said it before, and we’ll say it again: Every toy does not need an app! So once again, as we cruised the aisles at the American International Toy Fair this week, we largely turned a blind eye to “interactive elements” carelessly tacked onto playthings.
This year, we focused on the toys that aren’t just following the trends. These 10 toys are the blasting-est, sciencey-est, most “what the what?!” objects on the show floor. We love them, and we think you will, too.
I Heart Guts Skin
Amidst the rows of board games and toddler toys, we found a booth of plush organs (can’t call them “stuffed animals,” right?). And the new Skin plush is amazing. It sports a hair follicle, sweat glands, and sebaceous glands, as well as a welcoming smile fit for the body’s largest organ. Also amazing: The designer, Wendy Bryan, told us that she continually had to deflect people who wanted Skin designed as a blanket. We’re happy she opted to avoid a Hannibal Lecter plaything.
$20, availability not set
Worx Toys Journey
Worx Toys are vehicles that teach you how they work. In the case of the space shuttle Journey, if you want to know what parts are involved with takeoff, you punch in a specific code and the parts flash and move. It also has a removable satellite and an articulating Shuttle Remote Manipulator System (SRMS), and is much more fun than listening to dad explain mechanics.
$25, available now
The Ozobot is one of the best toys we’ve come across that integrates programming and the physical world – a big trend in Toyland. To control the little bot, which is about an inch high and an inch across, you draw commands. For example, if you want the bot to travel in a straight line and speed up toward the end, you draw a black line and then the color code for speeding up (blue, black, blue). You can draw the paths on paper with markers, or on a tablet with a stylus; Ozobot can read either because of an array of optical sensors. In total, it can recognize about 1,000 codes.
Kickstarting now, available winter
With the Makey Makey board, you can create electronic music from any object. For example: a banana piano, which we saw on the show floor. Makey Makey is a printed circuit board that has a microcontroller running Arduino, which allows it to interface between your computer (via USB) and physical objects (via alligator clips). Essentially you tell the computer which sounds you want associated with which keys and then clip the objects to the corresponding holes on the board. So when you press a banana, the computer thinks you’re pressing a particular key and plays a sound.
$50, available now
Nerf N-Strike Elite Demolisher 2-in-1 Blaster
A turret-equipped six-legged Nerf robot might be getting a lot of Toy Fair attention, but to us it looked just a little bit too much like the
Attacknids we featured last year. Something else – something even more destructive – is going on here. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a four-inch foam bomb; “and what’s this?” I said to the rep, picking up the orb. That’s when I met the Demolisher, a Nerf gun that fires both darts and missiles. Enough said. $39.99, available fall
Commonwealth Toys wikiBear
Admit it: You’ve spoken out loud to a stuffed animal. It’s okay, we’re not ones to judge. But now, for better or for worse, those exchanges are getting real; wikiBear talks back. Paired with an app over Bluetooth, the 11-inch brown bear has the entire internet to draw on, allowing him to answer your questions, tell jokes, or make idle chit-chat. Super? Spooky? Super-spooky.
Price not set, available September
Hexbug Aquabot 2.0
“Don’t tap on the glass!” reads a sign scotch-taped to every aquarium in every pet store — ever. Yet it’s tapping on the glass that makes the new Aquabot robot fish all the more lifelike. The bots (a clownfish, a hammerhead shark, or an angelfish) are equipped with a sensor that signals them to wake up and swim when they detect any movement or vibration, including tank-tapping and water sloshing. But, unlike a goldfish, there’s no risk of scaring these swimmers to death.
Thoughtfull Toys Modarri
Kids (and adults!) can make all the “vroom-vroom” lifelike engine noises they like when they push toy cars across carpets and tabletops, but that’s where the real-world similarities typically end. Modarri cars are the first to add miniature versions of steering and suspension systems to a push toy. Doughnuts, figure-eights, drifts, and skids are all now possible. You can even customize the car with Modarri’s interchangeable, stackable frames, wheels, axels, and roll cages.
Kickstarting now, available spring
The company, of course citing IP reasons, won’t say that these are light-up Duplo blocks, but we will! These are freaking LED-lit Duplo blocks! Stacked atop a battery-powered base, the bricks have contact points on the top and bottom of each peg to create a circuit through any sculpture. Take this whale, for example. Oooooooooooo!
$20 beginners set, available summer
A still image won’t do justice to the Helicone: Its magic is in movement. Utilizing the Golden Ratio, the wooden toy spirals from a helix to a pinecone-looking shape with a quick twist of its base. Mesmerizing math? Thumbs up.
$35, available June