The Best Advice on Children's Products

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Creating Products for Success

by Deb de Sherbinin, KidSmart

Can you answer these 10 key questions about your hot new product concept?


An amazing number—85%—of all new products fail in the marketplace. How
can you maximize your chances beating the odds? A good place to start is by
developing an understanding of the 10 key factors that contribute to product
success.

Bringing a new product to market requires a significant investment of
both time and financial resources, and shortcuts almost always compromise
the likelihood of doing so successfully. Spending the time and resources “up
front” to develop the answers to the following questions is best thought of
as cheap insurance that will minimize the chances of being included in the
statistic noted above.

Before bringing your product to market, can you answer the following questions with confidence?

  1. How is your product concept unique? Does it:
    • offer a new or better form of entertainment?
    • present a better price/value equation?
    • leverage a unique design?
    • build upon a hot new trend?
    • utilize a unique technology or popular license?
    • educate in a engaging way?
  2. Who are the primary target users and purchasers of your product
    concept?
  3. Is the product designed to be appropriate for the age and ability of
    the user?
  4. How does the product concept measure up to competitors in the
    marketplace?
  5. Does the design of the product and packaging appeal to the target?
  6. Can your product be designed and manufactured at a competitive
    retail price point?
  7. Through what channel(s) will you distribute your product and how
    will it be merchandised at point of sales?
  8. Is your sales goal realistic and will yield profits?
  9. How will you gain attention for your product and communicate its
    uniqueness?
  10. How will you launch your product, through what communications, and
    how will you sustain awareness and interest with your target audience?

From selecting or developing a unique new product concept to designing, refining, manufacturing, distributing and marketing it, it is a real challenge to maintain objectivity and consistently listen to what the market tells you.

Common mistakes along the product development timeline include falling in love with a product and not investing the time and effort to evaluate the item carefully, taking shortcuts in determining its appeal to the target buyer and user, and being unrealistic about how well it measures up to the competition.

The challenges of successfully launching a new product are such that the investment of time and resources should be taken to assure that the product is unique in the marketplace, has consumer interest-value, can be developed and manufactured at a cost that will meet a competitive price point and has a marketing roadmap that leads to awareness, preference and purchase. As should be clear by now, having an “idea” is just the first step in creating
a product that will lead to success in the marketplace.
___________

Deb de Sherbinin is the founder and president of Kidsmart. Founded in 1993, KidSmart is a product and marketing consultancy that provides services that help companies successfully identify, develop and market products that entertain kids of all ages.

Hanlip Toy Company Publishes Latest Book by Children’s Play Expert ‘Dr. Toy’

Smart Play Smart Toys gives parents and teachers new advice on using playtime for learning development.

Hanlip Toys has partnered with renowned international toy expert and child development specialist Dr. Stevanne Auerbach, better known as ‘Dr. Toy,’ to publish the newly revised and updated book title Dr. Toy’s Smart Play Smart Toys: How to Raise a Child with a High PQ.

This comprehensive guide helps parents and teachers select the best toys and games for developing “Play Quotient” (PQ), the extent to which a child plays.

“Many people think play is trivial, but it isn’t,” said Dr. Toy. “Play is vital for the developing mind because it allows children to extend their imagination, resourcefulness, social interaction, problem-solving skills and resilience.”

The book helps parents navigate the thousands of toy and play options available, offers tips on how to evaluate toy safety, and provides 160 activities that enhance PQ. In addition, it identifies gender-specific and age-appropriate toys, important craft supplies for playtime and hundreds of ways to make play a life-long and nurturing experience.

According to President of Hanlip Toys “Effective play produces a well-rounded child, ready to take on further learning challenges. We are very pleased to be involved in spreading the very popular and practical advice for which Dr. Toy is so well known.”

About Dr. Toy

Trained in education, psychology, and special education, Stevanne Auerbach, Ph.D. has spent more than 30 years working in toys and children’s services. She writes a syndicated column, ‘Dr. Toy.’ Her “Best Products” awards for the best educational, developmentally appropriate toys and children’s products and other features are online at drtoy.com.

About Hanlip Toys

Hanlip Toys is a company dedicated to creating a wide range of products for children in classrooms and homes. Educational toys and games, teaching aids, exploration materials, and digital devices provide educators and parents with affordable learning tools for children. Hanlip Toys products are widely available everywhere. For more information, visit the Web site at http://www.hanliptoy.co.kr.

Train Adventures

by Stevanne Auerbach, Dr. Toy

Trains have always fascinated children. Playing with trains offers a lot of learning. Children like to read about and play with small trains. The real ones are exciting to watch. Take a trip on a train so that your child can expand their experiences of travel and appreciation of the train.

