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December 2006 | Vol. V - No. 12
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What Makes an Award-Winning Toy

Experts Say If It Doesn't Play, It Doesn't Stay

“Too many are expert in the production of products, but not in the power of the playfulness of their products.” Dr. Toy
TDmonthly Magazine is happy to congratulate the dozens of honorees whose names appear on lists for this year’s toy awards. To find out what constitutes an award-winner, TDmonthly spoke with noted child development expert Stevanne Auerbach, Ph.D., better known as Dr. Toy (publisher of Dr. Toy’s 100 Best Children’s Products for 2006), and children’s media expert Stephanie Oppenheim, co-founder (along with her mother, Joanne) of the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio (publishers of  the 2007 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Awards).

Here’s what they said:
  • Put safety first. This year, the Oppenheims rejected product submissions that were splintery, lacked volume control, or had very small parts. These entries contributed, in part, to the toy industry’s receipt of a lower Oppenheim rating for 2006 — a B- versus last year’s A. “When you’re talking about the safety of children, why would you even take a chance?” Oppenheim asked.
  • Label appropriately. “Understanding the needs and development of children is not simple,” Dr. Toy said about age designations. She relies on her prior observation of more than 50,000 children at play when evaluating toys and deciding what works. Tired of labels that create “unfortunate expectations” of what kids can do — 1-year-old age designations on puzzles, for example — Oppenheim recommends a “with assistance” label that calls for help when necessary.
  • Make it fun. “If it’s not fun for kids to do, it doesn’t really matter how good it’s supposed to be,” Oppenheim told TDmonthly. For her, play value is higher with open-ended toys that leave room for a child’s imagination. “Valuable play experiences are child centered,” she commented, “and the child should be dictating the play experience, not the other way around.” “Too many are expert in the production of products, but not in the power of the playfulness of their products,” Dr. Toy agreed.
  • Emphasize quality and lasting play value. To test this last attribute, the Toy Portfolio asks family testers whether a child is still playing with the same toy two weeks later. “There certainly is room for novelty,” Oppenheim said, “but because toys are pricey, parents really appreciate toys with lasting value.”
Fortunately, Dr. Toy added, most industry players are dedicated to quality and “share the goals of creating a more playful and productive world for children of all ages.” Following are lists of  some of the toys that have been awarded for their success:

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Julie L. JonesWriter's Bio: Julie L. Jones has written articles for both newspapers and magazines. Before joining the staff of TDmonthly Magazine, she worked as a communications writer and provided editorial support for a market research company. Read more articles by this author

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