SECTOR GUIDE: Dress up and Role Play

With the summer movie blockbuster period well underway, it?s a great time for kids to dress up as their favourite licensed heroes and heroines.
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Maps Toys 01483 776 006

Already known for its range of fun kids toys, Maps Toys is embracing the dress-up sector with a couple of new suits.

The firm has teamed up with leading US brand Aeromax to launch a range of deluxe ‘Get Real Gear’ children’s costumes, including the NASA-endorsed Astronaut costume. This comes in both orange and white.

A Firefighter costume is also available which features a jacket, helmet, trousers and real braces. Both are aimed at children aged between two and eight. 

Maps Toys says it recognised a gap in the dress-up market for ‘high quality children’s products that are actually made like the real thing’. The outfits are made of hard-wearing materials and Maps claims all buckles, zips and accessories are of the highest quality, to ensure they can be used again and again.

Mel Davis, VP of sales for Aeromax, says: “Children grow out of the suit before it wears out. It can therefore be handed down to younger children.”

The firm also offers a collection of products to complement the costumes. Kids can accessorise the Astronaut with the Talking Space Helmet, the Junior Space Explorer Inflatable Shuttle and the Astronaut Water Blaster. A Fire Power Supersoaking Firehose is also available for the Firefighter costume. 

Maps will launch the first two lines and work with Aeromax to eventually offer the whole range across the UK and Europe. Further costumes will include pilot suits, wizards and witches and racing drivers. Adult costumes will also be available.

BigJigs 01303 250400

Children can let their imagination run wild with the red and pink flower tea set. The durable set – made of tin – comes with everything a kid would need to hold a pretend tea party: teapots, cups, saucers, plates, spoons, a picnic blanket, napkin and tray. All can be packed away in a spotted case.

Consumers can also bring some treats to their tea party with the cake stand. The wooden stand holds 12 highly decorative cakes that are almost too good to resist. Each cake varies in size, shape and colour, encouraging kids to pick their favourite.

Bigjigs Toys’ role-play range also extends to a variety of play food items, meals and dinner sets. For those who want to take kids role-playing to the next level, there are even kitchen ranges. The Country Style All in One Kitchen is great for any budding Heston Blumenthal or Gordon Ramsay, while other items include a dishwasher, fridge, washing machine and microwave.

DKL 01604 678780

Velcro Kids promises there is no need for scissors, glue or mess, with its Velcro pieces re-usable for a quick and fun playtime. The House is ideal for pretend play in the home or garden, while encouraging group activity. It can be assembled by simply piecing the Velcro edges together. It features three opening windows and doors, plus cut-out night sky shapes. Kids can decorate the walls using felt pens, crayons and paints, or acquire Accessory Packs for a shop and jungle theme. 

Then there’s the Create Your Own Mask products which include wild animal, princess and pirate designs. All pieces are inter-changeable.

DKL’s Wonderworld line offers well-crafted eco-friendly wooden toys which are backed by the Tree Plus Scheme. Products include the Eco House – winner of the 2011 Junior Design Award for Best Eco Toy. This educates children on household recycling. 

The Kitchen role-play range simulates home appliances including the best-selling Cooker product with clicking dials and the Washing Machine.

The Wonderworld and Velcro Kids toys will be supported by a marketing campaign and in-store programme to attract kids and parents into retailers.

HASBRO 020 8569 1234

Hasbro has already had phenomenal success with the Avengers Assemble role-play toys, as well as the Star Wars Darth Maul Double Bladed Lightsaber and Electronic Masks.

To support The Amazing Spider-Man, kids can pretend to be the web-slinger with the Hero FX Glove and the Rapid Fire Web Shooter. The Hero FX Glove includes motion sensors that trigger web-battling sounds. The Rapid Fire Web Shooter, which attaches to the wrist, comes with five web missiles that are fired by pressing two middle fingers down on a trigger.

Kids can also become their favourite character from Transformers Prime. There’s the Velcro-fastened Transformers Prime Battle Mask or the Optimus Prime Energon Helmet, which comes with phrases, conversion sounds and light-up eyes.

