SECTOR GUIDE: Pre-school

In our second focus on the pre-school sector in 2011, manufacturers are now looking ahead to big new launches and extensions of existing ranges for next year. ToyNews highlights what?s on offer?
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MATTEL 01628 500000

Laugh & Learn remains a major focus throughout spring. Joining the new Apptivity Case, the Click n Learn Remote solves the problem of broken remote controls with a baby friendly version including lights, buttons, sounds and music. Also new to the range, Puppy’s Piano comes with two modes of play introducing babies to colours, numbers, animals and first words in a take along format. Favourites Say Please Tea Set and Animal Pals Book continue to receive support into the New Year.
Topzy Tumblers also have a number of new introductions for spring. Tubtime Tumblers and Tubtime Tumblin’ Boat bring tumbling fun to bathtime and join the key play-set, Twirlin’ Tumblin’ Fun Park.
New addition to the Little People line, the Play n Stow Garage combines toddler vehicle play with storage for the Wheelies vehicles. Transforming into a two storey garage with turntable, car wash, garage and ramp, the play-set can hold up to 15 Wheelies vehicles and comes with a Tow Truck.
Key play-set Stand n Play Rampway continues to be a focus, along with the Zoo Talkers and classics such as the Racin’ Ramps Garage, Happy Sounds Home and Animal Sounds Farm.
Dino Tech and DC Superfriends remain key focuses in the Imaginext range, as well as established favourites Space, City and Ocean.
Moving into licensed products, and 2012 will see the continued roll out of Fisher-Price’s Thomas & Friends collection. The popular pre-school property will see a raft of new character engines at varying price points for both Take n Play and Trackmaster throughout spring, as well as some new and refreshed play-sets.
For the youngest Thomas fans, there will be chunky new engines, Push Along Friends and Talking Engines, as well as a new play-set.
The Knapford Key Play-set introduces pre-schoolers to shapes and colours as they play, and includes Thomas and Percy engines, a set of three keys and a pop-out Fat Controller.
Moving on, and the Octonauts collection welcomes new characters and plush items, while the Octopod Play-set will continue to be a major focus heading into 2012.
Pre-schoolers will be able to help their heroes explore the undersea world with an Octopod slide and rescue tools.
Dora the Explorer will receive TV support for the spring with the new Dive and Swim Mermaid Dora, while there will also be new introductions for in the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Handy Manny collections, as well as more from the Fisher-Price core line.

HASBRO 020 8569 1234

Hasbro’s Playskool brand kicks off its partnership with Sesame Workshop with a new line of toys, headed up by Let’s Rock Elmo.
Dressed in a concert-style t-shirt, Elmo comes with a microphone and two instruments – a tambourine and a drum set. Also in the Sesame Street line is Count n Crunch Cookie Monster: kids get to feed cookies to the character and watch as it counts out loud. The toy’s foot can also be pressed to make it giggle.
Moving on, and Hasbro will continue to grow the In the Night Garden Goodnight Friends range with the addition of Upsy Daisy. The toy comes with a light, storybook and removable nightdress and slipper accessories. Kids can also bring the Ninky Nonk train to life with a new vehicle made up of five differently shaped carriages.
Other Hasbro pre-school lines will include the classic Play-Doh and new Poppin’ Park. New Play-Doh play-sets include the Twirl n Top Pizza Shop, the Flip n Serve Breakfast set and the Story Time Castle. There are also some play-sets featuring the Sesame Street characters, such as Elmo’s Colour Mixer. Finally, the Poppin’ Park range aims to get children active with ball play. Busy Ball Popper, Pound n Pop Carnival (which includes lights and music) and Roll n Pop Express (which encourages crawling as it pops out three coloured balls as baby pushes it along) are all available.

LEGO 01753 495000

The Cars 2 line of five building sets features old and new characters, plus key scenes from the film. Price points range from the entry level £12.99 for Agent Mater, up to the top end of £49.99 for The Pit Stop.
The Lego Duplo brand’s latest Bricks & More sets are suitable for ages 18 months plus, offering an early introduction to creative building. The sets can extend existing collections, while Play with Letters and Play with Numbers add a learning dimension.
Other themed sets include Police, Farm and three Winnie the Pooh skus, combining building and role-play.


