husband and two kids that attend a charter art school, it is no surprise that as a group we gravitated to this brightly colored box to see what was inside.
Palette is a fun memory game and way different from any memory game you have every played before. Each player receives a plastic palette with 6 spaces for colors. The object of the game is to fill one’s palette before his / her opponents. This is done by taking a color from the game’s draw bag and having 5 seconds to memorize it. At the end of the five seconds, the player turns it over and starts hunting through the game’s color wheels in search of a color match. If the match is found, the player adds the color card to his or her palette. If it is not, the color is placed back in the draw bag and the next player goes. While every color is different, they are very similar to colors on different wheels. As Fat Brain Toys says it is “A chromatic challenge for the visually discerning.” And with that being said, we know why my husband beats me every time.
I love this game because the concept is easy but the game is challenging. It draws on skills that are not featured in many games. We so often try to challenge our children with math and language arts, it is great to have a game that allows kids that have visual arts skills to shine. I am not alone in my thinking – the game has won The Parents Magazine Toy of the Year 2011, Parents’ Choice Recommended Award 2011, National Association for Gifted Children Award 2011, and Creative Child Game of the Year 2011.
Game Master, 24155 Laguna Hills Mall, #1530, Laguna Hills, CA 92653 (949) 457-0290
Of course, I have a giveaway! Simply leave a comment before 5:00 pm on Friday, May 18th, at which time a winner will be chosen by random.org Good luck!
05/03/2012 8:30 am
One of the comments I hear over and over again from retailers (because they hear it over and over again from customers) is that there is so much more cute stuff on the market for girls than boys. And to that, all I can say is, it is true. There is. And since you know that toy manufacturers, like everyone else, need to make a profit, it is not remarkable that the reason for this is simply that people buy more stuff for girls than for boys. What I don’t know is why consumers seem to buy more for their daughters than for their sons. But if the reason has anything at all to do with the overall appearance of girl products to boy products, we are in an era of things starting to even out. The design for boy products has evolved significantly in the last five years. So much so, that honestly, I want to start playing with cars and trucks. And I want them scattered on my coffee table and about on the rug in the living room. If they are from Hape’s Bamboo Collection, that is.
Hape International, a German toy company, has been around for twenty six years. When one thinks of German toy companies, one tends to think of quality wooden toys, and Hape products certainly fall into that category. However, in 2005 Hape changed things up a bit – the company started a full line of bamboo toys. Bamboo is an awesome environmentally friendly material to work with for several reasons. The first being that is grows so incredibly fast. It can actually fully regenerate within 3 months! It also raises the water level in its surrounding area and increases oxygen.
With this new line, came a new look. A sleek, simplified, modern look to basic toys. A look that grabs your attention and makes you want to play.
My favorite part of the bamboo collection is the group of vehicles. Their curved lines and simple form, bright colors (painted from water-based eco-friendly paint), and big rubber wheels are the perfect invitation to grab one and start pushing it along the floor saying things like “vrrrrrmmmmmmmm” and “beep beep”. I don’t know about the kids, but that is what I want to do with them, anyways. The full line includes racers, trucks, helicopters, planes, motorcycles and minis. The regular sized vehicles are priced at a higher birthday party gift price of about $25 while the minis come in at about $7. Each vehicle is packaged in a box made from recycled materials.
I have a giveaway! Just leave a comment below by 5:00 pm, Monday, May 7th and the winner (chosen randomly from Random.org.) will receive a Hape E-Truck and a Mini Racer. Good Luck!
Hape products are sold in OC specialty stores such as
Bears, Buddies, and Toys, 10061 Adams Ave., Suite 103, Huntington Beach, (714) 968-4050
Granola Babies, 3315 Hyland Ave., Costa Mesa, CA (714) 445-4948
04/23/2012 11:56 am
For the last 15 years I have done a lot work in sales and a lot of working in marketing and PR. The common ground? Spin. It is all about how something is presented.
For instance, last week, I announced that I was going use this blog to review great specialty toys, including some fun products for teens and tweens. This week, I am saying, “This product is great. You need to buy it for your teen or tween. And you need to keep some in your car. In their backpacks. Maybe put one on the fridge once a week. And a few taped on his or her mirror, to be changed out every couple of days.” And then you may say, “But Kim, this is not a toy. And my teen is going to know it is not a toy. Meaning it is not fun.” And then I will respond back, “It is what crafty moms around the world know- it is all about how you spin it. S + Pin it.” Spin it good. (Can you hear Devo in the background right there?, cause you were supposed to.)
Marie’s Words is one of my favorite new products for teens and tweens for two reasons. 1) They were designed by a teen to fill her own need and 2) they work!
A box containing 550 cards, each with an individual word used on the SAT and in high school and college literature, may not seem like the next best thing to you. If that is the case, than I am guessing your oldest is still in grade school and the day of SAT words seems far, far away. Ha! And to that, I say “Wait! Take heed!” (And for goodness sakes, don’t blink, cause you will find yourself here, where I am now!) Those of us with kids over 15, have kids preparing to take the PSAT, the SAT, the ACT, the SAT 2 Subject Tests and I don’t even know what else. There are AP tests, and HPV shots, and proms, and soooooo much more. What I am trying to say is that it gets extremely hectic. In a very different way than AYSO soccer hectic. Because each thing is now SERIOUS and has a lifetime of CONSEQUENCES. Not to mention that 95% of the time, this kid is extremely cantankerous. It is all very STRESSFUL. And you are hearing stories about how the kid down the street who plays seven varsity sports and has a 6.9 GPA and donated half his liver to his sick relative still didn’t get into OCC. And you are looking at your own kid who, of course, is special but, come on, when you are honest with yourself, you just aren’t sure that he or she is going to get into the million dollar a year college of his or her choice. The situation is completely diabolical. And it turns out that he or she doesn’t even know what that means. And you may want to disavow that child because this is somehow his or her fault. But you can’t because he or she doesn’t know what disavow means either. The ball is in your court. It is up to your discretion when deciding the next step. And it is at that moment that you may wish that you took some small, slow steps way back when the days weren’t so crazed.
