In the Era of Millennials and Stay-at-Home Dads, Has Parenting Fundamentally Changed?

Posted by Mary McIlrath on Tue, Aug 30, 2016 @ 10:14 AM

In an homage to modern dads, on Father’s Day this past June, Chicago columnist Heidi Stevens called out the softer, more caring adults that are portrayed in the media today. In this, she compared them to the fondly remembered, but not as nice portrayal of adult relationships of 80s and 90s movies. That got us thinking: how is “real” parenting different now?

Certainly, demographics have shifted across a generation. Pew Research data shows that dads are increasingly stay-at-home caregivers, and less likely to be the sole source of household income.  Of preschool dads in our sample, 5% are stay-at-home dads. Even when dads work outside the home, they’re responsible for more traditional child caregiving tasks than ever before. Our YouthBeat data shows that more than half of our preschool dads report being involved either “somewhat” or “very much” in the daily activities of their children’s lives; in everything from shopping for children’s clothes to communicating with a school/daycare to planning children’s birthday parties.*

Most of these preschool parents are Millennials. In our YouthBeat data, half of Millennial moms and dads with children in 1st-4th grades said they feel that their parenting style is different from their own parents’ approach to raising children.** Though, interestingly, while 75% of Millennial parents feel that it’s much harder to be a parent today than it was in the past, this is less than those who felt that way four years ago (83%)***. So is parenting, then, getting a little easier?

Not so fast.  We’re seeing a few other things come into play that could explain this shift:

  1. Millennial parents’ kids are more connected to them than ever. Parents of all ages routinely say that they give their child their first cell phone so that the child can be reachable. This gives parents peace of mind in a child’s well-being, for the low, low price of a family cell phone plan.
  2. Millennials approach their parenting with a sense of humor. Just follow #parentingfail, or watch Jimmy Fallon to see how parents today poke fun at the ridiculousness of daily family life. And they’ve given advertisers permission to laugh along with them. For a cute take on how this occurs, check out the Halos spot where the girl whose parents ran out found her little brother duct taped to the wall.
  3. Technology offers parenting aids that simply weren’t available even four years ago. There is Amazon Prime Now, Uber Eats, and Netflix Kids, just to name a few. While some Millennial parents are worried about the dangers of technology and connection for their kids, the tradeoff is that they offer convenience that can offset those drawbacks.

So who’s raising our country’s kids today? It’s a very different mix than it was a generation ago. It’s more male; it’s more connected, and it sees challenges, but it has a sense of humor about the most important job in the world.

In this environment, smart brands are the ones who offer not just another product or app—but a way to bring families together for quality time, save some of the scarce resource of time that parents have to hang out with their kids, or give everyone a good belly laugh together.

*Source: YouthBeat, Jr., Spring 2016
**Source: YouthBeat, Total Year 2015
***Source: YouthBeat, Total Year 2011

Tags: kids, parents, kids tweens teens market research, dad, kids tweens teens, parenting, millennials

Rio: Inspiring Golden Opportunities

Posted by Manda Pawelczyk on Tue, Aug 23, 2016 @ 08:10 AM

The 2016 Summer Olympics have come to an end and will be remembered as the event with awe-inspiring stories of hard work, dedication, amazing feats and chasing your dreams. During the past 16 days of the Olympics, the lessons learned span all ages, but perhaps the group with the most to gain is our youth. But did they tune in? In the first half of 2016, only 44% of youth (37% of kids, 48% of tweens, and 49% of teens) said they were interested in watching the Summer Olympics.Those numbers increased significantly as the Rio Olympics actually got under way. According to participants in our August 2016 YouthBeat survey, 65% of youth (58% of kids, 74% of tweens, and 62% of teens) said they want to watch the Summer Olympics. 

