Toy Fair 2014: Day 1

 

As I gear up for Day 2 of Toy Fair, I thought I’d share some preliminary thoughts of Day 1 of #TF14.

Sunday is typically one of my favorite days of the International Toy Fair, dubbed the largest trade show for toys in the western hemisphere.  There’s something like seven football fields worth of toys and games, and like always, I have a lot of  ground to cover.  But on the first day, there’s that sense of newness and exciting energy.  All of the exhibitors seem to be fresh-faced and newly rehearsed on their spiels, sharing the kind of knowledge that I simply thrive upon.

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I started day one bright and early with a blogger breakfast with one of my all time favorites: Spinmaster.  The brains behind some mega hits, Spinmaster is involved in a whole host of hot properties and brands that make kids go wheee!  LIke the best in the business, they have a whole team dedicated to media relations, several who focus solely on blogger interaction. Needless to say, it was great having that one-on-one time with the smart people who can give us the best insight on their latest wares. I loved the way they had their event set up. Each table had a brand manager or designer who talked us through several of the toys they were highlighting.  I’ll give an in-depth look at the toys they chatted about, we got a good look at the super cool Paw Patrol toys.  This Nickelodeon show and Spinmaster property is a huge—and I mean HUGE —hit with preschoolers.  The rescue pups who herald bravery and heroism from their service work will have their very own toys  hitting the shelves this summer.  We had a look at the firetruck and smaller characters, and I have to say, I know they’ll be a big hit with preschoolers. 

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I had a great look at what’s new with Flutterbye Fairies, Tenkai Knights, Boomer the dino, new Spinmaster games and an interesting interactive doll named Gabby.

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The show started off with Alicia Keys cutting the ribbon and saying a few words to the Toy Fair crowd.  It was the biggest crowd I’d ever seen for the opening ceremony for ToyFair, perhaps thanks to the celeb aspect.

 

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I have a systematic game plan when walking this trade show.  Since this site encompasses new and notable products for babies to big kids, I have particular interest in seeking out small companies who have great ideas. It’s all about getting new products into the right people’s hands, whether it’s the media, buyers or other industry professionals.

I loved these tooth pillows I found at SuperFly, and all the fun superhero accessories.  This was their first showing at TF, but they right away caught my attention with their bright colors, genuine conversation and great products.

 

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These drink holders, I thought were really cool.  Another new company, I appreciate the idea and genesis behind the product.

 

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I had meetings throughout the rest of the day with companies like Tomy, Learning Resources, Educational Insights, Melissa and Doug and MGA.  I also attended showcases for two firms who showcased their clients’ highlighted products.  For now, I’ll post a few photo highlights with more information to come on these, where I can fill in the blanks.

Melissa and Doug

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Educational Insights

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 Chinese Cubes

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Much more to come!

 

 

 
 

Prelude to Toy Fair 2014

It’s that time of year again when toy makers, idea generators, retailers, movers and shakers convene at Javits for the 111th International Toy Fair.

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There’s so much to be excited about this year, but in specific, I’m gearing up to check out the latest and greatest in fun, smart toys. Toys that aren’t just mindless, but instead, toys that have substance, smarts, interactivity and are sustainable.

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Before setting foot into Javits, I know we’ll see a lot of monster and zombie-inspired toys. This segment, we know, has been a major hit with kids of all ages. Zombies and monsters aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

I expect to see a lot of new Disney properties brought to life in toys. With Muppets Most Wanted out in the spring, Captain America in April and Marvel-Guardian of the Galaxy out in August, Disney will be out in full force at Toy Fair per usual.

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Toys will be smart, as in app centric or have some sort of parallel online presence. In fact, Alicia Keys, co-creator of the interactive children’s app The Journals of Mama Mae & LeeLee, will help cut the ribbon at Toy Fair’s opening ceremony on Sunday, February 16 at 10 a.m. Singer/songwriter/producer, entrepreneur, humanitarian and app co-creator Alicia Keys, along with Jessica Walton, have teamed up with Bento Box Interactive to develop a series of storytelling app experiences for tablet and mobile devices under the The Journals of Mama Mae & LeeLee franchise. The apps engage children 4+ on an interactive journey through stories, journaling, games and original music scored by Keys instilling important values for the target audience.

