What makes a good toy?

by DaniGirl on August 31, 2011 · 2 comments

in Reviews, promotions and giveaways

One of the reasons I was so excited to be a part of the Fisher-Price Canada playpanel team of bloggers has to do with my deep admiration for Fisher-Price. They don’t just make toys – they make toys that kids love, classic toys that endure and endear for generations.

Did you know the classic Fisher-Price Bubble Mower has been entertaining kids for more than 20 years? The inimitable Chatter Telephone has been a toybox staple for more than 50 years. And check out this clever timeline showing the history of everybody’s favourite Little People, now well into their seventh decade!

Dr. Kathleen Alfano is widely regarded as an expert in early childhood development. She is the Director for the Fisher-Price Child Research Department, which is the toy industry’s most respected Center for research on childhood development and play. A pretty spectacular woman, Dr. Alfano holds a Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctorate degree in Elementary Education as well as a Master’s degree in business administration.

So why does Dr Alfano think toys like the Bubble Mower, the Chatter Telephone, or the Little People sets have become classic toys across generations? “They are basic toys,” she says. “They meet the developmental interests of babies today. They appeal to parents. They also might trigger a happy memory from the parent’s childhood.”

According to Dr. Alfano, a good toy:

  • Is safe, durable, interesting and fun to use.
  • Stimulates creativity and imagination.
  • Encourages inquisitiveness and resourcefulness.
  • Is a tool for learning (challenging, yet not frustrating).
  • Invites repeated use.
  • Involves child interaction.
  • Addresses developing needs and emerging skills.

My friends at Fisher-Price must have been paying attention when I mentioned how much Lucas was enjoying the Trio play set they’d sent us, because one rainy day last week a giant box turned up on my porch. Inside was the new Trio Hot Wheels Super Stunt Builder set. I truly thought Lucas’s eyes would pop out of his head from excitement when he saw the box! It’s a great twist on the classic Hot Wheels set, because you can build and rebuild the set into any configuration that suits your fancy using Trio’s colourful and easy to snap-together and pull apart blocks.

I sat by with my camera while Tristan started pulling components out of the box. At first, I was going to intervene, maybe do a little guiding and directing while Tristan did the assembling and Lucas did the helping. After all, nine years old is a little early on the curve for new toy assembly. I held back, though, and to mine and Lucas’s mutual delight, he was able to follow the instructions and he assembled the full set on his own.

FP Trio Hotwheels 1

You can see in the above pic that Willie the cat also helped while Katie the dog supervised. 🙂 At first, Simon was more engaged with his handheld electronic game, but without any prompting from me, his curiousity got the best of him and soon all three boys were wrapped up in building the set.

FP Trio Hotwheels 2

Two thumbs up for the Trio Hot Wheels Super Stunt builder set! It kept my 3, 7 and 9 year old boys engaged for an entire rainy summer afternoon. And because it’s a building toy, we can rebuild it into dozens of different configurations of our own creation. I’m not sure that Lucas could have handled assembling the set on his own, but he could barely contain himself in waiting for it to be assembled. And while Tristan is pretty much beyond the car-driving age, he’s more than happy to build and rebuild the stunt ramp into new configurations. And when he’s done, I’m happy enough to take a turn, too!

So what do you think takes a toy from “good” beyond “great” and into the realm of “classic” toy?

(Disclosure: I’m part of the Fisher-Price Play Panel and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. However, as always, the opinions on this blog are entirely my own.)

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 kerry September 1, 2011 at 6:04 am

That’s definitely the most perky I’ve ever seen Katie :o)

2 Mom Central Canada September 1, 2011 at 8:19 pm

RT @danigirl 50yrs of Chatterphone 70 of Little People & other Fisher-Price #playpanel thoughts on what makes a good toy http://t.co/ZmCVmpU

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