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Simple play. It's right there in the name, and with toys like the new Garden View Cottage children's playhouse from Simplay3, your little ones will experience countless hours of pure, unguided imaginative play! Made in America by American workers, the first playhouse from Simplay3 features a whimsical design with some fun nuances that you might not notice at first... such as some design cues inspired by classic gingerbread houses. A 2018 Holiday Wish Guide™ Pick, The Rock Father™ and Simplay3 have teamed-up to give readers a chance to win one of these beautiful playhouses. It's the perfect gift for any special little ones ages 1.5 and up!

It hasn't been officially announced by any of the involved parties just yet, but those awaiting news on where Geoffrey's Toy Box merchandise would show up now have an answer. Pallet shippers of Toys "R" Us house brand merchandise are now arriving at Kroger stores as part of the new Geoffrey's Toy Box collection from Geoffrey, LLC. The Ohio-based Kroger operates stores under several names in around 35 states, and there's no word yet on if all of their affiliated brands will be included in the Geoffrey's Toy Box program or not.

Today, SQUARE ENIX and Disney launch KINGDOM HEARTS –The Story So Far, a definitive collection that takes players through nine chapters of the beloved KINGDOM HEARTS series. Now available on the PlayStation 4 computer entertainment system, the complete compilation will provide fans with an encompassing experience through the world of KINGDOM HEARTS.

Back in September, a new player entered the ring for the growing retro gaming category - the Sony PlayStation Classic. Like other competitors in the classic console space (NES Classic/SNES Classic, etc.), Sony's first foray into this brings forth a miniature console that's 45% smaller than the original, and it arrives packed with 20 classic games. The big question: What games will be included? Today we have the answer as Sony just dropped the curtain on the full list of 20 games included in the Sony Playstation Classic - 2018 Holiday Wish Guide™ pick here at The Rock Father™ Magazine! See the details below and pre-orders now (while supplies last) via my affiliate, GameStop.

As we enter one of the most unusually competitive holiday seasons in recent memory, despite the closure of Toys "R" Us in the U.S., parents and other gift-givers have more options than ever for where to by toys. Local toy stores still exist, and one company that's been around for a few decades is Learning Express. While it might be a chain with around 110 locations, each store is a local, family-owned franchise that's catered to the communities that they serve. That means that while each store may be a little different, they're all focused on delivering what kids want. Staffed by toy experts that can demonstrate the latest toys as they stay on top of current trends, they also offer a personal touch with services like holiday and birthday registries, free gift-wrapping, in-store pick-up and a host of regular events (which I've taken my girls to on occasion). In addition to launching their 2018 Holiday Catalog, Learning Express has named their Holiday Hot Toys of 2018, so it's time to take a look...

Nintendo Labo is the innovation that just keeps on giving. After a surprise debut this spring was followed by new ways to play some old favorites, Nintendo Labo is coming to schools through a new partnership between Nintendo and the Institute of Play. The two have teamed-up to put Nintendo Labo kits in select elementary classrooms nationwide, "combining the innovative play of Nintendo Labo with the basic principles of science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEAM) to inspire kids and help make learning fun." Announced this week, Nintendo will provide Nintendo Labo: Variety Kits and Nintendo Switch systems to participating classrooms to reinforce skills such as communication, creativity and critical thinking. The program aims to reach approximately 2,000 students ages 8 to 11 during the 2018-2019 school year.

Monday, October 22 2018 09:21

Transformers Go Micro-Collectible with the BotBots!

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Over the years, Hasbro's Transformers have appeared in other forms well beyond the typical realm of vehicles and beasts. Almost since the beginning, we've seen these Cybertronian warriors become consumer electronics like radios and cassette tapes, microscopes and even tablets. In the Michael Bay Transformers films, we even got to see them adopt forms like vending machines and toy cars. So what if there was an entire sub-race of Transformers that's always been hiding in plain sight? That's where Hasbro's new collection of Transformers BotBots come in - they're "mischievous little robots who came to life from everyday objects inside a shopping mall!" Officially launched today with a first-wave of 61 unique 1-inch characters to collect, this marks new territory as the Transformers enter the micro-collectibles craze, but like all Transformers, the characters change from an ordinary object into a little robot in just 3-5 easy steps. Check out all the details below, and see a full product gallery on The Rock Father™ Facebook Page.