Not only were youth tuning into the excitement of the event, but the stars of Rio are already having an impact on them. While athletes like Lebron James and Michael Jordan usually dominate youth’s list of favorite athletes, in our August survey medalists such Michael Phelps, Gabby Douglas, and Simone Biles have made their way to the top of the list.  Olympic swimmers Katie Ledecky, Lily King, and Missy Franklin also got mentions as did soccer star, Alex Morgan, and volleyball player, Kerri Walsh Jennings. And already 11% of the mentions name a member of the gold medal winning gymnastics team, the Final Five (Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Laurie Hernandez, or Madison Kocian). 

The Olympics leave many youth feeling hopeful that they too could someday capture a medal of their own.  When asked what they want to be when they grow up, being an athlete is the second most popular career boys aspire to. For girls it is tenth. But the concentration of strong and successful women athletes being showcased on TV screens and in the news during the Olympics may leave more girls with athletic dreams of their own. That is what the United States Olympic Committee and the U.S. summer sport national governing bodies are hoping for. While 54% of youth participate in a sport, only 13% do it at an elite or highly competitive level.* The NBC Gold Map hopes to use the platform of the Olympics and the inspiring stories of its athletes to encourage youth to start their own journey in an Olympic sport, whether for fun or competitively. The website stands as a great resource for youth to learn more about each Olympic sport and how they can get involved. Here at YouthBeat, we believe anything that encourages kids, tweens, and teens to try new opportunities and chase their dreams is a worthy endeavor. 

 *According to YouthBeat data from January to June 2016.

Tags: youth research, kids, kids tweens teens market research, kids tweens teens, olympics, athletes

Is Pokemon Go for Kids?

Posted by Mary McIlrath on Mon, Aug 08, 2016 @ 09:20 AM

It’s rated “E” for Everyone and has taken the world by storm in the few weeks since its launch. Unquestionably, Pokemon GO represents a breakthrough in augmented reality for adults. But, what is this new craze’s value to kids? Beyond the many existing augmented reality apps available, we see that the value it brings is twofold:

  • It is a fun way to bond with parents when the family plays together, and
  • It encourages walking around and getting exercise.

But, along with the fun and exercise comes some concerns for parents.  Many of them do not want their children playing Pokemon GO without adult supervision for several reasons:

  • The app collects a lot of personal information from the device on which it is installed (it asks for geolocation, photos, media, and other files, access to contacts, and the ability to take pictures and record videos).
  • In the United States, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) requires verifiable parental permission to collect this kind of personally identifiable information from children under the age of 13 — that’s why to register as a trainer within the game requires a birthdate. Many parents want to keep such information about their children private.
  • The app may suggest to children that they go places that they otherwise would not be allowed by themselves (or at all) in order to ‘catch’ Pokemon.
  • The economic model of the game is based on in-app purchases which parents may not want their children to be able to make.

Our online parent community, ParentSpeak, reports mixed feelings about Pokemon GO.  Here is what some parents say:

  • “It is the hot new game for teens to play at camp. She is 12 and it keeps them after camp and running around.”
  • “My child is not playing. She is 10 years old. Her and her dad did just get into geocaching though.”
  • “My 7-year-old son is excited, though he doesn’t know much about Pokemon.”
  • “My 11-year-old plays it only while in the car driving by Pokemons. Nothing by herself on foot.”
  • “The 10-year-old wanted to play but I didn’t want her wandering off and getting into places she shouldn’t be so she entertains herself with other games.”

So is Pokemon GO for kids?  From our YouthBeat® data, we know that Generation Z is tighter with their parents than Millennials were.  Our POV is that Pokemon GO is a great app for family interaction—so yes, then, in a family context with parental supervision, Pokemon GO is great for kids.

To read more about Pokemon GO, check out the blog on our parent company’s website, crresearch.com, where we blogged about the #GottaCatchEmAll craze and why it was a game changer…in the adult world.

