As I get ready for the Toy Fair, where I have to make quick analyses of hundreds of toys and games, my radar is out, looking for toys that have the best accessories to stimulate conversation and dialogue in play. Let me explain.
A few weeks ago, I had just begun my speech therapy session with a 4 year-old girl and we were assembling Malia’s Beach House. Build and Imagine’s CEO, Laurie Peterson, knows the value of accessories in pretend play as she provides categories of magnetic props to carry the story in different directions–food, clothes, toys, musical instruments, pets, beach or garden features. As I was playing with my little friend, I realized the magnetized telephone was missing. This is clearly my most effective prop in the set to generate language and the kids’ favorite too. I asked my friend if she’d like to help me search my car. When I opened the hatch, there it was (only about 1/2”tall) dropped in the locking mechanism of my trunk! After borrowing a tweezers from the nanny, I was ready to continue play.
Each category of accessories provides an opportunity for a new chapter in the story–making lunch, getting ready for school, singing songs and making music, or planting a garden.
As companies are pitching their new products to be introduced at Toy Fair, I am already seeing gaping holes in the accessory area. It’s obvious to provide clothes for a figure doll but how many other categories of props can you offer for expanded imaginary play? A beach bag, sword or guitar can take the story down three different paths and provide the opportunity for learning while using new vocabulary, settings and plots.