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MAPLE LANDMARK


of the toys with higher price points, like children’s tablets and tech toys like Disney Infi nity and Skylanders, rolling out for the Christmas shopping season,” Appell says.


Classic’s still cool


While new products are always hitting the shelves, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for those traditional toys you, your parents and even your grandparents played with as kids. “It’s great to expose kids to technology, but I was just reading an article that said kids that don’t have exposure to toys have no idea how to problem-solve or be creative,” says Barbara Rainville, marketing manager at Maple Landmark in Middlebury, VT. The company has been in business for 35 years and specializes in the eco-friendly wooden toys and games everyone knows and loves. They’re most known for their NameTrains, wooden letters on wheels that spell out names. This year, Maple Landmark is focusing on toy sets that allow for open-ended play but give younger kids, three and under, some guidance. For example, a 21-piece farm set has a barn made out of 11 hardwood maple blocks that can be built several ways.


“Retro and back-to-basic toys are popular because they’ve been great at bringing kids, parents, and grandparents together for what is often ‘unplugged’ fun,” Appell says.


SAFARI LTD. 152 GIFT SHOP n Summer 2014 GiftShopMag.com


PLAYSAM


While being a classic toy manufacturer sidesteps some of the issues of keeping up with what’s hot now, Maple Landmark does look at trends to see if there’s a way they can incorporate them that makes sense. Their line of Silly Sticks, for instance, includes plywood mustache designs, a huge trend at the moment.


Learning is fundamental


Just as mustaches are everywhere, so is something with a little more substance: lots of buzz about STEM, aka science, technology, engineering, and math. “The focus on STEM subjects in school and the tie-in to educational CORE standards haven’t been lost on toymakers,” Appell says. “The industry has added an A to the mix (for arts) and is ‘STEAMing’ ahead with tons of great toys that foster learning in fun and innovative ways.”


One company that’s been a pioneer in this area is The Young Scientists Club, which


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