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This past weekend, the 10th Annual Chicago Toy & Game Fair took place at Navy Pier. This was the first year that I’ve attended, checking in early on Saturday as one of nearly 200 Bloggers and Media Personalities invited to cover the event. While bringing the kids is more than encouraged for #ChiTaG, the family and I went separate directions. With a long-planned birthday party to attend and with one faction of the family doing Thanksgiving that day, my wife took the girls as I headed to Chicago with a special guest, my Mom.

IMG 0472We started the day with a Blogger Preview Breakfast (coffee and a danish for me), at which we heard from a lineup of speakers including Chicagonista‘s MJ Tam, AS SEEN ON TV kingpin Kevin Harrington, BrickStix creator Greyson MacLean, and the folks from event sponsor, Bananagrams. We were seated at a table with the folks behind The Little Style File, and spent a little time playing with some Bananagrams games that were left on the table. At the end of the breakfast, I scored a set of Appleletters (more on that in a future post).

After the breakfast presentation, we headed into the show floor where we were given some time to check out the offerings prior to it opening up to the public. I like to talk with various folks that we meet, so we didn’t hit a ton of exhibitors before the show opened up at 10. When the doors opened, we just kept right on rolling. 

Despite “Toy” being part of the name, the Chicago Toy & Game Fair is definitely heavy on the games, and we discovered a lot of great titles that might be below the mainstream now, but have the potential to become a big deal in the months ahead. Fortunately, my Mom had the idea to bring a little rolling cart with to Navy Pier, something that came in really handy as we loaded up. Between free swag (there was a lot) and the stuff we bought, we would’ve had a hard time carrying things back to the parking garage without it. While there was much to see, I’m going to point out a some highlights right here, with certain #ChiTaG discoveries to be expanded-upon in future posts here on The Rock Father.
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SPEED STACKS: I was surprised to find Speed Stacks represented, but even more surprised to learn that “Sport Stacking” is an actual competetive sport, currently an event in the Junior Olympics. The “Jumbo Stacks” from Speed Stacks are something we’re quite familiar with, as our local park district has a set that Addie and I have played with many times during our weekly Parent-Tot Playtime. I caught some kids that were well-versed in the ways of the Speed Stacking Force, and it was unbelievable how quickly they moved. Smaller sets of these are now at retailers such as Toys “R” Us, and the folks from SPEED STACKS sent me home with a kit, along with an instructional DVD. Look for more on this later.

DSC 0034EAT TO WIN: I spent a few minutes discussing the new EAT TO WIN game with it’s creator, Jammi Roscoe – a mother that created a game to help her children and others understand healthy eating habits. Having struggled with weight for much of my entire life, as a parent, I’m always concerned that my daughters will learn well and never struggle themselves. While a board game on the surface, EAT TO WIN contains many “get up and move” activities that will get kids excited while they play along. There’s also a “Weight Loss Edition” and a mobile App coming soon.

presgameTHE PRESIDENTIAL GAME: Being fairly obsessed with politics, I was intrigued to run across a game of strategy based around the electoral college. I wish I’d discovered this earlier in the year, as it feels a bit tardy to cover it after the recent Presidential Election has passed, but the game still looks really good. I had to circle back around to THE PRESIDENTIAL GAME booth later in the day to discuss it with creator Regina Glocker for a few minutes, but am glad that I did. Suggested for players ages 11+, THE PRESIDENTIAL GAME posits Republicans and Democrats against each other for the highest office in the land…
just like real life!

IMG 0482SPONTUNEOUS – THE GAME WHERE LYRICS COME TO LIFE: Since this site was founded on a musical background, it’s quite fitting that one of my favorite discoveries at #ChiTaG happens to be a game built around song. The giant “treble clef” making up the “S” on the Spontuneous sign caught my eye, and the next thing you know, I’m chatting with game inventor Rob Ridgeway about the game, and invited to play a round against a family of bloggers that had been hanging around the booth prior to my arrival. Quite simply, Spontuneous is based around song lyrics. While there’s more to it than this, the game starts with a word, and then the first person to sing at least five words of a song containing that word gets a turn. I ended up singing a bit of the Motown classic “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” followed by a bit of the old standard “Mack the Knife” in Bobby Darin style. Rob sent me home with a copy of the game, and I’ll be exploring it more in the near future.

KAPLA Blocks by Tom’s Toys: They’ve been around for 25 years, but this was my first experience with KAPLA. These eco-friendly blocks are said to be the same dimensions as a piano key, and need no glue or connectors – just imagination and gravity. There were a ton of families having fun with these when we visited the KAPLA booth. There, KAPLA’s Judy Manners pointed out that I was the only Dad Blogger she’d met thus far, a statement repeated a few times throughout the Fair. Come to think of it, I didn’t meet any fellow Dad Bloggers at the breakfast presentation, so I’m honestly not sure how many were there. Could I have been all alone?

Kids love to build things, and they also love to knock them down. So do adults, as seen in this video below which features 5500 KAPLA blocks:

r2d2In the midst of things, I ran across an old friend from a galaxy far, far, away. My understanding of “Droid” was a little rusty, but after talking with R2-D2 for a few minutes, it was easy to get back into the swing of things. Since my oldest daughter loves R2-D2, it was a shame she wasn’t with us at the fair (they’ve never met in-person), but hopefully R2 will make another visit to the area at some point in the near future. With a new STAR WARS movie in-development at Disney, I’m sure R2 will be working quite a bit over the course of the next few years.

But there was so much more!

With so many great items to check out, and so many toys and games brought home for further exploration, there’s no way I could cover it all here. Look for more features on discoveries from the 10th Annual Chicago Toy & Game Fair in future posts right here on The Rock Father in the days and weeks ahead.  

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