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STEM is taking over the Toy Fair 2014 NYC

posted Feb 19, 2014, 7:03 AM by Brian Cook   [ updated Feb 19, 2014, 7:05 AM ]
What do you think of when you hear the word STEM? Maybe the stem of a plant, stem cells, or maybe you'll think of STEM fields: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. If you think of the latter, then your thinking is in-line with much of the toy industry as we head into the 111th American International Toy Fair that will take place in New York City from February 16 to 19.

Our children are our future and that future learns through play. For the last few years, we have watched as high-tech gadgets adults love have also become kids' favorite playthings. Watching babies swipe their tiny fingers across their parents' tablets before they can even speak is no longer an unusual sight.

The toy industry is a $22 billion industry (give or take a few bucks) and toy companies are challenged with integrating the excitement of 21st century-tech into toys for kids. I recently had a conversation with a PR person from Apple, and she mentioned that they are not a toy company. I laughed, and told her to ask any kid who is 8, 9, 10, or 11-years-old what they want and they will tell you an iPhone, an iPad, or an iPod touch. So where does this leave the toy companies? If you ask me -- it's a totally new playing field, and many toy companies are ready and coming to bat.

Lets start with our two biggest toy companies, Mattel and Hasbro. Both companies recognize the changes in this new generation of kids, and both have tweaked and improved their product offerings to include tech elements to satisfy new play patterns. They have created toys that are great playthings on their own, but are enhanced by adding the tech component. Mattel's Disney Princess Ultimate Dream Castle was a fantastic example last holiday season, as it was a stand-alone play set but also worked with an iOS app to give kids great augmented reality experiences.