11th Annual Chicago Toy and Game Fair 2013: Play is Magical

11th Annual Chicago Toy and Game Fair at Navy Pier
11th Annual Chicago Toy and Game Fair at Navy Pier – November 23, 2013

“Wow! That’s so cool!”
“Can we take this home?”
“So much better than last year!”

Words I heard most during my first visit to the Chicago Toy and Game Fair (ChiTAG) at Chicago’s Navy Pier on Saturday, November 23. ChiTAG is over two days–15 hours of magical play including demonstrations, board games, card games, outdoor and indoor toys, lovable plushies, puzzles, game tournaments, building events, and even characters walking around. Maybe you’re a veteran to toy and game fairs, but talk about overwhelming and sensory overload! Everywhere you turn there is something to see, touch, play, and learn.

Illinois State Yo-yo contest at the Chicago Toy and Game Fair at Navy Pier
Illinois State Yo-yo contest at the Chicago Toy and Game Fair at Navy Pier
Ben's Bubble Show at the Chicago Toy and Game Fair at Navy Pier
Ben’s Bubble Show at the Chicago Toy and Game Fair at Navy Pier

While my high-school teacher husband attended the Games for Educators Conference, my children and I walked over 120 booths checking out familiar companies, new inventors, and fun products. With toys and games for every age, it was hard to figure out where to even start walking. There were some seriously excited and passionate first-timers sharing their dreams, and professionals from around the world.

Plush toys at the Chicago Toy and Game Fair at Navy Pier
Brobo, Planet Sock Monkey, and a giant “Zero” (@NumbersAlive) plush

Tenkai Knights by Ionix was a big hit with my son. Lego-compatible, they are the transformers of the building block world and geared towards ages 8+. We tried out board games, too.

2013-11-024

Games at the Chicago Toy and Game Fair at Navy Pier
Wordsearch by Goliath, Daytrader, Schmovie, Fastrack by Blue Orange, Settlers of Catan, King of Tokyo, Indigo by Ravensburger, and Spontuneous

Plenty of outdoor toys, too. Like Ring Swings, Crazy Cart by Razor, and NEOS by Playworld Systems.

2013-11-236

I wish we had a chance to ride the Crazy Cart.

Building toys are always popular, whether they light up or end up demolished in a heap of sticks.

Building toys at the Chicago Toy and Game Fair at Navy Pier

Building toys at Chicago Toy and Game Fair at Navy Pier
Building toys like Laser Pegs, TomTecT by Kapla, Ogo Bild (http://bits.ogosport.com/), and Stick Storm are always popular

And here’s Stick Storm in motion

One game, Karoman, incorporated assembling the character with which you play. After you build your collectible character from dense paper board, you use it in battle against other characters. Karoman is making its way from Indonesia to the United States.

Get the GeekDad Books!

   

Karoman at Chicago Toy and Game Fair
Karoman Revelation 2 collectible characters

The best part of the whole experience wasn’t so much being able to play with toys, but meeting Young Inventors with their games. There were over 100 participants in the Young Inventors Challenge this year… the twinkling eyes and jumpy, excited kids, so much fun!

Young Inventors Challenge at the Chicago Toy and Game Fair 2013
Young Inventors Challenge at the Chicago Toy and Game Fair 2013

I wasn’t able to attend the second day of ChiTAG. It would have been interesting to participate in the World’s Largest Playdate and the Worldwide Champion USA Pre-qualifier for Settlers of Catan. (No doubt I am way out of my league with those players.) I admit I’ve underestimated the importance of playing games–there’s discovery, strategy-building, and social benefits. It comes down to this: Toys and games are for every age. It’s magical.

I can’t wait to share my follow-up reviews and even introduce some newcomers to the field of toys and games. The Chicago Toy and Game Fair is a must-visit next fall.