One of the things I love most about running CertifiKid, is finding new things my kids will love - and yours too. It’s like I get to be a kid all over again. I certainly felt like one this past weekend when I attended the 2015 Toy Fair in New York City.
Just imagine over 400,000 square feet filled with TOYS! I know, right? WOW! I had a blast getting an insider’s look at the latest and greatest toys, gadgets, and gizmos that will hit store shelves in the coming year. To say my kids were excited to see pictures and hear about the amazing things I uncovered, is putting it mildly. I may have just won the Coolest Mom Ever award.
There were certainly clear trends that stood out. For example, Beanie Boos were the BIG plush toy craze. These big-eyed versions of what you and I might know better by the name, Beanie Baby, were everywhere. Ironically my kids are totally obsessed with them already. I’m not sure what it is about them that sets them apart from other plush toys - maybe it’s those eyes? - but everyone seems to be into them.
Gru and his crew of minions were EVERYWHERE. Made me excited for the release of Despicable Me 3 this summer. I was surprised to see that FROZEN wasn’t so big. Maybe it’s finally feeling the chill of overexposure? Ha ha.
The Engineers Have It!
Building Toys like LEGO, Magna Tiles, and others of their sort, were all over. Kits with all the gears, pulleys, and levers your child needs to build his or her own contraptions are as limitless as their imaginations. The industry is catching on with the popularity of these types of toys and there will be nearly endless options on the market soon.
Cracker Jack Tattoos are so Last Year
The place was packed with tattoos of all sorts, everywhere. And not just on arms. The sheer volume of new products avaiable are likely to make temporary tattoos a trend with options for nails, skin and even clothes. Parents, guard your upholstery!
I loved seeing that there was a fairly sizeable contingent of back-to-basics toys (like wood toys and blocks) and Eco Friendly stuff. Though I would have expected to see more. Maybe these won’t be as popular as I may have expected.
As a parent, I was super excited to see that educational play took center stage. Science was certainly the star of the show among this toy genre. From kits that guide kids of all age groups through fun - age appropriate - experiments to exploration projects you can do together, this segment of the toy world is poised to make a BIG BANG with families! Or at least that’s my theory.
Blame it all on our obsession with Pinterest
DIY craft kits are HUGE! What I love about these types of toys is they provide guided activities, and all the supplies you need to help grow creativity, all while keeping kids busy. I can think of tons of reasons to have a bunch of these on-hand all year long; party activities, playdates, gifts, rainy, snowy and summer days too.
It seems that scooters are the next hot item to get kids outdoors, active and moving. There were more than a handful fun of companies peddling their version of these little people movers. What I was shocked NOT to see, was a ton of sports related items. There were some, but I went in certainly expecting to see a lot more. Could it be that so many of our kids go to sports themed camps, and/or play in organized leagues, that there isn't really as big a market for these toys at home?
Welcome Back Family Game Night!
There were oodles of options in the board game market. There is going to be literally something for everyone. Who knew there were so many board games? I guess Monopoly isn’t exactly enjoying a monopoly, eh?
Apps Are Where It’s At: Or At Least They’re Everywhere
I found it really intriguing that everything from building to plush toys, coloring books to readers, seemed to have its own app. Some of these were great and gave an obvious added value to the product. Others, not so much. I’m sort of on the fence about apps as add-ons to toys that would traditionally be non-screentime playthings. How about you?
Surprised and Excited
One thing that really surprised me was the small amount of “pinky girly stuff.” In years past there seemed to be an endless supply of pinked-up toys. Paint it pink, it’s for a girl. That seemed to be the norm in years past when it came to marketing to girls. Don’t get me wrong, there were dolls and all the frills that go with them, there just weren’t a ton of these type of things. Manufacturers seem to be spending a lot more time on turning out thoughtfully designed toys for girls. Bravo!
3D printing is coming and I’m SO excited! This technology is nothing short of mind-blowing. Once confined to laboratories and the tech industry - mostly due to costs and complicated operation (it literally took a Rocket Scientist to use one) - 3D printing is now becoming more widely available for PLAY!
Leading the way are companies like PieceMaker which offers a “DIY” 3D printing kiosk where kids, and kids-at-heart, can design and print their own toys. Yes. Print. Toys. Mind blown, huh? The technology has also found its way into creative toy kits, as printing the moving parts is far faster and more economical than traditional manufacturing.
