Gear Diary’s Best of the 2019 New York Toy Fair

Once again we explored the New York Toy Fair, going in search of some standout products. I walked over five miles trying to discover the toys worthy of our “Gear Diary’s Best of” moniker, and … I think I found them. There were many great items to see, but these are the seven that stood out to us.

Artie 3000

The Artie 3000 is a brand new addition to Educational Insights’ extensive lineup of toys that teach kids how to code. The Artie 3000 can be programmed in a variety of computer languages; it can also be controlled using the app by touch various places on the screen and much more.

The Artie 3000 has its own WiFi, so it connects directly to your phone or tablet. It features 360-degree movement, includes a remote control, lifts and lowers any of the four included pens, draws any number of different shapes and includes preloaded games such as tic-tac-toe.

Kids can begin using the toy with the preprogrammed actions and, from there, can begin learning what each movement looks like in the coding language they select. That means kids, and adults, can begin using the Artie 3000 despite zero coding experience and then, over time, begin moving into employing the actual coding language step by step. It is an amazing educational tool and since you begin at the most basic level and then move into more complex patterns and code languages, won’t see itself used for a week and then sitting on a shelf collecting dust.

The Artie 3000 is only the third non-human to be welcomed as an honorary member of Mensa. It ships in the next few months. Check it out here. And check out some of Educational Insights’ current offerings here. [Affiliate link]

LEGO Hogwarts Great Hall and LEGO Creator Expert Roller Coaster

I loved playing with LEGOs when I was a kid. Back then, however, LEGOs we a simple collection of colored blocks. Things have changed and the LEGOs of today are far more complex and come with specialty bricks that let you create complex and rather specific objects. Two new LEGO kits that have caught our eye are the LEGO Hogwarts Great Hall and the LEGO Creator Expert Roller Coaster. The two kits are different, but both create amazingly complex scenes.

For kids who love Harry Potter, the $99.99 Hogwarts Great Hall will provide hours of fun that results in their own Hogwarts Great Hall. It includes accessories such as magic wands, the Sorting Hat and more. It even has the unique spiral staircase that makes the Hogwarts Great Hall so cool. Check it out here. [Affiliate link]

For those who like something a bit less specific, the LEGO Creator Expert Roller Coast might be a better fit. It comes with over 4000 pieces and lets you build a fully functioning fairground Roller Coaster that includes two trains, dips and turns, and even a cotton candy machine.

Also included in the $379.99 kit are 11 mini-figures, including rider figures, ride attendants, spectators, and a smoothie stand. The kit can even be upgraded with LEGO BOOST and LEGO Power Functions for an even more engaging experience. Check it out here. [Affiliate link]

Speed Stacks

Did you know that cup stacking is a competitive activity that is currently in 47,000 schools? Neither did I. Now Speed Stacks has partnered with game giant Goliath and is coming to retail.

I was mesmerized watching twin sisters stack and restack a series of plastic cups. They raced each other. They competed with stacking in specific patterns and orders and even did a demo where one used her left hand while the other used her right hand. That kind of cooperation and teamwork made me realize that cup stacking isn’t just fun, but it can even teach about teamwork.

This is a simple toy that requires no power, helps build coordination and looks cool in experienced hands. They didn’t ask me to try it out, and I’m glad since I would no doubt have made a fool of myself compared to the young twins I watched. The basic kit is 18.50 on Amazon [Affiliate link] while the Speed Stacks Competitor Edition is $44.99. [Affiliate link]

K’nex Dragons Revenge Thrill Coaster

K’nex has been around for years, in fact, my wife Raina worked at an educational toy store in the 90s and was already familiar with the brand. The company was acquired last year, and some of their products have been retooled.

Most significantly, the numerous parts now of richer and more accurate colors. K’nex caught my eye when I walked past the booth and saw the Ferris wheel the company had set up was amazing. (Its almost $500!) Thousands of small pieces came together to create a huge, colorful Ferris wheel that moved. But there was so much more.

