STEVE REECE: The power of touch

Touch is a critical sense when it comes to toys, so how can you incorporate more sensory stimulation into your product output?
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It sure takes a great deal of work to conceive, develop and manufacture new toys nowadays.

Between all the QA input, engineering, costing and manufacturing challenges it’s often easy to lose track of the critical point – to create toys that sell in huge quantities.

One of the critical features of top selling toys is the level of tactile appeal they have. Touch is a critical sense when it comes to toys. Kids love to play with functionally robust products, but often we spend so long on ensuring the product is safe/fully working that we miss the simple little things that can really add huge value from a child’s perspective.

Most people reading this will have found (at some point) that clicking a retractable pen is strangely fulfilling and addictive. Why I can’t explain, other than it feels and sounds good. It’s this kind of compelling phenomena that many new toys could feature at little or no extra cost or complication, if only we could see the wood (that which makes it fun and compelling) for the trees (all the crap, er sorry, process we have to go through to get the product to market).

If you had to add an addictive but simple physical, tactile feature to every product you produced, how would you do it?

What would you need to change to add it to your existing products?

How can you incorporate more sensory stimulation into your product output?

This year alone we’ve playtested dozens of toys, and found that at best half of them have a really cool feature providing this kind of sensory satisfaction. Yet if we look back to the appeal of some perennial classics which have been around for decades i.e. Rubik’s Cube or Play-Doh, we can see just how strong an impact sensually stimulating toys can have (and no, I don’t mean that kind of sensual toy).

While we as an industry are exceptionally good at creating visually stimulating products and packaging, we so often miss the opportunity with touch, sound and even smells - scratch ‘n’ sniff has come a long way.

So the question is how can you stimulate the senses more effectively with your toys to create compelling play experiences that children just can’t leave alone?

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