Okay, I can’t help it. Last week I wrote about the rubber band craze. Now, after a quick visit to our Learning Express stores in Chicago, I’m even more struck by the fact that all the kid trends in 2009 and 2010 are small, collectibles. And it begs the all-important question of WHY?
Toys: A Brief History
Let’s take a brief gander through the history of kid crazes over the past two decades.
1982 – Cabbage Patch Dolls (year round)
1994 – Pogs (year round)
1997-1998: Beanie Babies (year round)
1998-2000: Furby (year round)
1998: Tamagotchi (year round)
2007: Webkinz (year round)
2009: Zhu Zhu Pets (holiday season)
2009-2010: Rubber Band Bracelets aka Silly Bandz, Japanese take-apart erasers, smencils, crazy bones, etc. (year round) See last week's post.
Note that until this year most of these fads have been in the plush category—stuffed animals of some variation, whether they’re filled with beans, run around the house of their own accord, laugh when tickled, or are digitally interactive.Query
Is this return to simple, collectible items (which harken back to the days of marbles quite frankly) a symptom of the economy?
Well, we certainly see an increase in games and books during a recession. Families don’t go out as often and they tend to supplement with group activities. But, as we saw in the 2009 holiday season, even with the economy taken into consideration, parents still want to spend money on their kids. That is the very last so-called luxury to be cut from the house budget. So this is not a parent/economy-driven movement. It’s coming from the kids themselves, just as every true kid craze does.
I would like to offer up a different explanation. Perhaps a slightly lofty one, but it’s something that’s been dawning on me as I read article after article searching for some reason behind the rubber band fad. Maybe, just maybe, our kids are sending us a message. In an age of advanced complex technology they are migrating en masse towards the simple and straightforward. In a world where my iPhone apps can not only tell me where I am and where I am going, but what I should do when I get there, kids are satisfied with a piece of plastic to wear around their wrist and trade with their friends. It’s a fascinating reverse evolution—I hesitate to call it a “regression” because that implies that we’re moving backward in a negative way while this is really more of a return to the good and wholesome. The new generations are embracing traditional play patterns, but I don’t think anyone would argue that there’s something wrong with that. Quite the opposite really.
It’s going to be interesting to see what toy shapes the 2010 holiday season. The only attempt I’ll make at a prediction is this: It just might be something that is, quite simply…simple.