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From babies to big kids, I hope to seek out toys that both parents and kids love. But most importantly, I hope to find toys that have a bigger meaning; whether it’s toy companies involved in charitable foundations or toys that reach kids of all abilities or toys that truly transcend gender.

Be sure to follow along at #TF14 or #TFNY, and of course @jenrab on both Twitter and Instagram.

It’s Easy Being Green

The Next Kid Thing: Easy Being Green
To round out Earth Week, I thought I’d do a round up of green things that we’re currently loving. In addition to some earth friendly items, I included some goodies and gear that we’re already playing with, or are on our ongoing wish list.
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1. Hello Kitty Raincoat

A departure from the classic yellow slicker, this fun raincoat features the iconic and super-cute Hello Kitty. In addition to the frog raincoat Kitty’s wearing in the graphic, ruffles in back make this chic raincoat stand out in girly outerwear.

2. HDMX Jams Portable Speaker

We are a techy family to say the least, but we’re all about unplugging, too! And when I say unplug, that also goes for wireless technology. I love this HDMX Jams Portable Speaker for so many reasons. Beyond its cool packaging (Jam, get it?), these Blue-tooth compatible speakers pack a punch. For less than $50, the speakers offer an affordable way to share jams with friends, better yet, for those impromtu dance parties with your iphone!

3. Playmates Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Playmates makes the hot-again TMNT action figures and sets. If you have boys who are into this sort of thing, perhaps you’re already familiar with the buzz with these familiar ninja-savvy turtles. Donnie is the brains behind the guys (er, turtles’) Ooze-Zooka, so beware, Kraang and the Foot Clan!

4. Lunch Bots Quatro

I love love love Lunch Bots stainless steel containers. The quatro has dividers to give the container the Bento Box treatment, which is especially helpful for school or work lunch, and even appeasing those eaters who just can’t have their food touching.

5. Feeding Baby Green by Dr. Alan Greene

I have been such a fan of Dr. Greene since before Biggie was born. I read his articles and books throughout my pregnancy and subsequent first years as a mom. Dr. Green released Feeding Baby Green a few years ago, but his message on how to feed baby healthy, wholesome food is as timeless as it is invaluable.

6. Hello Kitty Hello Spring

This adorable book from Abrams came to me on a cold wintry day. So, now as the brighter, sunny days reflect the pages in this Hello Kitty book, we can all finally say, Hello Spring. Perfect for the littlest to biggest Hello Kitty fan, this book embraces the best aspects of the season, highlighting them in such a way that Hello Kitty does best.

7. Ruum t-shirt

New this year, Ruum is finding a way to make classic and modern styles merge in our kids’ closets. The company once known as 77Kids was bought by the former head of The Children’s Place, so expect to find fun, functional and sometimes funky clothes from Ruum (sounds like room). Tees like this one showcase the fun fashion that Ruum embodies.

8. Washi tape

I’m absolutely obsessed with washi tape! This paper tape that comes in a myriad of designs can be used for virtually anything—crafts, decor, day-to-day usage and more.  We currently use washi tape for labeling and a number of crafts.  You can find washi tape in crafts stores and on Etsy.

9. Little Green Shampoo and Body Wash

We test out a lot of kid bath products, and one that we’re currently loving is this Little Green Shampoo and Body Wash.  I received several samples of this line in a swag bag a few years ago, and recently learned that this is a local product, as in the creator’s spa is 2 miles away.  What’s great about this combo shampoo and body wash is that it cleans everything without drying the hair our skin out.  There’s no parabens, allergens or sulfates and is formulated for sensitive skin like my guys.  Love this line and can’t wait to try out the other products.

