Thursday, May 27

Outdoor Family Fun for Memorial Day Picnics

The smell of hotdogs and burgers is in the air. The long Memorial Day weekend is almost here. And so far, it looks like we're going to have sunshine. But if the thought of spending a hot afternoon in Uncle George's backyard with nothing to do but listen to Aunt Marge complain about her bunions has you dreading the weekend, we're here to help. Here are a few fun ideas that all ages can play outside.

1. Boochie: This bean bag and ring toss game is great fun for all ages. Pick your color and put your special score-keeping, instruction-giving wristband on. As you click your wristband to keep your score, it tells you how you have to toss your items: between your legs, with your eyes wide shut, etc. Toss yours the closest to the Boochie to score a point. The first one to 11 wins. Great, active fun that is simple enough for a 5 year old and challenging enough to keep adults entertained. Different wristbands have different challenges, so switching them up will keep interest high for a long time!

2. Water Cannon: If you don't mind getting a little wet, bring a water cannon (or 3!) to the family picnic. All you need is a bucket of water to go with it, and let the fun begin. Shoot at each other, or set up fun targets to see who is the sharpest water shooter. It's easy to load and easy to empty. Just keep it away from the grill so those burgers don't get ruined.

3. Stomp Rocket: Okay, I know I've talked about these before. But they really are that fun! No one can resist stomping on the launch pad to see how high he can make the foam-tipped rockets go. Kids can't seem to help chasing them either. Just be sure you're far enough away from the potato salad to avoid a messy landing.

Hopefully, at least one of these ideas will work for you and yours so you don't get stuck rubbing Aunt Marge's bunions. Enjoy the holiday weekend! And look for us with Mrs. Fisher Cat in Hudson's Memorial Day Parade!

Wednesday, May 12

Silly Bandz: What Makes a Toy Craze?

Toys come and go. But when some toys are hot, boy do they go! Just a few years ago at My Little Red Wagon, we had waiting lists for Webkinz. Before that it was Beanie Babies. Now, we're fielding dozens of calls a day for Silly Bandz.

This latest craze--shaped rubber bands that kids wear as bracelets and trade--has me scratching my head, to be honest. I never would have guessed that rubber bands could create such a frenzy. Yet they clearly have mass appeal. We see all ages coming in looking for them, even teenage boys.

So I find myself wondering what makes a toy become a "craze." To answer that, I did a little research. The first toy craze in modern history I could find was...drum roll please...Crayola crayons! In the early 1900's, their box of 8 colors for a nickle was all the rage. Apparently, Crayola struck the right balance with this product. It was simple, affordable to many, and appealed to kids and parents alike.

Many hot toys have followed Crayola's recipe for success. Most must-have toys over the years can be placed in two categories: dolls and building toys. In the doll category, Raggedy Ann (1910's), Madame Alexander collectibles (1920's), G.I. Joe (1960's), Cabbage Patch Kids (1980's), and Tickle Me Elmo (1990's) all sent parents to stores in droves. As far as building toys, Lincoln Logs, Tinker Toys, and Erector sets are still selling to this day. Play doesn't get any more basic than pretending with a doll and building with sticks. And let's face it, if these products didn't appeal to adults on some level, I doubt the throngs of moms and dads would have been fighting in the aisles to get their hands on some of these products during the height of their popularity.

When compared to these other hot toys, Silly Bandz definitely fits with the formula for a toy craze. They are nothing new. They are just a new twist with a price that appeals to parents ($2.99-$5.99). And I'll go out on a limb and say that parents like the innocence of them. After all, what is more innocent than rubber bands shaped like unicorns and footballs? Moreover, in an age when kids seem to spend more time texting behind a screen than talking to each other in person, the trading of these bracelets returns us to a simpler time. Perhaps they remind us of trading Star Wars cards with our friends on the playground in the 70's. Perhaps they are a welcomed reprieve from high tech, pricey video consoles and games. Whatever the reasons, they are hot and hoping to be around as long as Crayola crayons.