For Star Wars fans, the Ultimate FX Lightsaber range expands with the addition of the Darth Maul lightsaber. Press the button on the hilt to power up and see the brightly glowing blade’s light effects, as well as hear the classic power-activation humming sound. 

Role-play Jedis can swing and slice the lightsaber through the air to hear more motion sensor-controlled sound effects like clashing, battle impact and crackling sounds. If they want to be even more like Darth Maul, using the included adaptor, they can add a separate single Darth Maul lightsaber to create the double blade.

Great Gizmos 01293 543221

Great Gizmos’ award-winning Great Pretenders line is expanding with royal-themed outfits.

The Marie Antoinette Gown is a turquoise dress that includes a stiff underskirt, gold-lined sleeves and classic stiff collar with additional boning for extra shape, and blue and gold lace detailing. 

There is also a red and gold Queen Elizabeth Gown featuring puff, fluted sleeves and a laced bodice. 

Great Pretenders also offers a range of reversible outfits that provide two sides to a role-play scenario. For example, boys can be a Bat Superhero one minute, and a Spider Superhero the next. All that’s needed is a quick flip of the cape and hood. 

Alternatively, girls can transform from the bright yellow Fairytale Pinafore into a pretty pink and white frock. Other costumes from the collection include the Fairy Blossom Dress and the Petals Galore gown. There are also additional accessories available.

Character Options 0161 633 9800

Pre-schoolers can become a valiant knight with the Mike the Knight Mike’s Mission Set, which consists of a helmet and sword. This is based on the popular CBeebies animated children’s TV show which features the slogan: “Be a knight – do it right!”

In addition to this, there’s an interactive Electronic Sword, which comes with a variety of sounds and its own theme tune – perfect for truly daring deeds.

Character also has other official TV star dress-up goods – including the Fireman Sam range.

The Helmet with Sound and Utility Belt with Jacket & Accessories are perfect for little ones who want to transform into a fire fighter, while the Fire Extinguisher Water Pistol adds an extra dimension of fun.

And last but not least, kids can take on the world of DIY by dressing up as Bob the Builder.

There’s the Bob’s Carry Along Tool Box, which features tools perfect for little hands, or the Transforming Workbench, a toolbox that doubles up as a folding workbench. A variety of additional Mini Tools and Power Tools can also be stocked which feature the brand.

RUBIE’S 08453 070707

Rubie’s is a leading distributor of dress-up costumes in the UK, with licences for Disney Princess, Marvel Superheroes, DC Comics, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Monster High, Transformers and more.

Perfect outfits for summer parties include the much-anticipated new Disney Merida costume. Merida is the heroine of the new summer Disney/Pixar blockbuster movie Brave, which is released this August.

Rubie’s is offering three styles of Merida costumes to suit all budgets, from the Classic Merida Day Dress, featuring a blue satin flared dress with gold braid trim, through to two styles of Deluxe Merida Dresses.

One is in a shimmering sky blue with glittering gold character motifs, while the other is in a fetching royal blue with layered organza skirt detailing.

For the boys, it’s ‘The Year of the Superhero’ at Rubie’s. And superhero costumes are more popular than ever following the phenomenal success of The Avengers at the box office, which is sure to be closely followed by the release of the new The Amazing Spider-Man movie in July. 

Rubie’s recommends its new Marvel Spider-Man and Avengers collection, which includes value-for-money dress-up sets with fabric masks, as well as printed jumpsuits and deluxe padded muscle chest outfits.

Haba 0161 304 9555

Children can immerse themselves in a fantasy world with Haba’s role-play and dress-up items that will inspire even the littlest of imaginations.

Dungeons and Dragons fans can head into battle with Haba’s range of Henry Strong dress-up items including Strong Armour and Strong Helmet. Kids can even flip the visor down on the latter to really get into the role of a knight.

Enhancing the collection is a range of accessories; the Strong Sword, Strong Lance and also Strong Shield, which will provide extra protection from the fierce Spiked Mace. 

