How did you come to your role as President and CEO of The Toy Association?
During the search for a new CEO, the Association became familiar with my work as President and CEO of the national non-profit Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. I spent 20 years in public health and have a background in government affairs, marketing, and advertising. My advocacy work for health, specifically children’s health, is a great fit. The Association approached me in 2015 and I jumped at the opportunity.
The Toy Association has a significant agenda – from championing play to protecting the rights of factory workers and advocating regulatory issues. How does the Association begin to approach an agenda of such importance?
You’re right, it is important work.
We work very closely with governments to ensure appropriate standards are in place for the industry; that includes advocating for factory safety and children’s safety. The toy industry changes very quickly. Innovations in manufacturing and new toy development only increase the importance of the work of The Toy Association. Toys are now ranked among the safest consumer products. As the prevalence of connected toys increases, we are creating programs to educate parents on safe and appropriate play and we continue to work with federal agencies on the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and how it can apply to connected toys.
Why is it important to champion play in this day and age?
There’s a generation of parents who look at unstructured play time as frivolous; kids are as over-scheduled as parents. Some elementary schools have experimented with reducing recess time or eliminating it completely. That strategy isn’t healthy for kids and studies have proven that kids benefit greatly from playtime.
Our initiative, The Genius of Play, works to educate parents, influencers, and educators about the role of play in the lives of children and how skills such as negotiation, cooperation, and vital social skills are developed through play. Much scientific research has been done in this area but the findings haven’t been translated for educators and parents in the way The Genius of Play does. The thought that play time is wasted time is harmful to kids’ cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development.
Toy Fair NY is a premier event in the industry and people come from all over the world to attend. How do you approach putting it together each year in an industry that moves so quickly?
It’s a fine balance. We have a rolling five-year plan, which means that the structure of the event is created well in advance. An important piece lies with the companies that participate. We welcome large brands to the event but also showcase small inventor-oriented companies – the people who create something incredible in their garage or basement and don’t have any distribution channels. It’s paramount to have companies of all sizes participate. This attracts a greater range of buyers from across the world and adds to the health of the toy industry.
What lies ahead for The Toy Association?
We also host Play Fair NYC November 4 and 5, an event that celebrates play and entertainment for all ages. Large brands such as Nickelodeon, Toys “R” Us, Spin Master, LEGO, Crayola, Mattel, and others participate. We welcomed 20,000 people to the 2016 event; it sold out. We have tripled the event’s footprint for 2017 and expanded capacity to 30,000 guests. It’s going to be fantastic!
The Association organizes Toy of the Year Awards, Toy Fair NY (mentioned above), PlayCon – a conference for toy professionals, and Fall Toy Preview – a marketplace where industry decision-makers come to preview product for next year’s holiday season.
In addition to events, we continue to work with our members to help them understand the retail market, both domestic and international. Being successful in this business means knowing global markets, trends, and regulatory standards. That’s where we come in. Our focus is member value and that is what drives the work we do.
Learn more about The Toy Association and their mission on their website.
Five questions, one fascinating person – look into the minds of movers and shakers in the nostalgia, game, play, or toy industry.