Licensing Trend of the Month: February 2015
The “Maker Movement”—a hybrid of engineering and invention on the one hand and arts and crafts on the other—has made its way to the toy industry. The trend is a natural progression from several other recent developments in the D.I.Y. toy space. In some ways, it pulls them all together under a single umbrella.
One driver is the continued growth in the arts and crafts category, which has been ongoing for the last several years and continues today. All kinds of toy companies and book publishers are adding D.I.Y. products to their assortments, from jewelry-making to fabric crafts, keeping up with trends by monitoring Pinterest, Etsy, and Instagram and then translating those trends for kids.
Meanwhile, the quest to create toys that support a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) curriculum is an increasingly important goal for toymakers. The engineering and physics components of STEM are a particular focus this year, if the exhibits at Toy Fair this week are any indication.
And building kits, from LEGO to BrickStix to GoldieBlox, continue to proliferate and diversify, with 93 exhibitors at the 2015 Toy Fair touting construction kits and sets. Notable trends across the show floor this year involve everything from blocks made from folded paper to kits featuring light-up bricks. Construction sets incorporate components of all shapes and sizes, made of materials ranging from metal to cardboard.
In essence, crafting, building, and engineering are merging to create a mini Maker Movement within the toy industry. Some companies are even tying in to the Maker trend directly. ThinkFun promoted its first three SKUs under its Maker Studio brand, co-developed with a Maker pioneer and former editor of Make magazine. Sales company License 2 Play, which represents a variety of publishers and toy companies active in the craft category, decorated its booth with a sign promoting “Maker Madness.”
Others are simply incorporating Maker principles into their toys under the crafting, construction, STEM, or other banners.
Licensing has a role as well, of course. Crayola is among the crafting brands expanding their licensing programs; its new licensees include Madame Alexander for a line of dolls with color-in clothes and accessories and Lulu Jr. for a self-publishing kit. Meanwhile, items such as Klutz’s LEGO Chain Reaction: Make Amazing Moving Machines (a book-plus-toy title), Thames & Kosmos’s National Geographic Kids-licensed science kits, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles folded paper kits from Paper Punk are all compatible with the Maker trend.