Vivid has launched its Everything’s Rosie line this autumn/winter with the TV advertised Sweet Dreams Rosie and Raggles (£29.99), while Ring o Rosie (£22.99) is also benefitting from TV. Other products in the range include Rosie’s Twooter (£14.99), My Best Friend Rosie (£19.99), Playtime Friends (£7.99), 3 in a Box Jigsaw (£4.99), 10 in a Box Jigsaw (£9.99) and the Rock n Rosie Game (£9.99).
In addition, Vivid will begin the roll out of its Little Charley Bear line. Products include 3 in a Box (£4.99), 10 in a Box and Giant Floor Puzzle (both £9.99), a Musical TV (£9.99), Guess and Spin Game (£9.99), Good Night Charley Bear (£22.99), the Bedroom Play-set (£9.99), Up, Up & Away Charley Bear (£24.99) andLet’s Pretend Charley Bear (£49.99).

MEGA BRANDS 0845 3700 371

The firm has added three new products to its successful Maxi range for autumn/winter 2011.
The 3 in 1 Build n Go Walker does triple duty as a walker, wagon and building platform. Helping to develop hand-eye coordination, shape recognition and dexterity for pre-schoolers, the walker is designed to grow as the child does. Meanwhile, the Build n Go Wagon is also aimed at building pre-schoolers’ developmental and creative play. Also new this A/W is the Maxi Tub Collection which features a series of large storage containers filled with Maxi building bloks in play themes like farm, princess and dragons.
Mega’s Thomas & Friends line has been bolstered with the arrival of the Day of the Diesels play-set. It includes two working cranes, Happy Hook, a smaller crane and swinging barn doors. It also includes small Thomas and Diesel buckets, multi character packs such as Percy and Stanley at Great Waterton, as well as larger play-sets Whiffs Messy Day, All Aboard at Knapford Station and All Aboard at Tidmouth Sheds.
Mega is also launching new buildable characters and play-sets based on Chuggington. Ranging from small Buildable Chuggers up to the larger Repair Shed play-set and Coaster set, all connect together to create a Chuggington world.

BIGJIGS 01303 250400

With ten designs to choose from, the firm’s range of Chunky Lift Out Puzzles come in special window box packaging to make products more attractive on shelf.
Each puzzle has five lift out pieces, each with their own base colour which is repeated on the puzzle tray. This allows children to learn in two ways by matching the shapes as well as the colours. Bigjigs also has the Red Bed Sorter in its pre-school collection.
The brightly coloured wooden bus stands at 360mm wide and 210mm tall and comes with 19 sorting animals.
Each animal has the design on one side and its name on the other to help young children with recognition.
Finally, a long standing line for Bigjigs is the Triangular Activity Centre, including three sides of activity including a blackboard, letter blocks and an abacus.

TOMY 020 8722 7300

New to the firm’s Play to Learn range are push and go toys, Clip Clop Knight and Clip Clop Princess.
Push on the Knight or Princess’ head to send the horses (complete with neighing sounds) charging forward, encouraging pre-schoolers to crawl or walk after them.
Also in the range are best sellers Pic n Pop and electronic colour mixing toy, Mr Colour Maker, both of which have TV advertising spots booked for the festive season. The two products were largely responsible for the strong year on year growth of the brand this year.
The Aquadoodle line, meanwhile, includes a variety of large mats (for floor play and mini mats (for taking on journeys), with a mix of licensed and non-licensed products. The Rainbow Aquadoodle large mat has been a key fixture in the arts and crafts NPD listing over the last three years.
Finally, Tomy is also preparing to launch its new licensed range, Raa Raa the Noisy Lion, which will include plush, bath squirters, collectable figures and interactive play-sets.

