At the 104th annual American International Toy Fair that ends today in New York, children's toys are a decidedly adult affair.
More than 20,000 buyers, manufacturers, importers and other toy industry professionals descended on the enormous Jacob K. Javits Convention Center and additional sites throughout the city, but there was nary a child in sight -- just those proverbial "kids at heart."
Kathy O'Keefe, owner of Noah's Ark Children's Specialty Store in Lockport, N.Y., emphasized that point when she said that the best way to determine whether a toy would be success with kids was to imagine yourself as a kid.
Would you want to play with it?
That must explain why this reporter suddenly found himself slam-dancing, and then head-butting an 8-foot-tall foam uglydoll named "Ice Bat." He had it coming.
The toy fair has it all: games, toys, activities, costumes and even arts and crafts It draws the big names in the toy industry like Hasbro and Mattel as well as smaller companies like AquaStruct, which sells a shower-spray kit that turns bath time into surf time.
And they've brought out all their wares.
There are glow-in-the-dark globes, infrared remote-controlled mechanical rhinoceros beetles, Easy-Bake Ovens and even "Librarian Action Figures." There are dolls that drink water and then a few seconds later, well, let's just say that what happens next is really realistic. Or there are dolls that swim the freestyle, the backstroke, and even do a flip turn.
Little tykes can even say goodbye to the age-old Slip 'N Slide and hello to a new backyard water park-in-a-box. For $600, parents inflate the park, add water, and can watch their kids hit the slide, hide in a cave or jump on the little trampoline.
One continuing trend involves kids making music through toys or using toys that interact with an MP3 player like an iPod.
Playskool introduced an MP3 for infants that lets moms program two hours of music and insert the player into three different toys for toddlers.
Sababa plans to roll out a product called iKnow that will lead users, playing an interactive game of Name That Tune using their iPods -- for just $40.
MGA will release a boom box that plays DVDs, complete with a small TV screen, music CDs and even karaoke.
Fisher-Price's I Can Play Guitar ($100) teaches strumming, and finger techniques to find notes and chords, all while learning some classic-rock songs like "Smoke on the Water."
MGA will offer an electronic version of the game show "Jeopardy" for your television that uses three hand-held buzzers for contestants to ring in. Alex Trebek read more than 1,200 questions for the game.
Not to be outdone, Mattel has a similar interactive game with the recently launched TV game show "1 vs. 100," hosted by Bob Saget. This game uses the DVD remote control to answer questions, and Saget recorded more than 1,000 questions.
Mattel offers sports enthusiasts a chance to become a baseball star like Derek Jeter at bat. Through a DVD player, "batters" see actual baseball video -- the windup and the pitch. All players have to do is swing, batter, swing. Make contact, and the video shows where you hit the ball.
Traditional board games also embrace electronics. Hasbro offers a DVD Simpson's Trivial Pursuit that includes game pieces, but no more board.