Truth be told, I didn’t play with too many toys as a kid. I loved my sandbox, and as much as my mother wanted me to love the elaborate (and now I realize) beautiful dollhouse that was given to me, I was really much more into playing with Hot Wheels. Looking back now, I know that my love of Hot Wheels had much more to do with my brothers. The youngest of three, I had to work hard to find things I could do with them without being so annoying that I got thrown out of the equation. I was a great assistant to the elaborate tracks they would put together.
We would go to Davco (the local toy store in Monticello, New York)…I would look at the Barbies — admire the fashions…and then buy another car. Cars meant entry into the great adventures that went on in our house. It’s probably an exaggeration to say that we had enough track to go throughout the house–but we certainly had enough to make the cars down the staircase! My brothers were pros at making ramps and there was great excitement when the first loops came out. This year Mattel has new Trick Tracks which has lots of the action we worked so hard to get with pillow and books beneath the tracks. Somehow, the new tracks seem like a cheat (to a Hot Wheels purist). We’ll have to see what kids today think! What’s missing from the current line is a track that has lots of length and maybe one or two loops. The recent batch of closed tracks seem more like one trick ponies– they’re cool to watch but they don’t offer the problem solving that most of us remember from our Hot Wheels days.
This year is the 40th anniversary of Hot Wheels–there’s an anniversary that will make many of us pause. Even more amazing–this year Mattel reports that they will produce the 4 billionth car!
Last year everyone was talking about magnets. Everything from toddler toys to construction toys used magnets in some creative way. This year the buzz is all about “USB” capability.
Traditional toys like Hot Wheels, Barbies, Groovy Girls–now all will have an on-line component where play is just a USB cord away. Borrowing from the amazing successful Webkinz model, more and more companies are offering a toy that also “unlocks” a unique play experience on line. From the response of our toy testers, this seems like a smart move. School aged kids love collecting toys (stuff animals, cars, action figures) and this generation is tech savvy — so it’s a perfect combination. We will be testing these new products with kids in the coming weeks.
Leapfrog also offers the USB cord as a way of uploading/downloading info to their new platforms. Sprig Toys, a new line of vehicles will also work with action figures that hook up to a USB plug on board the vehicles. VTech’s new promising art platform, KiddiArt Studio, also uses a USB connection.
Several years back there were toys (mostly dolls) that required parents to “download” information to the toy (your child’s name, birthday, favorite color,etc.) …and we received many complaints that this took too much time and frankly was too complicated for less than tech savvy parents. Two things have changed–the iTunes interface has made the whole “download” thing much less overwhelming for parents. Things have changed: the toy/computer interface works better, parents are younger and more techy themselves, and for slightly older kids, they’ll be doing the plugging in–and let’s face it, they’re really good at it.
The toys we played with as kids also help define which generation we belong to– they become cultural touchstones. (I knew I was getting a little bit older when the several pr folks told me about their own Cabbage Patch Dolls and My First Ponys.)You may be interested to know that some of the toys many of us enjoyed as kids, are hitting significant milestones:Lego – 50 yearsCabbage Patch- 25 yearsMy Little Pony – 25 yearsHot Wheels- 40 yearsEasy-Bake Oven- 45 yearsScrabble – 60 yearsTrivial Pursuit- 25 yearsHard to imagine a time when there wasn’t Scrabble!