Long Island toy store managers say they're seeing non-screen toys and games flying off the shelves, from huggable Squishmallows to fidgety Pop Its and 3D puzzle kits.
As Plainview’s M J Beanz owner Steve Goldfarb puts it, "Families are getting together to play. Dad is doing Slip 'N Slide with the kids, and mom is painting on one side of an easel while the kids paint on the other."
Greenvale’s Funky Monkey Toys & Books manager/buyer Debbie Imperator credits the noted increased interest in non-electronic toys to families spending more time at home. "Since parents are working from home, they’re appreciating the family unit a little more." Stacey Saltzman-Kahn, 46, of Port Washington, agrees and says she's been filling downtime playing board games, reading books and completing crafts with her kids Ethan, 11, and Sydney, 8.
And these days, toys and games aren't just a great connector; they're trendy too. These toys are the hottest out there, according to local parents and toy store owners.
Northport’s Einstein’s Attic toy shop owner Lori Badanes narrows the ongoing Pop It mania down to satisfaction: "It's like popping Bubble Wrap … It's a cause-and-effect experience."
Ariella Zausmer, 6, of Great Neck, bursts with excitement when she says, "Pop the bubbles and it makes a funny sound!" Sydney Kahn, 8, of Port Washington, says, "My Cupcake Pop It feels really good on my fingers!"
Pop Its, along with other tactile toys, are said to be a stress-reliever. Judy Gevarghese, 41, of Roslyn Heights, says her 10-year-old daughter carries a Pop It with her most of the time. "When my daughter’s doing her homework, watching TV, reading or riding in the car, she’s popping on the side. It definitely has a calming effect."
The craze is also about socializing. Zausmer is excited about having a Pop It Fidget spinner. "You get to spin it so fast and people have competitions to see who can spin it longer," she says. Kids also collect and trade Pop Its that come in all shapes and sizes — headbands dinosaurs, purses, backpacks, dreidels, the list goes on.
Badanes’ favorites are the ones for best friends. "Get a Milk Pop It and Cookie Pop It, give your friend the cookie, keep the milk. Then say to the friend: You’re the milk to my cookie."
SQUISHMALLOWS & SENSORY BINS
Squishmallows are calming, incredibly soft, adorably squooshy animals and objects. Kids continue to collect them, though Goldfarb sees Sensory Bins (by Creativity For Kids) taking the tactile toy lead. They’re bins filled with sand that have lots of play objects inside, and come in different themes.
An outer space Sensory Bin comes with navy blue sand, an alien, fuzzy meteors, planets, an astronaut and stars. "It’s like playing at the beach," Imperator says. "Kids dig in the sand and make a diorama with all the objects. It’s about getting in touch with your senses and quiet play. Another company, Dough Much Fun, makes a travel-sized version."
Slime: it’s a stretchy, putty-like substance with a base that’s made from glue. Though it promotes sensory development and fine motor skills, some parents are wary of a potential mess. Still, what’s going on in toy shops is quite another story.
"Slime is selling crazy well. Off the hooks," says Goldfarb. Imperator seconds it, saying, "I can’t keep it in the store. You can’t believe how fast I sell them."
The slimes have lots of different textures and scents. There’s cloud slime, butter slime, clear slime, it goes on. There’s a birthday slime with sprinkles in it, a cookies and cream slime with a fake Oreo cookie inside, even one that looks like marshmallow fluff. Also in the world of goo, Badanes mentions a second big seller: Aaron’s Thinking Putty. It glows in the dark, changes color and is magnetic and scented.
Lego kits are always popular at the LEGO store shelves in the Roosevelt Field Mall, Smith Haven Mall, and local toy shops. Senior Manager of LEGO districts across Long Island, Laura Santoro, says sets are fun for the whole family. LEGO City, LEGO Architecture and LEGO Super Mario are just a few. Two very recent top-selling sets for kids and adults are LEGO Creator 3 in 1 Space Shuttle Adventure and Friends Grand Hotel.
ACTIVITY DIY KITS
At Gee Willikers toy store in Locust Valley, assistant manager Kristin Ingegno says the I Dig It Dinos kit constantly sells out. It’s an activity kit (by Thames & Kosmos), where kids use tools to dig for dinosaur bones inside clay-like material, then put them together. It’s a substantial activity that takes a while for kids to do. Jewelry-making kits are also big sellers, especially Loop De Doo (by Ann Williams).
In Einstein’s Attic toy shop, some of the bestsellers are baking kits. "There are so many," Badanes says. "There’s a Rainbow Bagel Making kit (by Farmsteady), Donut Making, Pizza Making … I love these kits because they include all ages."
In M J Beanz, a 3D puzzle called Genius Squares is popular. "It comes with two boards, so kids can play on their own or against others."
In Cow Over the Moon toy shop in Huntington, buyer Jodi Digregorio sells a lot of build-your-own solar robots. Put one together and watch it walk around outside on a sunny day.
Imperator at Funky Monkey adds lip gloss, bath bomb and science experiment kits to the activity kit list.
Butterfly growing kits by Insect Lore are at the top of toy shop lists for spring, local owners say. Inside each kit, use a voucher to order caterpillars. They arrive at your home, watch them grow into butterflies, then let them go. Another biggie: Grow a Pizza Garden, by Creativity for Kids. The kit comes with basil, pepper and tomatoes. Grow them, then put them on your pizza.
Outdoors, Imperator and Goldfarb anticipate Slip 'N Slide will be popular. So will inflatable easels, especially newer ones that are two-sided or are extra-large (by HearthSong). Look for dinosaur and unicorn shaped bowling pins. Goldfarb is ordering outdoor equipment such as slides and scooters.