Tag Archives: toys

The Worst Toys this Holiday Season

We all know that many new products will fail in the marketplace for one reason or another. Sometimes the quality is poor, or the packaging is wrong, or the price is too high. And sometimes a product fails because it can be dangerous.

Each year the non-profit organization World Against Toys Causing Harm (W.A.T.C.H.) compiles a list of the 10 “worst toys” of the year. Toys make the list when they present a hazard to children such as choking, cutting, or with one of this year’s toys, slashing.

Before crying out that “kids will be kids and anything can be dangerous,” consider that unsafe toys are a serious health issue. The numbers are scary. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission there were roughly 240,000 toy-related injuries in the U.S. in 2016. This translates to one child treated for a toy-related injury in a U.S. emergency room every three minutes. And, between January 2017 and October 2018 there were an estimated 3.5 million units of toys recalled in the U.S. and Canada.

Some of the toys on this year’s list include:

  • Black Panther Slash Claw (slashing injuries)
  • Power Rangers Super Ninja Steel Superstar Blade (blunt force and eye injuries)
  • Stomp Rocket Ultra Rocket (eye, face, and other impact injuries)
  • Cabbage Patch Kids Dance Time Doll (choking injuries)

Detailed warning labels on packaging aren’t always enough. Young, small children in particular are vulnerable, plus not all warning labels are read and followed. View the list and read the concerns.

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss the topic of responsibility of a company to consumers.
  2. View the toys on the list: https://toysafety.org/
  3. Divide the students into teams. Have each team review one of the products on the list.
  4. For the product, how should the company address the issue that it is on the “worst toys” list? What should retailers do?
  5. Have students research how toys are tested.

Source: Marcelo, P. (13 November 2018). The “worst toys” for the holidays, according to safety group. Associated Press.

 

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The Power of Play – Innovation in Toys

Innovation comes in many forms. It can range from very complex high technology products such as robots and self-driving cars, to relatively simple toys and dolls. Nonetheless, even when simple, innovation and imagination are powerful forces. They help to fuel learning and expand thinking.

Consider a somewhat humble product – the Barbie doll. Barbie is getting up there in years and is approaching 60 years on the toy market. Yet, instead of being seen as old-fashioned, the doll has changed greatly over the years. Barbie has changed in shape, size, color, and profession. In past years, Barbie has had careers including nurse, teacher, fashion model, and princess. But now she is much more. Barbie is now an engineer, an Olympic athlete, a legendary pilot, mathematician, chef, and artist.

In its latest incarnation, Barbie follows the lead of other female trailblazers and has a new personas as the first female actor to portray Doctor Who, the time-traveler lead of the popular BBC TV series, and the alien-hunting FBI Agent Dana Scully of the X-Files. This takes her far beyond her fashion and beach days and brings her into the current era of strong female leaders.

Who should Barbie become next?

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss the stages in the product life cycle. What are the marketing objectives in each stage?
  2. Divide students into teams. Have each team draw a product life cycle and place various products and services into each stage. Make sure to include various toys and Barbie dolls.
  3. Discuss Mattel’s new additions to the Barbie product line. How does Mattel maintain its position on the PLC using Barbie products?
  4. Show the Web site: https://barbie.mattel.com/shop/en-us/ba/new-barbies
  5. Show the Dr. Who doll: https://barbie.mattel.com/shop/en-us/ba/doctor-who-barbie-doll-fxc83?sf93512412=1
  6. Next, have students brainstorm on how to reposition or revise products/services to move into an earlier stage of the life cycle.

Source: Miller, S. (9 October 2018). Barbie adds Doctor Who, Dana Scully and more to its growing roster of modern icons. Advertising Age.

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My Special Aflac Duck Helps Kids with Cancer

Aflac’s cute mascot, the talking duck, does more than just try to sell insurance. The company has been committed to caring and treating children with cancer for more than 22 years; donating $120 million over that period. In its latest effort, Aflac worked with digital design and story-telling firm Sproutel to create My Special Aflac Duck, giving a stuffed toy the robotic treatment to help the duck comfort children’s cancer patients and make a positive change in the lives of children with childhood cancer.

There are more than 11,000 cases of childhood cancer annually in the U.S., and on average, children go through 1,000 days of treatment. More than most patients, children need emotional support to go through treatments, to communicate their feelings to caregivers, and not feel helpless in the face of cancer.

My Special Aflac Duck integrates social robotics into the field of medicine. With four patents pending (and a design award from 2018 CES), My Special Aflac Duck gives kids with cancer the chance to find joy by playing with it; helps kids engage by playing soothing sounds and calming heartbeats; and helps kids connect by being able to treat Duck just like they are being treated with IV and medicine. A special backpack provided with Duck includes an IV and emoji badges that help communicate feelings.

Duck has five touch sensors that help it connect with children through its facial expressions, sounds, and movements. It also has a special app that lets kids design special places to go to virtually where they can find comfort and joy.

Quack in support of helping children with cancer!

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss how companies can be socially responsible in their communities.
  2. Show The Verge’s video story about the Duck: https://youtu.be/LQy-qn_JMoM
  3. Show Aflac’s Web site for Duck: https://aflacchildhoodcancer.org/
  4. Sproutel’s Web site contains additional information on Jerry the Bear (diabetes care for children): https://www.sproutel.com/
  5. In teams, have students select an illness that affects youths. What could they develop to help these young patients cope with their illnesses?
  6. What companies could partner with them on the initiative. Why?
  7. Finally, as an option, there is a 10-minute TED Talk by the founder of Sproutel about how play can help children to deal with illness: https://www.ted.com/watch/ted-institute/ted-ibm/aaron-horowitz-can-a-teddybear-change-how-children-relate-to-their-own-disease

Source:  Hutchinson, M. (8 Jan. 2018) Robotic duck aims to help kids cope with cancer. Associated Press.

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