VTech's Go! Go! Smart Wheels have been something that my wife and I have regularly given as gifts over the past few years - some really cool vehicles and playsets that weren't quite on the scene yet when our girls were toddlers, but ones that arrived just in time for some other kids we know. Now the line is expanding again, with new sets like the Launch & Chase Police Tower, Tow & Go Garage and the Take Flight Airport. These sets can spark toddlers' imaginations and offer engaging play experiences while teaching first words, letters and more, and each features innovative SmartPoint technology. One of my favorite features is that they can all hook together for a large and immersive play environment. Check out the new sets below!
Automoblox have been around for nearly 15 years (the original idea goes back to the early 90s), but it wasn't until PlayMonster picked them up a couple of years back that they really started picking up steam. Touted as "A Real Car Brand For Kids," these rides are a modern reinvention of the classic wooden car - but with some stellar upgrades and construction that's built to last. The precision design of each vehicle is broken into sections that become mix-and-match pieces (with hidden connectors), allowing kids to enjoy them right out of the box - or to use their imagination to create fresh new vehicles. You can swap bodies, wheels, tires, windows and more, and the vehicles have some real weight to them. While the original Automoblox are fantastic, I think the Mini range is the stand-out element of the whole collection.
Universal's Fast & Furious franchise roared back into theaters this year with THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS, the eighth feature film in the series. While there have been several different toy lines released based on the individual films, aside from the occasional Hot Wheels release, there hasn't been a really kid-focused collection of toys until now. Mattel's Fast & Furious collection includes several sub-lines of vehicles and playsets in different scales, one of which is the Stunt Stars assortment - 1:32-scale plastic vehicles, each paired with a small action figure and packed with special "stunt" features inspired by scenes from across the various films in the saga. Kids can now recreate their favorite Fast & Furious scenes, or create completely new adventures in small-scale.
When it comes to toy cars and trucks with motorized lights and sounds, the folks at Toy State lead the pack, hands-down. While they've got several different lines to play with, their house-brand Road Rippers are usually the showcase for the more unique or off-the-wall functions - officially-licensed replicas with some interesting surprises packed under the hood, so to speak. One nameplate that's received the Road Rippers treatment on more than a few occasions is the Mini Cooper S., and one of the latest models to rock the road comes from the Road Rippers Dancing Car assortment.
On my recent trip to the Ohio headquarters of The Step2 Company, I turned a corner to find something mysterious... large... and previously only rumored to exist. The legend turned out to be true... and there it was - headlights shining at me - glaring in front of an iconic blue and orange color scheme that can only be claimed by one of America's biggest and best-selling automakers. Granted, they're usually 1:64 in scale and made largely of diecast metal, but I don't know if any car brand has moved more units than Hot Wheels since the first "Redlines" rolled-out in 1968. The odd thing here is that I found myself staring at what may be one of the biggest Hot Wheels items ever to be produced... and it wasn't in the famed Southern California Design Studio that Mattel has established for Hot Wheels, but in the Ohio testing facility of fellow toymaker Step2. Take a peek at this, and look very closely...
When it comes to iconic, American toys, one of the few brands that immediately springs to mind is TONKA. For me, simply hearing the word conjures images of those five bold letters standing out in the stamped, embossed metal form that I grew up on as a kid in the 80s. My cousins and I had many adventures with our TONKA Trucks and construction vehicles - the original-style metal versions that were built like tanks. From the sandbox to the garden, and even at one point an actual construction site (my aunt and uncle had a property being built that had some cool ditches we used as a "quarry"), we were there with TONKA, getting dirty and having fun. In fact, "Gettin' Dirty Since 1947" is TONKA's tagline in 2015, and all these years later, it's a tradition that The Rock Daughters™ have now been experiencing here at Rock Father HQ...
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