PAUL LAMOND 020 7254 0100

Paul Lamond’s pre-school range includes a collection of perennial favourites, as well as some exciting new games and puzzles. To complement their existing multi-award winning Pre-school Educational Chimp and Zee range, 2011 saw the launch of two new games; Dodge the Dino and Who’s the Princess, along with three new innovative pre-school craft activity sets; On Safari, Pretty Ponies and Makeover Friends.
Paul Lamond’s existing pre-school licensed range includes many top-selling titles such as The Gruffalo, Very Hungry Caterpillar, and Maisy Mouse, all of which offer good retail margins. This year Paul Lamond have introduced The Gruffalo’s Child with three new products, a 24pc Floor Puzzle, Big Bad Mouse Board Game, and a Dominoes game. Further additions to their licenced range include Mr Men and Dear Zoo.
Following the success of the new series of the classic Looney Tunes, Paul Lamond are launching a 24pc Floor puzzle and three 100 piece puzzles. Their new range of pre-school 3D puzzles have proved a real winner this year with three designs in the range, Midnight Safari, Singing Sea Creatures and Lightning Bugs all enjoying very strong sales

ZAPF CREATION 0845 0533 333

The my first Baby Annabell has been refreshed this year in the form of my first Baby Annabell Time to Sleep, which boasts mechanical features for enhanced play.
Priced at around £29.99 and aimed at ages one and over, the doll will now stir and make baby sounds until it falls asleep.
Meanwhile, Baby Annabell (starting from £44.99) has also been refreshed with more lifelike functions, meaning the doll reacts to natural body movements just like a real baby. It will also babble, laugh, make sucking sounds when fed and burp.
My little Baby Born (£14.99) has a waterproof body and movable arms.

JUMBO 01707 289289

Jumbo has recently expanded its pre-school portfolio with the addition of Everything’s Rosie. Available in the range are a 15-piece shaped floor puzzles, a 35-piece assortment and a Lotto cardboard game, with further products due in 2012.
On top of this, Jungle Junction and Raa Raa the Noisy Lion will both have 35-piece puzzle assortments and a shaped puzzle hitting shelves. The three licences join Jumbo’s portfolio which includes Peppa Pig, Fireman Sam, Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom, Disney Cars and Disney Princess.
Jumbo is also keen to continue bringing new puzzle concepts and game mechanisms to market. Examples of these include the Fireman Sam Spin and Rescue game with voice and sound effects, plus flagship electronic game Disney Princess Magic Wand game where girls need to reach the enchanted castle by waving a magic wand and following the spoken instructions.

FLAIR 020 8643 0320

Flair has a collection of vehicles and play-sets based on Disney’s Jungle Junction show.
The Hippobus and Beetle Bugs play-set is a big yellow school bus with working sounds and comes with five multi-coloured Beetle Bugs and Stop and Go signs for crossing the road. On a larger scale, the Jungle play-set recreates the world of the TV show. It features Ellyvan’s and Zooter’s houses, Miss Jolly’s School, the clock tower meeting point, a working elevator, plus Ellyvan and Zooter figures.
Marketing for the Jungle Junction range includes press ads in parental magazines through the autumn reaching over one million readers, mummy blogger reviews and a social media campaign on UKMums TV, as well as TV ads and activities in pre-school magazines.

BANDAI 08456 028782

Noddy has made a return to retail thanks to Bandai’s new line of plush, vehicles and play-sets.
Highlights include Noddy’s Fix & Go Monster Truck, which can be taken apart and then rebuilt using the bolt to secure the wheels, grill and boot. When complete, children can push down on the truck’s boot and watch it drive away while the engine makes revving noises. The Noddy Takes to the Air play-set, meanwhile, includes a Noddy pilot figure, plane, helicopter, runway playmat and a control tower which plays sound effects and a musical tune when the wind sock is turned.
In addition, there are plush characters of Noddy, Tessie Bear, PC Plod and Bumpy in two different sizes, as well as a special Noddy dressed as a pilot.
Other products in the range include the R/C Noddy car, a Wind Up car with click clack Noddy figure, a large fabric Toyland playmat with two vehicles, an assortment of Noddy Playscene collectable figures, a Noddy Mobile Phone and Noddy Camera.


Product expansion of the Lalaloopsy portfolio has seen 24 dolls become available this year. And, with eight new dolls arriving in the range for spring, there will be 32 different characters to collect in total. New characters include Sunny Side Up, Berry Jars n Jam, Marina Anchors, Sahara Mirage and Patch Treasurechest (£26.99 each).
Meanwhile, Silly Hair Lalaloopsy is also new to the range this year and comes with accessories and a pet with matching bendable tail. Jewel Sparkles and Crumbs Sugar Cookies are the two characters to be given a hair makeover (£29.99).