I was thrilled to find our friends from local, award-winning, and generally amazing ThinkFun in this catagory. 3D printing technology is at the core of their BRAND NEW (coming in April 2015) Maker Studio Construction Sets. I love the blending of high and low tech in this toy that is sure to take its place alongside the other cutting edge toys that Bill and Andrea have developed.
I can’t wait to start bringing you some of these innovative and amazing new toys and products. 2015 is going to be an epic year here on our CertifiKid playground! What toy do you think your kids would love?
CertifiKid CEO & Founding MomKeep Reading »
As the song goes, "She Works Hard for the Money." Now, Donna Summer may have been singing about a freewheeling single gal there, but the sentiment is doubly true when that gal answers to “Mommy”.
Working moms have evolved from the lines of cheesy, chart-topping 80s pop tunes to head up some of the most successful businesses on the planet, all while managing to make sure boo-boos are still kissed and holiday traditions remain intact. How do we do it? Myriad ways, naturally...but organization is a key common denominator. To keep all the tools of their trades together and close to hand, the smart working mom employs a SCOUT, of course.
Ingeniously designed, insanely durable and downright fashionable, SCOUT bags make the scene on the shoulders of savvy and stylish moms from the pool to the carpool, grocery stores to gyms, beaches, and even boardrooms. We recently had the chance to chat with Deb Johns, Co-Founder and mom of four, who sits in the pilot's seat of the juggernaut that is SCOUT by Bungalow. She gave us a peek into the genius behind the brand, the family she designs it around and her philosophy on style.
Inspired by a chic Helmut Lang carryall spotted at store in Milan, the first SCOUT bag was made from Deb’s realization that women and families around the world wanted a tote bag that perfectly blended fashion and function; and, if it came at a better price than its high-fashion counterpart, the bag would likely sell out.
She was right.
For so many, SCOUT bags are more than a conveyance for personal belongings, they are an obsession. Why do you think that is?
They solve an equation, allowing the person who uses them to get use from them while still expressing their fashion sense. We work hard to make sure that our products fit a need, deliver great bang for your buck and make you happy.
“Yo Deb” -SCOUT’s blog- is like the fashion equivalent of a cupcake. The perfect bite of decadent indulgence, without overdoing it. Do you write all of it? Where does the inspiration come from?
It’s the “meat” of our fashion side. Four times a week we get to prove we really know our fashion stuff, that we aren’t just following trends, we have a pulse on helping set them. I don’t write all of it, even though I have years of experience in the fashion business . What’s cool is I’m surrounded by a team of young, brilliant, savvy, and fashion-forward folks. They contribute to “Yo Deb,” helping form the collective voice of the blog.
Naming the baby. SCOUT bags have the best names ever. What is your process for this?
Two times a year the whole team gathers and we have a, “Naming Day”. Everyone just tosses out ideas. It’s a creative process, but yes… it’s fun. We look for names that fit the look of the bag, have a nod to Pop Culture, and are interesting. (Interviewer's note: “Oh Buck It” and “Pocket Rocket”... Best. Names. Ever.)
What one item can Deb Johns not do without?
Patricia Underwood headband. After having three boys in three years, then a daughter, I needed something that simplified my life and my look. I added to that a Prada fanny pack for the gear. The logic behind that was, “Really, who is going to come up to your waist and steal something from you?” Plus, it’s the ultimate hands-free option. They’ve both become my signature pieces. In fact, I had a girl at one of my kid’s schools come up and tell me, “Nobody can rock a headband and a fanny pack like you can.” They filled a need when the kids were small, and still do. Useful quality never goes out of style.
What one thing do you insist somebody other than you always do?
Throw things out. I’m a Pack Rat, I can’t bring myself to get rid of things. It’s served me well though, all the shoes and clothes you see in our catalog photos are either mine, or belonged to someone in our family.
So many companies talk a good talk about giving back, but for you it is very real, and very personal. Can you share a bit about Go Bo Fund?
At age 11, our son Bo was diagnosed with B Cell Lymphoma. It’s tough to see your child go through something like this. We knew though that in certain respects we were lucky. Other kids going through this, with parents who didn’t have the means, couldn’t to be there every night with their child. Some lived further away and couldn’t stay, others had jobs that they had to go to in order to sustain their household. We witnessed so much need. We asked the hospital if there was was something to help them. There really wasn’t. We also saw that, even beyond his illness, our little guy was missing his life, lacking in joyful moments that children imbody.
