The play of boys and girls is often generalized into the play of video warriors and caring princesses. That stereotype is unfair, and potentially damaging, when applied to an individual boy or girl. But when looking at the totality of the kids market, those generalizations are more than applicable; they’re accurate. This is why understanding kids through play is so crucial.
KidSay knows this because it’s what America’s kids tell us. Girls let us know that arts and crafts, dolls, and stuffed animals are toys they want far more frequently than boys want them. Boys keep telling us that video games, especially ones with aggressive themes, are their essential ‘toys’. And they say this far more than girls do.
Are the play patterns of boys and girls a result of biological differences? Are they a result of societal expectations? Academic research tells us that it’s likely a mix of both nature and nurture. But why it is is less important to companies in the kids market than the fact that it is.
This understanding explains why tween girls (ages 8-11) tell KidSay that Toys ‘R’ Us is their favorite place to get toys and games. It’s there that girls can get the crafts, dolls, and stuffed animals they want; along with the toys and video games they also want. In contrast, tween boys want to head to GameStop because – while Toys ‘R’ Us, Target, and Walmart also sell video games – GameStop is a THE place that caters to their desires and understands them as gamers.
What does this mean for you?
Even if you’re not a toy manufacturer or retailer, understanding kids through play patterns, toys, and games is to understand kids. Play is one of the best windows into how they see the world and what they want to be. It’s an especially important tool in understanding young kids because their cognitive abilities and limited vocabulary make it difficult for them to know and express ‘who they are’.