What makes a product artsy? Craftsy? Tastes change, as do technologies. Some things come on strong (like scrapbooking) and others fade away (like basket weaving). Is there an aesthetic for choosing arts and crafts products?
| “Anyone buying a kit is usually a beginner, so the instructions have to be really simple to read and easy to follow. So many products aren’t, they fall short there.” — Melanie Mays, Diva Crochet
According to Ticia Will, director of product development at Alex Toys in Northvale, N.J., “A good craft activity is anything that is engaging to a child and that produces an end result that the child takes pride in — whether it's making mud pies or knitting a beautiful scarf. A good craft product is one that appeals to and engages a child's innate sense of creativity while still being trendy enough to be cool. It also has to be age appropriate — it can't be too difficult or too easy.”
Jan Whitted, owner of Artbeat LLC in Arlington, Mass., explained, “One thing that makes a good arts and crafts product is multiple applications: can it be used for more than one thing. Another important thing is that it’s easy to use, doesn’t require a lot of special tools and materials. Of course, that’s contrary to what a manufacturer wants” (because all the after sales items mean more money).
Moshe Neurath, president of Hygloss Products Inc. (ToyShow) in Wallington, N.J., concurred. He said the ideal product is “something which the end user, the teacher or consumer will use, enjoy and end up with a nice project without too much work.”
Leslie Selig, director of marketing at Darice, in Strongville, Ohio, explained, “It’s interesting, our most popular products are no-tech, hands on things that use kids’ imaginations and creativity. Things that involve the kids with the parents, which let kids be kids. It’s a total return to basics, combining household items with our products, merging art and science. Kids getting their hands gooey and creating their own toys, using their own imaginations.”
“Selectivity is big,” explained Betty Morris, president of K & B Innovations (ToyDirectory) in Northlake, Wis. — “giving kids a wide variety to choose from: page upon page of patterns or projects so they can choose.”
Melanie Mays, owner of Diva Crochet (ToyDirectory) in Tallahassee, Fla., thinks “simplicity is important. Anyone buying a kit is usually a beginner, so the instructions have to be really simple to read and easy to follow. So many products aren’t, they fall short there.”
In developing new products, going to the users and the teachers seems to be the way to assure unique and intriguing items. Iris Villegas, sales manager for Roylco Inc., in Anderson, S.C. explained: “We do research, before we start with any of the products, work with local teachers, product testing as well, has to be credible, good use in classroom. Big and important to us, get the facts right. We try anything (as far as materials), see what we can do with anything, metallic or plastic or paper.”
Guy Beaudoin, president of Activity Works (AKG) in Mirabel, Quebec, makes sure that “our design team talks to parents and kids, sees what their reaction is. There’s always trends in the arts and crafts area; what we find, whatever is trending in the adult market, the children’s market follows suit later. Scrapbooking will trickle down to children, moms will want to buy for children because they enjoy it. It’s usually an 18 to 24 month lag between what’s hot in adult to trickle down.”
Steve Koehl, president of Skullduggery (ToyDirectory) in Tustin, Calif., uses his prior technical expertise for making molds and doing casts to develop new lines. “The way we pick, we go to zoos and aquariums and try to talk with whoever’s in charge; they give us ideas of what the more popular animals are. We want animals that can sell — not enough volume, we’d lose money, so we look for the most popular.”
Dan Spahn, director of marketing for Claytronics in Golden, Colo., looks to the educational market to spot trends and to make sure there’s someone to buy the product once it’s developed. “One of the things we look at is where education is looking. Math and science is the next big horizon for products for early childhood and preschool. Language arts has been the big thing, but it’s so saturated it’s starting to wane.”
Sometimes, though, it’s a crapshoot. Andrew Jones, marketing director for Hexabits (ToyDirectory) in Saline, Mich., puts it simply: “In the crafting world, fads come and go. There was a time when macramé was huge. Scrapbooking is obviously the juggernaut of crafting today. Why? Who can say. I think the best thing retailers can do is make sure they diversify their lines as much as possible.”
And Glen Egusa, national sales manger for Yasutomo in San Francisco puts the final word in: “We look for something that would interest us as a group. We do testing with kids and adults, if there’s an interest, we’ll send samples out to reps, try it with a demo, or try it with retail crafts people. Get feedback from customers, actual demo people and retailers. But in the end, truthfully, it’s hit or miss.”
The following arts and crafts products will be available by the 2006 holiday season.
Kids can scribble in all the right places with Scribble to Go from Alex. This carry-all pad and marker set is great for quick doodles and scribbles to keep little ones busy while mom and dad are preoccupied. This Scribble to Go set sits perfectly in a lap so kids can bring it along in the car, the train, the plane ... anywhere! Scribble to Go from Alex comes with 15 markers in a rainbow of brilliant colors and a scribble pad with 30 sheets of white paper that measure 6" by 9". It’s great for little artists on the go.
A wily pirate, a magical wizard and a fantasy castle are just three scenes of more than 50 images in ARTBEAT’s Creative SandAdventures—the award-winning, no-mess remake of the family perennial “paint by numbers.” Young artists easily create textured art on adhesive boards by applying their choice of 12 brilliant rainbow-hued sands, colored jewels or stick-on shapes to an ever-expanding collection of entertaining prescored pictures. Kids learn new art techniques while being rewarded with original designs worthy of framing or giving as gifts. Kits contain sands, jewels and shapes and two canvases as well as easy-to-follow instructions. Creative Sand Adventures received national recognition for excellence by the iParenting Media Awards.
This new line of shirts consists of a fun range of small kids´ shirts with an educational twist. Have fun and learn while you wear ‘em! Designs include "I´m A Big Boy!," "I´m A Big Girl!," "Dino Pals," "I Can Count" and "I Know My A,B,C´s." Children will love wearing shirts they colored themselves and that show off their "smarts." Available as singles or in economy packs, with or without fabric markers.
This unique arts and crafts material from Darice comes in the shape of popular characters from the Disney/Pixar film "Cars," due out in movie theaters June 2006. Characters from the story include Lightening McQueen, Mater and Sally.
This kit combines learning the art of cartooning with the fun of making Shrinky Dinks. The book in this kit contains outlines of different heads, eyes, noses, mouths and bodies. Kids pick their favorite head shape, lay the plastic over the image and trace.
Kids can learn to knit without needles on The Old Fashioned Knitting Board. Each kit includes a knitting board, hook, pattern/instruction book, and a 3 oz or 2.5 oz skein of yarn. Kids can choose from the kits listed below. Enough yarn is provided to make a winter scarf, a head band, or a hat. Colors include purple, shaded purples, Girlie Girl (variagated pink, purple and blue), red, royal blue, lime and Holiday (variagated red, green and white).