Monday, March 19, 2012

Playtime: Is there an app for that?

Coming out of Toy Fair last month, one thing really struck all of us in the industry: everybody's on the app train this year. A huge number of toys are very cleverly integrated with iPhones and iPads or other devices, and many of the non-app-based toys are still supported by them in various ways. But is that all there is to toys in 2012 - computer and device screens?

AppMATes Disney/Pixar Cars 2
First, there are some amazing app-based toys coming your way. I don't want this post to seem like I'm against app toys because they really are amazing. For example. AppMATes turns an iPad into a virtual world with cars you can "drive" on a moving surface. I love that!

Adventure Time Role Play Sword
But while the news is going to focus on these toys and kids will definitely clamor for them, there are a lot of more traditional toys coming out that aren't plugged-in at all. Sometimes, there is not an app for that, and it's a great idea to balance your smart-toy purchases with some clever-toys: ones that require imagination or activity, the old-fashioned way.

My favorite "analog" toy is from Adventure Time with Finn and Jake. Yes, it's a cartoon, but one that really seems to spark imagination. If your child watches the show at all, get the Role-Play Sword. There's just something about it...hand it to anyone and see if they don't immediately flourish it with a grin. You just can't help it!

Several other franchises are also keeping classic role-play in action. Thundercats, Ben 10, Star Wars, Power Rangers and The Avengers are all hot toy lines with great accessories that let kids BE the hero - not just watch one on a screen.

So a word to the wise: even though kids will be begging for all the latest apps and games, don't forget to add some offline fun to the mix. Some things never go out of fashion, and leaping around your bedroom with a towel for a cape and a shield is as much fun today as it was for your grandpa. Trust's fun even if you're not a kid.

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