Calico Critters – A Classic that appeals to the iphone generation

Calico Critters were first launched in Japan way back in 1985. They arrived in North America  in 1993 and are currently distributed by International Playthings.  (They’re known in other countries as Sylvanian families). No matter the name, these small animal collections are enjoying a resurgence with the “iphone generation” of preschoolers and early school age kids.

Calico Critters Ice Cream Truck

Calico Critters Ice Cream Truck

Unless your heart is stone cold, you have to admit that Calico Critters are seriously cute. Even for a preschool generation that lives on fruit ninjas and can navigate youtube like pros, there’s something appealing to actually holding a Calico Critter in your hand.  Our testers also love that they come in families.  For kids that like to pretend in miniature (as opposed to whole body pretending) – Calico Critters will say whatever they want them to say.  There are no bells and whistles here – which is why they’re probably still so popular.

Here’s a link to our most recent reviews of their Border Collie FamilyIce Cream Truck, and Treehouse.




Does anyone still need a teddy bear or baby doll?

The short answer is: of course they do.

So yesterday before our Today Show segment I went to say hi to the 20 plus kids that agreed to be “elves” in our toy test on the plaza. They were all really well behaved…and many totally tuned into their phones and ipads. If you have kids you know the drill and

Wobbly Carmel by Bunnies by the Bay

Wobbly Carmel by Bunnies by the Bay

even if you don’t…if you go out to a restaurant and look around…you see kids engaged with their screens. Makes you wonder about more traditional types of play and the toys that will engage this digital generation. While everyone is totally abuzz about today’s kids monopolizing their parents’ smartphones and tablets, the last generation was equally sucked into their handheld players. The notable difference is that while most kids did not get their first Gameboy until they hit the early school years, infants are now part of the swipe-generation.

From a developmental point of view, the answer to my question is a resounding yes. Especially for younger children, we know that they learn best from real life interactions. Language development comes from talking (not just swiping or zapping a fruit ninja). When kids play with their stuffed animals, dolls, castles, dollhouses and other pretend settings – they are at

Calin Naima by Corolle

Calin Naima by Corolle

the center of their play experience. Things happen at their command and as a result of their own imagination not something created or dictated by a toy designer.  Elmo and his friends are fine for novelty appeal…but they do not offer the same open-ended type of pretend play.

Mon Premier Calin by Corolle

Here’s what else you should know about yesterday. The teddy bears and dolls that we brought to the show (but sadly ran out of time to talk about) were loved by the kids. We planned on talking about the wonderful collection of multicultural Calin baby dolls from Corolle (there is also a boy in the collection), the delicious Teddy Bear and Dog from Bunnies by the Bay and the always popular Calico Critters from International Playthings.

Calico Critters by International Playthings

Calico Critters by International Playthings

These toys may seem old-fashioned or boring compared to their high-tech counterparts, but to kids all of these toys are new and able props to their pretend world. And we certainly need our kids to pretend, to dream, to imagine and not just watch a screen.

To read reviews about all  of these wonderful toys, please visit our site.

You scream, I scream…we all scream for ICE CREAM

Calico Critters Ice Cream TruckThis new Ice Cream Truck from Calico Critters (International Playthings) is off the meter on cuteness and feels right for today where it’s soooo hot in a good part of the country.


Still cuter…

The ice cream dispenser works…icecreamtrucktwo

For a full review and shopping info, visit our site.






Emerging Themes: Banana Splits, Taxis and Toilets

Each year there are certain concepts that just seem to be in the air at toy fair. This year we are already seeing certain themes emerging for 2011.

Banana Splits, Taxis and Toilets…

From Learning Resources

Banana Split from Earlyears (International Playthings)

Step 2's New Taxi Ride In

Viking Toys Taxi (from International Playthings)

All wood...from Maxim

Even the new Disney Princess Castle comes with a royal throne

Faux Wooden Toilet Seat from Calico Critters

Pick of the Day: Calico Critters Country Tree House

Calico Critters Hedghogs- Amazing!

Even though I absolutely shunned my own colonial dollhouse (sorry Mom)…I really have always loved the Calico Critters (International Playthings)  and their houses over the years. The collections always feature what look like storybook animal families and miniature settings that fit them.  I am absolutely obsessed with the Hedgehog family (see pic). This year they have a new Country Tree House that has lots of levels and features. Read our complete review.

Calico Critters Country Tree House

Another cool day at toy fair 2010!

We had another big day at Javits today. I went in a dress (since I thought I was doing tv) and carrying tv shoes (there’s no way you can do Javits in tv shoes!)

We started at LEGO…always one of our favorites stops, visited with STEP 2 to see lots of fun new outdoor toys, International Playthings (super cute new toys from Calico Critters), Spin Master (lots of flying toys) and at Creativity for Kids we met the inventor of Shrinky Dinks!

My iPhone died right as we got to Spin Master–which was too bad since there were lots of fun things to tape there.  Oh well. I did bring my charger–but alas the one that plugs into my computer, not an outlet. Pretty lame on my part.  Below is a picture of Kate from International Playthings trying to find an adaptor so that we can charge my phone using the crank radio from their Ecotronics link. Unfortunately there wasn’t one that worked with my phone, but I was really so grateful to Kate for the effort!

Kate from International Playthings