There were some awesome new products that we sampled, but of course my first interest is always seeing what's new for the Hallmark Keepsake ornaments. Our Christmas Tree/Hanukkah Bush (it's what we call it) is the ultimate geek tree, and there's always at least one new Hallmark ornament selected for the tree each year. I think the oldest Hallmark geek ornament is my Star Trek shuttlecraft ornament with Spock's voice. My mom got that for me years ago - when I was a teen, I think - and it still works just as well as the day I opened it.
Looking over the new ornaments, I immediately saw the ones Aaron and I would want:
Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, The Amazing Spiderman
They also will have an Avengers set, but it wasn't on display. I'm sure my mom will get that set for us - she gets Aaron a superhero ornament every year.
For the kids, there were several new items. I loved the interactive storybooks that actually wait for a child's response and customize the story based on what option the child picks. It's like the old Choose Your Own Adventure books, only these are digital and voice responsive. Mira is going to love trying out one of these books - she always wants to have a say in the story.
Along the same line are the Interactive Story Buddies - they're plush animals who come with their own books. When you read the book out loud, the plush animals "listen" and then respond to key words in the book. The voice recognition is amazing, and it feels like the toy is listening to the story as well. (And chiming in just like any kid who wants to add a little more to the story!) It's quite possible that Nugget and Watson will find themselves at our house very soon.
In their back-to-school line was a cute little bug called Bug 'Em. It's a pint-sized plush that can hold cards and other tokens of encouragement and give an unexpected lift to any youngster’s day. My two girls have already claimed this little guy and asked that I use him to hide rewards for them when they've had good days. So I do - if they find him sitting out, they know they've done something good and look inside to see what goodies he might hold. They're so excited when he appears on the table or the couch!
Hey there, I've got a happy surprise for you!
Another cool kid product I got to try out was Text Bands. Text Bands allow kids to send text messages from wristband to wristband, expressing themselves and spreading encouragement in a fun, new way. How? Kids enter up to 10 characters into the screen on the band and bump fists or shake hands to pass the message. The bands light up and the messages transfer from band to band. They look and feel like an 80's flashback to me - but a good kind of flashback.
Getting a sneak peek at some of the new Hallmark products was so much fun. I love how they're working interactive technology into many products for kids - it's fun, educational, and gives kids a chance to feel like they have some control over their stories. And I know we'll have some new superheroes to add to our tree this year, taking their place among all of the other older ornaments.
Full disclosure: I was invited to attend a gathering with Hallmark to see the new products and received a gift bag with a sample of some of the items we tried out. All opinions are my own.