There are so many toys to choose from these days!! Elizabeth Werner, a toy expert and mother of two began her mission to find the perfect toys for her children. This passion fueled her career as she investigated and researched the toy industry. Elizabeth Werner became an expert on toys while working at toy companies Worlds Apart and Spin Master. She was recently recognized as the Woman to Watch in the Toy Industry by the Women in Toys Association. As a lover of toys, Ms. Werner shares her expertise and the latest on toys for parents and kids in my Amazing Kids interview.
Live Interview between Elizabeth Werner, Amazing Toy Expert and Isabella Taylor, Amazing Kids Interviewer
AK: What things about a new toy do you think make it a success? What makes a toy a fad versus a long term success?
EW: I think that what makes toys most successful are the ones that we pick and enjoy the most. Those toys that bring us joy, fun and also bring us the “giggle” factor. The toys that are successful make us want to come back and play with them over and over again.
Long term success definitely counts on a toy being something that children are naturally drawn to and want to play with. Some toys we may present to a child may not “play” well or they are simply not fun or interesting. Kids are very smart and very savvy. Kids want toys that are not going to break, that will be fun to share with their friends as well as fit into certain categories they are looking for. Will the toy be something they collect? Or something that they can create with? Kids are quite particular and if a toy will last a long time it will need kids’ stamp of approval.
AK: As kids have become more involved with electronics at earlier ages, how has this affected the toy market?
EW: It has affected the toy market in many, many ways. Traditional toys that we used to see with children, such as stuffed animals, now come with electronic capabilities. In the old days, we would have a teddy bear that would be our best friend, that we would take everywhere and sleep with. Nowadays, we find our stuffed animals come with tags to access the internet. This allows the child to access certain websites where you can create rooms, habitats and different kinds of housing. There are even some of these tags that allow you to bring your stuffed animal to life! So, all of the traditional toys that were out there may now have some sort of electronic component in order to keep children excited, engaged and coming back for more.
AK: What will be the hot new toys this summer and what things have influenced this?
EW: One of the new hot items this year is going to be a new series of games brought out by Wii, called Wii Play Motion. Typically with the Wii you have to be up, active and moving. It encourages some really fun exercises. Now, Wii brings to you 12 new mini games that are built in. Each of these games is very unique and quite different than previous Wii games that had featured traditional sports. These new games contain a very unique twist. They require us to be up and moving but some of the games now allow us to venture underwater and even go hunting for ghosts. The entire family can participate in a ghost hunt moving the Wii remote around your living room. As a group, you get to work together to reel in a ghost. As you can see, the new games are truly unique and a lot of fun.
AK: How did you become a toy expert? What advice would you give to kids that would like to pursue a career with the marketing and design of toys?
EW: I became a toy expert in a process where I realized as a mother with two young kids that there were numerous toys on the market. I would walk through toy stores filled with many, many toys and had no idea really how to choose the best ones for my kids. As a mom, I wanted to make sure I was looking for the right toy. This began my researching, writing and meeting with toy companies. I also talked with parents about what they were looking for when they buy toys for their children. I even met with kids to discover what types of things they enjoyed.
I think that it is really important when you pick any job to do something that you really love to do and the one thing that I really love to do is play with my kids.
For children looking to pursue a career with marketing and designing toys, I would recommend that they come up with their own toy or game ideas and write them down. It would be beneficial to keep a journal or notepad and pen handy to write your ideas down. Whenever you come up with several ideas you may find that you have some favorites. You can start by talking to your parents about your ideas and whether you could really create and make them. There are plenty of organizations out there to help you do this. In fact, there are two colleges here, one in New York and the other in California that teach you how to design toys. You can get a degree in this field and follow a path of study.
AK: How did you move your career from working inside toy companies to appearing on television shows?
EW: I went to work for toy companies because I knew I absolutely loved toys. I wanted to learn more about the process of toy making/design. I wanted to know how people come up with their ideas and how they actually make them. I was really interested in understanding this process from design to implementing toys into the stores. I realized if I went to work for toy companies, I could learn that entire process. Learning all about this process took me many years. Once I learned a lot about it, I really wanted to share this information with parents. What toys would be fun on a rainy day or what toys would have my kids up and active? I started looking into reporting on the news, talking at QVC, which is a shopping network, as well as showing toys to parents. Any avenue I could find to share and express my ideas on toys was very exciting to me. Not only did I look into talking on TV but also doing interviews in newspapers and radios.
AK: What advice would you give to parents so that they can remain involved in their kid’s activities?
EW: It is important to know what your children like and then involving yourself in those activities. So, if you have a child that loves swimming, throw on a bathing suit and go for a swim. The same goes for a child that loves biking or whatever it may be. Find activities that the entire family can do together. Make sure that you take the time no matter how busy you are with work and duties at home.
AK: Who has been a mentor to you in your career?
EW: There have been so many fabulous people that I have met throughout the toy industry that have helped me develop and grow. I would have to say that most of my mentors have been people who have a very strong sense of wanting to learn more and knowing not only what they know very well but also what they do not know well. When you learn that, you can really get to grow as a professional. When you learn what you do not know, it leaves you open to more learning as you take steps towards gaining more knowledge. Most of my mentors have had this ability and it is one of their strongest qualities – teaching me how to learn and to pursue new information that I do not have yet.