Empowering the Power of Play


Have two minutes? Flip to page 5 of the January 2017 edition of ASTRA’s Toy Times Magazine and read Ann Kienzle’s article, “Plan for the Road Trip.” Ann writes:

We’ve all had the discussions about how the industry is suffering from age compression. That kids are growing up too fast. It’s the age of “our kids are too busy to play” and “my child is too advanced for that toy.” While many of these are issues we’re burnt out on after hearing about them for years, they are still out there and they aren’t going away. It’s important that we don’t let ourselves lose sight of these roadblocks to a child’s success. Our industry depends on it.

“What is she going to do with it?” That was the question a customer asked me about the pizza set I was suggesting for a 3-year-old. I was a little taken aback. I gave the normal spiel about the importance of role-play and the *fun* of pretending to be a cook/restaurant owner/grownup. But it took me a minute to realize that she really didn’t get that a pizza set would be engaging to a 3-year-old.

I was thrilled to read the emphasis she put on the opportunity we have as members of the toy industry to not only educate staff but customers and the community on the power of play.

Ann’s story about the pizza set is just an example of the many stories that retailers can tell. Others even beyond the toy industry can tell you these same stories—therapists, teachers, social workers. Play has taken a backseat to the high standards put on kids with academics, organized athletics and an abundance of other “structured” activities (including my favorite, “play dates”) that don’t allow kids the freedom to just play.

As retailers, manufacturers and sales representatives, we have an opportunity to impact the power of play and value of toys in child development within our communities and beyond. Ann shares in her article: “We want our customers to think of us as THE place to go for fantastic toys, knowledgeable staff, and great service. Our entire focus should be centered on pushing the message of play and childhood.”

Make a commitment with your staff to do all you can to learn about play and the important role the products you offer have in supporting child development. One step you can take in that direction is to provide your staff with the knowledge on toys and child development. Looking for where to start? Encourage them to become Certified Play Experts.

ASTRA’s Certified Play Expert (CPE) program (offered online or in person) provides in-depth knowledge on subjects including child development, theorists and research behind play, advocacy and influence on the importance of play across the lifespan. Be a part of helping families understand the importance of play.

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Ahren Hoffman, CTRS, CPE is the Director of Education & Training at ASTRA. Ahren has been a member of the toy industry since 2007 developing content for toys and play products, contributing to publications and actively taking part in the lecture circuit presenting to organizations and professionals in the field of child development as well as members of the toy industry. Ahren oversees the development and enhancement of education and training materials for ASTRA members to keep a pulse on topics shaping the toy industry. Contact Ahren at ahoffman@astratoy.org. 


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