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The adoption process has been a part of play going back decades. From the Cabbage Patch Kids craze of 1983 to Build-A-Bear Workshop and the recent success of Distroller's Neonate Babies, kids have been loving the experience of becoming parents to a snuggly new friend. Now, just in-time for the holiday season comes some squishy new friends from Bulls-i-Toy. Squish 'Ums Pet Boutique Adoption Kits will hit stores as a Target Exclusive (avail: 11/22/18) in the U.S. Recommended for kids ages 6 and up, these new sets feature a trio of all-new super-soft slow-rise Squish 'Ums plus an Adoption Certificate!

Friday, November 16 2018 09:27

A Look at the 2019 Toy of the Year Nominees...

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We're entering award season, and that means we've hit a time of the year in which I question a lot of choices and inject my opinion as awards and nominees are pretty subjective. Earlier this week, the Toy Association unveiled their annual list of nominees for the coveted Toy of The Year (TOTY) in a variety of categories, and while there's some great stuff in the mix - there's some that hit me like the GRAMMYS... a little off and with some that seem to be on the list just to have representation from certain brands. Prime example, Playmates Toys scored a nom for their Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Deluxe Ninja Action Figure Assortment. Overall, the Rise of the TMNT line is fantastic - another huge win for Playmates, but I would've chosen the more extensive (and creative) Basic Action Figure Assortment. Why? I think the "Deluxe" figures sorta suck. They're gimmicky, oddly proportioned (to hide the mechanics of the gimmick), and above all - I see kids play with this stuff on a regular basis. But maybe I'm over-analyzing things... doing my "Tom Hanks in BIG" ("I don't get it?") routine.  It'll be a tough call to choose the winners, and you can take part by casting some votes (early and often, as we say here in Illinois) at www.toyawards.org. Now let's check out the full list...

Back in April, I shared the news that Mattel and Mills Entertainment had teamed-up to bring characters from American Girl into the realm of live theatre with the launch of American Girl Live. Now comes news on the full cast for the debut performances, which will have their world premiere at The North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie, Illinois, Dec. 21-23, 2018. The cast of American Girl Live includes Jenna Bruce as Rebecca, Ashley Diane as Luciana, Laila E. Drew as Melody, Shelby Lysette Miguel as Nanea, Monica Poston as Julie and Kelsey Elaine Pressnall as Maryellen. The cast also features Orisa Gutierrez and Mari Skoultchi. 

As toymakers look to diversify, experiences are where it's at. Now comes news that Hasbro has just entered into a licensing agreement with Los Angeles-based Kilburn Live to  to create, build and operate Hasbro-themed family entertainment centers across the US and Canada. In an announcement received at Rock Father HQ this morning, the two companies promise that "the indoor family entertainment facilities will take iconic Hasbro brands and create interactive, immersive and innovative entertainment experiences in a high-energy, gamified environment with multiple activity zones.

It's officially Chicago Toy & Game Week, the annual gathering of toy industry players here on the Third Coast. Toy & game designers, inventors and innovators will be meeting with acquisition executives from major toymakers as a variety of conferences take place leading up to the annual TAGIE Awards on Friday, followed by the main event on Saturday and Sunday - #ChiTAG: the public Chicago Toy & Game Fair. Happening at Navy Pier, November 17 & 18, 2018, ChiTAG has become a Chicago tradition to usher in the holiday shopping season by allowing families to go hands-on with some of the hottest toys of the season, along with some under-the-radar picks from major manufacturers and independent toymakers alike. There's fun for the whole family, and this year there's some new additions on opposite ends of the spectrum... like the baby and toddler play area and a beer garden (with games!) for the "big kids" (21+).

A Special Veterans Day Feature to Kick-off the 2018 Holiday Season...

