This past week I spent a few days at the Toy Fair 2011 in New York City with one of my colleagues, sifting through hundreds of thousands of toys to find the best of the best new toys for 2011. (All of our picks can be found here.)
And out of the 35 toys that we deemed “the best” of the year, here are the 10 toys I’m most excited to see in 2011:
Stacking toys were a dime a dozen at the Toy Fair, but the Triqo is a completely new concept. This smartly designed toy is both simple and complex, being able to snap into basically anything you can imagine — a flower, a house, a hat, a tunnel. The pieces of indestructible (fully recyclable) triangles and squares have flexible edges that bend in, offering unlimited possibilities on what you can make.
We chatted with one of the founders at the Toy Fair, who told us that they discovered a man just snapping these together on a rooftop in Germany — and now that man is the Creative Director of Triqo. And while they’ve been making them in the Netherlands, they decided to take it to the States for 2011. Pretty cool, huh?
Plus, they’re really affordable! A 10-pack costs $3.99 – $4.99 a pop. (They won’t be available until August.)
2. Build a Robot from Plan Toys
How cute is this little robot for toddlers? With bendable, movable legs and arms, your kid can customize this little guy right down to the emotions. And of course you can count on Plan Toys for some of the highest quality wooden toys around. (Available in March.)
3. Hape Pretend Food and Appliances
I want my little one’s kitchen fully stocked with the new pretend food line at Hape. If you want to encourage healthy, diverse eating habits, why not during imaginative play? Their variety of fresh vegetables is amazing — like scallions and corn on the cob — and how cute are those little pita pockets? Plus, Hape is also coming out with cool new appliances — like that wooden mixer (above) that actually turns and mixes. Love it.
4. Wishbone Flip
Wishbone is expanding beyond their popular 3-in-1 running bike with their soon-to-launch “Rock ‘n Roll” Flip. First it can be used as a rocker, and then transform into an adorable ride-on with its simple flipping mechanism. One of the designer’s kids loves to stuff his little stuffed animals into the bottom of the ride-on and roll around the house.
Plus, don’t we just love when a toy can be used for more than one purpose? (This should be available in April.)
5. Plan Toys Baby Activity Gym
No blinking lights, repetitive music, bright and oversized graphics — just a simple, wooden, quality design. And not only is this activity gym made with popular Plan Toys rattles and grasping toys hanging from the top, but they can all be removed and used well past the baby-gym months. We especially love how the tripod gym easily folds and stores — which is one less big, bulky baby item to have out on display. (Available in March)
6. Discovery Spaceship and Lift Off Rocket from Hape
This intricately designed wooden spaceship is one of the best gender-neutral playhouses we’ve come across. Rather than something bright pink or purple, this is something that boys and girls can play with side by side.
As a mother of a toddler son, I looked at all of the “boy” pretend play items around the fair, and I continuously thought I would never put that in my house. Call me superficial, but I see no need for those giant, plastic, hideous-looking monstrosities. Yet when I saw this spaceship at the Hape booth, I felt like it was an interesting, quality piece that I wouldn’t mind displaying. Finally, a little something stylish for the boys.
7. A-Z Magnatab from Kid O
We can always count on Kid O for some of our favorite products, and this year was no different. This Magnatab toy isn’t only a fun alphabet tool, but it actually teaches kids how to write in a fun, simple, sensory-driven approach. Kids follow the arrows as they drag magnet balls to the surface, almost like Wooly Willy. (You remember Wooly Willy, right?) Kid O is also coming out with a numbers version in June.
8. Floating LEGO Boat
Because every kid loves LEGOs, right? And now — for the first time in LEGO history — they’re actually making a boat that floats. (Hi, new favorite bath toy.) They’re also making a giant buildable harbor (complete with a loading dock and crane), which includes a floatable boat. Both should be available in August.
9. Radica Mindflex
This game is bananas. It’s called the Radica Mindflex Duel (made by Mattel) and it pretty much blew our minds at the Toy Fair. Basically the idea is to move that little foam blue ball through an obstacle course — using only your mind.
So naturally I had to try it, because, really? Only my mind? So I strapped on a wireless headset that also clipped onto one of my ears. Apparently the headset has sensors around the forehead and on the ear clip which are designed to read brain waves. If it picks up on “intense concentration,” the ball will levitate and then move.
Our instructor told us that “intense concentration” means something different for everyone — for some it’s concentrating on the ball, for others it’s saying the ABCs backwards. But the better you get at honing in on your mental acuity powers, the more you can direct and control the ball. And the game is designed for two players to battle it out or work together in completing the obstacle course.
Tell me your 10 year old wouldn’t love this. (Available in August.)
10. P’Kolino Shape-Sorting Robot
Kids love them some shape sorting — and who doesn’t love the adorable, high-quality products at P’Kolino? The new Shape Sorting Robot (available in May) is designed with a little twist: All of the shapes are actually gears that can be turned for a challenge. And if you want the gears to all line back up, just move the heart back into place. Because as the P’Kolino founder told us, “when your heart’s in the right place, everything else falls into place as well.”
See all of the Best Toys of 2011 here — including fun family games and must-have baby registry items.