With 67 million children living in North America, literally millions of adults are hard at work figuring out what to give the youngsters in their lives for the holidays. But what if the founder and chair of the nation’s first baccalaureate program in Toy Design, established at FIT 25 years ago, could guide you through the endless displays and ads to select toys that children will love―and that are actually good for them? Whether it’s a stuffed animal, a building set, or a video game, Judy Ellis knows what’s fun, as well as what will help advance a child’s development.
A 2013 inductee into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame, Ellis presides over an extraordinary program that boasts more than 350 alumni who have designed more than 3,500 products―including Tickle Me Elmo, Barbie, Leap Pad, Bakugan, The Littlest Pet Shop, and Star Wars ― for such companies as Hasbro, Mattel, Fisher-Price, and Crayola. Even her office at FIT is a fun, toy-filled environment that makes visitors want to play.
Here are Ellis’s recommendations:
The Top Five Things a Parent Should Look For in a Toy This Holiday Season
The toy allows for open-ended play. This means there are no directions dictated by the toy, no examples given, no rules or instructions needed. Open-ended play offers a child a chance to be adventurous, to ask “what if…,” to think abstractly, and to build creative intelligence.
The toy is well-designed and ergonomically appropriate for the child. Great design enables us to have the space to be free, to be creative, and to see all moments as opportunities. It is about enabling us, so that challenges that might otherwise be obstacles become only playing pieces in a game.
The toy is in line with the interests and/or needs of the child.
The toy can be a creative act for parents. Allow selecting a toy for a child to be guided by thinking outside standard categories. Parents should consider what toy they might enjoy with their child, or what toy the family might enjoy playing with together.
The toy teaches a child about numerous things without a “school-like” feel.
So, with these suggestions in mind, happy holidays, and happy toy shopping!