At Toy Fair in New York earlier this year, I finally had the opportunity to meet Tom Murdough, founder and CEO of The Simplay3 Company. Launched in 2016 and based in Ohio, the name reflects the power of simple play, but the "3" is indicative of the fact that this is the third toy company from Murdough, who famously founded both Little Tikes (1969) and The Step2 Company (1991) before taking a detour into "retirement" (at least from toys) for a portion of the past decade. While Simplay3 is a rare example of of an American toymaker that actually produces American-made toys (along with "grownup" items like mailboxes and wheelbarrows), it's also unique in that it's a privately-held, Veteran-owned business. Mr. Murdough was a member of the United States Marine Corps, having served from 1961-1964.

Ready to infuse your family game night with explosive, incredible action with some play money at stake? The folks at Wonder Forge have something for everyone this holiday season, and now they've teamed-up with The Rock Father™ to showcase a trio of games that are all Holiday Wish Guide™ picks! Big Money (Only at Walmart, ages 8+), Ya Blew It! (ages 8+) and Disney•Pixar The Incredibles Save The Day! (ages 6+) each offer a distinctly different gameplay experience, and we're not only highlighting them for the holidays - but two (2) lucky readers will receive a prize pack featuring all three games! Check 'em out...

When our kids were smaller, some favorite learning toys here came from LeapFrog. Classics like the learning table and My Pal Scout come to mind, and now as we give gifts to others with a new generation of little ones, it's always fun to see the new stuff that's been coming out. Two Holiday Wish Guide Picks this year are the LeapFrog Scout's Get Up and Go Walker (ages 3-36 months) and the Target-exclusive Water & Count Veggie Garden (ages 9-36 months). Now, The Rock Father™ and LeapFrog have teamed-up not only to showcase these great new toys as holiday gift ideas, but we're also giving you a chance to win the pair! One (1) lucky reader will receive both!

Ready to up your game by experiencing the true power of gravity? With the GraviTrax interactive track system, you can design and build your own marble runs and experiment with gravity, magnetism, and kinetics to propel your marble to the finish. With a variety of tiles, levels, tracks and elements, you can control the speed of the marble. A Holiday Wish Guide™ Pick, The Rock Father™ and Ravensburger have teamed-up to showcase the GraviTrax System and give you a chance to win a GraviTrax Starter Set!

When it comes to having creative fun with color, nobody beats Crayola! If you've paid a visit to the Crayola Experience at any time, you may have seen first-hand just how much fun kids can have when those broken crayons get melted down to create entirely new creations. Over the years, Crayola has worked to bring that experience home in a few different forms, and for 2018 that's become the all-new Crayola Crayon Melter! Another one of the hot toys that The Rock Daughters™ and I first experienced hands-on at The Toy Insider's Sweet Suite this past summer, the Crayon Melter is the perfect gift that allows new creations from melted crayons, giving a whole new life to those boxes and bins of broken crayons. Now, The Rock Father™ & Crayola have teamed-up to highlight the Crayon Melter for Holiday Wish Guide, and we're also giving you a chance to win one! Check it out...

American kids, teens, and adults love playing video games. Long gone are the days of Frogger and Pong. Nowadays, video games are so complex and realistic, it can seem as if you're not even playing a game at all -- especially when it comes to sports games.

As of 2017, the value of the video game market across the United States was worth approximately $18.4 billion. Globally, as eSports grows in popularity and more countries (like the U.S.) welcome soccer  into their lives, the sports video game market will likely enjoy unprecedented success.

One of my favorite new toys of 2018 was something that The Rock Daughters™ and I first experienced at The Toy Insider's Sweet Suite in NYC this summer... Pop-Oh-Ver! It's an innovative new collection of toys that foster imaginative role-play in a remarkably space-saving design the completely solves one big issue for space-challenged families: no place to put a play kitchen. These are high-quality canvas and fabric slipcovers that can transform a standard chair into a play kitchen or counter top. As they say, kids can play all day, then put it away! There's also plenty of accessories like food and dishes - all of which make great gifts and land Pop-Oh-Ver a spot on the 2018 Holiday Wish Guide™. Now, The Rock Father™ & Kangaroo Manufacturing have teamed-up to showcase Pop-Oh-Ver and give you a shot at winning a set! Check out the video and details below...

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