They displayed a bridge with cars crossing back and forth, a roller coaster that comes with an app so you can virtually “ride” it once you are done.

And their upcoming Dragon’s Revenge Thrill Coaster, which has specialty pieces that make the finished coaster especially unique, reflects the new direction the company is taking under its new owners. It’s a working roller coaster with a motorized track and specialty pieces that give it the “Dragon” in its name. With 584 different pieces that need to be put together, the K’nex looks like fun and is something that can entertain adults and kids alike. It will be $49.99 when it arrives this fall. Check out some of the K’nex current offerings on Amazon. [Affiliate link]

High Roller

Big wheels for big kids. Need we say more?

I couldn’t help but stop when I walked past these giant Big Wheels. Originally funded on Kickstarter, the company is in its fourth production run and has expanded its line to include both personal and “corporate” version. High Roller comes standard with a bell and handlebar tassels, it has a thick rubber tire on the front, plastic rear wheels with sealed bearing hubs for power slides and has a fully adjustable seat that can accommodate riders from 5’ 2” to 6’ 9”.

The personal version is just under $600 while a tougher version intended for the rental and event market has a strengthened rear axle, quickly adjust sear and free spin brake cable routing is just under $1000. I don’t know if I would want to spend that much on an oversized Big Wheel, but it sure was fun to check out the High Roller! You can be sure that if I’m ever anywhere that rents one I’ll be spending some time tooling around in one. Check it out.

Playmat 4 in 1 Workshop

A 4 in 1 kit lets even little ones learn woodworking. My pre-school director does woodworking with some of our older kids, but I couldn’t believe there is an actual product designed specifically for young ones.

The unimat 1 is a 4-in-1 kit offers four different tools but uses the same motor for them all. But still, how can a tool that cuts wood, albeit soft wood like balsa, be safe for small hands?

Here’s why it is safe. Apparently, human skin is flexible to 3mm. The “blades” on the various woodworking tools only move 2mm, so they cut wood but not skin. I was surprised to learn this, but I watched as the marketing person grabbed the “cutting blade” with no issue.

And if by chance, you want something more substantial, they also offer bigger, more powerful models. These include the unimat Metalline, the unimat PowerLine, and the unimat CNC. Of course, those are more expensive than the $84.95 unimat 1, and they aren’t for kids.

They even offer specialty kits such as this one, which lets you create your own wooden ballpoint pen.

I’m hoping to get a review sample to see what I can do with it, and I am already planning to pick up a few of the kid-friendly versions for my preschool. Check them all out here.

Wicked Big Games Washer Toss

Last year, my attention was captured by Wicked Big Games’ oversized stacking cups. This year they are back with new big games for outside.

Among them is their new Wicked Big Games Washer Toss. It is a simple, fun game. There’s no screen or electricity involved, but it promises hours of outdoor fun this spring and summer. That’s a wicked big win for Wicked Big Games. Check out Wicked Big Games on Amazon. [Affiliate link]

Here’s a quick video of all seven winners plus a few more of the products that caught my eye.

In all, 2019 is shaping up to be a pretty awesome year for toys. We can’t wait to review some of these products and, with any luck, Carly’s son will be willing to step in as a guest reviewer. Stay tuned. In the meantime, congratulations to all the Gear Diary’s Best of the 2019 New York Toy Fair winners!

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About the Author

Dan Cohen
Having a father who was heavily involved in early laser and fiber-optical research, Dan grew up surrounded by technology and gadgets. Dan’s father brought home one of the very first video games when he was young and Dan remembers seeing a “pre-release” touchtone phone. (When he asked his father what the “#” and “*” buttons were his dad said, “Some day, far in the future, we’ll have some use for them.”) Technology seemed to be in Dan’s blood but at some point he took a different path and ended up in the clergy. His passion for technology and gadgets never left him. Dan is married to Raina Goldberg who is also an avid user of Apple products. They live in New Jersey with their golden doodle Nava.