This hobby can last a lifetime. Train collecting is one of the biggest hobbies. There are some train museums and many train clubs put on exhibits of miniature trains and layouts. Go to a miniature train store to see the variety and find out additional information. You and your child will be fascinated.

Trains have found their way into children’s literature and toys. There are good videos about trains that provide lots of information Thomas the Tank Engine is a big favorite for TV, videos, books and miniature sets. Find some books in the library on trains so your child can learn more. Read a train story to your child.

Combine arts and crafts with your child’s train hobby. They can draw and paint scenery for their train layouts. Older children can use paper maché. They can also create play buildings from paper and cardboard to go with other small structures on their play train layouts.

Two great train sets to appeal to your train enthusiast were selected from among Dr. Toy’s Best Children’s Products:

LGB of America
Fantasy Train

7-12 yrs.
$199.95
1-800-669-0607
Enter the world of trains with this high quality G scale toy train set that can be set up to cover 4 1/2 feet of track. This starter set includes everything the young train collector will want and there is plenty to learn as the child’s fantasy play continues.

Strombecker/Tootsietoy
Sesame Street Wooden Railway

3-6 yrs.
$49.99
1-800-944-TOYS / 1-800-944-8697
This is a great product and one that Cookie Monster would love to show off. Included is a suspension bridge, train and tracks, signs plus your child’s favorite Sesame Street characters. Compatible with Brio train tracks and other playsets, the child can build a whole town around the tracks. The train cars hold together with magnets.

Dr. Toy responds to grandparent who is visiting grandchild for the first time and wants to bring practical gift. Dr. Toy suggests you find out what is on the new baby’s wish list by asking parents. If they do not have a musical mobile for the crib you might start with that, or a tape recorder and a selection of baby song tapes. Another great choice is the first teddy bear, washable, soft, a perfect touch. Just being loving grandparents is the baby’s greatest gift.

Let’s Play!

What is P.Q.? (Play Quotient)

by Stevanne Auerbach, Dr. Toy

Like most parents, you want your children to play with products that provide the best value for your investment. Toys, games, software and tapes can provide children with diverse play and learning experiences. You must select items carefully. I use Play Quotient (PQ) to describe the extent to which your child plays. The more they play the higher the PQ will be. You want to rate the value a toy provides to your child.

You can evaluate a product’s effectiveness for your child by asking the right questions.

Is the product appropriate? You want the right fit for
your child.

Will the product hold your child's interest?

Does the product match the child's age, skills and abilities?

Does your child match the age grading on the package? If the age range doesn't
match your child's, he will likely be frustrated if he uses it.

Is the product well designed? Design is key to quality.

Is it appealing?

Does the product match the packaging?

Will the product be fun to play with? Children are attracted to a product based on how it plays.

Are there any potential hazards? Safety is critically important. Small parts can be choking hazards for any child under three. Products must be unbreakable and non-toxic.

Is there a guarantee? Save your receipts. The store where you make purchases should ensure product safety, but ultimately you are responsible for what your child plays with and how she plays with it.

Will the product last a long time? Consider a products durability and versatility. Children return frequently to a product that has high play value and the more they play their own development will be improved. Blocks and LEGOS are good examples of products that offer versatility, long lasting appeal, learning and fun.

Does the product develop creativity, learning or physical skills? Children need a balance between active, educational and creative products. Find products to enhance each area.

The right product, for the right reason, at the right price, will help your child to develop a high PQ and provide the best value.

Lets Play!

Practical Play Space Pointers

by Stevanne Auerbach, Dr. Toy

Have you ever looked at your child’s play area and wondered if aliens have landed? Things may be scattered every which way, dropped as if they fell from a spaceship.

I know it’s sometimes challenging and difficult being a parent. You want to buy new holiday gifts, but where will you put them? There seems to be no space left.

First, take an inventory of your child’s play area. What is your child playing with now? What is not being used? Keep the “now” in the current inventory and put the “not” in storage.

What can be added to extend play to make your child’s play time activities with toys even more meaningful and productive? The extensions can include simple things like a bridge to add to a community play set, some accessories for doll play, tea set for a tea party or add in wooden blocks that can become anything your child wants them to be.

At the same time, you want to help them organize their playthings to avoid clutter that interferes with playtime.

Start by creating a layout on a piece of paper of the play space. A plan on a piece of paper can often be helpful to creating the best storage plan. What is possible within the confines of the room that matches your child’s age and playthings?

The traditional toy chest has been a very good way to store things and is very decorative, but it can also pose some problems that we need to take steps to prevent. The toy chest can be a hazard if it has no safety latch. Be sure it has one. If the chest is too deep, the child has trouble reaching the toys and makes access to them difficult. Deep chests may be better for items that are not used often and use shelves instead to make retrieval and replacement easier.

