The last few weeks have been a blur–and an emotional roller coaster to say the least.
I‘m back at the home front now–admittedly wishing for a little snow this weekend–and ready to share the fun things we’ve been doing to sneak in a little learning over here. But first I’m thrilled to share my New For (Me!) Friday, and it has to do with toys, toys, toys.
I’m sharing a few things that I learned at my first-ever Toy Fair. THE Toy Fair, the mac daddy of all toy extravaganzas, the big toy king of all toy kingdoms. It was something. And never in a million years did I think I’d find myself there, among toys big and small, hanging out with the big toy-world fish and the little toy-world fish alike.
The crazy part of it is that Valerie of Frugal Family Fun Blog and I went to Toy Fair with Melissa & Doug, as their first Blog Ambassadors, so a lot of our time was spent in the Melissa & Doug booth (no complaints here!), with the many cool peeps from the company. The whole thing was totally and completely off. the. wall.
And the teacher in me feels the need to sum up the experience in a few lessons I’ve learned through the week.
Here’s the skinny. . .
What I learned at Toy Fair 2012:
Here I am, totally holding up the Melissa & Doug sign (not really). . .
. . . and here’s a sneak peek into the Melissa & Doug Toy Fair 2012 booth.
- There are great some people behind great companies. Like Melissa & Doug. And I’m not even saying that because I spent so much time with them–and by then I mean the 70+ employees who came to work the Toy Fair–not just THE Melissa & Doug. I’m saying it because it’s true. Melissa & Doug have assembled a team that is stronger than strong: customer service representatives who are seriously nice in real life and not just on the phone. Sales people who really stand behind their products and love their customers. A public relations and outreach team that is genuinely interested in finding a comfortable spot for Melissa & Doug in the social media space.
And ThinkFun. The communications manager couldn’t be more lovely, and Bill and Andrea–owners of ThinkFun–couldn’t be cooler. Another super company, eager to meet ‘fans’ and interact with the media. Yay, ThinkFun.
And The Mother Company. I spent Saturday with the incredible Abbey and Sam from The Mother Company, learning about their top-notch products and really getting a feel for their company, their goals, their products, and their vision. AWEsome company, awesome products.
And MomTrends. The gals at MomTrends organized the Blogger Lunch for Melissa & Doug, and they handled blogger appointments and tours throughout the week. Class acts, this group of women–smart, fun, sweet, and savvy.
And The Toy Industry Association. Okay, so I don’t know the whole association, but I did meet several members, including the VP of Strategic Communications, Stacy Leistner, who couldn’t have been more charming.
Surely you can’t spot the two bloggers hiding among the Power Rangers.
- Hanging around toys for five days straight is FUN. Really, really fun. And how could it not be? Through the whole event, people are trying new toys, talking about new toys, looking at re-vamped toys, sharing new toys, dreaming about toys, and thinking about toys.
I had the opportunity to view, play with, and poke around 100’s of Melissa & Doug products. And I shimmied around the other Toy Fair booths, watching people demonstrating toys I could never even imagine. Valerie and I skipped in and around booths, in awe of what we saw and wishing we had our own little ones to explore with us.
It was awesome, exhausting, and fun. I highly recommend attending if you are able. It was just what the doctor ordered.
- We’ve got a lot to look forward to this spring. New games, new crafts, new dolls, new brain-teasers, new activities. You name it, it’s coming down the line, and it’s cool. And I don’t necessarily think it’s all going high-tech; what I saw was a lot of crafty fun, a lot of creative fun, and a lot of classic fun.
Really beautiful sets from playmobil. Really clever games from ThinkFun. Crazy-cool crafts from Melissa & Doug, along with new smart new lines for babies up through tweens. Outdoor games, toys that encourage imaginative play, and products that bring families together.
We saw ice-cream maker that doubles as a beach ball (believe it). Fizzy bath tablets from Color My Bath that help teach color mixing and blending (seriously). Geometric building pieces from Space Chips that can create spaceships or elements from the Periodic
Table (not joking–he lost me at the beginning). Toys that teach, toys that move, toys that cuddle, toys that foster creativity and critical thinking.
We met the woman behind Glitter Toos whose crew was uber-kind and kept their booth open for me (maybe because I told them I was secretly stalking them all week long?).
Just enjoying a cup of tea from Melissa & Doug’s new Bella Butterfly Tea Set (out this spring).
- Bloggers are the real deal. I met a number of really talented bloggers–professionals who take their job seriously and aren’t simply stalking the Toy Fair booths seeking freebies and swag (though I’ll admit it, freebies and swag aren’t all that bad. . . ). I met bloggers who were at the Toy Fair because it was the best place for research for their work, whether their focus be baby products, learning games, tween hits, or up-and-coming cool products.
I met bloggers who were teachers, lawyers, professors, and advertising executives. I met bloggers who asked strong questions, who have great ideas, and who are leaders in their field. I met bloggers whose videos get millions of views on YouTube and bloggers who have a small but loyal following of readers.
I met bloggers who are genuinely concerned about the safety of their children and who are genuinely excited about what lies ahead.
I met bloggers who were genuinely excited to tour the super-fun Melissa & Doug booth, and I am over-the-moon excited about reconnecting with them again soon.
Here’s our Melissa & Doug Blogger Luncheon slideshow:
Want even more Toy Fair fun? Here are the photos from the whole week:
And this is just the tip of the iceberg; I met so many great people and learned about a ton of incredible products that I hope to share in the upcoming weeks and months, so look forward to our New For Us Fridays, as I’m sure I’ll be sneaking in a bunch of totally cool, new-for-us toys, games, and products that I ran across at Toy Fair.
And here’s my disclosure: I’m not a toy expert, and I’m not even trying to play one. I’m a teacher-blogger-mama who just so happened to rope Melissa & Doug into inviting me to come along for the ride, so know that my ‘take’ on the toys of 2012 is my own, totally unprofessional take on the products I had the opportunity to see. Please see the Toy Fair site if you’d like a more comprehensive list of toys, trends, and such.
It was an experience that exceeded all expectations and one that next year I will properly train for–and I’m not even joking. . . .
fyi: This is an unsponsored post, and opinions here are all my own. I was working with Melissa & Doug as part of their Blog Ambassador program during the Toy Fair, and I thank them for providing meals, transportation, and accommodations.