To finish the scene, boys can rescue the princess and whisk them away on the back of a trusted steed – also known as the Henry Haba Strong Hobby Horse.

For a swashbuckling adventure, parents need look no further than Haba’s new Captain Charlie Jacket and Belt, featuring a realistic gold buckle and quality detailing on the coat. To complete the look, there’s a skull and crossbones hat that has a detachable beard. And no pirate would be without his trusted Captain Charlie Parrot and Captain Charlie Sword, of course.

Worlds Apart 0800 389 8591

Worlds Apart is this year launching the Love My Street range for pre-schoolers aged three and up.

Love My Street features play tents, smaller role-play structures and accessories in one pack. Each set recreates a street, with larger play tents such as the shop or cottage packing away into smaller role play structures, like a cooker or till.

The new range range includes four unique sets. The largest two, Sweetheart Cottage and Little Miss Boutique (both £39.99) feature a variety of accessories. Girls can play with the cooker, foam cookies, spatula, tray, and fabric apron at Sweetheart Cottage, or use the vanity table, mirror, make up and cape at Little Miss Boutique.

Both the Cottage and Boutique pop up tents can be packed away into the cooker and make-up counter. Plus, they have roll-down doors and heart-shaped windows.

There are two smaller sets, Penpal Post Office and Cupcake Corner (£19.99). Girls can sell through the window to ‘customers’ at Cupcake Corner, or post their letters and buy stamps at PenPal Post Office. Both sets fold down into the till and post office counter for smaller play.

BANDAI 08456 028782

Bandai has a trio of role-play ranges based on gargantuan kids’ TV licences available this year. 

The Power Rangers Super Samurai range will launch from July to complement the new Nickelodeon TV series. Key role-play items include the Power Ranger Masks, the Black Box Morpher and the Spin Sword with sound. 

The Black Box Morpher is the new morpher seen in the series – kids simply load the included disc and press the button to activate sounds from the show, and see the disc rotate. 

From August, the Ben 10 Omniverse range will be launched at retail to accompany the brand new series launching on Cartoon Network. Products include the Omnitrix Challenge and the Omnitrix Touch.

The former includes ten mini alien figure accessories. Load three of these alien figures into the Omnitrix and children can launch them to battle against their friends.
Meanwhile, the Omnitrix Touch includes a touch screen which activates light, sounds and alien phrases. The sound box from the 15cm figures can also be combined with this Omnitrix to also unlock new phrases.

Finally, there’s the ThunderCats Deluxe Sword of Omens and the ThunderCats Claw Shield and Sword Set which accompanies the TV series. The Deluxe Sword of Omens has an extending blade, light-up ThunderCats logos and that iconic phrase. Altogether now: “ThunderCats, Hoooooooooo!”


Vivid has a couple of big officially licensed role-play ranges for both boys and girls.

First up there’s the £19.99 Magic Ballerina – Dress Up and Dance with Darcey Bussell set, which promises to bring the magic of ballet into every little girl’s home. It’s constructed in collaboration with the famous English ballerina Darcey Bussell, and includes an instructional DVD, leotard, tutu and a Magic Ballerina book.

This allows kids to dress up as a ballerina before teaching them how to warm up properly and master three ballet routines. 

Then there’s a collection of products focusing on upcoming blockbuster movies The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: There and Back Again. These are perfect for boys and especially those who are fans of Lord of the Rings and the fantasy genre.

The range includes several role-play products, such as the Dwarven Battle Axe and Deluxe Sting Sword. The latter features a blue glow, just like it does in the films.

Other toys based on The Hobbit licence include action figures and playsets, mini collectable figures and Board Games, which retail from £1.99 up to £29.99.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey launches in cinemas on December 14th this year, while The Hobbit: There and Back Again is out on December 13th 2013.

BLUW TOYS 020 7627 1268

Kids and Star Wars lovers can super-size their imagination and become their favourite sci-fi characters with the Star Wars Air Hedz.

These are the latest inflatable dress-up kits from Bluw Toys and are available to stock now.

There are three kits to collect, and with one quick blow of air, children can either become the infamous Sith Lord, Darth Vader, a feared Clone Trooper or the wise Jedi master, Yoda.

