However, recent analysis shows that children stop using toys because their preferences have changed, but they do not really stop playing. Obviously, we need to understand them better. And even though it is a challenge in this rapidly changing world, they are still a wonderful target group for our industry.
Designing toys with new technologies in mind
Currently, toys have to compete fiercely with new technologies, tablets, smartphones, videogames, social media, etc. All the things that gain importance as children grow older. We need to understand that these are all aspirational things for them, so they will prefer to spend time using them instead of playing with toys.
For that reason, instead of “fighting” against technologies, the toy industry needs to consider how to design toys that embrace them. For instance, while the videogame industry keeps growing at an amazing pace, we should consider its possibilities for the toy industry. One obvious way is to develop licensed toys and games based on popular videogames such as Fortnite or Pokémon, which are appealing for most boys over the age of 8. Another way can be what the game Pixicade is presenting, a toy for children to create and play their own video games.
Being creative in social media and with industries such as video games is something that toy manufacturers definitely need to consider in the future.
When thinking about the use of digital devices, there is no need to focus on actually creating tech products. It can be simpler, for instance by creating toy accessories to enhance the experience with digital products and making them more fun physically. For example, with Animal Cable Bites children can protect their phone cables while customizing them with fun little toy animals. The reality is that there is an increase in playful accessories for phones in the market. Other examples are the “Pop it” cases that are becoming as popular as the toy itself.
Create toys based on hobbies and professional career aspirations
Many children start being more involved in extracurricular activities and showing passion for specific hobbies and professions just around the time they stop playing with toys. This could lead toy designers to think about creating toys based on the most popular hobbies and professions children show interest in.
Children with an interest in science are lucky, as there has been a significant increase in STEM toys lately. Children dreaming to become palaeontologists would enjoy toys such as SES Creative Excavate dinos or the Science4you Mammoth Fossil Excavation. Future geologists would love Geology Lab by Thin Air Brands, and so on.
Beyond science, children show a broad range of interests: cooking, music (playing and creating), dancing, creating videos, sports, outdoor adventures, etc. The toy industry could think about toys that support these hobbies. However, it is important to understand that they want to experience the activity in the most realistic way possible. For instance, there has been an increase in products that allow children to create their own professional videos to upload on social media, toys to help children cook real meals, build things using real tools, explore nature with high-quality materials, etc.
From this approach, licensing might be a great option, too. Consider brands that are relevant to the real world or people children might admire nowadays (soccer players, chefs, musicians, influencers, etc). For instance, check out the Master Chef series of games by Clementoni, or the Inkfluencers series by Spinmaster or the game Guess who? World Football Stars.
In general, one important factor to keep in mind is to avoid gender stereotypes, as the social and market trends are heading in the direction of gender-neutral approaches. It is relevant to create toys and games based on kids’ actual interests from a perspective that encourages all children to become what they want, no matter their sex.
Kids will play if we give them what they like
It’s worth the effort for the toy industry to keep considering older children as an important potential target group. Toy manufacturers can reach them if they embrace technology as an aspect that they like, by creating toys and games that are designed while keeping digital devices, social media, etc. in mind. This way, children won’t have to choose between the two and toys can become part of their tech play fun time.
Toy designers manage to appeal to children if they understand their passions: which activities they enjoy, what they want to become, who they admire, etc. Just keep in mind, children and teens always keep playing.