OPINION: Key ingredients to successful toy testing

ToyTesters.tv CEO, Gemma Gallagher outlines the company's unique blend of pointers to bear in mind when testing toys with children.
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It was the movie that did it (you know the one with Tom Hanks). I thought, why not? Let’s give as many children as possible the chance to be toy testers.

Testing toys seems like a fun idea, but when you involve adults, it can become very dull; paperwork, ‘the research bit’ and the ‘focus groups’. We don’t do any of that.

We use the following ingredients:

We’ve ditched the suits and the paperwork. Entering a room with Blackberry in hand and tapping away on a laptop in a toy testing session, creating graphs about children’s ‘play patterns’ doesn’t work. It really isn’t an appealing experience for children.

We make children’s dreams come true. We allow every single child in the UK to apply to become a toy tester. It’s a very special job. And is a huge joy to hear the screams of excitement coming down the phone when a parent tells a child they’ve been chosen.

How do we choose? Randomly. We allow all children to be involved. Don’t hire actors. Real children are your audience.

We’ve created a stage. A camera crew and a children’s TV presenter makes a huge difference. Children love the excitement and opportunity to be ‘on screen’. Capture the magic on camera. It’s far more interesting than bits of paper.

We use different environments. Schools, retail and studios are all part of our mix of environments. Retail environments are important stages because children feel at home in toy stores, they can play together with their friends in schools and they love being invited to shoot reviews in studios. Don’t stick to the same place. Mix it up a bit.

We just let them play. We don’t have a specific method of testing toys with children. There shouldn’t be one. We simply let them play and have fun. Don’t be methodical. Leave the play to the children.

We give children a position of authority. Children are the only judges in our world and they tell us very honestly what they think. They love to give their opinions, tell us how toys can be improved and what should come next, and why.

We do publish constructive criticism. We’re not afraid of publishing constructive criticism in reviews, and you shouldn’t be either. Allowing honesty to be seen by the world demonstrates you are confident in your product. A review with some negativity and ideas for future product development is more likely to be watched than a glowing report.

Embrace honesty. It’ll be one of your biggest assets.

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