As the Manager of the WonderLab Gift Store and WonderCamp Director, Colleen Couper, is the obvious choice as an ambassador to the American International Toy Fair in New York.
“At the toy fair I can see the quality. I can see how (a toys is) made, and talk to the people who made it,” said Couper.
The American International Toy Fair in New York has been held annually in mid-February since 1903 and grew from featuring ten toy companies that first year to an annual gathering of more than 1,500 manufacturers, distributors, importers, and sales agents. With an exhibit space of more than 447,000 square feet, the 116th Toy Fair held in February, 2019 could have filled over seven football fields. The products themselves ranged from building blocks to board games.
The yearly convention allows toy inventors and manufacturers, new and established, to present their newest designs and fresh spins on classic toys to the world. New games, toys, and exhibits are unveiled first at the Toy Fair, making it the leading edge of childhood entertainment innovation. By personally exploring the various displays, Couper gets to test the toys and games she might bring back to WonderLab. Being there in person also allows Couper to build relationships with manufacturers and inventors, which makes future purchases and partnerships easier.
“I love going to the Toy Fair and building these relationships,” said Couper. “A lot of the exhibits and manipulables in the gallery come from those meetings, as do a lot of the materials for WonderCamp.”
In addition to testing the quality of the materials and their playability Couper focuses on items designed to stimulate learning and development in children. These items, from fidgets to complex math games, do more than just stand the test of time and catch the eye – they are created specifically to help developing minds grow, pose developmental challenges and encourage exploration. Going to the Toy Fair in person allows Couper to find the products that will survive rigorous play, broaden the mind, and entertain for years to come.
Navigating this immense and varied exhibition of play can be daunting, but Couper had some specific goals when she attended this year’s fair.
“I always try to find building things, brain teasers and STEM builds,” said Couper. “And with the new Science Sprouts Place gallery area opening in October I’m particularly interested in expanding our selection of toddler-focused products.”
The toys Couper brought back from the Toy Fair this year include the Stikbots Animation Studios, which let you create your own movies and videos with Stikbots.
Couper also brought back Plasma Balls by TEDCO, interactive lamps that let you play with lightning. I myself owned a Plasma Ball from the age of seven until I turned 19. Though the glass was scratched and the lightning faded, it remained fun until I donated it to a friend. The Gift Store sold out within a week of getting these, but they should be back in stock in mid-May.
In July 2019, WonderLab’s Gift Store will carry Zing’s Glove-a-Bubble, 2019’s Outdoor Toy of the Year. The name says it all – Glove-a-Bubble is a glove that’s decorated as a variety of cute and fun animals with loops on the end. Simply dip these loops into the bubble solution they provide and wave to create hundreds of bubbles in the blink of an eye.
Dozens of other new arrivals are already on the shelves at WonderLab’s own specialty toy store from putty to building blocks to puzzle games. With each toy and game carefully tested by Couper to ensure safety, usability, durability, and most importantly that they’re fun and educational, WonderLab is making good on its promise to help our youngest scientists learn through play. Thanks to the International Toy Fair in New York, it’s never been easier for WonderLab to help invest in your children’s entertainment and education.
About the Authors:
Samuel Zlotnick is a 25-year-old, self-described “scifi/fantasy geek.” He’s learning a lot from his internship at WonderLab in its marketing department, which he feels will compliment his eventual Bachelor’s Degree in Professional & Technical Writing. He’s already brought home several of the new toys, and if no one stops him he may just buy them all.
Mitch Toher is a student studying Media Advertising at Indiana University. When he’s not hanging out at the front desk or doing public relations work for WonderLab, Mitch stays busy on campus with his radio show and sketch comedy group. Mitch is now introducing himself as “Mitch ‘The Boink Connoisseur’ Toher” and “Mitch ‘The Glove-a-Bubble Buff’ Toher” to friends and family.