Last week, more than 1,000 toy manufacturers descended on the Javits Center in New York City to showcase prototypes for the toys that will invade stores later this year. We give you the lowdown on the latest toy trends, so you'll know what's cool before your kids do.
Vampires were so last year. This year, zombies have taken over toys — for both boys and girls. Razor Jr. is releasing new scooters for kids ages 3 and up that have oversized zombie hands for handlebar grips. A line of zombified Disney princesses will also be coming out later this year: Snow White, Cinderella, Ariel, Belle and more all have a new, creepy-cool look. Science specialty brand Smart Lab is coming out with the Inhuman Squishy Zombie. Kids can take the zombie's organs out, which helps them learn about the human body. It also comes with an educational graphic novel, written by an eighth-grade teacher who came up with an entire curriculum based around zombies.
Retro with a twist
Toys you played with as a kid are resurfacing in a big way. A new Lite-Brite is on the market, only now it is made of rubber so you can reuse the patterns that used to be made of paper. The pegs also have fun, new shapes. Last year, you may have noticed that View-Masters came back. Toy company Basic Fun rereleased the vintage toy with "Despicable Me" models and is continuing to add to that line. Basic Fun is also adding to the Strawberry Shortcake line. If you've watched the TV show, you know Strawberry Shortcake is now a rockstar. The toys coming out later this year feature Strawberry and her friends with rainbow-colored hair (rainbow hair is another huge toy trend) that sing and "play" instruments. Kids can go to the toy's website and download the band's new songs, which the dolls will then sing.
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Taking tech to a whole new level
Almost every toy coming out this year has a tech tie-in. Most action figures come with QR codes, which kids can scan using a phone or tablet to unlock a digital game. Over the past year, Crayola has become a leader in tech. This month, it released My Virtual Fashion Show, which allows kids to color clothing designs in a paper lookbook. When they're done, they can scan the pages using a phone or tablet and their designs come to life, with models wearing the looks they came up with in a virtual fashion show. Crayola is releasing a similar product later this year, in which kids can design their own customized cars and "drive" them, using the app.
This year is all about customization. Hasbro will be releasing My Monopoly, which allows families to customize the board using their Facebook and Instagram photos. There is also a new toy called Super Hero Mashers coming out, which allows kids to create their own superhero using parts of other superheroes: for example, having Thor's body but the Hulk's hands.
Bigger than ever
From doll houses so big that American Girl dolls can live in them (My Girls Dollhouse), massive teddy bears and life-size MarioKart Go-Karts, toys are bigger than ever. Not very apartment-friendly, we know. One toy that at least is built vertically instead of horizontally is Chugginton's Stacktrack. The train tracks are built up, not out. The brand recently set the world record for the tallest train tracks with a 17-foot track. It's just one of the new toys that shows that when it comes to playtime, the sky's the limit. Follow Emily on Twitter: @EmLaurence