Does your Christmas shopping list include toys for children or grandchildren?
If so, Nebraska-based company Fat Brain Toys can help you find quality toys that are bound to bring smiles to kids’ faces and opportunities to rediscover the joy of play.
Erik Quam, director of product development at Fat Brain and a certified play expert, said the hot toys for Christmas 2017 are those that encourage children to get away from screens, to interact and be creative.
“Parents and grandparents are looking to give toys to children today that hearkens back to their childhoods,” Quam said. “They are seeking toys that get screens out of kids’ hands, that get them away from the television and from iPads and phones and really return to pure play and to hopefully rediscover what it means to get down on the floor and play with toys.”
To help combat the growing problem of play deprivation and to encourage kids to get up and play again, Fat Brain Toys introduced a new line of toys this year.
“What we really wanted to do was to curate a line of classic Toy Box Essentials; toys that go back to our childhood or toys that we played,” Quam said.
Those toys include simple chunky wooden puzzles, a pound-and-tap bench and construction toys that encourage building skills and open-ended creative play.
“These toys are meant to get kids thinking and actively playing again instead of sitting and touching a screen over and over again,” Quam said.
Quam said Fat Brain Toys carries more than 5,000 items on its website, and many of those toys are developed right here in Nebraska. Mark and Karen Carson started the toy company in 2002 in the basement of their Elkhorn home.
Fat Brain Toys doesn’t sell cheaply-made or licensed toys, such a TV or movie-themed items. Instead, the company focuses on toys that entertain and educate and won’t easily break. Many of the toys are also made in Nebraska, and the company promotes American Made toys on its website.
Toys developed by Fat Brain are sold at toys stores around the world. However, this year, at least 75 toys can only be purchased through Fat Brain Toys.
The Fat Brain Toys website includes a Best-Sellers menu that is updated based on actual customer purchases.
Quam said a few toys consistently rise to the top, and these are the toys he recommends as Top Toys for Christmas 2017:
PERSONALIZED NAME PUZZLE: These wooden puzzles can be personalized to any child’s name up to nine letters and are made right in Nebraska and can often be shipped out the same day the order is placed.
SQUIGZ: These silicon suction-cup toys encourage open-ended creative play and are a great toy to take on the road. The toy is recommended for ages 3 and older and are most popular with kids ages 5-10.
OOMBIECUBE: Recommended infants one year and older, this toy is also great for travel. It’s a classic shape sorter made with silicon shapes that are tethered to the cube so they don’t get lost. “It’s a great travel toy,” Quam said. “We really try to take into consideration today’s parent and grandparents. We realize that life is crazy and on the go. We try to produce thoughtful toys that reflect today’s lifestyle.”
TOBBLES NEO: Quam said the Tobbles Neo won a best toy award for 2013. The Tobbles Neo is a stacking toy that consists of six weighted pieces that balance, neatly nest and spin. It is recommended for infants one year and older.
BAMBOO BUILDER MARBLE RUN: This sturdy marble run set is made of bamboo and other sustainable materials. Kids can build a variety of paths for marbles to race down with this toy that encourages fine-motor skills, early engineering skills, critical thinking and creativity. Choose from either the 78, 119, 127 or 168-piece sets. Recommended for children ages 4-10.
I GOT THIS: This family game challenge encourages gross motor skills, coordination, critical thinking skills and cooperative play. It involves physical and mental challenges with ping-pong balls, a rubber ring, four buttons and a 10-foot measuring tape. Quam said board games are seeing a surge in popularity, and this game is great because kids and adults of all generations can play it together. It is recommended for children 8 and older.
ARTBIT & OFFBITS: This toy is inspired by the DIY and maker movement. It consists of sets of uniquely designed nuts, bolts and springs that can build a robot or vehicles. Art Bit and Off Bits are recommended for children ages 6 and older.
TEETER POPPER: The Teeter Popper is another consistent favorite at Fat Brain Toys. This toy improves core strength, stability, balance, coordination and gross motor skills as kids stand, sit, rock, tilt and wobble on the durable plastic sled-like toy. It is recommended for children ages 3-10 (110-pound weight limit).
SPIN AGAIN: The Spin Again is another new twist on a classic stacking toy. It features six brightly-colored daisy or star-shaped discs that stack on a corkscrew pole. It is recommended for children ages 1-3.
2-IN-1 MUSICAL JUMP ‘N TOSS: The adorable toy will keep kids active and includes two fun games: jumping over a moving pole and a ring toss game. The center of the toy is a musical ladybug. A pole connected horizontally to the ladybug spins at two different speeds as kids try to jump over the pole when it reaches them. The poles can then be transformed into the upright position to form a ring-toss game. This toy is recommended for children ages 4-6.
Fat Brain Toys can be ordered online at Fatbraintoys.com. Customers can also request a mail-order catalog on the website. One-day delivery is available to customers in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas with a $3.99 flat shipping rate. Fat Brain Toys has a physical store at Village Point South in Omaha.