By Reyne Rice, Trend Expert and Youth Market Specialist
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.
For the past few days, everyone has been talking about the i-toys (all types of toys linked to the internet) for iTots to iTeens . Also, the newest evolution, APPS Toys which are linked to mobile devices or games that tie to iPad or tablet computers. Plus all of the other technology toys that children are playing with these days, that include imbedded chips, sounds and music.. And yes, they are top-of-mind because, as adults who also crave the latest and greatest SmartPhones or Smart gadgets, these types of products are intriguing, YET…let’s take a step back and remember that toys are also the tools for development for a child.
Toys and games that can inspire, empower and encourage their imagination, their problem-solving skills and their creative inner scientist or artist are also products that appeal to children and teens. YES, kids really are fascinated by these products also. There is something about that hands-on experience and “I made it myself” that gives bragging rights, provides a personal sense of accomplishment, and also builds insights that last a lifetime.
So what are some of the segments of the industry that tap into this trend? Let’s take a quick overview.
Building sets, building blocks and creativity: When a child builds something, or puts together their first wooden block tower or clicking brick sets, they are building more than just a toy, they are building their mathematics skills, and yes, learning about spatial awareness, physics and even gravity (when the towers come crashing down). Just reported this week were the sales results for the US Marketplace for Annual 2011. The Building blocks segment experienced the greatest growth, at an increase of 23%. Why? Because the building block manufacturers are tapping into that sense of hands-on play that kids love!
And smart manufacturers are re-capturing the interests of the video-gamer kid, by developing products that tie to brands that kids love! HALO sets by MegaBloks are selling briskly, as are the LEGO Star Wars, LEGO Ninjago and other older-age targeted brick sets. These manufacturers have cooked up the secret sauce— find a brand, license or play pattern that resonates with your target market, and then find the ingredient that draws them to your product. LEGO Universe MMOG ( their Massively Multiple Online Gaming platform), and LEGO video games drove boys back to the brick aisle because boys realized how much they loved those bricks, and that hands-on experience, and then they dove back into playing with bricks again.
Categories that appeal to the Creative Child include Science, Art and Creativity, and the Do-It-Yourself category, using wooden and other-materials to build and create. This trend celebrates Kids as Creators, entrepreneurs and hands-on scientists and crafters. Whether kids are experimenting with digital content, cuisine, crafting or physics, they are learning while they personalize and develop their skills. Tweens and teens are particularly engaged in this trend, since developmentally, this is the time where they are defining and refining their personalities and character, and trying on a variety of new roles to see what feel best for their personal style.
Storytelling is also a part of this trend, and the ability to weave their own personal stories is very important. Sometimes they look to outer influences such as brands, licenses or pop culture icons, and other times they reach inside to describe an experience or emotion, or just use their imagination to create fantasy. All of these methods inspire creativity.
From the continuation of last year’s Transmedia Storytelling trend, kids are also engaging in Digital and Imaginative Storytelling, and creating verbal histories and activities that engage others in very personal ways. Role-playing is encouraged and celebrated. New entertainment and character licenses are encouraging both epic sagas and mini-episodes. Both methods can provide a vast opportunity for all ages to engage in story-telling as a social connection tool. Why not take a moment and share a story with someone today. Create a bond, make a memory.