10. Trash Pack Garbage Truck

If you asked me what toys were going to be big in my house last year, I honestly would have never guessed it would be trash.  And when I say ‘trash,’ I’m of course referring to Moose Toys’ Trash Pack.  Despite their small size, these toys are huge in my house.  I wrote about them around Halloween and how we gave them out for our Trunk or Treat, and like the Pied Piper, the neighborhood kids still ask me if I have more.  So, when Christmas time came around, Santa remembered this and gifted Biggie with a Garbage Truck to go with said Trash Pack.  Our Trash Pack Garbage Truck came with Series 3 Trashies like Putrid Boot and Scrummy Screen.  Collecting things didn’t get big for us until last year, so the Trash Pack has become a mainstay around here.  The garbage truck complements the collectibles and is often used to transport and store these eraser-like toys.
And because the Trash Pack has moved onto series 4, be on the look out for a review of their latest and greatest.

Time to Play Names Top Spring and Summer Picks

Just a few months out of Toy Fair, one would think I’d be toy-ed out.  Not so much, friends.  Time to Play’s showcases are some of my favorite events to attend, not only because they focus on the best toys, but because it’s a great one-on-one networking event.  I get to ask questions and really get into the nitty gritty of what’s hot (and not) in the toy realm.

At this year’s Time to Play Spring Showcase, the manufacturers displayed a small selection of their latest wares.  And because it was the Spring Showcase, most toymakers had goodies and gadgets suited for spring and summer play, as well as toys that complement this summer’s blockbuster movie hopefuls.

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Here’s the round up of what Time to Play thinks that’s hot for this Spring.

LEGO Friends

LEGO prettied some of their sets to create this line geared to girls.  LEGO Friends has parents both loving and despising this girl-centric line, but one thing you can’t ignore that it has people talking.  My thoughts: LEGO is and will always be a brand that families know and trust, even if those tiny pieces can stab you in the feet when you step on them.  I may not be a mom of girls, but I’ve seen my nieces and friends’ kids’ play patterns.  Building blocks are well known to encourage creativity and logic, if making LEGOs pink and purple gets the girls inspired, then so be it.

LaLaLoopsy Littles

These characters continue to engage girls with their quirky style and funky fashions.  The Littles are portable and convenient for smaller hands.

Monsuno Cores, Wild Core and Strike Launcher

Monsuno is a show that’s become super popular quite recently, so naturally, the toys are following suit.  This is a line from Jakks that I need to learn more about to get a better grasp.  One thing I do know?  My next door neighbor’s grandson is a huge fan and gave these toys a thumbs up.

Monster High Operetta, Rochelle Goyle and Toralei dolls

The storied characters continue to get girls talking.  There’s a huge fan base for Monster High, so it’s no surprise these gals made it on to the TTP list.

Skylanders Wave 4 Figures

Where do I even begin with Skylanders?  My family is completely smitten with Skylanders, just like many of yours, I’m imagining.  In fact, at Toys R Us just a few weeks ago, I almost had to wrestle a kid for a certain character.  Skylanders characters are hot!  I’ll go more into detail about Skylanders later, but don’t expect this franchise to die down anytime soon.

Squishy Baff

My first thought?  This messy stuff is gross and won’t ever find its way in my bathtub.  Part of that statement is true; Spinmaster sent me a sample, and while it didn’t find its way into the tub, it did entertain my 4 year old for hours.  He played with it on the deck, and I have to say, my opinion about it has totally changed.  I don’t love it, but the kid sure does!  More on this soon!

Movie Toys

The Dark Knight Rises The Bat

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The big kid received this as his big birthday present last year.  Of all the toys we’ve bought in recent years, it’s perhaps been the best investment.  Kids are drawn to it when they come over to play, and my kid continues to play with it regularly as well.  It’s perfect for role playing and exercising creative, imaginative play.

Classic Battleship Movie Edition Game

The Amazing Spider-Man Electronic Figure

Merida: Disney/Pixar’s Brave Merida Doll, Disney/Pixar’s Brave Merida Forest Adventure

•    I can’t WAIT for Brave.  Actually, the husband can’t wait for it either.  Whenever we see the commercials, it sparks a conversation on how it’s exciting to see a non-girly redhead in the lead role of a Disney story.  That said, I can’t wait for all of these toys to hit the shelves!

