February 17, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Best Education Picks of NYC International Toy Fair


Curbside at the annual international toy fair at the Javits Convention Center.

Curbside at the annual international toy fair at the Javits Convention Center.

The International Toy Fair that invaded New York City’s Javits Convention Center (Feb. 16–19) housed more than 1,150 exhibits featuring 150,000 toys and entertainment products. Educational toys, games, and crafts that teach STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) learning were well-represented as were familiar book characters and cooperative board games.

(While STEM learning—Science, Technology, Education, and Math—has been a goal for educators, the newer STEAM-learning movement is part of a new trend to address the creativity missing in STEM education. SLJ covered STEAM learning in an article published in October 2013.)

Author, James Dean's, Pete the Cat at the International Toy Fair.

Author, James Dean’s, Pete the Cat at the International Toy Fair.

Selecting a dozen items, which librarians and educators may find useful, was no easy task.

Book Characters

It was great to see author James Dean’s character Pete the Cat at MerryMakers’ booth. Dean has had four titles from his “Pete the Cat” Series (HarperCollins) on the New York Times bestsellers list. Available for $15.00 are puppet versions of Pete (as well as holiday versions) to entertain your students.

The toy company yOttOy has teamed up with The Jim Henson Company to bring Arnold Lobel’s endearing odd couple characters, Frog and Toad, from his classic book Frog and Toad are Friends (Harper Collins, 1970) and others in the series to kids, libraries, and schools. The stuffed toy versions of Frog and Toad will be available in early April.

Madame Alexander's booth featured Muppet dolls and puppets.

Madame Alexander’s booth featured Muppet dolls and puppets.

Jim Henson’s influence was also visible at The Madame Alexander doll company booth, which featured a line of Muppet character dolls ($19.95) and puppets ($24.95).  The affordable prices offer an easy way to bring the Muppet gang into your library.

Technology and Apps

One hundred and fifty educational apps, videos, songs, and e-books come preloaded on Little Scholar, a $199.99 tablet for young children created by the educational products provider School Zone. Michigan’s Spring Lake District Library has already added the tablet to its collection.

MakerBot3D printers are making their way into toy stores as well as schools and libraries.  MakerBot, one of the manufacturers of 3-D printers, was there, highlighting their MakerBot Replicator Mini ($1,375.00).

Libraries and schools with maker spaces should check out MaKey MaKey, an invention kit that turns everyday objects—like bananas—into keyboard touchpads that navigate the Internet. Created by two M.I.T. grad students, it retails for $49.95 with special discount pricing for educators. Watch the video for a better idea of how to use the kit.

Game "You've Been Sentenced" challenges students to create best sentences from dealt cards.

Game “You’ve Been Sentenced” challenges students to create best sentences from dealt cards.


You’ve Been Sentenced is a word game where players (ages 8 and up) use word cards to build sentences. This game ($24.95) will be fun in both the classroom and the library children’s room.

Wise Alec: Civilize This ($14.99) by Griddly Games is a board game which allows players to test themselves on curricula-based information. There are 300 questions to test your knowledge of ancient, medieval, and modern cultures. Two levels of questions on each card allows everyone, from young scholars to history buffs, to play together.

Chess teams are sprouting up in schools around the country, and Yamie Chess ($24.99) is a STEM education math-learning aid that uses chess to promote problem-solving for students in grades K – 8. Available on April 4. Watch the video to learn more.

What started as a 2013 Kickstarter campaign by geek dad, Dan Shapiro has developed into board game, Robot Turtle, teaching young children (ages 3–8) about basic computer programming. Available in June, you can pre-order the game for $25.00 from Think Fun’s website.

Paper jet shooters teach kids how to create jets using their own breath.

Paper jet shooters teach kids how to create jets using their own breath.

Fun Stuff

Once frowned upon in schools, paper airplanes were in full force at the toy fair. The game, Straw Shooter Jets ($16.99) by Klutz, is out in February and comes with everything young aviators need to make a fleet of breath-propelled jets. This kit is fitting for library programs and class activities focusing on aerodynamics.

My Awesome Book kit provides aspiring young creators all the tools and guidance needed to produce a professionally-typeset book in full color. The boxed kit is designed by children’s author and illustrator Peter Reynolds and includes a guide full of ideas, tips, and inspiration. [CUT by Reynolds]. The kit will be released March 5, but you can pre-order your copy for $39.99.

Rocco Staino About Rocco Staino

Rocco Staino @RoccoA is the retired director of the Keefe Library of the North Salem School District in New York. He is now a contributing editor for School Library Journal and also writes for the Huffington Post.



  1. The author of the Pete the Cat books is Eric Litwin NOT James Deane!!!!! Just FYI

  2. Sorry I do see where James Dean and Kim Dean are now writing Pete the Cat. My bad ………….