Try these other toy storage ideas:

A hammock for stuffed animals and dolls
A small tent can hide a lot
Bags for soft toys
Different-sized boxes for organizing different-sized items on shelves, in
stacks, under a bed, in a closet, in a storage room, or in the garage
Easily accessible shelves can be very helpful
Orange crates or stacking units work well for books, tapes, and games
Plastic tubs and containers are safe, sturdy, and great for puzzle pieces
and art supplies
Simple containers and clean coffee cans with lids for small items

You and your child can also decorate simple plastic containers. Use color codes, stickers, and labels to help your child easily find the best place to put things.

Maria Montessori, the founder of the Montessori educational program, believed that children should participate in putting things away. This is a helpful skill that is practical and teaches responsibility. Mom does not have to do it all.

Your child needs time and encouragement to learn to put things away. Taking things out is easy, but putting them back is not so easy. Make this process an important task that is a natural part of play. Be sure to leave enough time at the end of playtime for the transition of putting things away and moving on to another activity.

Recycle your child’s playthings. They play with only one item at a time, and too much stuff is overwhelming. Use the suggestions above to pack the surplus in right storage cartons and bring selected things out again in a few months. The child will think it’s all new and play experiences will be refreshed.

Remember: your child is learning habits every day that last a lifetime. Take the time to create a safe, easy-to-use, and enjoyable play space. This is a good way to not only help your child make the most of playtime, but it will also nurture the habit to take better care of toys and playthings. Who knows, the habit may spread to other things they do as well.

My book, Smart Play/Smart Toys, will provide more details on products and how to store them effectively. You can also consult this website for specific suggested products.

Let’s play!

What Makes A Good Toy

by Stevanne Auerbach, Dr. Toy

Things to think about when shopping for your children’s playthings:

 

 

Toys are an important part of every child’s life. It is a wonderful feeling to give the right toy. Selecting one that’s a hit is a challenge. With more than 300,000 toys and children’s products, choices can be overwhelming.

As a mom you want to find the best products you can for your child. Most important of course is how the child plays with the product and the time you spend together at play. A lot of guidance is available in my Club Mom articles, in my book, Smart Play/Smart Toys and on this website to assist you in selecting the best product and playing effectively (and joyfully!) with your child at any age.

Before you purchase toys, think about:

Your child’s age
Their skills

Thing your child need practice with or skills he needs to develop:

Specific interests.

Select the toy or other product that fits your child right now, not in a few years or a few years ago. Ask yourself: Can my child benefit from this product?
Is it the right product to match their interests and abilities?
Will it help him or her learn a skill?
Will she enjoy it and have fun?
What abilities does he or she need to make the most of the toy?

Select toys that offer a good balance to your child’s activities. A good variety of toys provide activity, creativity, and learning.

You want to help your child find that balance in their day so that they are involved in play that is as healthy as possible.

Activity Toys develop coordination and improve small and large motor skills and balance. Begin with balls and beanbags; add a trike, bike, and skates. You can find a Jump rope, HULA HOOP®, and a kite for more active fun. Check whether your child is ready for the activity and knows the safety rules before setting him loose with the toy.

Creativity Toys stimulate your child’s self-_expression. Your child can draw pictures anytime with crayons, finger-paints, and watercolors. Put your child’s pictures up on a wall so others can admire his or her artwork. This helps also to reinforce your child’s feeling good about their creative _expression and helps them to understand the value of looking at art work. Your child will find clay, crayons and PLAY-DOH® additional fun and of benefit. Craft sets as they grow more able will provide a lot of play value and learning. Children will learn to follow directions, a sequence of activities and enjoy the results of their creativity.

Learning Toys help us to remember that learning takes place in many ways. Books, tapes, software, CDs, puzzles, and board games all contribute. Your child should read books (alone and with you), listen to tapes and CDs and also learn to use computer software. Take time to read stories together as much as possible. Reading together before the child goes to sleep is a great way to end the day. Discuss the programs your family watches on TV. Play games and do puzzles together whenever you can. “Family Time” will be more fun if you find new things to do and new products to play with.

Finding the right products and creating time for a variety of playthings promotes balance in your child’s day and gives them many activities to enjoy. The right toy at the right time can make a big difference.

Let’s play!

Film: Wooden Toy History

Wooden Toy History, a short promotional video for our History of Toys DVD, which is available from Crowe Productions.

The History of Toys is ideal for educators museums and parents everywhere. Also available via Little Wood Studio, CV8 1NG, England UK.

Toys That Nurture or Why Basics Are Better

by Stevanne Auerbach, Dr. Toy

 
It’s hard not to feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of new children’s toys and products in the marketplace. You have more to think about and consider then ever before. Before you feel overwhelmed, consider the importance of basics. What did you enjoy playing with as a child? Your child will enjoy those toys, too.

