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31 Jan – 4 Feb 2018
Spielwarenmesse®: Construction toys, model cars for playing with and other touch-and-feel toys have long featured in the “Technical Toys” product group of the Spielwarenmesse® in Nuremberg. Electronics, particularly digitally-conveyed content, have played a crucial role in this category for some time now. How has this changed the industry? How is this trend reflected in your company’s offering and marketing strategy?
Roland Graf: Electronics may also play a role for our company in the future. However, it is important to us that electronics, in the form of robotics and also e.g. LED light, are only a flanking measure when it comes to creating added value for the consumer in addition to the core competence of our products. There is no way we would compromise on the valuable and developmentally beneficial manual construction for the sake of electronics.
International perspectives: Do you see differences in demand and consumer behaviour in different regions of the world when it comes to this product group?
R. G.: Yes, many factors play a role in the decision whether to purchase a toy. For example, safe, traditional toys are popular in Switzerland. Normally, this target group is not looking for toys to have any electronics in or on them. Of course, it’s different in Asian markets. Electronics are a key aspect there.
What do you see happening in the future? Will children do their design tasks on computers and then bring them to life using 3D printers so that they can play with them?
R. G.: It’s conceivable, but we should not underestimate how abstract virtual designs can appear on a PC or tablet and their minimal educational effect. Even for us adults, virtual designs are an enormous challenge. As our parts fit very precisely, 3D printing would indeed be possible as things stand, but the quality of the parts would be much lower than those of our factory-manufactured blocks. However, it’s certainly possible that some elements might be printed in 3D in the future and used to complement our standard range.
The Spielwarenmesse® also bundles “Educational Toys” in with this product group. Are we right in thinking that a toy’s presumed "pedagogical value" especially helps to boost sales in German-speaking markets in particular?
R. G.: Yes and no. We know that other important values such as “environmental friendliness” and “tradition” take priority over the “pedagogical value”. On the one hand, there are many toys that label themselves “pedagogically valuable”. However, the consumer weighs up all factors, such as where the toy was manufactured, and then decides whether to buy.
Where would you draw a line between didactic materials and toys with educational features?
R. G.: This is difficult as didactics is a pedagogical discipline, while the word “educational” has just educational relevance. Therefore, the question is not where the line exists, but where the transition happens. You could say that a toy with educational features may impart a learning result to children playing on their own, while didactic material is used in a targeted fashion by parents and educators to develop a child’s various skills. For example: with kiditec, children can build their own models. This calls for motor skills, creativity and spatial imagination. For didactical purposes, our products are used e.g. in movement therapy, with specially developed exercises countering motor skill deficits in children.