What to keep in mind when you ask your children to pick what they want to play with
Bengaluru resident Lakshmi Ramachandran’s toy story from her childhood is sparse. “I grew up without toys. Nobody bought me toys and this wasn’t unusual then. One doll made its way into our house somehow and I played a lot with it, for hours. My brother and I played with mud and stones and sticks,” said the 33-year-old.
As a mother of two, Ramachandran’s children have a room full of toys. Her eight-year-old son loves his Lego set and daughter, aged 5, has assorted dolls and other play material.
Each toy has its benefits. Games or toys that make children play with sand, slime or dough help in sensory development, motor skills and finger muscle strength. Role-play toys such as doctor or kitchen games or playing chor-police, teacher-teacher helps the emotional development of children. Musical toys develop creativity. Blocks aid mathematical skills and logical thinking and puzzles shape cognitive development.
“For Indian parents, the focus is more on educational games which would engage a child in both fun and learning. Some of our best-selling board games include Othello, Scotland Yard, Chess and Memory Games. The emerging top-selling ones include educational games such as Chain letters, a word-based game, and Sum Genius, a mathematical fun equation game,” said R Jeswant, chief executive officer of Funskool, an Indian toymaker. Funskool recently acquired strategy games Abalone and Sequence in India by acquiring the manufacturing rights from their international owners.
India’s toy story
A report by TechSci Research valued the Indian toy market at around $1.25 billion in FY2021, with the unorganised sector contributing around 90 per cent. The Indian toys market is driven by a growing young population, rising disposable income, and industry innovation. Reliance-owned Hamleys India, Funskool, Hasbro India Toys, Mattel Toys (India), and WinMagic Toys are some major players in the industry.
Toys about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) that educate and entertain children are a strong trend in the industry. India was self-sufficient in toy manufacturing till 1980, with imports comprising just 10 per cent of the market. The opening of the economy in the 1990s resulted in the entry of foreign-made toys. In 2020-21, at least 71 per cent of India’s toy imports came from China, the Netherlands, Hong Kong and Taiwan, according to a report by Savills India and Aequs Infra. Traditional Indian toys made from wood, polymer, cloth, fibre, wood pulp, rubber and metal were simple, like the spinning top, rattles and Dug Dugi.
“India Inspired, India Made” companies and groups have revived classic toys and games. Varnam Craft Collective works with Karnataka’s Channapatna artists to revive a 200-year-old toy craft. Working with artists in Uttar Pradesh, Shalinindia manufactures wooden puzzle games. Desi Toys is yet another brand which has traditional toys like lagori, gilli danda, lattu, putt putt steam boat.
Technology has changed toys. “Smart tech toys connected to the internet make studying enjoyable for kids while assisting parents in monitoring their activities. Internet retailing is becoming a significant distribution channel for several reasons. Customers have increased access to the internet, and online retailers frequently have better stock regarding variety, new launches, and branded toys,” said a spokesperson from TechSci Research.
What to play with
As children today are comfortable with gadgets, manufacturers have to produce innovative and electronic toys. The best-selling toys, puzzles and building blocks for example, help children with cognitive and motor skill development.
For education to outdoor activities, there is a toy for everyone. Sumit Garg, a 17-year-old student in Delhi who is preparing for engineering entrance exams, said that as a young child years he played with Lego blocks and then moved to Mechanix kits. “Nothing would be more fulfilling that being able to make one Mechanix kit successfully and nothing could be more frustrating and annoying than not being able to make one,” he says.
Prisha, a 13-year-old student in Vadodara, said she likes to play luck- and card-based games such as Tambola and Court Piece with her parents. Her favourite game with friends and cousins is Monopoly, a board game on handling money.
It is important that a child gets to choose from the wide choice of toys available: art and craft, educational, construction, mind games and puzzles, luck-based, traditional and mechanical.
Opt for premium products made of good quality materials. “While many parents are aware that plastic toys are much more affordable and readily available, these may contain toxic chemicals. Wooden toys, on the other hand, are safe for your kids and the environment. Parents must purchase toys that are paraben free, have no chemicals and are made from sustainable materials that are high
quality, natural and eco-friendly,” said Swarna Daga Mimani, co-founder of Yobler, an e-commerce marketplace for children’s products.
Be gender agnostic when it comes to toys. All girls do not love Barbie dolls, just as all boys will not like logic games. Go for toys that represent a variety of purposes and pursuits:
scientific exploration, building and design, social modelling and role play, and art.
“There is a pronounced shift in the way parents buy toys. Today purchasing decisions involve how a toy assists in the child’s development. Parents prefer to buy unisex toys; this is what largely dominates the Indian toy market. These days, parents want to raise their kids free from any gender bias; the best way for them to do so is with their toys,” said Yobler’s Mimani.
Should one do away with all the “girly” toys? “My answer is an emphatic ‘no’. I have also noticed that some well-meaning people, wanting to encourage girls to explore outside traditionally feminine pursuits, err on the side of demeaning feminine activities as frivolous, wasteful, and inferior while promoting masculine activities as serious, productive, and superior,” said Delhi-based academic counsellor Manjula Shah,
“There is nothing wrong with a little girl wanting to play with a toy truck, and there is also nothing wrong with a little girl wanting to play with makeup. Girls are not well served by being taught that things traditionally associated with women are less worthwhile than things traditionally associated with men,” she said.
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Credits: TechSci Research