Tags: youth research, Gaming, kids, kids tweens teens market research, Youth, kids tweens teens

Generation Z Infographic: Summer Fun and Back to School Shopping

Posted by Mary McIlrath on Mon, Jul 25, 2016 @ 01:53 PM

It’s summertime, and from preschoolers to teenagers, the youth of America are soaking up the sun and enjoying their vacations. Our YouthBeat team has put together an infographic to show you stats on:

  • Places they’ve visited,
  • What they’re doing,
  • And what’s on their playlists.

But pretty soon, as my father Bob McIlrath says, “it will be time to close down the swimming pool and open up the school house.” With that comes Back-to-School shopping! We’ve also included important numbers on what exactly back-to-school shopping looks like including who’s shopping, and at what stores they want to shop.

Click here to download our infographic!

 

Tags: Back to School, shopping, Gen Z, summer

Trending: Ongoing Kid, Tween and Teen Feedback Panels

Posted by Mary McIlrath on Wed, Jul 13, 2016 @ 03:09 PM

Target made headlines in the July 2016 issue of Bloomberg Businessweek for turning to youth advisors to help them reconfigure their clothing offerings for kids. By doing this, Target has reportedly touched base with over 1,000 children across a variety of different environments in an effort to help lead the overhaul of their children’s department. Without knowing the specifics, it sounds like they used an elegant mixed-method research approach that allowed them to influence children’s opinions in a myriad of ways.

Several of our clients at C+R have also undertaken similar youth-fueled insight programs of product and retail environment development in the last few years.  What’s different about these approaches is that they leverage a much smaller sample size, yet they yield rich and wide-ranging results. The designs of the recurring programs vary and may include:

  • In-person focus groups or panel discussions with the same children (and parents!)
  • Online qualitative discussions, each one on a different topic and populated from a pool of pre-recruited respondents (using our KidzEyes panel, which is fully COPPA-compliant and allows us to talk directly to youth respondents)
  • Mobile “missions” on a variety of foundational (a “Day in the Life” video collage) to tactical (e.g., shopping trip) topics
  • Immersive visits with client teams and youth participants for the purpose of empathy-building (e.g., a structured visit to the zoo complete with scavenger hunts and team T-shirts)

Our clients keep commissioning these recurring panels because of the many benefits they offer. Some of these benefits include:

  1. The kids get invested in the brands. They become part of the internal team. They get to know the moderators if it’s qualitative, and this personal connection makes them want to help the sponsoring company. They’re motivated to give good responses—not positively biased ones, but constructive criticism that helps make sound business decisions.
  2. The panels are more efficient with time. When an urgent need comes up, like a “disaster check” for a new package design, we don’t have to start the recruit from scratch. We have a list of kids in the right age targets and geographies who use the categories that we can tap into. This allows us to sometimes turn a project around start to finish within just a week.
  3. Ongoing panels are cost-effective. Initial set-up fees are higher than a standalone study because respondents who are willing to make a longer-term commitment are harder to find. But over the long term, re-contact fees are far less expensive than recruiting new respondents from scratch every time. Plus, there is a greater efficiency in protocols. For example, if several waves of products are tested over the course of the year, we reduce our analytic time and fees. An entire year’s worth of research can often be accomplished for what it would cost to conduct four to six independent studies.
  4. Most importantly, they’re good experiences for the kid respondents. They learn something about the way businesses make decisions, and the different types of decisions along the product cycle that have to be made. They also learn that adults care about what they have to say and will actually listen to them and implement their recommendations. That’s a powerful sense of control for a generation that is as influential as any in marketing research history.

Tags: kids, kids tweens teens market research, Teens, kids tweens teens, tweens, online research, panels

Pearls of Wisdom: Millennials vs. Gen Z Edition

Posted by Manda Pawelczyk on Wed, Jun 22, 2016 @ 10:30 AM

Pearls of Wisdom: Millennial vs. Gen Z Edition

Spring is graduation season – a time of caps, gowns, diplomas, and graduation speeches, where speakers pass down ‘wisdom’ to the graduates. Today’s high school graduates are members of Generation Z, so we wanted to dive deeper into the advice they are receiving on this major milestone, what that means for the overall attitudes and behaviors of this generation, and how that differs from the graduating classes that came before them. 