Don’t become disheartened. Marie’s Words are here! They were designed by a high school student who was preparing for her own standardized tests. She could not find a product that suited her needs – flashcards that gave her a visual cue of the definitition of the word as a way to commit it to memory. So she made her own. And with the help of her brother who worked on the artwork, she not only learned the vocabulary words that got her into Boston College (Congratulations, Marie!!), she also launched a business with niche product that fits the needs to 10′s of 1000′s of the teenagers currently pulling out their hair trying to cram copious amounts of information into their brains.
Each card has one word, it’s definition, correct pronounciation, synonyms and antonyms, and a sentence structured to SAT standards. The front of the card has an illustation that very effectively helps kids (and adults!) remember the meaning of the word. Not to mention the color makes them stand out from regular flachcard type products. They also have a little hole up in the left hand corner so that one can place them on a ring easily. I love attention to detail like that!
Ok – back to the spin. As adults, you and I might immediately recognize the merit of such a product. And maybe your kid will too. Mine needs a little sugar to help the medicine go down. Like using them in a game with friends – who can memorize the most in carpool on the way to school? Perhaps you are one of those parents who discovered how effective a bribe could be – how bout 30 words a week for a movie ticket, Starbuck’s card, or a not kick in the pants? Make it a family game night – take 20 cards and give each team the chance to read and try to memorize them. Then draw cards and play like charades. The possibilities are endless. Spin, People, Spin!
For those of you with little guys – just remember, if they start learning their vocab words early, it is one less thing on the list, making the whole college application process slightly less vexing. The cards are good for ages K-12 and younger kids have amazed their teachers by learning these word and using them correctly in the classroom.
I have a set to give away. Just leave a comment below by 5:00 pm on Friday the 27th.
For those who don’t win, Marie’s cards can be found at:
It’s a Kid’s Thing! 31182 Via Del Verde, San Juan Capistrano, 949-489-3779
Geppetto’s in Carlsbad, The Forum, 1935 Calle Barcelona, 760-632-1107
The Learning Express, Carlsbad Premium Outlets, Paseo Del Norte # 100, Carlsbad 760-918-9275
$25.99 – $29.99
04/16/2012 11:23 am
I am so excited to be blogging for OC Family. And even more so to be blogging about my passion –TOYS. I won’t bore you with my background (you can click on my bio to find out about my experience in the Toy Industry) but it suffices to say that 1) I love toys and 2) I know toys.
I do think it is important for you to know what this blog will cover. When I say toys, for the most part, I mean specialty products. Unique products that you will find in your local independent gift stores and toy stores that have the “Wow” factor. Pricing will fall all over the map such as today’s pick, which is under $10 – but man-o-man, it is genius! And while many items I cover will be for kids ages 8 and under (because that is for whom most toys are made) I will also review products that your tweens and teens will enjoy because, you know, they need something other than itunes cards!
Wherever possible I will point you in the right direction to purchase the product by providing either links to the manufacturer’s site that lists stores that carry the product, to actual store names. If the product is just getting out there, I might not have an Orange County store to reference – in that case, call your local independent toy store and tell them what you are looking for. That is a great way to alert them to cool products and allow them to service you!
Lastly – Giveaways! The plan is to giveaway whenever possible. I want to get toys out there to be enjoyed and talked about. So when the manufacturer is able to provide a sample, I promise to put together an easy contest to get it into somebody’s hands!
Let’s get started!
Last month I was in Long Beach selling my company’s toy lines to local toy and gift stores. While I know I sell some of the coolest stuff out there, I can’t sell everything. So I spent some time in the aisles to see other products and found some really fun stuff. Timing was great, and yes, my first few postings will be finds from Toyfest West!
I am a sucker for those “Why didn’t I think of that?” products. And local company, Splash Party Inc., who is starting out with a one-product line, has just that. The story? A son asked his father to devise a product that would allow him to tie a filled water balloons easily. The result? A cool little gadget that you screw onto your faucet that allows you to fill and tie those little suckers in a matter of seconds. ANYONE can tie them with this! For those of you who have ever spent an entire afternoon trying to get enough balloons filled for a classroom party or backyard birthday, you will immediately understand the “Ahhh!” factor! Check out the video to see how it works. Patent pending. Cost – $8.99
Ages: 3-8 with adult supervision, 8+ good to go.
Where can I purchase? Right now, the best spot is the company website.
Interesting facts: I live at the beach and hate balloon debris because it works its way into the water. I spoke with the owner of this company and expressed my concerns. I learned two things. 1) Latex balloons are biodegradable. 2) Fish and sea life are attracted to smell (latex does not smell like food) and not color. Interesting. I still strongly believe that part of a water balloon battle should include a contest to see who can pick up the most balloon bits at the end, but I thought those facts were worth sharing.
I have an Easy Fill And Tie set to giveaway. It comes with the faucet attachment and an assortment of 80 balloons. To be entered to win, just leave a comment at the end of the post. A winner will be chosen from the people who leave comments by 5:00 pm on Friday, April 20th.