Trend-Spotting at the JPMA Baby Show in Washington, DC

Laurie Chartorynsky, The Toy Association’s communications specialist/content developer, attended the JPMA Baby Show last week. Here, she shares her thoughts on new and innovative baby products coming to market – and how these trends could be emulated by the toy industry.

March 27, 2018 | More than 230 companies geared toward baby products shared new innovations in car seats, strollers, high chairs, baby bottles, food storage, and more at the second annual JPMA Baby Show last week in Washington, DC. The show, which took place March 20 to 24, was hosted by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA), the trade organization for 95 percent of the prenatal to preschool products sold in North America.

I have an 11-month-old daughter, so my perspective going into the show was not only one representing The Toy Association, but as a mother. I’m interested in products that not only nurture my baby’s development, but that make life easier as I juggle working full-time and being a new mom. At the same time, given the amount of stuff new parents typically shell out for, products that give me the most for my money (i.e. that can be used as the child grows) is of utmost importance. 

At the JPMA show, I was amazed at the level of ingenuity, multi-functionality, and digital savviness I saw in many of the products and exhibitors I visited with – attributes that are also important for toys. I also saw plenty of products that provided good value for my money. And of course, this year’s hottest animal sensations – unicorns and sloths – were front and center in new baby products. 

Here are a few of my favorite products from the show:

Primo’s 2-in-1 Smart Voyager Swing and High Chair is an app-integrated smart product that transitions from an infant swing to a full high chair. As a motorized swing, the 2-in-1 Smart Voyager gently rocks baby with up to eight adjustable swing speeds and more than dozen built-in lullabies and soothing sounds. Parents can connect through Bluetooth to remotely control the 2-in-1 Smart Voyager from across the room, including playing music from their own playlists. It also has a “Cry-Activation” mode, which will automatically begin rocking the baby at low speed after sensing a sustained cry. In a few simple steps, the swing chair converts to a high chair.  I could see the toy industry creating a 2-in-1 toy high chair/swing for dolls, allowing kids to emulate Mom or Dad and benefit from the multiple uses of their own “baby products” through role play. 

E-zzy the Sloth from Whisbear is described as an app-controlled “multifunctional parent assistant,” which guards baby’s sleep and helps them develop. E-zzy the Sloth offers information and advice matching a child’s age, tracks their development, and takes note of milestones. It is also a sensory toy for babies, complete with rustling paws and colorful textiles that can be attached to the crib or stroller. Its “heart” contains a CRYsensor – to react to crying with so-called pink noise (essentially the noise and vibrations that infants hear in the womb) and a CRYalert that notifies parents via their mobile device that the sensor has been activated. Similar to the first product, could doll accessories be the next area where app-enabled technology is used to engage kids – possibly serving as an educational tool for them to hone their nurturing skills? 

Creative Baby’s Astro Tummy Time Mat is an adorable galaxy-themed mat that also turns into a sleeping bag for nap time or on the go. Infants can enjoy tummy time with sensory play shaped as stars and planets. The mat can also flip over to become a sleeping bag. This is a great example of how toymakers can consider adding elements to playthings that have practical uses to appeal to parents – extending the life of the toy for the child, and making Mom and Dad happy in the process. 

Finally, a baby product show would not be complete without at least some toys on display and one of my favorite unicorn-themed products is part of the Buddy Bib Animal Collection by Malarkey Kids (formerly Munch Mitt). The Buddy Bib is a 3-in-1 sensory teething toy and bib that offers infants a lovable plush sensory toy that can hold a pacifier or teether, but that can also be used as a bib. Bold patterns, bright colors, and crinkle sounds provide added sensory stimulation for baby. The collection has six animals: Ollie Owl, Pinky Penguin, Felix Fox, Eli Elephant, Unice Unicorn, and T-eething Rex.