While you search for the new toys, keep in mind the ones you still remember years later. Do you remember the fun of playing with Etch-A-Sketch®, Slinky®, or a yo-yo? I can still recall the fun of trying to pick up all the Jacks on one bounce of the ball. I played until I finally had splinters in my fingers.

Do you recall Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head®, Tinker Toys, ERECTOR® sets, and your Lionel trains? Can you still swing a HULA HOOP®, use ajump rope or Pickup Sticks?

These are just a few of the basic toys that can make it to your child’s “Toy Hit Parade”.

What makes a toy a classic? What qualities endure? Teddy bears never go out of style. They grow with the child. Beautiful dolls from Raggedy Ann to American Girl Dolls come in all sizes, colors, and styles to last a lifetime.

Puppets are great fun, plus they help your children learn and improve communication.

Books are essential and open up a world of possibilities.

Marbles develop enduring skills.

Chess and checkers help to improve logical thinking and are fun to play anytime.

Bubble pipes are always enjoyable, especially at bath time.

Beanbags can be tossed inside on a rainy day. Use a clean garbage can or bucket for target.

Board games and blocks never lose their appeal. Playing board games provide a lot of fun, learning, improve strategy and communication skills.

So, while you feel pressured to buy the newest, shiniest, most impressive new high-tech products, remember that your child always benefits from the low-tech basics. Your child, like mine, will enjoy hearing about the fun you had with a toy. They want to hear about your ‘Easy Bake Oven,” or learn about the doll house you and your father built. Your child will want to imagine the doll or dollhouse you cherished.

When you can easily recall how you felt about your toy friends, it is easy to understand the special place toys have in your child’s life. You can learn more about the best classic toys and the history of toys on this website.

Let’s play!

Dr. Toy’s Tips for More Valuable Playtime

by Stevanne Auerbach, Dr. Toy

Dr. Toy offers these suggestions for getting even more value from play. These guidelines are good anytime of the year to enrich your child’s experiences with toys and games and other products and will help you to make the time even more balanced and fun for your child:

  1. Locate a good variety of challenging toys games puzzles and other products appropriate for age and interests.

  2. Arrange toys and playthings to be easily accessible and easy to store away.

  3. Create a variety of interesting and varied activities for your child to be engaged in so they are not bored or sit in front of TV.

  4. Be sure to create a good mix of indoor and outdoor play.

  5. Children should play with age appropriate products and have your supervision so they do not have accidents.

  6. Encourage children to learn how to make something useful like a craft project, or to learn to assemble a puzzle, something to enjoy at home or in transit.

  7. Encourage and express recognition and accomplishment. Children thrive when their talents are recognized and nurtured.

  8. Gather an assortment of creative projects and various materials in a storage box along with easy to follow directions. Arrange an assortment of paper, glue, safety scissors, and magazines to easily cut pictures for collage and scrapbooks in an accessible box. Another box can be dress up clothes. Add a table and chairs and a teddy bear for a fun tea party.

  9. Take time to do creative and fun projects with your child and spend the time focused with your child and not watching TV or talking on the cell phone. Time together is precious so make the most of it.

  10. Create projects that result in planting, making or learning things have extra long lasting value.

  11. Take time to read aloud each day with your child and add a hand or finger puppet to enrich the experience and make it even more fun.

  12. Read the directions carefully before you play a game so everyone knows the rules.

Let’s play!

ICR Publishes Latest Book by Children’s Play Expert ‘Dr. Toy’

Completely updated ‘Smart Play Smart Toys’ gives parents and teachers new advice on using playtime for learning development.

Institute for Childhood Research (ICR) has partnered with renowned toy expert and child development specialist Dr. Stevanne Auerbach, better known as “Dr. Toy,” to publish the newly revised and updated book title Dr. Toy’s Smart Play Smart Toys: How to Raise a Child with a High PQ. This comprehensive guide helps parents select the best toys and games for developing “Play Quotient” (PQ), the extent to which a child plays.

“Many people think play is trivial, but it isn’t,” said Dr. Toy. “Play is vital for the developing mind because it allows children to extend their imagination, resourcefulness, social interaction, problem-solving skills and resilience.”

The book helps parents navigate the thousands of toy and play options available, offers tips on how to evaluate toy safety, and provides 160 activities that enhance PQ. In addition, it identifies gender-specific and age-appropriate toys, important craft supplies for playtime and hundreds of ways to make play a life-long and nurturing experience.

About Dr. Toy

Trained in education, psychology, and special education, Stevanne Auerbach, Ph.D. has spent more than 25 years working in toys and children’s services. She produces a syndicated column, “Dr. Toy,” distributed to newspapers world wide). Her “Best Products” awards for the best educational, developmentally appropriate toys and children’s products and other features are online at drtoy.com.