HABA 0161 304 9555

The firm has introduced a pre-school version of its popular Ball Track Construction Set.
The Click Clack Ball Track – suitable for 18 months and up – has chunky wooden balls which clatter and roll from level to level with various sounds and activities Meanwhile, the Ball Track Roll n Roll has two characters at each end of the wooden track and comes with two colourful wooden balls. The product is also compatible with Haba’s Discovery Balls (suitable for babies over a year) with sounds and optical effects.
Also in the firm’s collection are the Discovery Blocks and Patience Blocks.

HTI 01253 778888

HTI has a number of Peppa Pig role-play sets and outdoor toys, in addition to branded dolls prams and pushchairs. Many lines feature Peppa sounds and the theme tune, as well as relevant still graphics from episodes.
Play-sets include the Peppa Pig Kitchen, the Princess Peppa Musical Light-Up Dressing Table, Nurse Peppa’s Medical Set and Tea Party Picnic Set.
HTI also has a Chuggington wheeled toy range including the Wilson Ride On, which features a specially tooled character moulded face.
There is also the Chuggington Move n Groove 3 Wheel Scooter.
The firm’s Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom line includes a Breakfast Set, plus a picnic tea set in hamper, a tea pot set and a selection of dolls prams and pushchairs.
The licensed line-up continues with a raft of Winnie the Pooh products – including the Hunny Pot Picnic set and the push along activity mower – while HTI has also expanded its JCB line with two seven-inch Sand Trucks.
Finally, a new introduction for spring/summer 2012 is the Bubble Truck in HTI’s own Double Bubble brand.

HALILIT 01254 872 454

Designed to encourage a love of music from an early age, the Children’s Musical Instrument range includes jingle bells, drums, xylophones, tambourines, maracas, rainmakers, harmonicas and recorders.
Other products in Halilit’s portfolio are the Developmental Walker and the Stacker Truck in the Taf Toys range; four new themed sets in the Interstar line; plus Brik-a-Blok, a modular construction toy system.

JOHN CRANE 01604 774949

There are four vehicles in the Handy range by Pintoy – the Handy Fire Engine, Handy Police Vehicle, Handy Road Roller and Recycle Dumper Truck – with plans for more to join the set soon.
Each one of the Handy Vehicles is made form chunky rubber wood. Highly stylised with a zany driver, the vehicles are just the right size for pre-schoolers to hold onto and push around the room.

GOLDEN BEAR 01952 671338

The firm is introducing a new recruit to the My 1st JCB line, with Dan Dozer joining the Talking collection. The toy has five phrases, flashing light and a moving scoop. Pre-schoolers will also see Doug Dumptruck transformed into a remote control vehicle.
New products introduced in the Little Kingdom range include Holly’s Magic Wand; Princess Holly will also help to create drawings on the Magic Draw; while the Magic Phone can help children stay in touch with Ben, Holly and Nanny Plum.
Finally, Driver Dan’s Story Train is backed with a number of plastic and plush products. The Story Train itself comes with three books – simply insert a book into the carriage and Dan will take pre-schoolers to ‘story corner’.

ORCHARD TOYS 01953 859525

Designed for ages three plus, the Round and Round board game includes four red, green and yellow 3D double decker buses with coloured ‘passenger’ cards. Players roll the dice and move their bus in any direction, with the aim to land on one of the coloured bus stops, pick up a card and insert it into the correct colour coordinated slot on the top deck. Everyone then sings the lines from the song written on the card – for example, ‘The wheels on the bus go round and round’ – with the first player to pick up a passenger from every stop and arrive back at the bus station crowned the winner.
Old MacDonald Lotto launched back in 2009 and remains in the firm’s top ten bestseller list, while the Giant Road Jigsaw has 20 pieces and aims to make different curving roadways on which children can play with their toy vehicles, while also challenging their construction and observation skills.

