Back in 1989, the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York started the first undergraduate program in toy design. Its graduates have gone to work at major toy companies and inventor groups.
Here's what FIT chairwoman Judy Ellis tells her students:
A good toy:
1. Enhances the child's play environment and creates a space in which the child can experience that truly magical state of discovery.... A good toy gives a child access into his/her very own creative world. It is the key to new dimensions of creative experience and broadens the scope and quality of the child's play environment.
2. Should be fun. Play is a child's work and a good toy is inspirational, delightful, exciting, full of adventure, offers surprises, and leads the child on a game of discovery.
3. Offers an opportunity to learn. A good toy helps a child learn about him/herself, interact socially, learn about others, learn about his/her environment, develop language skills, develop hand-eye coordination, and stimulates the child's mental abilities by encouraging problem-solving.
4. Is age appropriate. A good toy never frustrates or bores a child because it is not age appropriate. A good toy complements a child's development in terms of both physical dexterity and cognitive learning.
5. Is safe. A good toy is well-made and durable, and meets all the safety regulations and product safety standards developed by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission.
6. Acknowledges a child as a person. A good toy does not underestimate a child's capacities or potential. It respects a child's intelligence.
AMERICA'S TOY BIZ IS WORTH BILLIONS
Toys are an estimated $18.7 billion industry in the United States. An average of $350 is spent on toys for each child, each year.
The Toy Manufacturers of America, an industry group, breaks down wholesale shipments this way:
Activity toys $1.8 billion
Dolls $1.7 billion
Vehicles $1.3 billion
Games/puzzles $1.2 billion
Infant/preschool toys $1.2 billion
Male action toys $949 million
Stuffed toys $921 million
Ride-ons (not bikes) $722 million
Miscellaneous toys $3 billion