Back in the day, there was a fantasy that many kids had, and it was in large part due to Nickelodeon putting the bug in those kid's heads. The old Super Toy Run would find contest-winning kids getting to run loose in a Toys "R" Us store to load up their carts, snagging as many awesome toys as they could within a certain time limit and up to a specific dollar amount. Now, while TRU is gone, the dream is back! Nick and Walmart are teaming up to present Nickelodeon Toy Run: Family Style in Walmart stores across the country. Hosted by Nickelodeon’s JoJo Siwa, Nickelodeon Toy Run: Family Style will give three grand prize winners a shopping spree in the toy aisles of their local Walmart to stock up on their favorite, must-have holiday toys.

The holiday shopping season is officially upon us, and as promised, the #ToyWars are in full-effect with retailers stepping up to serve families who may be saddened by the loss of Toys "R" Us this year. While the big guns have been getting much of the press, there's quite a few smaller, regional retailers who are upping their game, and one is an old favorite of mine - Blain's Farm & Fleet. Family-owned and with just 39 locations across Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa and Michigan, they might not be a familiar name, but they're a store that I've always enjoyed stopping at, particularly as a kid. In fact, while the closest store to us is over 20 miles away, my mom still does occasionally check out the location near her for their annual Toyland tradition, and as of today it's open for 2018 - promised to be bigger and better than ever. For over 60 years, customers have lined-up in the darkness prior to the 7am store opening, but this year there's even more fun to be had.

Friday, October 19 2018 02:44

Will You Adopt a Horrible Fuggler for the Holidays?

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You know those stories about the "overnight success?" As is usually the case, for Fugglers, "overnight" is actually more like eight years - a fantastic story about how a random purchase of a bag of fake plastic teeth led to a series of handmade dolls sold on Etsy that eventually wound-up being picked up by one of the world's leading toymakers. Fugglers - short for "funny ugly monsters" - spent years being produced as one-offs, each crafted with care by their maker, Louise McGettrick. Their viral success led to celebrity fans like Guardians of the Galaxy filmmaker James Gunn (currently prepping a new Suicide Squad for DC) as images spread that erroneously pushed the idea that these creatures had mouths full of real, human baby teeth. Of course, they did not, but the rumors only helped the legend to grow, and eventually the Fugglers would land a new ally in Spin Master, the team behind PAW Patrol, Cool Maker, Air Hogs and other hot toys. The creatures would be refined and readied for the masses, officially infesting retailers including Target and GameStop this summer, and currently landing as one of just a few new toys to secure spots on both my 31 Days of Halloween and Holiday Wish Guide™ here at The Rock Father™ Magazine. Will you adopt one of these horrible, life-ruining creatures?

Zuru Toys is a curious outfit. On one hand, they have fantastic, original lines like their global hit Bunch O Balloons, this year's successful Smashers (now in Series Two) and one of my current Holiday Wish Guide™ picks - Rainbocorns Sequin Surprise (my girls LOVE theirs). But then they tread really close to other popular brands, releasing toys that there's no denying are at least inspired-by some heavy-hitters, perhaps stopping just short of being called something more unsavory... knockoffs. There's 5 Surprise, which as the name implies places five toys inside a round orb, no doubt taking some cues from MGA Entertainment's L.O.L. Surprise line, but packing-in toys akin to what you'd find in a 50¢ vending machine. Then you've got X-Shot, which is a straight-up competitor to Hasbro's NERF line; METAL MACHINES which is a value-priced diecast line that's clearly inspired by Mattel's Hot Wheels; Oosh which is essentially Educational Insights' Floam; you get the idea. Now they're chasing LEGO with MAX BUILD MORE, a new collection of "compatible" building bricks that's just launched as a Walmart exclusive (yes, that's an affiliate link because if you absolutely have to have them, I'll gladly make a few pennies on the deal - but you could also just shop the fantastic LEGO selection instead). In a press release, Zuru touts them as "a premium quality, value-priced toy brick line -- compatible with all major toy brick brands and offering unbeatable value for budget with hundreds of high-quality bricks in each set for a fraction of the current price."

The legend of the Calico Critters is getting bigger. Having checked out a small preview during Toy Fair this year and then going hands-on during The Toy Insider's Sweet Suite back in July, I can tell you that the new Calico Critters Town Series is a lot of fun. The detailed playsets and figures of the new Town Series mark the biggest launch in the past 10 years for their maker, Epoch Everlasting Play. According to the toymaker,  "the new collection takes girls to the next level as they move beyond preschool play to the early school years. It features a more elegant, sophisticated styling, and a focus on the lives of more grown-up characters, who have fun jobs that children can dream of having when they grow up." Following a special pop-up experience to celebrate the launch in New York City, little fans everywhere will be excited to know that the world of Calico Critters is coming to Netflix as an all-new animated series this fall!

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