DKL 01604 678780

DKL is the exclusive UK distributor of a selection of pre-school products including Wonderworld Wooden Toys and Miniland Educational.
The Wonderworld Wooden Toys range includes pre-school, mini vehicles, educational and role-play items. Within the nursery collection, the multi-sensory sound toy Rainbow Sound Blocks is a best seller, while baby beads and rattles, naturally coloured baby rollers and pull along toys – including wooden and plush mix, Flibbo – are also included.
Within the role-play products, a highlight is the Neo Kitchen, with appliances including a Washing Machine, Cooker, Microwave and Sink. New products for this year are the Wonder Vacuum and the Wonder Cleaning Cart (with broom, mop and dustpan). On top of this, Wonderworld also has a dolls house collection featuring the Modern House.
Meanwhile, the Miniland range is suitable for three plus and includes Letters for Sewing, Shapes for Stringing, Hands for Counting and Threading, Magnetic Numbers and Letters and a Clock for learning to tell the time.

LITTLE TIKES 01908 268480

The Big Adventures range comprises of four robust play-sets which encourage kids to ‘think big’ with creative play.
The Big Adventures Fire Station includes a fire engine which can be taken up in the lift to the top floor, before speeding through the flip doors and own the spiral ramps, while Big Adventures Side by Side Racing offers classic ramp and vehicle play with three levels of stunt racing, car launch levers and flip down chequered flags.
Also in the range are the Big Adventures Mega Crane – a 360 degree spinning crane, wrecking ball, barrels and boulders – and the Big Adventures Construction Peak Road and Rail, which allows kids to load rocks into trucks and trains with a three-way boulder auto loader. It has a working lift bridge and railroad crossing gates.

MARBEL 01208 873123

Children can create a tasty, healthy lunch or side dish with Educo’s new Healthy Salad set. Felt lettuce leaves, wooden vegetables and salad utensils are all included to help develop imaginative role-play, fine motor skills and a healthy lifestyle.
Meanwhile, Brio’s pull along Dachshund dog has been around since 1953, although the Large Dachshund is actually 50 per cent bigger than the original.
Finally, Plan Toys’ Build-A-Robot features four interchangeable heads with different moods. The toy helps to teach children to express their emotions, with the arms and legs being movable for more free expression to develop hand-eye coordination.

LE TOY VAN 020 8979 2036

My First Garage is the entry-level model in Le Toy Van’s garage and vehicle line. It features two floors, a revolving car wash, petrol pump, a curved wooden car ramp and car lift with a spring loaded mechanism. It also comes with one car.
Existing Le Toy Van play-sets include the London Car Set and the Car Playmat. Play features include a working lift, removable signs and a tactile rubber car wash mechanism that can be rotated. My First Garage retails for around £39.99.

GROSSMAN 0141 613 2525

My First Scooter is aimed at toddlers from the age of two and promises to grow with them. They start on four sturdy wheels and, once they have gained confidence, one of the front wheels can be removed to create a three-wheel scooter. After this, one of the rear wheels comes off to create a more grown up scooter.
Available in pink or blue, My First Scooter also has coordinating soft grab hand grips. It can also be folded down when not in use for easy storage.

RAINBOW DESIGNS 01329 227300

Rainbow has a number of character backpacks in its portfolio.
The latest addition is the Wibbly Pig Plush backpack, which features the character’s face and wiggly ears, as well as strong red adjustable straps.
There is also a lightweight backpack which features Wibbly’s peach coloured ears and nose made from PVC, a peach plush face and ears which flap as the child runs along.
A backpack has also been added to The Very Hungry Caterpillar collection with expanding caterpillar face, while patchwork elephant Elmer is also new to Rainbow’s backpack range.

SCHLEICH 01279 870000

Schleich’s Farm Life collection of figures and play-sets remains a popular theme with pre-schoolers. It includes animals, accessories and large farm buildings to recreate a complete farm experience. Children are able to learn about favourite animals found on the farm such as pigs, cows and sheep, while there are also baby animals to complete the family.

MAPS TOYS 01483 776006

The Build it with Bob range currently includes three different sized sets, all of which enable children to build structures with real mini clay bricks and cement.
Each set contains 30, 50 or 70 mini clay bricks and easy to follow instructions to help children build structures, such as Bob’s house or a clock tower. All sets in the range feature bricks, cement, trowel, building board, mixing bowl, building plans and a large wipe clean playmat, plus a poseable Bob figure. Additional packs containing extra Dizzy’s cement and Scoop’s extra bricks are also available.
Maps also has soft construction toy Squashblox in its pre-school line-up. The construction panels can be used to build various structures, while they can also be used as a playmat for babies, tumble floor mat and a storyboard that can hold felt figures.

