This year’s Chicago Toy & Game Fair, celebrating its 15th year, wowed with a big emphasis on interactive virtual experiences. Many toys added interesting functionality. Star Wars characters marched around the floor to generate excitement for the upcoming Star Wars: The Last Jedi movie opening December 15th. It was a thrill for me, because this year both of my kids came to the show, so I had two different perspectives on each toy and game. There is nothing more fun than looking at the toys and games through the kid’s eyes. There were many fun events, including the Yo-Yo competition and the Young Inventor section. We are lucky to live in the city that hosts the largest American celebration of toys and games. Here are our top picks from the Chicago Toy & Game Fair. These are bound to be great gifts for this holiday season and beyond!
The Merge Cube was our number one pick for the toy experience of the year. I can’t call it just a toy, because it’s so much more. Would you like to hold a planet in the palm of your hand? How about walk into a castle and see fireworks above you? Watch a live volcano eruption? There is so much to discover with this hologram in your hand! And you can do all this with a small merge cube and virtual apps on your device (many of the great apps are free, and others are under $3). I love that this is educational (mom in me speaking!) and it just takes the playing to the next frontier. Goggles are optional but they make it easier to experience the cube – you simply place the phone inside and then all you’re holding is the cube and easier to experience. You can buy Merge Cube at Walmart.com.
This interactive game from PlayMonster was one my kids wanted to play over and over again. In fact, at the end of the day, I asked them what they wanted to see or play again, and Ultra Dash was their choice. The game is very simple – place the tagger into the slot matching the color showing on it. Go quickly from color to color and see your speed. You can compete against yourself or your friends. There are other modes to play – Target Tally and Relay Race. Still, Beat the Clock mode was our favorite. The set up is simple – you can take Ultra Dash to a party, play it in the backyard, travel with it, or just play at home. Here’s proof that it doesn’t have to be complicated to be fun. And we are still hoping to beat that 10 second record! You can buy Ultra Dash by PlayMonster at Kohl’s.
The display for Soggy Doggy was something else at the Chicago Toy & Game Fair! Giant size Doggy with a big game wheel around it. Kids competed by walking on the wheel trying to avoid getting splashed by the doggy. Just hearing their giggles after each splash was fun enough. The game you buy is actually table size but you still feel the splashing from the doggy toy and it’s a very interactive experience. Spinmaster.com really outdid themselves this year with this toy, fun for little kids but also enjoyable for the whole family. You can buy Soggy Doggy Board Game for Kids with Interactive Dog Toy at Walmart.com
Do kids find farts funny? Do you like to laugh when playing a game? This is Gas Out. A new game from Mattel. Gas Out is an elimination game, where the goal is to avoid the green character farting. I noticed kids spent more fun playing with the green noise maker more than the game itself.
Kindergarten age children will probably have the most fun with it. It’s silly fun and the random outcome makes it unpredictable and interesting.
You can buy Gas Out Game at Kohl’s.
This board game almost felt like a virtual experience. With a flick of a finger, you would move your penguin game piece from one school room or hall to another, trying to get away from the hall monitor and collecting your game color pieces on the way. This game, developed by Brain Games, already won 15 international awards including Children’s Game Award. My daughter was quick to point out the Ice Cool also sounds like iSchool – interesting, since the game is set in a school hall. The number of players can be as little as 3 or more.
What my kids really enjoyed is the variety of flicking techniques that helped your penguin get to or skip over a room. You can buy IceCool game at Barnes & Noble.
This game was a birthday gift my son got last year and we’ve been playing it ever since. Part strategy and part math, this tile-based game is hard to resist. On our way out, we stopped at the Pressman toys booth and spent about 30 minutes playing Rummikub. That is a long time for kids! Best for kids in 3rd grade and up, Rummikub can be played by adults with as much fun. No wonder, they have sold over 50 million of them!
I think 4 people makes it most fun but you can have as few as two to enjoy Rummikub. Chicago Toy & Game Fair hosted a Rummikub championship on Sunday. Sadly, we missed it but we will keep playing Rummikub at home for years!
You can buy Rummikub Original Edition – The Original Rummy Tile Game at Wal-Mart.com
You can say that Rubik’s Cube never really left but I think it’s making quite a comeback. I hear that’s what 5th graders really want in their Christmas stockings. Rubik’s Race is a game that takes it to the next level. It’s a game for two players. You shake the cube with a side of colors. Then, you have to re-create that same side with your sliding tiles (without lifting them up). Once done, flip the cover and if you got it right, you win. At the Chicago Toy & Game Fair, we spent a long time at the University Games booth, playing Rubik’s Race and iSpy Dig in, as well as a few other games. This was one of the friendliest places at the fair and my kids enjoyed experiencing several games at the same place. While they enjoyed them all, Rubik’s Race got their vote.
You can buy Rubik’s Race at Wal-Mart.com.
Another thinking interactive game, e-Blox teaches kids about making connections work. You can create a building that lights up, or you can make little hovers go up and fly. All this from building connections – sort of like building with lego blocks – except here, there is an extra reward/benefit – something lights up or moves. While there are easier e-Blox sets for younger kids, I think the bigger sets (with a more advanced construction and reward) are very exciting. It almost felt like coding, which is a skill kids will definitely need in the future. And the reason is the circuits that are built into the sets. Place them correctly and magic happens! What I found especially exciting were the Stories set – you build as you follow the story. Learn more about it here.
Klask is a two player game, which is perfect for my kids. Throw the ball into the opponent’s gates and you score. The challenge is that you’re playing with magnets and navigating them with your hand under the board. As little plastic pieces magnetize to your game piece, they can also load it with weight which makes moving harder.
This is a super fun interactive game. Even if you don’t have great hand-eye coordination, it will improve with this game.
You can buy Klask – The Magnetic Game Of Skill by Buffalo Games, Multicolor at Kohl’s.
Kids love anything you can mold and shape with your hands. It’s a beautiful way to let the young imaginations fly. My artistic daughter couldn’t resist stopping at the Education Insights booth to try Playfoam.
What we loved about it: you can combine any colors to shape it into anything, it’s easy to mold like clay, yet it doesn’t stick to your hands, and Playfoam never dries out. So, you can make a snowman and keep it until the next year.
It’s a great way to get creative.
Educational Insights EI-1907 Playfoam Combo 20 Pack at Paperclipmall.com.