“Aspirational” Toys Teach Kids about the Impact of
Fourth and final in a series exploring the 4 A’s of 2010
“Aspirational” toys are a new category of products that
empower kids by encouraging them to think and play in ways that
positively influence their emotional and intellectual development. These
can be toys and games that embrace community-strengthening activities
and eco-friendly attitudes, encourage trying out different careers
through role-play, and foster creativity and independence through
kid-inventor and mentoring programs.
“This is perhaps my favorite trend this year,” said Reyne
Rice, Toy Trend Specialist for the Toy Industry Association (TIA).
“It offers empowerment for both boys and girls that is especially
important when kids are learning about who they want to
A few examples of the many quality themes and products promoting
youth empowerment that parents, educators and retailers have to choose
- Career and mentoring aspirations
Whether role-playing being a chef, race-car driver, news anchor or
computer engineer, a child can learn about how they might someday impact
the world through their careers.
In conjunction with the White House
Project, Mattel has created a real-life mentoring program which
works to advance women in leadership. The Barbie I Can Be … initiative promotes
girls’ empowerment in selecting a career and dedicates a section
of the Barbie.com website to an exploration of career choices that spans
ballerina to pet vet to dentist.
And a wide range of manufacturers – including Aeromax, A Wish
Come True, Acting Out, Disguise and CDI (divisions of Jakks Pacific),
Rubies Costumes, Elope, and more – provide quality role-play
products that simulate a range of careers and stimulate imaginative
Through play, children can learn how to be philanthropic global
citizens. Many toy companies offer programs that involve children in the
giving process by donating a portion of the proceeds from a toy purchase
to assist less-fortunate children worldwide.
Companies such as Kids Give (Karito Kids line), Disney Online (Club
Penguin), Hasbro and Hasbro Games, Senario (Drip Drops product line),
Mattel , Patch Products (Uberstix), Jakks Pacific, Spin Master and
others generously give back to children across a wide variety of
Eco-aware toys introduce concepts about environmental issues such as
recycling and reduction; they also include products made from natural or
organic materials. By including eco-awareness into toys and games,
manufacturers and retailers help kids learn “adult” concepts
at an early age.
Examples of earth-friendly products include the Green Game and Green
Puzzles (TDK Games). These toys are made from recyclable materials,
including play pieces with imbedded flower seeds that can be planted
after play. The Green Game also provides trivia questions that get kids
thinking about how the choices they make impact the earth’s
Other examples include the Dr. Seuss line of organic plush (Hosung),
the Jane Goodall line of endangered animals, and toys and games made
from recycled wood and painted with soy ink, like Blue Orange Games,
Plan Toys, Haba and Hape.
The “Aspirational” trend includes an array of products
that encourage children to take a hands-on role in their learning. For
example, ThinkFun has placed their GameClub program in schools to teach
kids about math, nurture reflective and critical thinking skills, and
expand social skills.
Thames and Kosmos has dozens of scientific kits that come with
detailed guides to teach kids how they can create solar power, wind
power and other earth-friendly energy options. Elmer’s MythBuster
products encourage kids to test common myths and hypotheses with science
experiments inspired by the popular MythBusters television show on
Other hands-on toy programs that encourage learning and creativity
include Crayola Dream Makers, Coloring and ARTivity books (Creativity
for Kids) and LEGO Education.
Many toy and game manufacturers also sponsor kid-inventor programs
and competitions that encourage young inspired designers to create toys
and games themselves. Finalists are often honored with real-life
opportunities to continue to develop their inventions through
company-sponsored programs. Kids learn what it takes to become a toy
inventor, and get to see their product through the design, engineering,
costing, production and retail stages.
|The Toy Industry Association has recently
updated its Toy Inventor and Designer Guide. The
extensive how-to pamphlet outlines the steps involved in developing,
protecting, selling (or manufacturing) a new invention or design in the
highly competitive toy industry.
Notable inventor programs for kids include the Knex KNEXpert building
competitions and the By Kids For Kids (BKFK) Inventor competitions.
BKFK provides entrepreneurial experiences for young inventors and
supports the entire ideation process from conception through
Inventor Challenge 2010 is another competition program for
young inventors that is showcased in conjunction with the Chicago Toy
& Game Fair (held annually in late November and sponsored by
Hasbro.) The Toy Industry Association (TIA) will once again join in
recognizing the Young Inventor Challenge winner(s) with a complimentary
hotel stay in New York City, complimentary admission to the Toy of the
Year Awards event, and a pre-show tour of Toy Fair 2011 in
These are just a few examples of the many “Aspirational”
toy and game products that promote youth empowerment and help kids learn
how their choices and actions impact their world, as well as the lives