Kids Insights

HOW INCLUSIVITY IS CHANGING THE TOY INDUSTRY

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Today’s generation of kids is unlike any other; they are becoming advocates for change. Today, 8% of 3-12s in the UK report showing concern for gender equality, compared with only 3% at the start of the year (January-March). Kids are showing a fast-paced approach when it comes to their beliefs and concerns, and it’s equally important for brands to show fast-paced agility when it comes to their strategies and ethos.

UK kids aged 3-12 have also experienced significant growth in their ethical stance towards brands. Favouring brands because they’re ethical has risen by 58% since January, indicative now of almost half a million kids. Some brands are already increasing in popularity with kids as a result of their ethical standpoints. In October, as part of Black History Month, Barbie’s YouTube channel released a video discussing the issue of racism and the importance of educating others on Black History. During the same period, Kids Insights data indicates that the amount of preschool girls in the UK reporting Barbie as their favourite brand grew by 26%. This is suggestive of how having brands align with kids’ ethos and values results in positive changes in levels of trust, in kids even as young as preschool age.

Since the start of the year, kids’ concern for bullying has skyrocketed by +157% in the UK. Therefore, it’s becoming increasingly important that brands aim to tackle this issue by providing products that are inclusive for all children; this will enable kids to better understand others that are different to themselves. Under 10s who are concerned about bullying are 15% more likely to favour brands because ‘it’s for me’, illustrative of how inclusive products thrive with those of a younger age. In September, LEGO announced its launch of Braille Bricks in collaboration with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB). The bricks are set to be distributed among schools and home-schooled children, and depict letters and numbers in Braille. However, in order to also appeal to a sighted audience and promote collaboration and inclusivity, the bricks will also feature printed versions of the characters they depict.

Construction toys are the most popular toy type across all ages in the UK, with one-in-four reporting these as their favourite. With those aged 6-12, this rate rises to one-in-three and has grown by 34% since the start of 2020. This move by LEGO allows the top toys across the country to be enjoyed by all kids, regardless of ability.

As previously mentioned, gender equality is becoming an increasingly prevalent concern with kids today. Despite broader society breaking away from gender norms, the toy industry is still relatively binary in their representation of gender: blue toys for boys and pink for girls. With recent research from Mattel and Cardiff University (UK) demonstrating how playing with dolls is beneficial for the development of kids’ empathy and social information processing skills, more needs to be done to encourage playing with dolls among a young male audience.

Currently, less than one-in-10 (8%) boys under 10 report dolls as their favourite toy type, indicative of 245,000 kids nationwide in the UK. Despite an initial growth of 102% in this rate over summer, this has since dropped by 66% since July, suggestive of how boys are still apprehensive to play with dolls due to their feminine reputation. In a bid to reduce the feminine status of dolls, US toy company, Wonder Crew makes dolls for boys to encourage the use of them with a male audience. Kids Insights data indicates that socialisation behaviours are shown in kids from an early age, highlighting how beneficial dolls can be for a child’s development. UK boys aged 3-9 who report playing with dolls are 51% more likely than the average boy to show concern for issues such as gender equality. Normalising the use of dolls in play with boys enables toy companies to widen their audience reach, while also encouraging and promoting inclusivity in play.

As more brands begin to take positive steps towards promoting inclusivity with their toys and products, it can be expected that we see less biases towards preference for these toys, be it gender, ability, or background.

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