Playing with toys is an essential and pivotal component of a child’s growth and development, with life-long impacts in many cases, says Lisa Lohiser, manager at Early Childhood Development Research.
This is why it is so important for companies to find ways in which they can keep innovating their classic toys through research and observation, she explained. “Play Lab is always looking at ways where we can expand and innovate within toys. We have innovations to help guide us, including technology and software that allows us to see a toy through the eyes of a child - literally! This is invaluable in helping our experts actually think like kids to deliver the best play possible.”
She added that the core values of the Fisher-Price Play Lab have fundamentally remained the same over the past 60 years, but have evolved with the influence of their company culture – follow the lead of kids to create the best toys and be sure to create play experiences that reflect the world they live in.
“Through our research in the Play Lab, we hear how important learning and educational toys are for both parents and little ones,” Lohiser noted. “Fisher-Price has offered learning based toys for years, many of which teach things like letters, numbers, colors, shapes, and more. Our Play Lab experts, who specialize in language development, causal learning, cognition, and education work closely with designers, engineers, musicians and content producers to develop these toys that cater to the learning and entertainment needs of the kids.”
When developing toys, experts at the Play Lab say that there are several factors that have to be taken into account, and it all starts with what would be “interesting” and what is the “fun factor” for kids. A toy must be engaging and keep a child’s interest. From there, the focus must be on what that interaction looks like, ensuring that the toy prompts actions such as hand eye coordination, sense of independence, confidence by experiencing success, imaginative play, teamwork and playing together, and gross motor skills.
“As the first kid-led testing facility in the industry 60 years ago, the Fisher-Price Play Lab has always been at the forefront of toy development,” says Lohiser. “Integrating our Early Childhood Development experts into every aspect of the Research & Development process and marrying that expertise with real life play is what keeps us constantly innovating and learning. We don’t pretend to have all the answers, which is why we defer to the real experts on play: kids! The willingness and openness to follow their lead is what helps us deliver the best play possible.”
The Play Lab Team also utilises observational research to understand how toddlers and preschoolers engaged in mindfulness activities like meditation, breathing exercises, and even sleep stories for the development of the ‘Thomas & Friends’ meditations and sleep stories. They then observed how toddlers and preschools engaged with the new content, and all the insights helped in the inspiration for and development of the ‘Meditation Mouse’.
“The insights from the Music in the Making studies, that were conducted with original soothing and entertaining music written by the FP audio engineers, has guided our music development for many newborn items,” added Lohiser. “These include soothers, soft gyms and items that feature the Ready, Settle, Sleep playlists, or music that grows with the baby, found in some of our newer soft gyms.”
Other products that are carefully designed to help children in their development include the “Crawl with Me Puppy” a Fisher Price toy that entices babies and toddlers to crawl and encourages them to go further. Another example is the “Let's Connect Laptop” which was launched during the Covid-19 outbreak. This toy helps develop fine motor skills, stimulates the senses and encourages early role play while introducing babies and toddlers to early academics by exposing them to new vocabulary.
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