A child’s dream day…toys as far as the eye can see, in every shape and size imaginable…action figures, arts and crafts, outdoor play, dolls, puzzles and more! Toy Fair 2019 in New York City was an amazing event catering to a $28 billion U.S. toy market, yes… “B” for billions!! This was my first trip to the trade show, not as a buyer for any store or chain, but as a guest of The Toy Association/Genius of Play. The event was held at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center with more than 1,000 exhibitors, displaying hundreds of thousands new and innovative products all under one roof. The show is, of course, a showcase for companies to spotlight the latest and greatest toys for the upcoming holiday season, but it is so much more. 

In addition to all of the latest interactive electronic games, S.T.E.A.M. toys, and new and traditional toys being shown, there were amazing educational products disguised as toys. For example, Mensa Select toy winner “Trekking the National Parks” (10+ / Underdog Games-Bink Inc.) is a family board game which teaches U.S. geography and national parks (while having fun). Board games such as this one is essential in building one’s general knowledge base, a “storage closet” filled with information from which your child can access as needed. 

Games are designed with different criteria in mind. While some focus on memory skills, others cater towards age-appropriate social skills development, whiles still others have a manual dexterity element (i.e., puzzles, game pieces, pick up sticks). However, they all have to have the ability to sustain a child’s attention through interest and fun. I attended the show in search of good “old fashioned” play, best suited for developing young minds under construction, which could keep a child’s interest and develop a skill all while providing the benefits of fun. I was not disappointed! I found many games, such as “You’ve Been Framed” (8+ / Getta 1 Games), a fun family game which uses both cards and color frame game pieces to solve spatial-relationships. And then there was “Mighty Mind Basic” (3+ / MightyMind), a step by step linear puzzle game which builds critical thinking skills. I especially enjoyed both of these games since they both have a strong focus on “spatial skills.” 

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Why are spatial skills important, you ask?

The importance of spatial skills is often overlooked in childhood development and are a problem for many adults today.  Spatial skills are needed for many tasks, such as estimating one’s size under a bridge, parking a car, or something as simple as storing leftovers in a container. 

As mentioned above, my focus at Toy Fair was to find toys which support the development of young minds and skills, that also emphasize the element of fun. When young children are provided with a rich learning environment, a strong foundation for future learning is set. Games can provide this, by fostering an environment where young children can grow and express themselves, support development of fine motor skills, shape and color recognition, spatial relationships, problem-solving, creative thought…the list of benefits goes on and on. Young children develop through games and play, and through interactions with others as part of their socio-emotional, physical, and cognitive development. Additionally, games and play can be used as a tool for different forms of emotional, physical and cognitive therapy.

In the same manner in which toys help children develop, organizations such as

The Toy Foundation, the industry’s leading charitable entity to help kids in need, shares and deliver toys to children who are sick, living in foster care, impoverished, and for those experiencing other types of adversity. They work with toymakers, distributors, and retailers to donate toys, time, and to support its mission “provide joy and comfort to disadvantaged children.” Think “holiday toy drive” all year long, providing “the magic of play to children in need.” 

When the next holiday season rolls around and your child hands you their wish list, consider all of the benefits these toys can provide. The toy industry is hard at work so your child can learn, grow and have fun at play! The toy show was just the kickoff.

Lisa Smith, M.A. DEVM, Teachers College-Columbia University, is an Adjunct Professor of Psychology at Union County College and an Educational Consultant. She can be reached at Ljs2198@TC.Columbia.edu

For Additional Information: 

www.thegeniusofplay.org  (The Genius of Play/ It’s More Than Play)           

The Genius of Play is a national movement to raise awareness of play’s vital role in child development. Deeply rooted in research and facts, the Genius of Play is a leading resource on the physical, cognitive, social, and emotional benefits of play that serve children throughout their lives.


The Toy Foundation, a 501 c (3) nonprofit foundation, has provided nearly $225 million in brand-new toys to over 25 million deserving children through its signature program, The Toy 

Bank. To learn more about the Toy Foundation and its partners visit ToyFoundation.org.