By Reyne Rice, Toy Trend Expert and Futurist
First posted on the YourToyCom.com blog forum and community website serving the toys, games and childrens’ technology industries, on behalf of the Spielwarenmesse. Spielwarenmesse is the leading and largest International ToyFair in the world, held annually in Nuremberg, Germany in early February.
Lately, there seems to be a pendulum swing back toward imaginative play and giving kids the tools to create their own versions of toys and games. With technology creeping into so many children’s toys, it is a breath of fresh air to see this new movement offering kids a different approach. Don’t get me wrong, technology can definitely enhance a play pattern, or seamlessly add to creative role-playing. Giving kids the option to play with both tech and non-tech products does provide a more balanced toy perspective, and an opportunity to explore a different type of play experience. Here are just a few examples that have caught my eye lately.
Brickstix: A 12 year-old boy, Greyson MacLean, recently won the 2011 TAGIE Young Inventor Award, at the annual November 2011 ChiTag Chicago Toy & Game Fair, with this toy invention. He created removable and reusable decals for adhering to building blocks, such as Legos and MegaBloks. This tween inventor came up with everything from city decals to every day messes that he calls “Splats.” These stickers are available online at www.brickstix.com, to allow other kids to customize their brick collections.
In a kid’s world, who hasn’t dreamed of developing their own original toy creation? In an adult world, the concept of mass customization has allowed that very dream to become a reality. Here are just a few of the ways kids can customize and design their own toys, and in some cases, then have them delivered to the child’s home, in a matter of days or weeks, building self-esteem and a sense of accomplishment for a creative kid.
Barbie Hair Extensions: Barbie Designable Hair Extensions (barbie.com/designable-hair/) is a $ 45 US Dollar kit that consists of a standard-issue Barbie doll and eight sheets of printer paper designed specifically to work with your inkjet printer. The paper contains a swath of clear nylon hair that is glued flat against the card stock, which is thin enough to work with a printer. A Web-based design studio makes it easy to mix and match designs, or import photos, although lining up the paper requires some test runs.
Of course, a child can also use their own markers, and sidestep the printer altogether. Finished projects can be clipped onto the Barbie doll or a child’s head, using the included hair clips.
Kids can go to the www.stickeryou.com website and, from the thousands of available images there, design a personalized set of stickers that will be printed and shipped directly to the child’s home location. The stickers are high quality and can be adhered to notebooks, room décor, skateboards, helmets and many other kid-friendly products, to personalize a child’s world. Yes, some of their favorite entertainment characters are included there, but also name stickers, and more. There is a new business section that also allows business owners to get into the customization world, with QR codes and other options.
Happy Toy Machine: is a 2011 startup company that lets children and adults customize a character online and turn it into a plush toy. On Happy Toy Machine’s website, www.happytoymachine.com, customers select the shape or animal, such as a cat or robot. Then they decide on features, like a tail and claws, and pick colors and enhancements like a rainbow on the tummy or embroidering a child’s name. The designs can be saved and shared with others on the website for free. Producing a 10- to 15-inch toy costs .99 and a 20- to 26-inch toy costs .99. To control costs, the startup developed technology to automate as much of the process as possible, such as software that translates the design and directs its machines to cut the appropriate patterns. But the final product is a creation of each unique inventor.
At MakerBot Industries, consumers can purchase their own Thing-O-matic to create custom toys. Yes, at 00, it is out of the price range for most consumers, but a crafty retailer could set one up in-store, and use it to develop customized orders for consumers and create an incredible in-store demonstration tool that will fascinate kids and adults. It illustrates the latest in cutting edge personal manufacturing technology & includes the new StepStruder® MK7 Complete Upgrade! http://store.makerbot.com/thing-o-matic-kit-mk7.html
For even more ideas on creating toys, the most recent edition of Make Magazine is dedicated to Toys & Games. It appeals to the Do-It-Yourself enthusiast, and this movement has created quite a following among kids, young adults and “makers” of all ages
Vol. 28: Toys and Games
MAKE Volume 28 hits makers’ passion for play head-on with a 28-page special section devoted to Toys and Games, including a toy “pop-pop” steamboat made from a mint tin, an R/C helicopter eye-in-the-sky, and a classic video game console. Builders can also create a gravity-powered catapult, a plush toy that interacts with objects around it, and a machine that blows giant soap bubbles. Play time is a hallmark of more intelligent species– so go have some fun! www.makezine.com