I see the same thing every year at the New York Toy Fair: There are some toys out there that parents gravitate toward, and others that are designed purely for kids. Those in the latter group are usually bright, fun, engaging — and slightly annoying.
Here are the top 12 toys of 2012 that kids will love and parents will reluctantly tolerate. (Or you could always just hide the batteries …)
Come N Play Cookie Monster Kitchen Café | Ages 18 months — 4 years 1 of 12
Rather than a standard wooden play kitchen, this Sesame Street version (featuring Cookie Monster, Elmo, and Abby Cadabby) is actually interactive — singing songs, making sizzling sounds, and even talking back. You'll want to tear your hair out, without a doubt — if not from the constant muppet voice chatter, then from the multi-colored plastic pieces scattered around the house and the eyesore of a kitchen. But I can see toddlers just lighting up with this one.
Coming in fall 2012, $59.99
Come N Play Abby Cadabby Tea Party | Ages 18 months — 4 years 2 of 12
Whenever I tour the Hasbro Toy Fair showroom, I always feel a twinge of guilt when I hit the Sesame Street section — only because I know my toddler would be so excited. He loves his Sesame Street friends, as most toddlers do, and even my little boy would be excited for the Abby Cadabby Tea Party. The cups magically "fill" with different colors (just lights, no liquid!), while prompting different sound effects and Abby Cadabby phrases. Parents will want kids to just use their imaginations without all of the special effects, but kids will think it's magical.
Coming in fall 2012, $19.99
Tonka Chuck & Friends Tumblin Chuck Vehicle | Ages 3+ 3 of 12
The newest Tonka Chuck won't only irritate parents with its interactive voice and activities, but it now does somersaults down the hallway while saying over 80 (!!!) phrases and sounds. Kids will think it's fun. Parents will see a big plastic battery-eater.
Coming in fall 2012, $39.99
Furreal Friends Bouncy, My Happy To See Me Pup | Ages 4+ 4 of 12
You know those little yippity dogs that you swear must have found a secret stash of Pixie Sticks before running around in circles, continuously barking? Tripping up your feet? Bouncing like a cartoon character?
Yeah, now it's a toy. Light-sensor technology senses when you're near, cueing the playful (and very realistic) yipping sounds. Except this one actually has batteries you can take out. And it doesn't poop on the couch.
Coming in fall 2012, $36.99
Koosh Star Scout Ball Launcher | Ages 3+ 5 of 12
If you're like me, clinging to the precious toddler years before guns and flying projectiles take over little boy play, Hasbro may be cutting our time short. You might remember Koosh as being those fluffy little balls that Rosie O'Donnell liked to shoot out to her audience, but no more. Koosh is now basically a toddler-sized Nerf shooter — a little softer than Nerf and easier to shoot, but with the same basic idea.
Coming in fall 2012, $12.99
Servin Surprises Cook n Serve Kitchen & Table | Ages 2+ 6 of 12
This is something that's marketed as being a real mom-pleaser — and it very well might be, considering the kitchen accessories neatly store inside of the table. Plus it converts from a kitchen to a regular kid-sized table, perfect for snack time or as an art center.
Yet, as a mom, anything with sound effects and sensor-prompted songs can get annoying — fast. This table features a built-in stovetop, a "magic" serving tray that recognizes food placed on top (and responds with sound effects and songs), and a light-up oven. And if parents are concerned with dÃ©cor style, this isn't exactly an heirloom piece of furniture. Also, just because the large amount of accessories can be stored inside of the table, doesn't mean they won't end up all over the floor.
Coming in August 2012, $79.99
Imaginext Eagle Talon Castle | Ages 3 — 8 7 of 12
Now this is the perfect example of a toy that kids love and parents don't. Besides being a humungous hunk of plastic (expanding from 20" to 42") with over 30 tiny accessories (including projectiles! Yay!), it's designed with motion sensors that trigger different sound effects and dialogue as play pieces interact. So where kids used to make up their own imaginative role play, this toy does it for them. Parents will need to buy an Ogre ($39.99) and/or a Castle Dragon ($39.99) for more interactive play.
Coming in June 2012, $59.99
Fisher Price Scoop + Whirl Popper | Ages 12 — 36 months 8 of 12
Fisher Price has a range of elaborate new infant toys, like this walker that pops out balls as it goes. They say it encourages babies to chase after the balls, of course, but moms think it's just another projectile toy to trip over.
Fisher Price also has a huge Cruise & Groove Ballapalooza ($79.99) that will certainly take up a chunk of space. (No image yet, sorry!) Besides having a ton of different activities, it also has pulsating lights and more modern pop music.
Coming in July 2012, $19.99
Thomas & Friends Steam n Speed RC Thomas | Ages 2+ 9 of 12
Do I really want another remote-control vehicle zipping around the house? Not so much. But when I saw the newest Thomas train that actually lets out steam, I knew my Thomas-obsessed 3-year-old would L-O-V-E it.
Besides being slightly irritating for parents (whistling, chugging, and repeating phrases), parents might be uneasy about the fact that this water-holding toy can't be fully cleaned inside. Although the Toy Fair reps said that the water turns to vapor, meaning it won't breed mold, I'm willing to bet some moisture still gets trapped — especially when mom fills up Thomas and toddler gets distracted, letting the water sit in there. But still — this is a serious kid-pleasing toy.
Coming in August 2012, $44.99
Hallmark Happy-Okee Microphone | Ages 3+ 10 of 12
The epitome of an annoying yet irresistible toy, this microphone includes four pre-loaded birthday songs plus a songbook collection that kids can sing along to. Here's the annoying part: It makes their voices sound like hamsters. Cute the first dozen times, I imagine, but after that…?
Available now at Amazon, $25.95
Playskool Rock*tivity | Ages 6 months + 11 of 12
Playskool has a variety of new ROCK*TIVITY products coming out — all of which use "cooler" music designed to be less irritating for parents (like Michael Jackson and The Beatles). That I appreciate — absolutely. But like any of these music-playing, lights-blinking, battery-operated toys that babies love, they just might become the bane of your existence. Especially the Pound â€˜N Jam Drum (the name says it all) and Jump â€˜N Jam guitar.
To be fair, the ROCK*TIVITY collection is cool because it has unique beat recognition, better music, and bi-lingual options, but let's still call it what it is: annoying.
Coming in fall 2012, $14.99 - $79.99
Get Movin Music Player | Ages 3 months + 12 of 12
This little handheld music player from Bright Starts is something that even the smallest infants can grab and hold onto — especially alluring with over 20 songs, sounds and phrases. Babies will love the lights and sounds, while parents will be begging for the batteries to run out.
Available at Babies R Us, $8.99
Check out the most outrageous toys of 2012, soon to hit shelves.
Read more of Michelle’s writing at Early Mama.