To adults, a child’s obsession with collecting things like Silly Bandz may seem silly itself. But there’s more to this and other fads than just an urge to get the best elastic bracelets in cool shapes and colors.
Trends exist, especially among kids, for particular reasons. And how kids play with their favorite toys might just be a good predictor of the personalities they’ll develop as adults as well.
“Kids love to collect, play and display,” says Adrienne Appell, spokeswoman for the Toy Industry Association. In the same way the first generation of kids who collected baseball cards showed off and traded their collectibles, kids today trade Silly Bandz and even much more expensive toys.
If you’re afraid your child or grandchild may have fallen prey to toymakers and their engaging TV commercials, don’t paint them as victims just yet. Trends may help kids find things in common with others and help make them more socially comfortable and well-adjusted.
Some adults are packrats, amassing obscene numbers of old newspapers and magazines and every fortune cookie fortune they’ve ever received.
When kids collect, their minds and social skills are at work. Gathering and organizing items, like Pogs, and categorizing things by color, shape and theme teach kids valuable lessons. They negotiate trades with peers – though that could end up leading to a kind of trader’s remorse, according to Time Magazine, which recently reported on the Silly Bandz fad and its subsequent ban in some schools across the country because they instigated fights.
Collectible toys are thought to be status symbols and social catalysts for kids, notes Appell.
Another theme that gets kids flocking to stores is the ability to customize toys. Long lines form at Build-A-Bear Workshops and American Girl doll shops just so kids can choose the clothes and personalities they identify with and admire.
A young and proud baseball fan may get a Mets-themed stuffed animal from Build-A-Bear.
And understanding that need for kids to feel somehow connected with their toys might just be a toymaker’s or toy retailer’s recipe for success.
Customizable toys, even as far back as paper dolls, allowed kids to use their creativity and imagination to dream up a variety of possibilities, activities that promote healthy emotional development, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Acting Like Grown-ups
Young kids love toys that let them emulate parents, from playing dress-up to nurturing rag dolls, to baking a cake in an EZ Bake Oven.
Similarly, toys that offer kids physical control and various style choices also seem to be a hit, according to TIA.
Kids can manipulate Transformers, a recently revived brand, as well as old and new versions of the Rubix cube. These work kids’ brains, promote high self-esteem and can also improve hand-eye coordination, the TIA notes.
Bright, Shiny and Smelly
Kids and some adults are often attracted to toys and other items that are brightly colored, shiny, fragrant or musical.
And while this curiosity may make kids a constant source of questions, whether they notice or not, that makes them particularly open to toys teaching science principles.
Beyond particular concepts and inventions, specific brands and themes like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and My Little Ponies have been hits for generations, even as kids are increasingly being encouraged to play outside of traditional gender roles.
Its difficult to tell what toys will become popular. Zhu Zhu pets were a hit last Christmas, but toymakers are constantly doing extensive research and development to make sure kids get what they want.
“We often create toy trends that have sustaining power,” says Mattel spokeswoman Sara Rosales. “That’s the reason why Barbie has been around for more than 50 years and why Hot Wheels has been around for more than 40 years.”
To find some of the best back-to-school bargains, check out MainStreet's story, 8 Great Back-to-School Deals.