The toy market is undergoing fundamental change, and it is not just technology that is driving this.

The demand for greater gender equality is challenging how toys are categorised, designed and marketed and providing opportunities for new toy companies to create brands for ` Empowered Playtime’: a desire for more positive role models for children.

Toy companies are taking steps to update their approach. For example, after a campaign led by Let Toys be Toys, Toys R Us dropped gender as a way of categorising their products online. In 2016 Smyths released an advert featuring a boy dressed as a princess and YouGov released data illustrating its popularity, raising Smyths’ advertising awareness score. Large manufacturers have also played their part, with Barbie recently releasing adverts showing a young boy playing with dolls and fathers playing with their daughters. In addition, a new Star Wars toy line, Forces of Destiny, has been released focusing on heroines.

New products are now coming into the market and websites such as Kickstarter have nurtured many notable ‘Empowered Playtime’ independent toymakers. IAmElemental launched on the platform in 2014; the company produces female action figures. So did Wonder Crew; a manufacturer of dolls for boys. Lammily Doll also started on Kickstarter, designing fashion dolls with normal human body proportions for both boys and girls, aiming to provide a positive, relatable body image. Ikuzi Dolls (also a Kickstarter baby) challenge another well-established bias in the toy industry, designing dolls to resemble girls of colour ranging from dark to light brown complexion to reflect all kinds of girls.

Other toys disrupting the pink aisle are NOOKS gender neutral dollhouses, designed in Finland and a world away from pink bows and picket fences, they are made from wood and are built as sets of interconnected modules to encourage imaginative play. Goldieblox (seen in the picture above) began on Kickstarter, with its idea for construction sets for girls. Having far surpassed its funding goal, its has successfully grown a wide portfolio of toys.

Empowered Playtime is a relatively new trend and has only made a small impression on the massive toy market so far, but we believe its influence will grow and provide opportunities for new brands and new entrants.

Kes Daood