LEGO leads the pack of construction toys at mega stores, such as Toys “R” Us, K-B Toys and Wal-mart. However, says Sandy Friedman, owner of the “arty” toy store Accipter in Raleigh, N.C., “We don’t sell much of that.” Many retail toy stores surveyed by TDmonthly agreed; they concentrate on finding more unusual construction toys that appeal to both boys and girls. Bright colors, flexibility and mobility characterize many of these toys, some of which can’t yet be found in the larger chains.
Pontiki by BASIC FUN INC.
Already popular in Japan, the basic, colorful “head” pods of Pontiki are only 1” to 2” long. Mini-geometric parts are stored inside the pods and can be used as hands, feet or eyes. — Pontiki has an officially licensed “Franny K. Stein” version, based on the popular book series by Jim Benton. — “The sets build on each other,” explains Sandy Friedman, owner of Accipter in Raleigh, N.C., where the toy is selling very well. — “They’re an impulse item,” says Wendy Kramer, manager of Big Fun Toys in Hoboken, N.J. She keeps them by the counter for quick sales.
Modeled on the pure light and color emitted by computer screens, PixelBlocks are 3/8” translucent colored cubes that feature a peg-and-hole interlocking device on the top and bottom as well as a tooth-and-groove device on all four sides. Starter boxes include 200 single-shape pieces. — Pixel Blocks are available in PhotoGrays and Artist sets, for a wider variety of colors. Individual colors can also be bought separately. — Jordan Walden, store manager of Finnegan’s Toys & Gifts in Portland, Ore., says that PixelBlocks is his newest construction set that’s doing well. — This toy is appropriate for both kids and professional artists, according to the manufacturer.
New this year, 40-piece Zoomorphs lets kids redesign creatures based on whim. They can pull off a cassowary’s head and add it to a leopard’s body, or give beetle feet to a velociraptor. — Connie Hallinan, owner of Golden Aspen Toys in Flagstaff, Ariz., spotted Zoomorphs at the Toy Show and snatched it up for her store. — Hallinan puts samples out for kids to play with. “If kids see it, they have to touch it and have to buy it,” she says. — The interchangeable pieces are compatible with the Dinomorphs set, which includes a T Rex, Mosasaur, Pterandon and Duckbill. Other sets are Pets and Fliers.
Included in a vinyl carrying case are 48 plastic pieces that build odd shapes, bright colors and abstract geometric designs. — Compatible with the Bonz sets of construction toys, Sandy Friedman, owner of Accipter in Raleigh, N.C., says that all the building items in the Zolo/Bonz lines are popular in her store. — Zolo comes in a pocket version for the compulsive player or impulsive buyer. — Pop*Zolo is an add-on kit that has “mini to mondo” connector rods for all Zolo/Bonz systems.
Ball-and-joint construction pieces endow Zoob creations with mobility. Kids can make anything from spheres to dinosaurs with this 250-piece kit, which comes with six instruction booklets. — Zoob continues to be a strong seller at Big Fun Toys in Hoboken, N.J., says manager Wendy Kramer. Tara Trew, sales associate at Growing Tree Toys and Books in State College, Pa., agrees. — Zoob has been rated a top seller by accounts such as Neiman Marcus and Learning Express, it was the No. 1 selling product in two well-known direct-to-consumer catalogs, and it now sells in 45 countries around the world, according to Jeff Pinsker of Infinitoy. — Jordan Walden, manager of Finnegan’s Toys in Portland, Ore., claims that Zoob was unavailable for about 3 years. During that hiatus, customers requested it frequently. Now it’s selling well again. — “In our store, probably Zoobs” will be found under most trees for the 2006 holidays, Tristan Hewitt, manager of Dragon’s Toy Box in Seattle, Wash., told TDmonthly.
This foam construction toy consists of wired tuber-shaped oblong pieces (toobers) and thin pieces of variously shaped foam with holes (zots). Boys and girls can make hats, monsters, dragons and more. Each toober is between 1 and 2 feet long. — This toy is a favorite at Finnegan’s Toys in Portland, Ore., says manager Jordan Walden. — Toobers & Zots has won more than 30 major toy awards and was one of only 12 toys to be included in Dr. Toys’ book, “Toys for a Lifetime” in 2000. — Compatible kits include Toobers & Zots Zany and Toobers & Zots Zowy.
Little white honeycomb balls and colorful sticks combine to make flowers, houses, giant spheres and more. The Pioneer Kit includes 121 parts and a colorful instruction booklet. — At Big Fun Toys in Hoboken, N.J., these toys sell well, according to manager Wendy Kramer. — Based on the mathematical principles of nature, Zome can create a plenitude of geometric shapes, molecular structures, quasicrystals, and more — The manufacturer claims that Zome kits are in use in more than 6000 schools and educational institutions.
These 27 brightly colored interconnecting, swiveling, rotating plastic shapes can be used to make recombined bugs, butterflies and beetles. Joints can bend 180 degrees. — Exo Bonz can be combined with the Curious Bonz, Curious Globonz and Curious Seabonz sets, as well as Zolo construction toys. — Bonz sets are good sellers at Accipter in Raleigh, N.C., says owner Sandy Friedman. — Exo Bonz has won several awards, including a Family Fun T. O Y. Toy of the Year Award.
Gears! Gears! Gears! Movin' Monkeys by LEARNING RESOURCES INC.
Kids can make monkeys fly through trees with 136 colorful plastic pieces. Included are gears, cranks, connectors and baseplates. — Little kids love this gear toy, which is made just for them, says Tara Trew, sales associate at Growing Tree Toys & Books in State College, Penn. — The kit comes with instructions for building a “gears jungle,” or kids can improvise and build their own. — Movin’ Monkeys is the first Gears! set for small children.
The brightly-colored wooden blocks are cut at angles so that they build slightly askew towers. Each block is approximately 2 x 1.5 x 1.25 inches. The set includes 20 stacking blocks and four roof blocks. — The toy is aesthetically pleasing; the buildings resemble “something you might see in the desert in Spain,” says Jason Oliver, chief operating officer of Oompa Toys in Los Angeles, Calif., who says the blocks do well with his customers. — Arcadia won a German Design Toy Award in 2004, plus a 2002 Wiener Spiele Mischung. — Though recommended for young children, its bold graphic design will appeal to all ages.
Writer's Bio: ALISON MAREK is an award-winning writer, director and cartoonist whose work has been published by Fairchild Publications and DC Comics (Piranha Press), broadcast on Showtime and other cable networks, and viewed worldwide in film festivals. See her short films and print work on www.alisonmarek.com. Watch her nefarious villains in the web series www.MuggsMovers.com. Get inspired by her cartoons "Daily ARFFirmations to Unleash Your Inner Fido" at www.ARFFirmations.com. Phew! And then ... Read more articles by this author