GREAT GIZMOS 01293 543221

The design of Tumblekins allows the character to roll along and tumble inside the vehicle, with the comical clunky motion attracting tots.
There are seven vehicles to collect, each with a special Tumblekins character.
The three smaller sets of police car, jeep and convertible are meant to be an introduction to the range, which goes up in scale to the School Bus and Fire Engine. The largest Tumblekins vehicle, however, is the Tractor Trailer, which includes a farmer and one of his pigs rolling around in a hay bale. There is also a Fire Station play-set, complete with Tumblekins Fire Chief which rolls down the ramp into a rescue car.
In addition to Tumblekins, Great Gizmos also boasts a traditional wooden toys collection including Alphabet Blocks, a Sorting Box and Shapes Stacker among other products.

WORLDS APART 0800 389 8591

Next year, Worlds Apart will launch a new collection of My First and Junior ReadyBeds, adding a storytelling design and new licences.
The new My First ReadyBed Storytelling range will be suitable for 18 months plus and will continue to boast an inflatable mattress and bedding in one, while incorporating a new protective curving head bolster with a printed story scene. In addition, a new side pocket is also included for children to store their favourite story books. It will be available in several licences – including Peppa Pig and Winnie the Pooh – as well as generic designs for girls and boys.
The firm will support the launch with advertising, PR and marketing activity.

AURORA WORLD UK 01256 374260

Initial Dear Zoo plush includes Puppy, Elephant, Lion and Monkey, each coming in their own carry case. Also being launched in the range – which is based on the best selling children’s book by Rod Campbell – are Dear Zoo Finger Puppets (including Lion, Monkey, Giraffe, Elephant and Dog), plus Dear Zoo Skittles (featuring Lion, Monkey, Giraffe, Elephant, Frog and Dog) and a plush ball. Both the puppets and skittles also come in carry cases to continue the theme in the book.
Other licensed plush in Aurora World’s collection includes The Gruffalo, Kipper, Humphrey’s Corner, Isabella’s Toy Box, Maisy, Moomin and Gruffalo’s Child.

BEST YEARS 01327 262189

Best Years’ range starts at £4.99 with crochet fruit and cupcakes, while higher priced items include the popular T-Rex and the new Humpty Dumpty. Also new for Christmas are crocheted Nutcracker and Ballerina, plus a large cotton elephant.

WOW TOYS 020 7471 0980

The firm’s Fantasy range continues to expand, with new additions for autumn/winter including Jurassic Jimmy, a friction powered, caveman driven truck with a trailer and Dino egg. The egg can be split in two and both removable dinosaurs fit inside.
Also new to the collection is Arctic Archie, a push along snowmobile with removable Eskimo figure and mother and baby penguin. Joining the Emergency toy line is Coastguard Carl, a friction powered search and rescue helicopter, with two removable figures (an injured boy and pilot).
Toys launched earlier in the year include Mario’s Pizzeria, with a ‘working’ pizza oven, three removable pizzas, a pizza hut, delivery trike and removable chef and delivery boy.

TREASURE TROVE 01285 762039

Earlier this year, Treasure Trove expanded in the UK with Diamant Toys from Israel, the manufacturer of Fun Bricks. The firm is now carrying the full range, from 32-piece sets upwards.
“Fun Bricks offers a unique product that is the only one of its type in the marketplace since the disappearance of Sticklebricks some years ago,” says Liz Nield, sales director at Treasure Trove. “Its unique construction system, comprising stickled bricks which connect together and pull apart easily, coupled with the huge diversity of shapes and linking component parts in vibrant colours, add a whole new dimension to the construction toy sector.”
Treasure Trove also boasts the Sticky Mosaics range from the Orb Factory and the new plush line from Breyer in its pre-school portfolio.

IMC TOYS 01904 720908

The Minnie Mouse branded picnic set includes plates, forks, knives, spoons, cups and three special sweet boxes. Also in the firm’s Minnie Mouse collection is a special camera, where children will discover different stories by turning the lever as if they were taking real photos, plus special branded walkie talkies. There are also three musical instruments: a trumpet, two maracas and a tambourine.


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