A Fine Kettle of Fish
By Tina Manzer
A regular infusion of new and innovative products is the lifeblood of any industry, and each spring for the past 30 years, EDexpo helped creative companies present their latest introductions to dealers. It gave buyers the opportunity to see and touch the items for themselves, shake the hands of the people who made them, and take advantage of special deals.
At this year’s event in March, a new crop of products were displayed. With more than 175 vendor booths, there was plenty of “new” for dealers to bring into their stores and catalogs. Seventy innovative items vied for the prizes that honor dealer favorites, the Eddy Awards, sponsored by Educational Dealer magazine. The three winners came from companies exhibiting at EDexpo for the first time. Here they are.
Helping kids fathom math
The number game Möbi took the top prize based on the votes submitted by dealers. It’s simple, clever and cute – 162 numeric tiles and instructions come in a reusable, blue-fabric pouch that’s shaped like a whale.
Möbi is recommended for children ages 6 and up, and can be played solo or with up to six people. The goal is to quickly use the tiles to create simple math equations in crossword-style grids. The winner is the player who connects all his tiles.
Like any game, Möbi helps build children’s confidence and social skills, but it also teaches and reinforces basic math skills.
“We believe that no matter what path you take in life, numbers will meet you at the door,” say wife-husband creators Vanessa and Mark Ellingson, “so we created a game that would bring numbers to life. A game that would allow people of all ages and walks of life to get comfortable with numbers. A game that would make numbers dance.”
For more information, call 416-402-6190.
Softy, not roughy
We understand that there are more than 3,000 soothingly-soft and hair-like bristles on the Bathin’ SMART Silicone Bath Scrub, Eddy’s second-place winner. Brought to EDmarket by new exhibitor Innobaby, the fish-shaped sponge is great for baby bathing and sensory play.
Studies have revealed a connection between playing with sensory toys and retaining information. Lessons taught while a child’s hand is playing with water, for instance, result in higher retention compared to the same lesson taught without the sensory element. Classroom sensory toys go a long way in assisting a teacher and student with the learning process.
Company founders Jee Yoo Kim and Kristen Min have been friends for 17 years. When they became parents, they also became resourceful at finding solutions to the little challenges of motherhood – changing a crib sheet quickly in the middle of the night, for example, and travelling mess-free with formula and baby snacks. Their first two products – the Sleepin’ SMART Crib Sheet Topper and the Packin’ SMART all-in-one container – were instant hits. Innobaby was born.
The company is based near Chicago, and its award-winning products are sold in various retail channels in the U.S. and overseas. “We are a family-owned business that employs nice, honest, qualified people – sometimes even neighborhood friends and families,” Jee and Kristen explain.
For more information, call 847-387-8777.
Third-place winner Brik Buster features a tall Jenga-like tower that players build with plastic bricks. The object of the game is to NOT bring the tower down as players take turns knocking out its pillars with a small plastic hammer.
Brik Buster is from Strictly Briks, a Wisconsin-based company founded by Brian Semling in 2014. He saw that his two children and their friends loved playing with LEGO and DUPLO bricks, but felt that their licensed sets offered limited options for open-ended play.
Today, Strictly Briks offers LEGO-compatible products that include stackable, standard and silicone base plates, and creative accessories in many colors, shapes and sizes.
“Our mission is to innovate creative play,” says strictlybriks.com. “We provide an affordable platform and structure for kids to build from, and encourage combining them with toys kids already have, like action and mini figures, cars, stuffed animals, etc.”
“Our products are strongly supported by educators, teachers, schools, pre-schools, daycares and other centers of learning,” Brian adds.
For more information, call 507-450-3457.