Outdoor Fun:

Outdoor toys are some of my favorite!  I loved the ones they picked, but would’ve loved to see something that might engage the older girls as well.  What? I’m not sure….
I’m working on a piece on my favorite outdoor toys, so expect to see  a few of these on that list.
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•    Air Storm Z-X Crossbow

•    The Original Big Wheel Racer

•    FlashRider 360

•    Sandy Lagoon Waterpark from Little Tikes

2011 Top Toys

We might be well into 2012, but I got a little nostalgic while putting together an application.  This application process, which involved pinning the best of 2011’s toys, made me really think about what made these toys and games so great*.  But before I go into that, here’s just a few of the hot toys of 2011.  Coincidentally, I was at the launch for two of my favorite toys from last year, but parties and costumed monsters aside, these toys really rocked!

Let’s Rock Elmo

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This interactive and rockstar-inspired version of the the furry red monster, comes with his own tambourine, microphone and bongos. Kids can sing or play along with Elmo or let Elmo be his own one man band with his instruments.  I love how Let’s Rock Elmo can recognize the instruments and does his own little dance.  And not surprisingly, since this Elmo sings and dances, my four year old still loves to rock out with him.  And as I mentioned on my Pinterest description, one of my favorite aspect of Let’s Rock Elmo is that its interactivity is a hit with many special needs kids.

Skylander Spyro’s Adventure

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I have a whole detailed post about Skylander coming up, but I’ll just reiterate what I said on Pinterest. Activision’s Skylander Spyro’s Adventure does what no other video game has been able to do: bring characters to life in the form of functioning collectibles.  And even though he may not totally get the game itself, my guy loves the concept and the whimsical characters—so much so, he slept with his Skylander case for weeks!

Pining for Pinterest

As social media continues to flourish, I try my best to stay at the forefront of it all. Even though I haven’t been blogging as much as I’d like, in our families’ recent health scares and the new baby arrival, Pinterest has kept inspired.  Over the past few months I haven’t been pinning kid products as much, but instead, I’ve been unearthing ideas for my home and brightening up my monochromatic wardrobe!  But tonight as part of the Toy Insider Parent Advisory Board application I submitted, I put together some pins and my opinions on what I thought were some of the best toys of 2011.  I’ll be sure to update my boards with more cool kid stuff.  Pinterest is such a tricky space right now, so I’ll more than likely share my own ideas and repinning everything under the moon!  And since we’re talking about pinning, find me on Pinterest!

*IMO: What makes a toy great

Since I’ve been writing about kid products for a few years now, I thought I’d reassess why I choose to feature the toys and products on this site. Why do I think a toy is great?  Aside from what my own family thinks about a product, I consider these things:

  • Does it have a lot of play value? (this is a biggie)
  • Will it make it past the first month?
  • Is it durable enough to pass down?
  • Is it safe?
  • Is it educational in some way?
  • Will it drive me crazy?
  • Is it really worth it?

As products in general constantly evolve, I still get excited about the newest innovations in toys, games, apps, books.  I count my lucky stars for being able to do something fun and fascinating on my own terms.

Toy Fair 2011 Trends and Beyond

Whew.  What an exhausting week it’s been.  You probably wouldn’t know it from my absence here on NKT, but I was at the New York Toy Fair, and what a productive week it was!

Every time I attempted to write up a post or two, I was distracted by toys or discussion about toys with my blogger pals. For my second year at Toy Fair, it was yet another fun adventure, and one that I’m excited to share.

From babies to big kids, manufacturers are stepping in up with their latest fares.  I spotted a lot of great trends ranging from active-inspired toys and games, to tech enhanced toys, to many licensed products in line with new movie releases (Pirates of the Carribean, Cars 2, Captain America, Green Lantern, etc.) to toys that continue to mimic the real world and of course, anything that’s old is new again.

Still in the process of digesting all this information and downloading the thousands of photos I took, I can’t wait to share more detailed information and sneak peeks of new toys, books and gifts that I saw in my travels.

