Chicago Toy and Game Fair 2016 Recap

The Chicago Toy and Game Fair is a yearly event that takes place at the popular Chicago tourist attraction Navy Pier. I first learned about the fair a few years back when I was in the middle of actively pitching a reality show concept with a toy inventor who was involved with The Chicago Toy and Game Fair, also know as ChiTAG. ChiTAG has been around since 2003, bringing together “consumers, families, inventors, manufacturers, retailers, educators, hobbyists, and the media, at the start of the holiday season, to play, celebrate, discover, support, and promote the creation of toys and games.”

At its heart, this show is for independent game and toy creators who want to get their products and concepts into the hands of consumers. Unlike Toy Fair, which is more ‘look and don’t touch’, ChiTAG is ‘don’t just look, dig in and play’. The more approachable attitude of ChiTAG’s vendors, the fact that they want you to touch and interact with their game or toy, is one of the biggest things that draws it out from other toy shows. This show is heavily attended by families due to the affordable ticket prices and deals for boy and girl scouts.

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Pika, pika! #chitag @chitagweek

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As seen at #chitag, @chitagweek, #roominate.

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Besides the fair, there are a number of other neat events that happen during ChiTAG. There’s the young inventors challenge, inventor conferences for new and established creators, PlayCHIC Fashion Show, and the Toy and Game Innovation Awards (the TAGIEs). In past years, this year included, ChiTAG also has hosted the Illinois State Yo-Yo Contest on their main stage in the fair’s exhibit hall.

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As seen at @chitagweek, #klask. #chitag

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I’d be lying if I said there were a lot of doll vendors there. 2016’s show wasn’t really attended by any besides one or two booths that had items that work with dolls. Even more so than in past years, this years fair was attended mostly by board and card game creators. There was a healthy amount of stem based learning companies displaying their wares, too. Below are just a few of the items that caught my eye at the show!

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As seen at @chitagweek! #chitag #doll

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Snapeez are a plastic latching system that you can use to make doll clothes for your 18″ dolls (or smaller, if you’re creative)! They’re not just limited to doll sized accessories– you can make pretty much anything you’d like and there are plenty of kits to get you started! For dolls, you’ll want to check out the Mod Dress Kit, Wedding Gown Kit, the Metallic Party Dress Kit and the Doll Accessory Kit!

Magic MeeMees weren’t completely new to me prior to the show, but it was my first time seeing them in their finished look. They come in ‘play sets’ which are really just fancy displays. Magic MeeMees are supposed to represent the very, very tiny spaces in your refrigerator, holiday box, fruit bowl and other places like that. Magic MeeMees are plastic toys that talk to each other and share their emotions through their colorful belly marks. As their belly lights up (aka as they share their emotions with you), they turn in circles and vibrate. The MeeMees themselves are cute, but what I really like are the cute little play sets! You can’t move the pieces in the play sets, but they are really cute displays for these or other small dolls and toys! If you plan on buying a MeeMee for anyone this holiday season, I highly recommend buying a play set, an extra single MeeMee and a blind bag “food” item. The MeeMees are way more interesting when they can interact both with you and another MeeMee or blind bag “food” item!

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As seen at @ChiTAGWeek. #chitag

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PomPom Wow was a sponsor of  ChiTAG. They had a huge PomPom tent/tunnel in their booth. Actually, I love the ease in which PomPom Wow’s pompoms work. It makes it very easy to add pizzazz to pretty much anything! We received a sample of pompoms at the show and even got to bling out our own little reporters notebooks. If you gift a starter pack to someone, I recommend picking up something for them to embellish, whether it’s a picture frame, room decor, notebooks, because it seems the starter kits don’t come with projects, just pompoms!

Play Monster, another sponsor, was there mostly promoting Roominate and My Fairy Garden, but also had on display Wonder Crew. Wonder Crew’s tag line is “Inspired by boys, made for all”.  It looks like this line started on Kickstarter in 2015 and has been slowly getting into small, independent toy stores since. I know people are always on the look out for dolls that are ‘suitable’ for boys, so if you’re looking for something like that, you might want to give Wonder Crew a looksie!

As I mentioned, My Fairy Garden was on display at the show, as well. Now, I’m not in love with how plastic everything was in the sets on display, but I do love the concept! My Fairy Garden is an introduction to gardening for kids, but with a twist! While I would have preferred more natural elements to create the fairies world, I can see My Fairy Garden being a popular seller this Christmas!

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As seen at #chitag, @chitagweek.

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Overall, the Fair is a fun way to spend the day. If they were to ask us what we might change for next year, it would be blogger outreach. They try really, really hard to get as many influences through the show as possible and plan activities to keep them engaged throughout the day. But, this year, the activities, mainly the long and involved social media scavenger hunt, was a miss for me! It involved using Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, tagging companies, taking specific photos… It was way too much to do, while trying to check out the show and try to make connections with various vendors. That element fell flat on its face for me. I’m fine with a scavenger hunt, but let’s choose one social media app next time. Another thing that would have made this easier was for the scavenger hunt to be on an app itself, as opposed to having to read it all off and fill out an actual paper form. I felt like I needed six hands to do everything they wanted and at one point, had to stop, because it was super stressful.

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As seen at #chitag, polite pig pals. @chitagweek

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As seen at #chitag, @chitagweek, knotiverse.

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Also, unlike last year, there was no indication of who might have brought samples for media who were attending. Let me disclaimer this– I don’t attend the show just for swag, but it’s nice, especially with toys and games of this nature, because 99% of the toys at the show are one’s I wouldn’t buy on my own. Two years ago, they handed us a bag of goodies; Last year, they gave us coupons to hand to booths. This year, they didn’t have any sort of indicator. It would be nice if next year, they give the vendors some sort of graphic to post on their booth, at the very least, to know they’re blogger friendly and might have freebies to give away for review. My mom and I very nearly missed the Magic MeeMees booth, which was quite generous! (You’ll be seeing them on my channel soon!)

That being said, I am grateful to the folks behind ChiTAG for the importance they put on influencers and online media. It makes for a fun filled day of play. For families, as well, ChiTAG is a great way to spend the weekend. I encourage those in the area to check it out!

I’ll leave you with this question: What toy or game has excited you the most this year? If you went to ChiTAG, what did you think? Share your thoughts below!

November 28, 2016. Tags: . Uncategorized.

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