April 21, 2009

Recycled? And How: Color Me House Cardboard House Wins Dr. Toy Award, Costco Deal


I've been covering the children's cardboard industry long enough to know that recycling is the norm. What I don't do, though, is go around trading on my purported reputation as a toy expert by anointing straightup knockoffs with meaningless awards.

Which reminds me. The Color Me House, which was introduced in late 2008 by Oregon "mompreneur" April McCray, has received a Best Classic Toy award from Dr. Toy, aka Steveanne Auerbach.


The Color Me House is such a clone of Nume Design's Cardboard Activity House, they could have come from the same gated cardboard community. Design Within Reach was selling Nume's paintable house as early as 2005; since it was a hundred freaking bucks for a cardboard box, it ended up on $15 clearance in 2007, by which time Nume had already designed v2.0. Dutch cardboard dollhouse and playhouse developers kidsonroof, meanwhile, were at it just as early and just as long.

And while cardboard rockets are as old as me, but Paperpod has been making rockets and houses out of recycled cardboard in Canada and the UK since at least 2007.

McCray is obviously sharp enough not to make any claims of originality herself, and kudos to her for scoring a distribution deal with Costco for her $40 sheds. That makes more business sense than selling hundred dollar boxes imported from Europe in some boutique. Fine. You can go.

But Dr. Toy and the Award Industrial Complex, I'm not done with you. This is at least the second time that Dr. Toy has given a bald-faced knockoff an award. In 2007, she gave a Best New Ride-On Toy award to the Skuut, the Chinese-made copy of the original walking bike, the Like-a-Bike. If this happens again, I'll have to start my own Daddy Types Awards, and I don't want to deal with the paperwork.

Color Me House
Previous Dr. Toy shenanigans: Skuut: suspiciously like a Like-a-Bike, but with huge ballsView image


How much of a differentiation do you think is necessary? "Cardboard house that kids can decorate" is a fairly large area, and one that I've made out of refrigerator cartons for my kids well before Nume's version.

Actually, I'm quite sure that there was at least one commercial version of a cardboard color-it-yourself playhouse around more than 25 years ago. And I'm pretty sure there were several readily available.

I KNOW there was a plastic version right around 25 years ago, because a family member had one. Skinny plastic PVC pipe frame, if I remember correctly. It was very, very flimsy.

Not to mention that I've seen pictures from the 1950s of kids cutting windows in large cardboard appliance boxes and crayoning the sides.

Those box/crates used to come with nasty staples in them. I remember hearing about kids whose skin got shredded by the staples, probably in some story explaining why someone "invented" the "safer" for-sale versions.

One way or another, definitely not new art.

i'm sure kids have been making houses out of carboard boxes as long as there've been refrigerators. a house made of cardboard is a bit different than a repurposed box. but if it's been done five times in four years why an award?

I wonder if Costco up here in Canada sells them? Be nice if they had a garage version too -- my kid needs a place to park her Skuut.

Oh, do start your own awards, please! (Great-looking toys that are fun to play with!)

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