If I had a nickel for every toy we have bought the kids that ends up in the junk pile, I would have enough money to buy this year’s latest and greatest toy! In an earlier article I came clean about my life long addiction to RC Helicopters, but I was not being completely honest with you. My addiction runs deeper, I am actually addicted to almost all kids toys. Perhaps a more noble way to look at it is like this – I am a Dad on a life long quest to find toys that my kids will actually play with for more than a few days.
Toy Fair 2011, Teasing and Tormenting Kids For 108 Years
Imagine this – you get 1,000 toy makers to show off literally thousand of cool toys. In fact, you have over 350,000 sq feet of these amazing kids toys – all under one roof. You let everyone in the world know, that February 13th-16th, in NYC, you will be putting on an International Toy Fair – the most amazing fun toys kids could ever want, all in one place. Then, with one swift scribble of your pen you pronounce, “Absolutely No One Under 18 Years Old Will Be Permitted,”and the sounds of children crying themselves to sleep can be heard throughout the land. Proving once again that the pen is indeed mightier than the sword.
We of course understand why children cannot be permitted at the International Toy Fair 2011, it would just be insane. The problem is, this puts a lot of pressure on us adults to determine what toys will actually be fun for our kids to play with. Now, I have a distinct advantage over most of the media that will be covering the show, because as anyone who knows me will tell you, I have yet to grow up. Yes, for 361 days a year, being an immature adult tends to be a negative, but for these four days being a 6′ 4″ gray haired kid will feel completely right.
The Challenge of Separating Cool Toys from Fun Toys
I fully expect to be wowed by technology at the Toy Show. I am sure phrases like, “how does it do that?“, “I didn’t know that was possible” and “hey your robot pet just hit me” will pop out of my mouth frequently. Advances in technology have made for toys with a very real – wow or cool factor. Our coverage of the cool toys from CES shows we are guilty of being wowed by cool toys. The problem is, cool does not equal fun. The wow tends to wear away quickly, then what do you have?
Kids Don’t Understand All the Laws of Physics
The other issue is that the wow factor is really more for adults than kids. As a semi-functional , partially-literate adult I understand the laws of gravity. I understand that a car should not be able to climb up a wall. I also understand all the technology that is needed to fit computers and sensors in a stuffed animal and make it seem life like. Kids on the other hand, not so much. Kids believe in magic, they have wonderful innocent minds and if their uncle says he pulled his thumb off and yanked a coin out of their ear – so be it. Being a toy design expert (which I am because I just said it 10 words ago) I see a crucial problem here – breaking the laws of physics isn’t really that cool to kids!
So as I walk the show floor I will try to think like a kid. Instead of saying, “Wow how did they get that dinosaur to walk upside down, underwater while juggling?” I will think, will playing with an underwater, upside down juggling dinosaur be fun?
What Makes A Toy Fun?
As any Mom or Dad, who has watched in horror on Christmas day as the kids play more with the boxes the toys came in than the expensive toys, will tell you… we don’t know! The exact elements that make a toy fun and something the kids will continue to play with are elusive. Luckily, since I declared myself a toy design expert a full two paragraphs ago, I can now offer some tips for what makes a toy fun…
Three Tips For Making Toys That Are Fun
Make Toys That Are Versatile
Kids have incredible imaginations. In addition, they have vast imaginations. One minute they are flying in a rocket ship, the next minute they are in a submarine on Mars (yes, of course there are submarines on Mars). A fun toy is one that can be versatile and fit into a number of different situations.
If you make an incredibly cool, high tech rocket ship toy – that is cool for when they are playing rocket ship, but what do they do with it when they are in the sub? On the other hand, if the toy is a set if blocks which can be configured to be a rocket, sub, martian blaster, etc – you have a toy that will work into more of the kids games and actually be played with more often.
Provide Tools For Kids Imagination
In our Review of the Top 16 Hot Holiday Toys we reviewed the Real Construction Deluxe Workshop by Jakks Pacific. This a neat toy that gives you tools and fake wood so you can build projects and it is actually nominated for Toy of The Year. When we reviewed it, we found that the kids got frustrated trying to follow the plans and build what they were “supposed” to build. When we let the kids go off on their own and build whatever they wanted – they loved it! The toy gave the kids tools to bring to life things from their imagination.
Use Technology To Enhance Not Replace
We don’t want to come off anti-technology here. We love tech toys… as long as the technology adds something to the experience. On the positive side, look at Scrabble Flash Cubes. These use some pretty sophisticated technology such as RFID tags to know the placement of each cube. What makes the game fun is that they did not try to replace Scrabble with technology, Scrabble Flash is a whole new game that works because of RFID tag technology.
On the other end of the spectrum is the Monopoly game with the electronic bank. Monopoly is one of the greatest games ever and as a Dad I love the fact that my kids learn math and the value of money. There is a new version with an electronic bank – you just get a credit card, when you want to buy something, swipe your card and the electronic bank keeps track of everything. What a horrible idea! This is using technology to remove the whole math and learning aspect of Monopoly.
Wish Us Luck In Our Quest to Find Fun Toys
We are excited to be going to the Toy Show in NYC and will provide plenty of coverage here at Dad Does. We will try to think like kids the whole time we are there and not be drawn in by all the wow technologies. I may start eating Twinkies and Pop Rocks now, just to get my body and mind in full on kids mode. Remember, I do it all for you – the readers.
|Dan Nessel may look like an adult, but his love of toys clearly proves he is actually a kid trapped in some strange adult body. When Dan needs expert advice on what are the best toys to play with, he turns to his two incredible sons – John (9) and David (6). Dan is a senior writer at DadDoes.Com and VP of Product Reviews.|
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