Spring and Summer Toys and Games Inspire the Imaginations of Young Artists

May 13, 2011 | While the park, pool or Pacific are sure to beckon kids of all ages during the warmer spring and summer months, toy and game makers have tapped into some creative ways for kids to have fun while keeping both minds and bodies engaged and active across the seasons.

“Play is a great way to empower boys and girls by fostering creative skills such as drawing, painting or building,” said Reyne Rice, a toy trend specialist for the Toy Industry Association (TIA). “Toys are the tools that will help kids keep their imaginations engaged during play, especially during the breaks between school terms.”

The Arts and Crafts category is a boon to buyers because it takes on so many forms, spans such a wide range of ages and remains steady as a longtime staple in the toy industry. The category consistently draws seven to eight percent of total U.S. domestic sales each year; in April 2011, the category scooped up roughly 12% of U.S. domestic sales during the Easter holiday season.

From active outdoor favorites with exciting new twists to rainy day indoor products, hundreds of new creativity-inspiring toy and game options were spotted in New York City this past February as buyers from nearly 6,000 unique retail outlets around the globe converged on the American International Toy Fair, the largest toy trade show in the Western hemisphere.  Each of the examples shown below falls within the “Design, Discover and Learn” trend category that was identified at the show and is now proving to be a top trend for 2011: 

Outdoor Creative Play
Perennial favorites during the sun-splashed days of summer, some of the newest selection of outdoor toys and games are making a colorful mark on the playground:

The Razor Graffiti Chalk Scooter (Razor) will attract energetic boys and girls looking to make a statement in their neighborhoods. The latest version of the classic Razor kick scooter, the Chalk Scooter allows kids to turn the sidewalk into their personal canvas, thanks to a three-pronged “chalk bar” attached to the back. With a press of the foot, riders will leave a trail of color and can create custom designs, all while staying fit and enjoying the great outdoors. The scooter is perfect for kids ages 6 and up, comes in three colors (clear/black, blue and purple) and includes a 6 pack of non-toxic chalk sticks that easily wash away with the hose or in the rain.

Crayola’s Washable Colored Bubbles are not your ordinary bubbles – they’re an original alternative to the beloved clear soap bubbles that kids have enjoyed for generations. Colored Bubbles come in an array of vibrant hues and are best used in grassy areas outdoors to limit messiness. When the bubbles pop, colorful marks may appear on clothing, skin and surfaces but these are easily washed away with some soap and water.

The Gazillion Bubble Football (Funrise) offers another twist on classic bubble play, encouraging physical activity and friendly competition. The Bubble Football is soft and has an easy grip, but the added attachment is where the extra fun comes into play. Dip the attachment into the Gazillion bubble solution and watch a stream of bubbles float through the air when the ball is tossed to a friend.

The Rock Pets Paint Kit – Garden Frog (Alex Toys) is the perfect way to brighten any garden and a wonderful backyard painting activity. This fun acrylic/all-weather paint kit allows kids to tap into their creative sides by decorating a rock “frog” to display in the yard.

Thanks to Alex Toys’ Lemonade Stand kids can showcase their entrepreneurial side with a little help from Mom and Dad. This kit turns into a full-size wooden lemonade stand and cart – complete with wheels, a yellow-striped awning, a chalkboard to display menu items and all the necessary hardware and tools.

“Children will love the grown-up look and feel of this lemonade stand and spending time working with friends and family members while running their very own business,” said Rice. “It’s an amazing confidence-booster that encourages learning through play.”

Indoor Arts and Crafts
Packed with great play-value and affordability, arts and crafts projects appeal to the creative talents of tomorrow’s Andy Warhols and Vincent van Goghs:

The Xoomy portable light box illustrating machine (Ravensburger) helps kids and tweens master their drawing skills through tracing. To draw a design, kids simply pick a pattern, place it on the “zoom lamp” and adjust the zoom factor before tracing. Completed designs can be filled in with colored pencils.

Bizu Crafts (Spin Master) is a fun kit for girls who want to create bracelets, charms and necklaces… or cute little animal figures. With a quick twist, a bracelet can transform into a cat, or any of the 60 characters that are available. The different beads come in range of colors and are interchangeable.

Hasbro’s Ji Ga Zo Puzzle has revolutionized puzzle play – the 300 pieces in the set can be arranged to create any image of a friend, family member or pet. Digital images are uploaded using the included software which then determines the placement of each piece and builds a unique icon map. Players will watch their own special images come together as they arrange the pieces according to the map!

“Puzzles are such a great way to bring families together, and the Ji Ga Zo Puzzle brings an added element of excitement to the table for both parents and kids,” said Rice. “It offers great play-value as an endless number of puzzle designs can come out of a single box.”

Color Blanks (Rose Art) are perfect for children of any age who love to display their artistic creations and collect figures. Creative types can turn the four-pack set of blank figurines into miniature replicas of their family and friends by drawing on faces, clothes, accessories and shoes. Finishing touches can be added in the form of stickers, buttons, sequins or glitter.

Role Play
Falling under the “Simply Social” trend category that was also identified at Toy Fair 2011, role play products integrate a pro-social play pattern, teach kids about the world around them and showcase ‘everyday heroes’ such as firefighters, teachers, moms and dads, and others that kids look up to.

Everyday Heroes Puzzles (Alex) are themed puzzles that incorporate firefighters, medical providers and police officials; Fisher Price’s Rescue Heroes action figures is a retro brand recently re-introduced to teach kids about the types of heroes found in their hometowns; and Barbie I Can Be Architect (Mattel) is the latest doll from a Mattel line that encourages young girls that they “Can Be” anything if they put their minds to it.

“Costumes are another great way for kids to act out their ambitions, dreams and desires, as they are learning about who they want to become,” said Rice. AeroMax, Rubies and Elope Costumes offer high quality, low-priced hats, accessories, and dress-up clothes that are available throughout the year; Disguise: Jakks Pacific Women Heroes costumes, like the Barbie Caped Crusader, are particularly empowering for young girls; and Hasbro’s Transformers Helmets come with built-in 3-D goggles for kids to wear at home or in the movie theatre.

More Trend-spotting…
These are just a few of the countless options on the market that will help young minds grow and evolve. For more information, articles and videos on the most cutting edge toys and games, visit ToyInfo.org year-round.  To attend the next Toy Fair, February 12-15, 2012, and see first-hand the newest emerging toy trends for tots to teens, visit www.ToyFairNY.com.