For me it was clearly a combo of hating practicing asbestos litigation and my mother having a really great time writing about toys and play. I left her after a segment she did at the Today Show to go back to my office and thought–that just seems like a better way to spend the day. I’m always curious how other people find their way to the toy industry. It is a business — and not all warm and fuzzy as you might think–but still it is different.
So I started a series called Meet the Toymakers. This gave me an opportunity to find out how other people joined the ranks of toy industry insiders. And since most people seem to have a desire to also be in toys, I thought it would be interesting to hear how other people fulfilled their dreams.
This week- we have an interview with Robert Pasin of Radio Flyer. Unlike most of the people I’ve interviewed, Robert is third generation in his family’s toy business. That’s hard core and brings it’s own set of challenges even when you are in charge of an established and iconic American brand.
I also interview Chris and Will Haughey of TEGU. These brothers both left their Wall Street jobs to start TEGU. Besides making a lovely product (wooden blocks with built in magnets) they are also finding a way for their business to give back to the people of Honduras by creating jobs.
We’ve just posted our list of top green toys. It’s a fun mix of beautifully crafted wooden toys from companies like Plan Toys, Wonderworld, Citiblocs, Tegu and Schylling. As well as some plastic toys from recycled materials (Green Toys) and even a nod to a plastic lamp that you crank rather than load with batteries. We even have two solar powered devices that will appeal to tween and teens.
What we passed on: scratchy organic dolls, dolls that got credit for being organic but were very muted, and in our opinion a little sad looking. We also passed on many solar activity kits that just didn’t work. Nothing like having a solar panel that just doesn’t feel like powering anything.
At the end of the day, I find any labels like Green or Educational to be only part of the story. If the toy isn’t fun and engaging, it doesn’t matter what great list it should be on. Probably too many negatives there–but you get the point. It doesn’t make the cut with us unless it’s also something that engages our testers.
One of my new favorite construction sets comes from TEGU. These are beautifully crafted wooden magnetic blocks. If I were going to buy a toy that I know everyone would play with if I put it out on the coffee table for the holidays–it would be these blocks. (Except of course if you have very small kids in the house).
Starting today, you can challenge their builder to build something specific. Right now I’m watching them put together a Chilean Miner! Take a look and tweet in your own requests at TEGU.com