Natural play: how toy shops can benefit from the...
A predilection for organic products and the natural way of life is evident in pretty much all areas of life. Many consumers are increasingly opting for ecological, healthy and natural products. Retailers have to get on board with this new trend if they are to benefit from it. Leanings towards eco-friendly toys and fun pursuits involving nature can also be seen in the toy industry.
The green movement is evident in the toy industry in the increased use of wood and other environmentally-friendly materials, such as cardboard and paper. Small plants for growing at home are also popular. Through these, parents are hoping to improve their children’s understanding of nature and enjoy the feel-good factor that comes with such purchases.
Environmentally-friendly materials on the up and up
Wooden and cardboard toys are products made from renewable resources. If protecting the environment is important to someone, then they are well served with toys made of these materials. Wood is loved for more than its environmental credentials. The pleasant feel and stability of wooden toys also play a big role in their popularity.
Frequently, many wooden toys are not just considered valuable from an educational perspective. Parents appreciate how nice they feel, and also their aesthetics. This was also evident at the Spielwarenmesse® 2016 in the “Design to Play” and “Train your Brain” trends. Wooden robot “Codie” and toy radio “Hörbert” were just some of the real crowd-pullers there. Design and functionality combine well in wooden toys, which then appeal to more than just environmentally-conscious buyer groups.
Back to the roots – learning to understand natural processes
Touch, smell, taste - these three senses are stimulated by nature-related toys. In order to help children learn about plants and their various stages of growth, there are play sets which encourage them to become gardeners themselves. With these, children learn through play how to plant seeds, water plants and harvest (when growing herbs or berries, for example).
Caring for plants in this way introduces children to processes in nature and helps them understand them. Children who otherwise have little contact with nature can learn about an important area of our daily lives. Spinach does not grow in the freezer compartment, but in beds, and carrots do not fall from heaven, but grow in the earth.
This sensitivity for the environment and nature is also an aspect of the “Everyday Hero” toy trend for 2016. Toys in this trend introduce children to the challenges of everyday life. They help them grapple with ecological themes and grow up to become socially engaged adults, also in respect of the environment. My Fairy Garden from MGBI (Megableu International) is one example direct from the Spielwarenmesse® 2016 of introducing children to nature through play.
Digital gardening taking children’s bedrooms by storm
Children can also find out more about natural life through computer games and apps. Recently, Facebook game “Farmville” hooked millions of players. Now children can also access these kinds of digital play worlds. For example, children learn through farm games how animals live and have to be cared for.
Gardening also plays a role here. With farming and fieldwork, the players have to keep an overview of when various plants were planted and will need to be watered. And if the weather is good, the little farmers can hopefully enjoy a rich harvest.
Therefore, it is no longer such a big leap from the digital world to children’s bedrooms. Some manufacturers are offering various action toys which help children learn more about, for instance, the world of animals. When digital and conventional game principles are combined, children can enjoy lots of new types of play and their minds are stimulated in a fresh way.
Such play worlds can also be easily expanded with add-on products. Through ecological themes and toys with a link to nature, toy retailers have various ways of specifically appealing to environmentally-conscious buyers and can build up entire theme worlds around fun pursuits involving nature.
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