We wanted to help and to instantly empower Bo to get his joy back. So we wrote a letter and sent it out to 12,000 people, friends, family, etc, asking them to donate funds to help these other families. And the money rolled in, with each new donation Bo would get so excited, it really gave him back that spark. In the end, that generosity amounted to between $50,000 - 60,000.
The Go Bo Fund has now raised nearly half a million dollars and provides financial assistance to families to help bridge the gap between what health care insurance covers, and what it does not. Which is a lot! It’s helps provide everything from groceries, rent and in-home care, to tutors and in the sad event that battle is lost, has stepped in to help cover funeral costs.
Bo, now a Senior at Lehigh University, writes about his own story at 10 Years of Going.
Lay some wisdom on those aspiring entrepreneurs out there. What is your best piece of business advice?
Embrace what you are and who you are. Now move on to something more important. Everything else will follow that, because authenticity translates in items, friends, and philosophy. There aren’t that many new ideas out there. But if you see a SCOUT bag and you know it.. it’s because we’ve stuck true to who we are, we are authentic.
You’ll be celebrating SCOUT’s 10th birthday this year. Looking back what would you say now about the journey?
You’ve come a long way baby. When I left New York and moved to the DC area I used to call it the, “Anti Fashion Capital of America”. That’s changed so much. Fashion lives just about everywhere now, and SCOUT has found a home because we solve the equation - fashion, function and affordable- for not just this area, but the new lifestyle. We’ve become a more mobile and nomadic people, the need to keep the style in our lifestyle has evolved with us. SCOUT will continue to innovate and grow with our community and our customers.
With a force like Deb behind the logo, is it any wonder that SCOUT is one amazing product and brand? We think not. Come check it out for yourself, we’ve got a deal for you.
Our first live event for family-focused business owners, "Imagine the Places Your Business will Go," held on February 24, 2014, ended up being so much more than we imaged it would be.
Hundreds of entrepreneurs gleaned advice and inspiration from speakers that included; Andrea Barthello and Bill Ritchie, Co-Founders of ThinkFun, a global toy company; Jill Smokler, the New York Times Best Selling Author and mom behind the blog Scary Mommy; Eric Knaus, better Known as The Great Zucchini; Ben Johns, President of SCOUT by Bungalow, the wildly popular lifestyle brand; and Jamie Ratner our founder and CEO here at CertifiKid.
Sponsors provided products, talents and support for the event, making it a truly unique experience. Sign design and printing was provided by Speedpro Imaging of Silver Spring, stage and meeting area decor was artfully created by Tru-B-Loons Events.
Attendees got to show their fun side at XoXo Photobooth Photography & Events.
Everyone was treated to sweet suprises from Tasty Image, Baked by Yael and Carmen's Italian Ice & Cafe. Networking was held over a gourmet lunch featuring the famed sandwiches from The Bean Bag Deli & Catering, which were given some extra pop from a side of PopChips.
Thank you to everyone who atteneded and supported this this event! It was all we imagined and so much more!
Keep Reading »
Like the mystery of the one missing sock --you know you put six pairs in the washer, counted twelve single socks as you loaded the dryer and yet only five pairs make it out-- where time goes is a puzzle.
Didn’t Summer just start? Aren’t we supposed to be at the beach, not in the carpool line? Wake up on Saturday morning and before you know it, it’s time to set your Monday alarm clock.
Time really flies when you're raising kids.*
Until someone gets that Time-Turner from Professor Dumbledore (shout out to our Potter Parents out there!) we need to find ways to make the most of the time we have! These are a few tips to help make the most of the tick-tock of the clock;
Pick Your Memories. Fall is farm season. Hayrides, petting zoos and apples await at farms just outside the city limits. Our team has handpicked some great farm deals. Be sure to check "All Deals" in your city, we add more all the time.
Change Your Point of View. See your hometown from a whole new perspective with a sightseeing tour on the water or from a double decker bus. Being a tourist in your town can be an easy adventure. Looking for the latest tours in your town? Check "All Deals" again!
Unplug. This might be easier said than done for most of us, but give it a try. No internet connection can be the best way to make that family connection.
Escape. Sure summer is the season of vacations, but Fall is far better for avoiding crowds and saving the budget. A mini-vacay, not far away, can really make those weekend hours last.
Reconnect. We dig our offspring. They are among the coolest kids we know… obviously. Spending time with them is a blast! Let’s face it though, sometimes you just want to hang out with the grownups. Do it. Really. Time for you is important too.
