Kids’ imaginations take them to new heights, soaring above logic and reality to faraway lands of magic, unlikely friendships, and inexplicable weirdness. Toy companies are kicking imaginative fun into high gear this year, with new products that will allow kids to tell creative stories like never before. At the 113th annual North American International Toy Fair, we sought out new unplugged toys and games that will have kids engaging their creative sides to spin silly tales of creatures, dreams, and even a little sci-fi mayhem. Here are some of our favorites! Spoiler alert: all of these amazing new products are totally tech-free!
Tall Tales (SCS Direct)
Tall Tales is a cooperative game designed for kids ages 5 and up. To kick things off, players choose one of 24 story cards, which feature beautifully illustrated backgrounds to set the scene of the story. Then, players reach into the drawstring bag to randomly select a few story pieces, which are squishy little 3-D figures, such as a cow, a rocket, a telephone, and a UFO. One player starts by placing a story piece on the story card and coming up with a line inspired by the piece. For example, kids can place the snake piece on the jungle background and say “Once upon a time, there was a lonely snake…” Play continues in a circle, and each player adds a new line to the story based on the piece he or she places onto the story card. The gameplay is fast, easy, and results in humorous stories that will leave kids and families cracking up laughing, while also getting those creative juices flowing.
Props in a Box (Theatric Toys)
All kids really need to play make-believe is a blanket—which can double as a cape, turn them into spooky ghosts, or even let them soar into the starry night sky on a magic carpet. But, it’s nice to give them accessories that let them really feel like they are getting into fantastic situations. Props in a Box gives kids everything they need to set the scene for storytime. Each prop kit features classic, minimalist accessories and play pieces that are soft, safe, and truly adorable. Plus, kids get a 55- by 42-inch backdrop and a fabric storage case. The kits feature two different character costumes, such as a dinosaur and a pirate, a princess and a chef, or a fisherman and an astronaut—allowing two kids to dress up at once, and come up with some silly scenarios that link the two characters together. Plus, if kids want to kick things into the 21st century, there’s a downloadable Movie Maker app that lets kids record their epic tales—complete with special effects.
Gamewrights’ new Cardventures are play-your-path games that let present kids with exciting and adventurous situations, challenge them to make decisions, and choose their own story outcomes using a series of cards. In Stowaway 52, players have snuck aboard an alien ship that’s about to attack Earth, and they must work to prevent the impending attack. In Jump Ship, kids take on the role of captain of the Black Bounty and try to collect the most gold. Designed for kids ages 8 and up, both games challenge kids to make decisions and think outside the box. Plus, game play only takes about 15 minutes. Victory!
Create Your World (Creativity for Kids)
Not all stories are based on fantasy. For creative kids who love to get hands-on comes Create Your World, where kids ages 7 and up can tell stories of their personalities. The kit lets kids add unique touches to a blank globe. With die-cut pre-printed shapes and letters, metallic and glow-in-the-dark stickers, plus craft and glitter glue, kids can get crafty to create a world that tells a story that spans continents. Kids can tell the story of what they want to be when they grow up, where they want to travel, or create a unique new world all their own.
Folkmanis Puppets (Folkmanis)
For 40 years, Folkmanis has created specialty puppets with high-quality materials. These puppets are so lifelike, and allow kids to tell stories that feature fun, adorable animals—both real and fantastic. New to the line this year are extremely detailed puppets, including the Black Dragon, Chinchilla, Baby Bird, Monk Seal, Frog, Opossum, and duckling. Some of the super soft puppets have more than one spot for animation, and some even make noise when kids shake or squeeze them. These mega plush puppets will bring kids stories to life in no time. Ever hear the one about the opossum and the monk seal who walk into a school cafeteria? Just you wait. It’s a doozy.
The Fantastic Castle (Janod/Alex Brands)
Kids can travel back in time to a land of knights and dragons with this classic play set. First, kids can assemble the 16-piece puzzle, and then add in the wooden and cardboard accessories to live out the ultimate medieval tale. The pieces are designed to stack on top of each other, so the knights can ride their horses into battle. The fierce but friendly dragon figures perch nicely on top of the castle walls, and everything folds together for easy storage. Kids can get creative with this story box set, which is sure to provide imagination with the fuel it needs to kick into high gear.