Well, it’s that time of year again. Hundreds of toy manufacturers and game publishers from around the world are converging on New York to show off their latest products to retailers, buyer, the media, and, of course, reviewers like us. The 2013 Toy Fair, organized by the Toy Industry Association, will feature roughly 100,000 products, including 7,000 debuts—every type of toy, game, electronic entertainment, and indoor-or outdoor activity imaginable. Here are some of our favorite new products from 2012. We’ll be telling you about 2013’s offerings throughout the year.
This fun and adaptable new artistic medium lets children draw, imagine, and create using a special stylus and colored LED lights (which means no crayons to smash into your carpets and no tiny pieces to collect). Kids and adults can design their own games, create moving text messages, and even do full-motion animation, all on a spinning, 360-degree domed drawing surface. Save up to fifty creations. Runs on batteries but can also be plugged in to keep the fun going even longer. Ages 4+. crayola.com
Billed as “huggable night-light toys,” these plush robot friends are designed to help young children learn to be brave in the dark. Kids take Brobo (or one of his many pals) to bed and can control the light themselves: Touch Brobo’s hands to his chest and he glows with a soft, comforting light (with a 5-minute auto shutoff feature). As with so many toys these days, parents and kids can extend the Brobo experience with animated webisodes, games, and books that encourage friendship, family, adventure, and learning. Ages 2+. brobo.com
Who says you have to shred on a smooth surface? Rockboard’s Descender is a true all-terrain board that uses high-performance tank-like treads to make skateboarding a year-round experience. Yes, you can even use the Descender in the mud and snow. One of the nicest features is that it holds up to 200 pounds, so dad can get out there and make a fool of himself. Don’t forget to wear a helmet. Ages 6+. rockboard.com
Education meet fun….and dinosaurs. National Geographic has partnered with Uncle Milton to create and absolutely wonderful way for parents and kids to spend quality time together. Each kit lets kids (and their parent-assistants) excavate—and assemble—the bones of a very accurate scale model of a dinosaur. Tools, a brush, and safety glasses included (no batteries required!), but you’ll make a real mess. Also comes with great learning materials. Ages 6+. unclemilton.com
If you’re concerned about the body-image messages young girls get (and if you’ve got a tween- or teen daughter, you should be), you’ll love these adorable dolls. To start with they’re dressed in a way you’d be happy to see your daughter emulate—not the typical half-naked, overly sexy, body disproportionate dolls that many feel encourage eating disorders and self-image issues. Yes, their heads are out of scale, but the chest isn’t, which is something else moms and dads will appreciate. Plus, they’re pretty, stylish, fun, glittery, and colorful which the girls will appreciate. These dolls also encourage travel and learning about new cultures. Ages 5+. ladeeda.com
These amazingly realistic models are a great way to have fun and learn a ton about animals. There are a few dozen options, ranging from sea otters and pufferfish to bald eagles and honeybees. Some are larger-than-life-size (like the bee), other are smaller (like the otter), and some are exactly the right size. Ages 4+. safariltd.com