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Danbury Factory Creates Toys That Encourage Kids To Use Their Imaginations

Luke and Jim Barber, of Luke's Toy Factory in Danbury, showing their line of toy trucks
Luke and Jim Barber, of Luke's Toy Factory in Danbury, showing their line of toy trucks Photo Credit: Sandra Diamond Fox
A toy truck from Luke's Toy Factory in Danbury
A toy truck from Luke's Toy Factory in Danbury Photo Credit: Sandra Diamond Fox
Luke and his father Jim Barber with some of the trucks they make
Luke and his father Jim Barber with some of the trucks they make Photo Credit: Sandra Diamond Fox
Luke Barber, toy designer, at Luke's Toy Factory in Danbury.
Luke Barber, toy designer, at Luke's Toy Factory in Danbury. Photo Credit: Sandra Diamond Fox
Jim Barber demonstrating his three-dimensional printer
Jim Barber demonstrating his three-dimensional printer Photo Credit: Sandra Diamond Fox
Each toy truck comes with a trivia card.
Each toy truck comes with a trivia card. Photo Credit: Sandra Diamond Fox

DANBURY, Conn. -- Danbury resident Luke Barber's job resembles that of Tom Hanks in the 1988 hit movie "Big."

Tons of toys, in various levels of creation, line his desk, the surrounding tables, the walls and everywhere else in the 1,500-square-foot toy factory where he spends his days.

Barber is a toy designer at Luke's Toy Factory, which is owned by his parents, Jim and Lois Barber of Newtown.

The two-year-old toy manufacturer, on 128 E. Liberty St., sells toy trucks for three-year-olds.

The trucks, which are made from a wood plastic composite, resemble the old school style most adults grew up with, that come without all the bells and whistles of modern-day toys.

The factory creates four different kinds of trucks: a fire truck, dump truck, cargo truck and tipper truck, and each one uses five to nine unique parts.

Children can mix and match the parts to create their own truck.

The trucks are also a three dimensional puzzle. "Once the children finish putting the puzzle together, they have a toy they can play with," Jim Barber said.

Each truck sells for $22.95.  Each truck comes with a trivia card.

Jim Barber said he and his wife first thought of the idea to sell to the three-year-old market because there was a specific need for toys for this age group. "We noticed there was a gap. There was a lot of one piece baby toys where everything is already put together for you.

"On the upper level, there are legos and scale models with 50 or 60 pieces that are designed for kids who are a little bit older.

"There is nothing in between these two levels," he said.

He said there is currently a movement in toys to get back to creative play and problem solving.

The trucks the factory makes are intended to encourage kids to create their own play environment. For example, he said, "Our trucks contain no buttons to push to make a fire engine sound.

"This encourages kids to make their own sounds for whatever they want the toy to sound like," he said.  "We want kids to be able to use their imagination and to pretend."

He doesn't believe pre-made tracks are necessary either. "Kids can make their own track or link things up to make their own cities.

"The idea is if you have your kids at home and an have an empty box, they can figure out what to do with it on their own," he said.  "The box can become anything they want it to be.  The kids has to think about what kind of imaginary world they want to create."

Luke Barber designs each new truck on a computer, which is printed on a three- dimensional printer.

The Barbers have friends and family member's kids test each new truck.

"When the kids test it, we look for the following: 1- How does it feel in their hands and 2 - How easy can they figure out how to put the parts together into a truck?" Jim Barber said.

The Barbers are currently working on adding trains to their line of trucks and hope to have them for sale by 2018.

Every Friday through Nov. 18, Luke's Toy Manufacturer has Free Toy Friday where through a lottery to win a free toy. The toy will be shipped to the person whose name gets selected.

Luke's Toy Factory products are available in 200 stores around the country. Local retailers include The Toy Room in Bethel, the Toy Tree in Newtown and the Darien Toy Box.

For more information about Luke's Toy Factory, call 212-598-4500, or send an email to info@lukestoyfactory.com.

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