In the meantime, here are just a few of the many photos I took over Toy Fair:

Skylanders Spyro’s Adventures from Activision incorporates actual toys with video game play.  This game, geared to gradeschoolers and up, is unique, exciting and the first of its kind.
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Call it Monopoly 2.0 or video games of the future,  Monopoly Live involves electronic interactivity, player recognition and more.
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In line with their 10-year deal with Sesame Street, Playskool rolled out their new line that celebrates America’s favorite furry monsters. Let’s Rock Elmo was the big reveal in this new Sesame Street line boasting accessory recognition, dancing and singing capability and more.
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Megablok’s Need for Speed line was one of the many licenses-turned-toy/games that’s indicative of the impact games and apps have on kids and the products we’re finding on our toy store shelves.
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Continuing on with the Teeny Tiny trend that I talked about last year and a trend that we saw continuous growth all year, Spinmaster is introducing Gomu, another line that will have girls lining up to collect more teeny tiny toys. Gomu, a line of tiny erasers, was one of my personal favorites since I love pens, pencils and writing tools, and collectible (and affordable) erasers.
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I’ll be back with more finds and thoughts from Toy Fair 2011, but in the meantime, feel free to check out my Flickr photos.

Chuggington Celebrates One Year in U.S.

Another train-centric show that we’ve been fans of since they chugged their way stateside, Chuggington, is celebrating its one-year anniversary since its U.S. debut!  I shared my initial thoughts of the show from the beginning and we’ve been tuning in ever since.

As a Chuggington Conductor, it’s been really fun checking out the latest and greatest products.  You think Chuggington had a good first year?  Well, this Ludorum property is riding the rails steadily, so much so, they’ve launched a slew of cool toys, books and games.  Be on the look out for my upcoming reviews and vlogs of the latest Chuggington goodies.  BTW, apparently, you guys are big fans of the Chuggington vlog I did on the roundhouse because it’s received over 6k views.

In the meantime, if you’re around in a few minutes, join us on at 1 p.m. for a Chuggington Twitter Party celebrating their one year milestone!  I hear there will be some cool surprises, so be sure to honk your horns!

Barnes & Noble Rolls Out Mega Playroom Boutiques

Just in time for the holiday season, my friend, Carrie of Dog-Eared and Well-Read reminded me of Barnes & Noble’s latest foray in the kid space.

Big Box book retailer, Barnes and Noble announced that they are rolling out a 3,000 sq. ft. playroom boutique concept in five test stores.  Barnes & Noble is describing the play area as “Ultimate Playroom” Mega-Boutiques where interactive displays, creativity and learning through activities, scientific discoveries, and favorite children’s characters can underscore children’s experience at the bookstore.

Barnes & Noble has aligned partnerships with several toy manufacturers and brands who are well known in the educational sector, such as LeapFrog, Crayola, Curious George, Thomas the Tank Engine, among others.

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Time to Play Announces Holiday Must Haves

It’s October, and fall is officially in full swing.  (How did that happen so quickly?)

Even though the season is just now starting to change, media and bloggers alike have had the holidays in mind for months now.  In fact, I think I went to my first holiday preview back in May?

Nevertheless, I’m excited once again to curate—what I consider—cool new kid gear that would make fun gift for the holidays.  But this week, to get the season started right, I had the chance to attend Time to Play magazines Holiday Showcase here in NYC.

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The pros, Chris Byrne, content director, and Jim Silver, editor-in-chief of TimetoPlayMag.com unveiled Time to Play’s Most Wanted list, the 16 toys they predict will be the “must haves” for the upcoming holiday season.  And once again, NKT was onhand to check things out and tweet all about it.

