Spielwarenmesse: The main thing is that you've made it yourself!

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The main thing is that you've made it yourself!

from Ulrich Texter

Creativity is seen as one of the key competences of the 21st century. Experts agree on that. Children are regarded as particularly creative. They let their imagination run wild especially when painting, building and crafting. But what fosters children's creativity?

"You know you have it in you, so let it out!" is what a DIY chain demanded of home improvement fans as far back as 12 years ago. This view is also shared by the creative sector, which has always believed that everyone has a creative streak inside them. The fact that making things yourself and crafting are popular because they offer a counterweight to one's everyday digital life is certainly beyond question. This was indirectly confirmed by a report published in February 2018.

Europe's leading online marketplace for handmade and unique things, DaWanda, announced that it had made a profit for the first time, thanks also to a 21.4% sales increase in 2017. Some residual doubt about the "let-it-out boom" is admitted by "Twercs", a DIY brand launched by Vorwerk in 2015. The little sister of Thermomix, the "multi-function kitchen appliance", is already presenting itself visually more as a tool for "successful creativity" and less as "technology for life".

Children are still the creativity world champions

Children are particularly creative. In their book "Save the Game", neurobiologist Gerald Hüther and philosopher Christoph Quarch argue that without any playful experimentation creativity wouldn't exist. And children are simply the world champions at playing.

Play, says the "Play Report 2017. A spark of play every day ", the third study on children's play of the world's largest furniture retailer, IKEA, is a tool that lets people discover their creative side. Being creative is one of the top five motivations for playing, and activities that let people express themselves particularly well include creative thinking such as painting and acting, as well as daydreaming – creative idleness. "Every child has a right to play. Being stimulated through play is important for brain development and emotional well-being," says Per Heggenes, CEO of the IKEA Foundation.

The furniture giant announced its fourth Soft Toy Drawing Competition at the end of last year, in which children from all around the world can draw the soft toys of their dreams. At least five make it into a limited edition every year. If you look at the current Sagoskatt limited edition collection, you realise that we don't have to worry about today's children running out of imagination and creativity, even if cultural pessimists like to believe that computers are dumbing people down.

IKEA Sasgoskatt
IKEA Sasgoskatt

All the soft toys combine shapes, colours and expressions in a highly original way. One wishes that professional designers would regress so that they, too, could approach the subject in a playful, unbiased and cross-thinking way –just like these young product developers.

A market for one's hand, heart and inspiration

Creativity is a trend, with children and adults alike. Its status as one of the 21st century skills is now clear to both boardrooms and parents. Companies are increasingly relying on design thinking as a way to develop creative ideas; parents stress paints, craft supplies, jewellery, plaster casting, modelling compounds, beads or what else there may be in the way of creative materials. Carletto boss Peter Gygax, who serves the creative market with the brands of SentoSphére, Artista and Aladine, is convinced that many topics are making a comeback, but with a shift in emphasis.


Crafting is increasingly following the decorative trends such as string-art, dream catchers, selfie frames and hippie candles as well as retro decoration. Designing or making things with slime is popular globally. New kneading masses with surprising effects and possibilities will soon reach the markets and inspire children.

Peter Gygax, Carletto CEO

The creative market doesn't just stand for "hand, heart and inspiration" (Gygax), it's also getting ever younger and more educational. Even making jewellery, which experienced a real upsurge with the loom bands 4 years ago, is still popular. The main aim of parents is to promote the creativity and motor skills of the next generation, in line with the maxim "My child can do that!"

First, they are introduced to given ideas so they can then go on to liberate themselves of them. Three years ago, SES launched its My First series of modelling clay, finger and water paints for children 12 months and older.


Over the last few years, the "I'm learning sector" from the age of 3 upwards has grown very strongly. Everything to do with shapes and colours is right on trend. At the seven BabyWorld fairs in Germany, we repeatedly notice how interested young mothers are in the topic of creative activities.

Martin Plesker, SES Sales Manager

Growing market with new players

For more than 10 years now, toy manufacturer Djeco has been active on the creative market – with resounding success. According to Irina Srebot, Managing Director of Fantasie4Kids OHG, the German distribution partner, the "creative crafting" range now accounts for around 50% of sales. The fact that the French were able to achieve such success comes as no surprise to her.


Djeco started with 20 packs; today, the catalogue is nearly 180 pages long. All the products in the range, have to satisfy a high artistic standard. Scratch art or fashion pictures, for example, in which children can slip into the role of fashion designers, should not only keep them occupied, but also help to develop children creatively.

Irina Srebot, Managing Director of Fantasie4Kids

Djeco Glitter
Do-it-Yourself kit with glitter by Djeco
Kitchen by BADALA
Cardboard kitchen by BADALA

The market for creative crafting will continue to grow, as the Fantasie4Kids range demonstrates. But it remains fiercely contested because new suppliers are jumping on the bandwagon all the time. The Parisian trend-setter thinks that 2018 will be all about the "revolutionary" scoubidou threads.

Sooner or later, every social trend ends up in the toy sector – and this is what is happening with the current development of turning "waste" into something useful. In any event, Austrian company BADALA, which makes self-adhesive sticker sheets for "pimping" discarded cardboard boxes, is backing the upcycling trend."Our mission," says Barbara Höller, "is to offer a unique play experience to all children of all cultures around the world, giving them more creativity, imagination and intelligence and allowing them to immerse themselves in their dreams."

The Dutch company Fun2Give is also capitalising on this with its Re-Cycle-Me Pizzeria Game World. Children use certain kinds of rubbish to create a pizza shop.

Paradigm shift

Stamping kit by Folia
Stamping kit by Folia

Max Bringmann KG, better known as Folia, is also convinced of the fact that creative crafting is an ongoing issue and has been in vogue for years. "Naturally, the craft sector doesn't reinvent itself every year," says Sebastian Meyer, "but the real art is to make classic issues such as painting, crocheting or making things with paper and crafting with children exciting over and over again. Classics always have to be fresh, up-to-date and motivating because they offer added value. Other hot topics in our view include hot foil on paper and washi tapes, stamp sets and Perler beads."

The drivers of the cultural evolution, which entered an accelerated phase with the industrial revolution, obviously need creativity more than ever before – even if it's a matter of just making things yourself. However, what was once a must has, today, to be above all a pleasure.

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Author of this article:

Ulrich Texter

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