It’s the holiday season and we are just as excited as you are to sneak a peek at the fabulous new products we have coming your way for 2013! Over the next couple weeks, we will randomly post exclusive pictures of our newest products! Check back in later as we kick off 2013’s VIP viewing.
EI toys and games manager Brent Geppert has something up his sleeve — a puppet! Raised on The Muppet Show®, this former college radio DJ and longtime puppet lover puts on nightly puppet shows for his two sons, complete with voices and sound effects. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at his award-winning invention: Puppet-on-a-stick!
All kids love puppets, yet most puppets are difficult for kids to operate. I set out to make a puppet that was suitable for little hands: a puppet that would inspire instantaneous puppet show fun.
I experimented with various form factors like dry erase, Mr. Potato style pieces, removable hair, fixed hair, bendy arms, no arms, etc. But, after I presented my idea to the team, we all felt that a standalone puppet with no removable parts would be best.
This is the original idea I presented to the team in December 2010.
[First working prototype, January 2011]
I eventually made a second working puppet out of a solid wood ball I purchased at a furniture parts store. After that, I applied a clay skin, added googly eyes, then “bada-boom-bada-bing”: Puppet-on-a-Stick was born!
[2nd prototype, February 2011]
The new prototype was an instant hit with the team. My manager said, “Make two more faces—and we’ll have a set of three.” So, after some internal “clay-storming,” I came up with two more faces.
These are the final clay and wood prototypes that I sent to our factory for production.
Here are the internal mechanics that we have under “patent pending” status.
[“gray hand samples” from the factory]
These are the puppets that the metal injection molds would be made from.
[Final production images]
Psst! These puppets make great stocking stuffers!
Marcia, here. I’m the product manager for Language Arts and Teacher Resources, and I make toys for Educational Insights.
Here’s one I invented last year — Magic Moves. It’s my absolute, all-time favorite.
There are thousands and thousands of toys in catalogs and stores! Where do they come from and how do they get there? Magic Moves started with an idea from my past life as a preschool teacher. For seven years, I read stories, did arts and crafts, dug in the sandbox, turned a jump rope, and “Hokey-Pokeyed” my way about. By far, circle time was my favorite time of day. It was cut-loose fun where we sang, danced, and got the wiggles out assisted (back then) by a tape player!
Fast forward 20 years to working in product development for an educational toy company. I wanted to make something that would make circle time magical, that parents could use to inspire their kids to be active, and that was simple enough for preschoolers to play with themselves.
I put my idea – a talking, musical magic wand that would promote creative movement play – down on a piece of paper and pitched it to the team here. I wish I could say its brilliance cast a spell over them, but it actually took me three tries to convince the group that it would be successful. So, if you think you have a great idea, stick up for it!
After the idea was approved, I hired an industrial designer to draw a picture to show the factory what it would look like.
I worked with a programmer to write a document to show the factory how it would work.
I worked with a musician and lighting designer. He wrote the tunes and designed the light shows that go with them. He also designed this cool simulation to show us how they worked together.
I had taken some wonderful workshops on creative movement and music and wanted to make sure the wand had a variety of musical styles so we incorporated Latin, Afro Pop, and techno or “club” style music.
I also wanted to inspire children to move in different ways so there are slow tunes and fast tunes; heavy, ponderous tunes for stomping, and sinuous, mysterious tunes for slithering. And, that’s another thing. I wanted the children to hear rich vocabulary in the course of their movement play – stomp, slither, and strut, for example.
In the meantime, the factory made me a model so I could test its size with children. It turned out to be too big so they made me a smaller one to test with kids again. This one worked.
Next, the factory made me what we call a breadboard, a circuit board with switches that simulate how Magic Moves would work. It’s kind of weird looking, isn’t it? This helped me test the wand’s programming, lights, music, and speech.
The factory also made me a plastic model with nothing inside. That model was used for photography for the wand’s package which our Creative Dept began designing. They also designed the decorations that add to the wand’s magic – like the stars and swirls.
At this point, the factory made me another model. This model looked like and worked like the real thing only the electronics were outside the toy. It had to be tested and tested some more so that we could determine that it was working as expected.
Finally, in October, everything was ready for production to begin. The factory started making Magic Moves. The first shipment of the toy arrived in our company’s warehouse in December – ready to ship to the toy stores that ordered it. From concept to shelf, it took over a year and a half to develop Magic Moves.
I’m so proud of it I want to ….strut like a peacock!