Yesterday I was interviewed by a writer for an article she was preparing on the recent toy trend of “Aspirational Toys.” She asked some great questions that really got me thinking about the why and what of this new trend.

First, let me define the term “Aspirational toys.” According to Reyne Rice, Toy Trend Specialist for the Toy Industry Association (TIA), “Aspirational” toys are a new category of products that empower kids by encouraging them to think and play in ways that positively influence their emotional and intellectual development.” These toys broaden a child’s outlook, exposing them to new career options, charitable giving and educaitonal and creative opportunities.

Here are some examples:

  • I Can Be Barbie Career dolls. Take your classic Barbie doll and adapt the product to your audience and current trends and you have Barbie as a computer engineer, dentist, news anchor or vet. Still true to the brand, the career Barbie is decked out in plenty of pink, shiny clothes and mostly high heels but she offers the opportunity for girls to “try out” careers, giving the message that you can be anything you want to be. Providing related props allows girls to act out scenarios related to the career options through pretend, imaginative play. How much impact does pretend play with career doll have on a girl choosing that career? Interesting question. I would say the greater value is in exposing girls to opportunities for their future that they may not have encountered to give them a bigger vision to eventually find their passion and pursue it.
  • Go Go Sports Girls. Dream Big Founder, Jodi Norgaard, began her quest to find an appropriate doll for her daughter that promoted a healthy image for girls. This lead to the development of the Go Go Sports Girls who represent various sports–soccer, dance, running, basketball–but each displays the message, “Dream Big” on their body. Offering healthy eating and exercise tips for young girls, the website encourages girls to aspire to be their best.
  • Karito Kids. “Kids who Care” educates kids about those less fortunate around the world. Children learn that getting a glass of milk is easy for them but might require securing a goat for the family in another country. Their website asks kids to send an essay on how they gave back including a picture of themselves with their Karito doll, or give ideas for raising money in their community such as staging a dog wash or bake sale and sending the profits to causes around the globe. Kids are learning the rewards of helping other and giving back.

Personally, I’m excited about this new trend in toys because I think it helps promote the growth of healthy, independent, creative, generous kids!