If you have kids, you might also have a ton of stuff. Toys, games, clothes, sports equipment, art supplies, and on and on and on. Kids require a lot of items, purchased over a relatively short period of time. Couple this with the heaps of gifts we like to buy our kids for holidays and birthdays, and we’re spending a lot of time and money on kids’ products.
How much time and thought did you put into buying most of these items? If you’re like me, you’re running to Target every other day and suddenly everything your kids wear and play with is from there. My children may as well have red targets tattooed to their foreheads.
Modern Kids’ Products
Do you know that there is a whole world out there of products that are beautiful and well-made and functional and smart and funny and wonderful? And they’re made especially for kids. By people who love to design for kids. Oh, be still my heart.
It’s amazing how easily we can obtain creative kids’ stuff what with the internet and all. Small boutiques that used to be fairly inaccessible to the average person are now reached through a click. We can snag cool things from overseas by visiting online shops. Many of these places essentially curate the whole wide world of modern kids’ products and offer them up to us for purchase.
Even through online artisan shops like Etsy, we have the opportunity to buy handmade pieces for our kids straight from the designers themselves.
The Grey Wild Wolf from Adatine on Etsy
Over the past few decades, the sheer number of toys on the market has increased based on the availability of super-inexpensive overseas manufacturing. This has directly led to an influx of poor quality toys. I think as a reaction to all of this, a big trend has slowly shifted toward toys that are handmade, of high quality, made from natural, sustainable materials.
Surely you’ve noticed the explosion of shops and brands designing specifically for children. Larger companies that started out solely geared toward adults have spun off countless stores and catalogs for kids: The Pottery Barn Kids catalog was introduced in 1999, with 8 retail stores opening the next year. Crate & Barrel and Land of Nod announced their partnership in 2000.
Well-designed children and baby toys are everywhere- even big box stores carry lines of better quality items, tucked right alongside the trillions of plastic figurines. (We’re guilty of housing a gaggle of Power Rangers here.) Take Melissa & Doug– they started their company 24 years ago and they’re everywhere now. People gravitated to their wooden puzzles, wooden food, and educational toys, many of which are simple and based on classic toys.
I wrote a post on modern dollhouses from 8 different designers that take role-playing in a whole new slick direction. I’ve discovered some fantastic smaller designers dedicated to providing kids with awesome products.
Modern Kids’ Books
I love also how books have evolved to appeal to illustration and design fans. From picture books to activity books, kids have a slew of smart, stylish options that have moved beyond cutesy and introduce kids to clean, modern design. I immediately think of Ian Falconer and his first Olivia book, with its restrained color palette, beautiful graphic illustration, and witty nod to modern art.
And then there are these, all available at Urban Baby Runway:
Modern Spaces for Kids
Spaces for kids continues to be a growing realm of design with playgrounds, libraries, schools, etc. getting makeovers to accommodate the learning and playing patterns of kids. Kids are studied closely and catered to in order to provide them with the best possible environments to facilitate how they learn and interact with one another.
Some of my favorites are the crochet playscape for kids in Japan, and the Kid Republic Bookstore in Beijing. I can just imagine the gleeful abandon with which kids must meet these spaces. The thought and love that’s put into creating spaces like these especially for children speaks to the thought and love we put into nurturing our children and their minds.
Modern Kids in Museums
London’s V&A Museum of Childhood is entirely devoted to housing and displaying the products of childhood. In their furniture collection, they hold a high chair from 1640 (their oldest piece), and the collection spans the years up to present day.
From the museum’s web site: “The V&A Museum of Childhood holds a number of archive collections relating to different aspects of childhood. These include material from children’s clothing, toy manufacturers and from individuals involved in the toy industry, as well as collections relating to schools and education.”
Currently the museum is also working on a project that will document toys and toy making in Britain throughout the 20th century, including oral histories from individuals who have worked in the industry.
MOMA’s A Century of Design for Kids, through November 4th, delves into the fascination many designers seem to have with kids’ products, as well as the influence that kids and childhood in general has on designers themselves. How can designers learn to see like children in order to unselfconsciously create things that will appeal to and serve children? This seems to be a big force in children’s design.
Growth of Modern Kids’ Design
ABC Kids Expo has been around since 2003, showcasing retailers and manufacturers of kids’ products. They feature an area that focuses solely on “…contemporary, modern, and fashionable design.” They claim to be the fastest growing trade show in the nation.
Can this sort of focus on creative children’s products be seen as an obsession within the design world? I can’t think of anything more fun to design than products for kids, and kids are obviously fun to buy for. I think since playing and learning and growing have all been closely linked in our minds, there will probably continue to be a huge children’s product market as well as designers focused in this area.