Spielwarenmesse: Fantasy play for fantasy dreamers

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Fantasy play for fantasy dreamers

from Maria Costa

Toy companies have always been creating products that support children’s imagination. At the same time, fantasy topics have been a great source of ideas for the industry. However, designing toys based on fantasy can still be an important and amazing way to innovate. 

Fantasy everywhere and in any toy category

We are used to seeing fantasy mainly applied to some specific toy categories such as dolls or action figures. However, some of the most interesting products presented during the last Spielwarenmesse® were from less typical types of toys. For instance, “My Buddy Wheels” is a bicycle that has a plush toy character on top (such as a dragon or a unicorn) so children feel like they are actually riding a mythological creature. Also on the same topic, Cardinal presented a board game in which some of the players have to become unicorns for the others to toss rings to their horns.

My Buddy Wheels Dinosaur, My Buddy Wheels
Conjure up colours in the bath, SES Creative
Conjure up colours in the bath, SES Creative

Another interesting factor to consider is that as children play anywhere, anytime, fantasy can apply to products to be used in several situations. For example, bath time can become a place for the little ones to play pirates and mermaids or even to imagine they have magical powers. They can do so with products such as “Rub A Dub Mermaids in the Tub” and “Rub A Dub Pirates of the Tub” by Alex toys, with 2 characters that squirt water and play sets that float in the bath, or “Conjure up colours in the bath” by SES Creative, a magic wand the child moves in the bath to magically turn the water pink, blue or purple.

No doubt, there is an interesting potential to create toys that promote fantasy in various contexts (think in a broad way: the pool, the beach, the car, the supermarket,…), and related to various activities (eating, brushing their teeth, taking a shower, putting on clothes,…).

Fantasy & other topics

Another characteristic that can inspire innovation by using fantasy is to combine its themes with others that are trendy. For example, a toy featuring a mermaid that has magical powers to clean the oceans for plastics could be very appealing for children and society right now.

Traditional topics can also be mixed with fantasy very successfully, for instance sports. Nowadays, in the market there are inflatable punching bags that feature characters that really help the kid imagine they are actual boxers, karate kids, knights or ninjas fighting their opponent.

Harry Potter Coding Kit, Kano
Harry Potter Coding Kit, Kano

Fantasy functions

More elements related to fantasy can be added to toys and games by thinking about surprising functions. I am talking about effects that have some kind of magical element. Some good examples are Vtech “Myla The Magical Make up Unicorn” as it comes with a magic make-up brush that changes the colors of its horn and eyes, and “Harry Potter Coding Kit” by Kano, a game to build and learn how to code a magic wand that can actually make magic appear on the screen.  

It’s all about magic

Even if fantasy has been part of the toy industry since its beginnings, it continues to be a source of inspiration. The article gathered some ideas on how the industry could continue using fantasy to design innovative successful products. Of course there are other approaches and ways to apply these kinds of themes. However, toy companies are wise to persist embracing magical playing concepts, as they are still very much appealing for both boys and girls, and for children of all ages.


The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Spielwarenmesse eG.

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Author of this article:

Maria Costa, AIJU

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