By Noelle, Librarian Extraordinaire
I was never much of a girly-girl growing up. My parents, for whatever reasons, raised myself and my younger sister with very gender neutral toys. We had girl AND boy dolls. We owned cars and LEGOS and scrabbled in the sandbox as often as we played school or with the dollhouse. While I have developed a taste for heels, lipstick and short skirts later in life, you are still much more apt to find me in jeans and hiking up mountains. I have made an effort to raise my own daughter as gender neutrally as my parents did for me. She owns science kits and Hexbugs along with glittery dress up clothes and an entire basketful of dolls and seems quite happy that way.
One of the things that we found a bit dismaying at Toy Fair 2012 was how very targeted the toys were in a “this is for boys ages 4 to 6” or “this is for girls ages 6 to 9” type of sense. Girl toys were pink and/or purple and often princess themed. It was also a constant to hear that girls like to “customize.” I’m not saying that girls do NOT like pink and to customize (or accessorize), but it comes back to the chicken and the egg question. Do girls like pink and princesses because they just DO or is it because we pour pink and princesses down their throats from birth and they just THINK they are supposed to like them because that is what they are offered? If a girl was raised in isolation and then at age 5 put into a room filled with princess dolls, cars, trains, dinosaurs, dress up clothes and ponies, what would they choose to play with?
All of those considerations aside, I made it a goal at Toy Fair to take a good look at some toys that the “traditional” girl would enjoy. Once you erase the typical dolls and the dollhouses and tv and movie tie-ins, what was left? Here are my choices for eight toys that I think will be hits with girls as they are released this spring and summer. Please keep in mind that these are not reviews, just impressions.
1. Loopdedoo. Friendship bracelets have never been cooler or easier to make with this device. Loopdedoo is a very simple machine that makes it a snap for kids to thread it with from 2 up to 15 strands of embroidery thread at a time. Then with some experimentation, you can spin the device to make the bracelets in all different thicknesses and styles. At the demo, I was told you could make about 15 bracelets with the thread included in the $35 kit (including the substantial device), then your only cost is to pick up more thread, which is readily available at craft stores. The woman whipped out a 5 strand bracelet that matched my outfit in about 5 minutes. Older girls in that tween and teen range will eat this up.
2. Pony Royale. When I first saw a Pony Royale I thought, “No, no, no, no. Not a princess pony!” But upon further review, I saw the appeal. The ponies are all different colors and come with interchangeable manes, tails, crowns, and saddle blankets and skirts. The ponies are solid, not flimsy light plastic. Each one comes with a spare mane and tail and hair brush. Buy 2 ponies and a girl can create up to 60 different combinations of style. I was even more taken with the Dressing Carousel Playset where the ponies can store all of their accessories. It folds open and closed and is quite spacious and appealing. While the idea of a princess pony may induce some initial cringing, I think girls will love it.
3. Klutz Mini Capsters Jewelry. Klutz books are hands down some of the best craft and activity based books out there that include everything you need to create the craft or learn the activity. Capsters are old news for Klutz–they are basically a way to turn bottle caps into art. Now Klutz responds to what the people wanted for these works of art–to turn them into jewelry like earrings, bracelets and necklaces. At about $22, you get the book, the instructions, and everything you need to make a whole slew of items to wear, including the caps with kid safe edges and pre-punched holes, punch out art pieces, and glaze. This craft activity is aimed for kids 8 and up.
4. Yippits. AKA Fijit Friends, mach 3. Fijit Friends just won a Toy of the Year Award, and were already joined by the smaller Newbies. Now we have Yippets, which are pets for your Fijit. The Yippit can sing (if you get 2 Yippits together, they sing in harmony), it can dance, and even better, it can learn tricks. Each Yippit can learn 6 different tricks, but you actually have to train your Yippit, using positive reinforcement before it will perform the trick perfectly. It also has a couple of different simple games that a kid can play by tapping the head of their Yippit. Of course, the Yippit interacts with your Fijit Friend, which apparently has dormant programming waiting inside of it, just waiting for a Yippit to come along to activate it. I’m not sure how you can go wrong with this Fijit line. While I know boys and girls both might like these, I’m pretty sure the swing lands on the girl side.
Here is a video of Fijit Friends and Yippits –
5. Boo, the World’s Cutest Dog. If you don’t know Boo yet, I don’t know why not. He’s only got 3 million friends on Facebook. Boo is a large-headed Pomeranian and is truly impossibly cute. Some of his photographs look like he can’t possibly be real. But real he is, and Gund has come out with a replica stuffed dog which is wonderfully soft and cuddly (we tested him out for our Most Huggable Stuffed Dog at the Toy Fair contest). You can also purchase a book of Boo photos. Stuffed animals are always a hit with girls and I can’t imagine one being more in demand than Boo.
Watch Boo compete in Noelle’s Most Huggable Dog at Toy Fair 2012 Contest -
6. Breyer Stablemates Play Mat. This sounds a bit boring compared to some of my other choices, but I would have used this every single day when I was a kid. Stablemates are Breyer’s smallest line of model horses and this play mat has a whole stable area set out with paths and barns. You can, of course, buy the actual structures to place on top of the play mat, but imagination is a wonderful thing. All you really need is your Stablemates and BAM! You’ve got play time. The mat wipes clean, has a non-skid backing and comes with one palomino Stablemate. For the horse-crazy girl, this is gold.
7. Crafty Bands. This is a simple and fabulous bracelet idea. The silicone bracelet has 7 holes around it for up to 7 bubble caps to be placed. Kids choose the image they want to make for their bubble cap–they could draw one, pick out a magazine picture, print something off of the internet. Simply place the bubble cap over the image, close the lid and press, then remove and place it into the Craft Snap setting. Then pick a hole and snap it into your bracelet! The snaps can easily be removed and changed around and girls could get into making and trading their snaps. Now girls can make their own Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift bracelets, or puppies or kittens, or they can make ones of their friends. A really great, quick and fun idea.
8. Mini Jammers. A mini jointed doll magically dances on a stage. Kids can customize the doll with a web interface that allows you to print out and put your face on top of it. The stage has a whole light show included. In the demo I saw, the doll somehow is able to respond to voice commands like “dance,” “stop” and “bam!” (the last one, the doll would fall over suddenly). It was quite fascinating and I can see girls having a great time dancing with this. While it was a bit frenetic in its dance moves, I don’t think anyone will mind. With the popularity of dance games, this one looks like a surefire hit, especially with the hush-hush surrounding how the voice activation works.
And there you have it, 8 toys that I think girls will really dig in the coming year. I must underline that these are NOT reviews. We only saw these toys in demonstrations and many are not yet available to the general public. We don’t know how they will stand up under steady playtime. But I think these are all likely to be solid choices if you are looking for a gift for a girl in 2012.
Read More Coverage from Toy Fair 2012
|Noelle has been a children’s librarian for over 15 years. She’s also been a student teacher, worked as an online account manager, worked in a pet shop and as a supermarket checkout clerk, and as a dishwasher and fry cook. She is the proud mom of a beautiful daughter. You can read more of Noelle’s book reviews at Rave Reviews Log
Noelle can be reached at “Noelle @ DadDoes.Com”
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