“What we need, is more time.” ~Albus Dumbledore
Have advice or ideas on more ways to make the most out of time with your family? Let us know!
*accept for the time you spend waiting in the pick-up line at school, in waiting rooms or waiting for them to clean up their rooms!Keep Reading »
Do you remember how excited you were when you brought home your new baby? How many hours did you spend thinking about all the amazing things that little one had ahead of them. Though we’d never suggest that starting a new chapter in business could ever measure up to the sheer joy of new life, we can say that we are feeling a lot of excitement these days!
This week we announced the arrival of a new member of the CertifiKid family as
Chicago-based FamilyFINDS became part of CertifiKid. While we are totally stoked to be creating a coast-to-coast powerhouse in the family-focused daily deal market, we are even more excited to get the chance to be part of these Chicago and LA communities and connect with even more parents and business owners.
Because of you, our hometown community, we have been recognized by CNBC, The Washington Post, and Washingtonian Magazine as one of the best deal websites for parents, while consistently outpacing our top competitors here at home. We are proud to be able to say that we’re here to stay, even in a daily deal landscape where many continue to re-shape themselves or shutter their doors.
In 2012, we innovated the market by becoming the first deal site to focus on deals for the families of children with Special Needs in our community. We will be taking our community-based, flexible, selective and personalized way of doing things to the Los Angeles and Chicago metro areas and upping our game with great national deals as well.
A little bit about FamilyFINDS - they burst onto the family-focused deal scene in December of 2010 with $5.75 million dollars in funding backed by the talents of Internet industry veterans who founded and ran several successful consumer businesses valued at over $1 billion, including the founder of FamilyFun magazine, who also ran the Disney Internet Group, and the founder of LowerMyBills.com (acquired by Experian). Since opening their doors, FamilyFINDS has established a brand reputation and following that has garnered it hundreds of thousands of loyal customers within the communities of major metropolitan areas, including Los Angeles and its current headquarters in Chicago.
“We are so delighted to pass the baton to CertifiKid for the benefit of our loyal subscribers,” said Lindsay Cohen, FamilyFINDS CEO. “CertifiKid is a fantastic team of parents (like our subscribers and me) who will carry on the invaluable work of offering terrific values on the products and services families want and need, but in their own special and winning way.”
This acquisition has grown the CertifiKid family, enabling us to build relationships between businesses - big and small, local and national - and families of all shapes, sizes and needs.
We are kicking off this new chapter by offering unbeatable deals from popular vendors here at home and in our new home markets: Adventure Park USA in the DC and Baltimore markets; Disney on Ice, The Paintbrush and Language Stars in Chicago; and
Rockstar Salon, Wildlife Learning Center and Fun and Fit Gymnastics in Los Angeles.
We’ve even got a little “buzz” to share with you from the Washington Post Capital Buzz!
Ah, the holidays... the hustle and bustle, the parties, shopping, wrapping, scheduling and cleaning, oh my! Whether you deck the halls or light the menorah the holidays are so much more than just eight crazy nights. And we do this all on TOP of the already busy lives we lead. It’s enough to have you dreaming of a long winter’s nap!
We don’t know about you, but the whole CertifiKid team is always in search of that extra hour in every day. So when we find something that could help us take something off our plates, we sort of get excited. When that something happens to also fill the plates that have to hit the dinner table every night, well that is a big win in our book.
As it happens we’ve found a great new way to add that extra hour to our days, get the kids fed and do it with food that isn’t in nugget form or deep fried. How do we do this? Do you know about Let’s Dish!? Well, let us dish! (Okay, we couldn’t help but toss out that pun, it sort of wrote itself).
Let’s Dish helps you get that extra time back by helping you get dinner (or lunch) done. There are a few ways to “dish” it out at Let’s Dish!. You can assemble meals yourself in a super fun in-store session, take them home, let them chill in the fridge or freeze, and then just pop them in the oven when you’re ready. Or you can have them whip you up a customized - pre-assembled- selection, just for you. Guess what, they call that “Dish-n-Dash”... too cute, huh? Want to make your holidays even easier? Check out their NEW Dish-Delivery. Just place your order online and have your catered spread delivered ready for you to pop in the oven. Then toss on your super cute party look and wow the guest with your amazingness.
So, dish... how do you add extra time to your busy holiday schedule?
(We've also got a great deal from Let's Dish! that INCLUDES a gift card for a friend... share the fun! )Keep Reading »
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