Brands bring out their best at the annual Toy Fair event in New York City. From 3D printed toys to a Barbie Dreamhouse that responds to your voice, these are the toys that'll make invites to playdates more coveted than a front row ticket to the Grammys (arguably the less important event of the long weekend). And it's our lucky job to scope out the trends in baby and toddler toys.
This year, two trends stole the show for the younger crowd. Step aside, STEM toys— STEAM is the new STEM. In addition to the science, technology, engineering and math products parents love so much, art is coming into the mix. The second trend? Storytime is getting interactive, taking some of the voice-acting pressure off of mom and dad at bedtime.
Once Kids Eco Bricks Blocks
The eco-friendly version of Legos (this design is even compatible with actual Lego plastic pieces), these little bricks are made from cherry wood. And this is the type of toy that's turning STEM into STEAM; artistry is encouraged—the pieces are intended to be colored.
Buy it: From $35, Once-Kids.com
Today's preschoolers are way beyond The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Using eight separate modules with eight different functions (like turn left or make a sound), this caterpillar teaches kids as young as 3 the basics of coding, behaving differently depending on the ordering of the pieces.
Available June 2016, $50
Even unsteady little architects can create a masterpiece with these easy-to-use blocks. Interlocking grooves and magnetic pieces allow the colorful shapes to click together, creating a stronger hold. Whether you follow the builer's guides or think beyond the blueprints, each of the ClickBlock sets are compatible with each other, so these creations can expand as your child gets older and hones those engineering skills.
Buy it: $50, ClickBlock.com
Tegu Circuit Racer
This car must be a hybrid, because it's a futuristic vehicle and a classic toy in one. Magnetic pieces make design options unlimited. Your child will love taking this new kind of block set for a spin.
Buy it: $39, Amazon.com
Edwin the Duck
This rubber ducky makes more than just bath time fun. With the help of a free app, Edwin guides kids through an animated world of stories, games and songs, adapting as your child gets older. And he's got plenty of utility too, serving as a bath toy/thermometer, a speaker and a nightlight.
Buy it: $100, EdwinTheDuck.com
Cloud b Storytime Huxley
Bedtime just got a whole lot easier thanks to this cuddly, book-loving bear. At the press of a paw, Storytime Huxley reads one of five classic children's stories: The Tortoise and the Hare, The Ugly Duckling, Beauty and the Beast, Goldilocks and the Three Bears and Three Billy Goats Gruff. He even asks questions to keep your child engaged. Don't worry, bedtime won't become an all-night affair—each story lasts about 2 minutes.
Availble Summer 2016, $34
Lilliputiens Smart Wonders Book
Bring board books to life with the help of an app, and help this hen find her chick as you navigate the story. Get started by downloading the free Lilliputiens app on your smartphone or tablet, available on the App Store and Google Play.
Buy it: $20, HabaUSA.com
Hasboro Love2Learn Elmo
Think of this iteration of Elmo less as a toy and more as a babysitter with a one-time fee. Thanks to sensors in his nose, belly and hands, Elmo becomes a fun, interactive playtime pal. But he can also be the boss. Parents can use an app to command Elmo to remind kids that it's time to brush their teeth or clean up. Because when your friend from Sesame Street is telling you to put your toys away, you're just more likely to do it.
Available Fall 2016
Lamaze Listen And Match Storytime
Yo Ho Horace is always a crowd-pleaser. And he'll finally have his own story to tell. Lamaze is pairing several of their characters with storybooks, making playtime with these plush pals even more fun.
Available Fall 2016, $30