Last month I attended Toy Fair in New York City, and I had my eyes open for great products aimed at babies, toddlers, and preschoolers.
I found quite a few.
I fell in love with the toy pianos from Schoenhut. The brightly lacquered, well-built instruments come in so many colors and patterns that it was just luscious eye candy. And they have the perfect toy piano chime when you play them. Schoenhut also has a slew of other great handheld instruments. I loved the Band in a Box.
KidKraft‘s spring catalog has some fantastic offerings. I am personally coveting this retro kitchen. I can be a little weird about toy kitchens, largely because they can so often be pink and so clearly aimed at little girls. While I may be the mom to a little girl, and we may spend a lot of time together in the kitchen, I can resent the idea that it is only a pink little girl’s domain.
KidKraft offers so many awesome styles for wannabe chefs that my issue becomes moot. You can match your home decor or your kid’s personality, but either way these are equal opportunity, wonderfully built playroom additions.
I’ve also been pretty impressed with Wow Toys, a British company that makes these marvelously indestructible vehicles. They are so satisfying to hold, you can feel how sturdy they are. The colors are wonderful and gender neutral, and they have a huge range of vehicles and characters.
Melissa and Doug had more toys than you could imagine; their booth was an enormous presence at Toy Fair. But I really, really liked their new soft books for babies and toddlers. The material feels nice and seems like it would be easy to clean, and I love the little interactive touches in each book: soft figures to tuck into pockets throughout the story, or buttons and buckles to touch. These won’t be available until later in the year, and I’ll be keeping my eyes open.
I also really liked this Melissa and Doug diner set (obviously the tiny short order cook is not included). This is another one that will be arriving later this year, but I like that it comes with play money, a diner menu, and all the trimmings. This greatly appeals to the Jersey girl in me.
Vivitar had a ton of great new offerings. Everything from noise-control headphones for preschoolers (kind of a great idea, and branded with all their favorite toys) to their full-fledged Android Camelio and XO tablets. A lot of the products, including newer versions of the tablets, will be available later this year.
I really liked these Adventure Kits, also available later this year and again branded with their favorite characters (Disney, Hello Kitty, Marvel, etc.). They are on the high side of the age group I looked at, but I think savvy younger kids could do a lot with them, too. To me this is such a neat gift. Each kit comes with a Vivitar camera, binoculars, a flashlight, a compass, and a few other goodies to encourage outdoor exploration and play.
What I like about this is that the toys included are identical in every package, but kids can still show their individuality (including their pink Disney princess pride). The Disney Princess pack has the same items as the Ninja Turtles pack. No special tools for girls vs. boys, just everything you need to explore. The end use is the same, and I really like that idea.