By Reyne Rice, Toy Trend Analyst, New York, USA
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.
“‘Uptime’ has replaced the concept of downtime, as leisure is no longer a passive activity but one of active participation and self-improvement,” states the Intelligence Group in its Trend Central newsletter. Kids are using their out-of-school hours to continue the learning process, embracing digital and interactive technology tools, and also offline tools such as hands-on science and exploration, active sports, all-play games and brain-teasers, construction, crafts and creativity. Most families are united in their choices, attempting to provide a balance of both online and offline activities for family entertainment and everyday social connections.
This is a new world of play experiences and learning for both digitally native children and their parents and caregivers, who are the digital immigrants. Some children are spending part of their new uptime leisure hours with digital media pursuits. There are many options to choose from, and at the Spielwarenmesse 2013 ToyFair in Nuremberg from Jan 30-Feb 4, 2013, the Special Fair area will be focusing on these various Toys 3.0 options in great depth.
So, let’s turn our focus here toward those activities that are creating engaging, uptime play options for kids and families, AWAY from a computer screen. There is revitalized growth in multiple hands-on toy and game categories, including: construction and building toys, science and discovery, brain-teasers and social all-play games, crafts and creativity, plus a renewed interest in active family sports and recreation. Here are a few of the current hot categories and products, where kids of all ages and their parents are engaging in intergenerational social and learning experiences:
Construction and building sets have been a strong growth segment in toys for the past five years, with double-digit year-over-year increases. Kids who had left their building sets behind, when they started engaging in video games, have been re-introduced to their favorite hands-on construction play, through licensed building sets designed to intrigue the fans of Star Wars, Halo, Spiderman, Batman The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, and other strong themes. Girls have had a strong reception to the new Lego Friends construction sets, which offer themed play sets, designed to appeal to girl’s strong play-and-display, role-play and storytelling play patterns. Playmobil, MegaBloks, Hasbro Kreo and LiteBrix all offer new themes every year, to continue to fuel excitement in this growth segment.
Construction combined with other play patterns have re-energized other categories and built strength for the 20th anniversary of Power Rangers by Bandai, Switch-N-Go Dinos by VTech and 3D build-n-play puzzles, with 4D Landscapes Cityscape puzzles and Ravensburger Augmented Reality puzzles. Expect even more new themes and segments, as the new 2013 product lines are revealed.
Science, robotics and hand-on experimentation kits have breathed new life into discovery and exploration: Uncle Milton’s Star Wars Mustafar Volcano Lab and the Squishy T-Rex Dinosaur set by Smart Lab are great ways to add relevance to science for kids. Thames & Kosmos, Elenco, and Owi are just a few more incredibly relevant hands-on science companies. The Young Scientists Club also now offers a 12-month science kit subscription program, bringing new science discovery tools right into the home each month.
Brain-Teasers and Social All-Play Games encourage exercising our brains and tapping into social and group interactions. Teens and tweens are all about social activities, so families can also re-connect with these products, for intergenerational family time. Game manufacturers are always adding new versions to their game libraries. Try Snake Oil (Out-of-theBox) Travel StoryCubes (The Creativity Hub), Dixit Journey (Asmodee), Telestrations (USAopoly), Distraction (ThinkFun) and Buster Balloon (Identity Games), for newer family game options. For the more cynical game-playing crowd, Cards Against Humanity offers a rousing and hilarious older-audience twist on the familiar and ever-popular themed associative game genre, which gained popularity with Apples to Apples games.
Crafts, personalized jewelry and room décor continue to offer customizable experiences for kids, with ever-changing themes. Fashion Angels Hair Chox and Fashion Design Portfolio sets are hard to keep in stock. Orb Factory’s mosaic puzzles, Alex products duct-tape jewelry kits , Creativity for Kids, Wooky Entertainment, and Moose Blingles boxed sets all offer variety and an endless supply of new ideas. Retailers can also profit from refill kits designed to extend creativity for favorite sets, and offer contemporary, relevant new personal share-n-wear crafts on a year-round basis. In 2013, new themes and group packaging will encourage group social creativity fashion play experiences.
Parents are encouraging kids to engage in a variety of both online and offline, off-screen activities. When combined, these new learning experiences provide a balanced approach to a child’s whole body-and-brain development. There is a flexible place in every life for both digital technology/ interactive skill sets and hands-on imaginative and creative experiences. These are the 21st Century Skills sets that children will need to explore and to master on their path toward becoming tomorrow’s leaders.