Colorwheel Toys

Interview – Rick Needham

Posted on: January 21, 2012

We met with Rick Needham, Director of Energy and Sustainability at Google and parent of an 8-year-old daughter, on Wednesday to continue our parent interviews. We went into the interview with the hypothesis that girls are looking for a channel through which they can express themselves. Our conversation with Rick confirmed this and introduced further insights on what girls might find valuable in a toy.

Key insights:

  1. Girls seem more social so having an online component would allow them to play and connect with friends. This will also allow them to personalize things. It can possibly disguise the fact that they are learning things as well since they’re playing together online.
  2. Having a backstory of sorts to a toy adds value to the girl. For instance, Rick’s daughter likes stuffed animals from WWF since they support a cause.
  3. She enjoys building things such as forts, which she’ll put up around the house, along with building fairy houses in nature. She likes to personalize things when it comes to building. For example, she’ll color all over a box (enjoys drawing). She also likes playing board games as well as outdoor activities such as playing catch, Frisbee, badminton, and biking.
  4. She plays the Wii some, but mostly Wii sports and dance games where she’ll drag her parents into dance competitions with her. This supports the idea of girls being more social when playing.
  5. As she has gotten older, she has been getting into word games (i.e. hangman, word search, etc.).
  6. Probably unlike other girls, she doesn’t really care for American Girl dolls (even though her friends have them), but has lots of stuffed animals. She doesn’t play pretend with her stuffed animals though; they just sit on her bed. She really liked this Build-a-Bear party she went to recently, to her parents’ surprise.
  7. When buying her toys, generally avoid Toys“R”Us unless going in to find a specific toy. The Wooden Horse is a nice place to find more eclectic options since most other stores have a bunch of junky stuff, but generally tries to browse the science section to find things to buy his daughter. They got her a microscope one time, but she didn’t really get into it. He tries to get her science kits, but some of them aren’t that great and a lot of times, even when you get a kit of 100 science experiments, after doing 10-15 experiments, the novelty of the item wears off and she loses interest. She’ll suggest the science kits sometimes, but doesn’t gravitate towards the construction kits.
  8. Recently she’s been asking for magic kits. This may have developed from watching America’s Got Talent or just seeing magicians on TV and such.
  9. Usually learn about toys by word-of-mouth and goes to the store for toys versus buying online, unless he knows about some specific toy his daughter wants.
  10. In terms of marketing differences between girls and boys, boys like to make things look more rugged and tough so a lot of toys are directed towards boys in that fashion.
  11. Rick takes his daughter to the Tech Museum in SJ a number of times and the Exploratorium a handful of times. She really liked the music section at the Exploratorium (basically kids get to bang on a bunch of percussion instruments there) and the bubbles. At the Tech Museum, she enjoyed the energy section where it shows how much energy you can make through wind, solar, and hydro. For instance, you adjust mirrors to get solar energy, turbo blades in the wind, and fins for hydro. She liked being able to construct things and see what happens. On the upper floor of the museum, there’s a place where you can build things with logic gates, but that might’ve been a bit too much for her. Also, downstairs you can see videos of kids trying to explain concepts, which was pretty cool. Perhaps kids can explain things better to each other and it’s more interesting to learn things from their peers?

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