Each kit comes with a giant piece of headgear and an accessory, such as the Clone Trooper’s blaster.

They can be worn either as part of an outfit or over normal clothes. Bluw says the Air Hedz kits are perfect for birthday parties and for playing around with friends, so blow them up, put them on and get ready for super-sized fun from a galaxy far, far away.

The Star Wars products join the full collection of Classic AirHedz.

This includes the Cowboy Hat and Pistol, Fireman Helmet and Axe, Alien Head and Hands, Robot Head and Blaster, Pirate Hat and Sword, Nurse Wig and Medicine Bag, Princess Wig and Wand, and the Popstar Wig and Microphone.

Smiffy’s 0800 590599

Smiffy’s collection of children’s dress-up products are ideal for themed parties and special school dress-up days.

Smiffy’s Victorian School Girl Dress is a great way to step back in time. The outfit comes with dress, apron and hat.
Kids can also enjoy a swashbuckling adventure with Smiffy’s Great Pirate Costume, which comes complete with shirt trousers, boot covers, a head scarf and a belt.

Smiffy’s bills itself as the dress-up expert, and features a massive range of fancy dress clothing for almost any theme you can think of. It has boys’ fancy dress products, including ninja, pirate, Roman, Robin Hood, pirate, Viking, policeman, ship captain, army boy, ship captain, Tudor boy and other suits.

For girls there are also a host of outfits available including pirate girl, little lady bug, Victorian, cheerleader, Tudor girl, Arabian princess, Mexican girl and many other outfits.

There are other fun suits on offer including a Rockstar Glam Costume, Butterfly Costume, Monkey Costume, Donkey Costume, Elephant Costume, Crocodile Costume and loads more, all of which are perfect for dress-up and role-play activities.

CASDON 01253 766 411

With over 65 years in the business, Casdon says it is proud of its reputation as one of the best loved role play toy makers, as it continues to introduce new toys to the market. 

Its products are now divided into Little categories, such as Little Cook, Little Shopper, Little Helper and so on.
Casdon also produces the popular replica toys such as the bestselling Dyson and Henry Vacuums, and the Sweet Shop and Post Office role-play collections.

New toys under the Henry and Hetty licence are on the way, including two sizes of plushes targeted at younger children. Plus, it’s extending its range of Morphy Richards replicas with kitchen role-play toys, including a bestselling kettle, toaster and coffee machine. 

These are available separately or in one competitively-priced all-in-one Kitchen Set. 

Another new Casdon line is the Tool Box Work Bench. The 60-piece set includes a drill, vice, saw and more.

In addition to these new ranges, Casdon’s Talking Self Service Check Out was recently awarded a ‘Top Choice’ for educational toys on UK Mums.TV.

LITTLE TIKES 01908 268480

Little Tikes prides itself on its comprehensive range of role-play products, which are designed to inspire children to connect with the world around them through imaginary play.

With a new play kitchen launching this autumn, and its existing kitchens proving consistent top sellers in their sector, the company continues to demonstrate its ability to develop role-play toys that encourage imagination and social interaction among children.

The new Little Tikes Cook & Grow Kitchen can be reconfigured for two age groups. Stage one introduces pre-schoolers to kitchen role-play with the worktop nestling between the oven and refrigerator. As the children grow, the Cook & Grow Kitchen can be rearranged into its stage two configuration, with the oven and refrigerator pushed together and the worktop resting on the top in a traditional kitchen layout.

The Cook & Grow Kitchen incorporates an oven, refrigerator and microwave with working doors, cups and plates that store neatly on hooks and in moulded slots, a shape-sorting pot that helps develop fine motor skills and fun sound effects to enhance imaginative play. 

The popular Cooking Creations Premium Wood Kitchen is designed for parents who prefer more traditional wooden toys. Featuring a gadget-filled deluxe kitchen with a granite-look worktop, plus a laundry centre with washer/dryer, timer and laundry basket, this role-play centre will suit aspiring chefs and budding homemakers alike. 


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