And here they are, TimetoPlayMag.com’s Most Wanted List for the 2010 Holiday Season:

  • AIR HOGS MOTO FRENZY
    (Spin Master/Ages 8 years & up /Approx. Retail Price: $24.99)
  • DISNEY PRINCESS & ME DOLLS
    (JAKKS Pacific/Ages 6 years & up /Approx. Retail Price: $49.99)
  • HOT WHEELS R/C STEALTH RIDES
    (Mattel/Ages 6 years & up /Approx. Retail Price: $24.99)
  • LEAPSTER EXPLORER
    (LeapFrog/Ages 4 years & up /Approx. Retail Price: $69.99)
  • LEGO Games – LEGO Systems
    (LEGO/Ages 7 years & up/Approx. Retail Price $29.99)
  • LOOPZ
    (Mattel/Ages 7 years & up /Approx. Retail Price: $29.99)
  • MONSTER HIGH Dolls
    (Mattel/Ages 6 years & up /Approx. Retail Price: $16.99)
  • NERF N-STRIKE STAMPEDE ECS Blaster
    (Hasbro/Ages 8 years & up /Approx. Retail Price: $49.99)
  • PAPER JAMZ
    (WowWee/Ages 5 years & up /Approx. Retail Price: $24.99)
  • REAL CONSTRUCTION
    (JAKKS Pacific/Ages 5 years & up /Approx. Retail Price: $24.99)
  • SCRABBLE FLASH
    (Hasbro/Ages 8 years & up /Approx. Retail Price: $29.99)
  • SING-A-MA-JIGS
    (Mattel/Ages 3 years & up /Approx. Retail Price: $12.99)
  • SQUINKIES
    (Blip Toys/Ages 4 years & up /Approx. Retail Price: $6.99)
  • TONKA CHUCK & FRIENDS CHUCK’S STUNT PARK Playset
    (Hasbro Playskool/Ages 3 years & up/Approx. Retail Price: $39.99)
  • V.READER
    (VTech/Ages 3 years & up/Approx. Retail Price: $59.99)
  • ZOOBLES
    (Spin Master/Ages 4 years & up/ Approx. Retail Price: $4.99)

They also highlighted three family-friendly video games, which include:

  • Kirby’s epicYarn
  • Epic Mickey
  • Dance Central

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Most of the toys at the showcase were toys that I’ve had the chance to check out at Toy Fair, at media previews or have even been dubbed NKT faves, so some of the “must haves” were no surprise.  They’re all great picks, but I have several more on my radar that I think should’ve made the mark.  I’ll be sure to share those in my holiday gift guide, which is coming soon.

Do you guys see any toys that you think might be the “it” toy this year?

Whatever you think might be hot, put it on your radar NOW.  Time to Play’s sage advice for consumers and industry insiders alike:  “If you see it early, grab it early.”

NKT Fave: Chuggington Die-Cast Toys from Learning Curve

Trains, trains and more trains. Thank goodness for trains and massive train tables! Toddlerhood possibly wouldn’t have been bearable without our trusty trains. I do believe I complained about the size of the giant train table the kid got for his birthday last year, but after endless hours of play, I’ll bite my tongue.  Good call, hubs!

During our summer of displacement, the kid constantly asked for his toys, but it was his trains and train table that he begged for on a daily basis.  And because of that, our trains and the bazillion pieces and accessories that go along with it will always be an NKT fave.

I love sharing the next big thing in kid products, and of course, toys! A few months ago, we shared the news that one of our favorite train shows, Chuggington, will be releasing toys here in the U.S.  Chuggington toys will be on the shelves in early October, in time for the holidays, but better yet, you can pre-order them now at Toysrus.com.

As a Chuggington Conductor, I’ve had the chance to get the latest Chuggington news as it breaks, so that I can share it with all of you.  This time around, we were able to get the new toys in our hands BEFORE they hit the shelves to be able to share a sneak peek with all of you.  In the spirit of the next kid thing, check out our video and review of the new Chuggington toys from Learning Curve.   Apologies for the shaky camera!

 

And because it’s my boy’s birthday next week, as promised, I want to give YOUR kids toys that my kid loves. Sooooo…

Giveaway

Want to win a Chuggington prize pack? The prize pack will include a Launch & Go Roundhouse, Straight & Curved Track Pack and a few Die-Cast Engines.  (Engines may vary from what is shown in my video.)

Comment below and tell me who your kids’ favorite Chuggington character is, and why.

The kid and I mutually love Koko because she’s feisty, strong-willed and fun.

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