This is a generation that lived through the downturn of the economy. They have watched parents, older siblings, and other members of their community struggle. While Millennials grew up believing the world was their oyster, Gen Zers take a more practical approach – understanding that life won’t always be rosy and that it will take hard work and sacrifices to reach their goals. Through the years, we have seen a shift in the most popular high school commencement speeches – from a tone of hope and optimism to one of realism.   

Words of wisdom to Millennials:

Bill Clinton, Sidwell Friends School, 1997
“We celebrate your passage into the world in a hopeful time for our Nation and for people throughout the world. For the first time in history, more than half of all the world's people live free, under governments of their own choosing. The cold war has given way to the information age, with its revolutions in technology and communications and increasingly integrated economies and societies. Scientific advances and a growing global determination to preserve our environment give us hope that the challenges of the 21st century can be met in ways that will permit us to continue the advance of peace and freedom and prosperity throughout your entire lives.”

Doug Marlette, Durham Academy, 2005
“There is hope. And today is the beginning, Square One, for all of you…Ease up on yourselves. Have some compassion for yourself as well as for others. There’s no such thing as perfection, and life is not a race.”

Ray Sidney, Edwin O. Smith High School, 2007
“Know that with hard work you can achieve great goals, but also know that there’s more to life than just your career. If all you ever do is work, you will regret it.  You will look back on your life, and no matter how much you have accomplished, you will wish that you had lived differently. Play time and family time and sleep time are all necessary for you to recharge yourself, to keep yourself from burning out, to get perspective on what you’re doing and what your life means, and to get good ideas for the future.”

Jonathan Youshaei, Deerfield High School, 2009
“We also hold the power to turn our dreams into reality, which is another part of achieving 7/7ths. But at 18 years young, it’s hard to know what your dream is. Sure, some of us may know what we want to do in life, but even those people may find a new inspiration along the way. So for the many of us still trying to figure out what we want to do, just give it time, and you’ll find your dream or maybe it’ll find you. And when you find that dream, you gotta get after it, protect it, and dare to be idealistic. Just like with failure, though, society has turned us against that word — idealism. But make no mistake about it; we desperately need more idealistic thinkers in the world today.”

Said to those on the cusp of the two generations:

David McCullough Jr., Wellesley High School, 2012
“You are not special.  You are not exceptional.  Contrary to what your u9 soccer trophy suggests…you’re nothing special.  You see, if everyone is special, then no one is.  If everyone gets a trophy, trophies become meaningless…we Americans, to our detriment, come to love accolades more than genuine achievement.  We have come to see them as the point — and we’re happy to compromise standards, or ignore reality, if we suspect that’s the quickest way, or only way, to have something to put on the mantelpiece, something to pose with, crow about, something with which to leverage ourselves into a better spot on the social totem pole.  No longer is it how you play the game, no longer is it even whether you win or lose, or learn or grow, or enjoy yourself doing it…Now it’s “So what does this get me?”  As a consequence, we cheapen worthy endeavors, and building a Guatemalan medical clinic becomes more about the application to Bowdoin than the well-being of Guatemalans.” 

And the graduation messages given to Generation Z:

Michelle Obama, Santa Fe Indian School, 2016
“Now, I know that perhaps I’m asking a lot of all of you. And I know that sometimes all those obligations might feel like a heavy burden. I also know that many of you have already faced and overcome challenges in your lives that most young people can’t even begin to imagine—challenges that have tested your courage, your confidence, your faith, and your trust.

But, graduates, those struggles should never be a source of shame—never—and they are certainly not a sign of weakness. Just the opposite. Those struggles are the source of your greatest strengths. Because by facing adversity head on and getting through it, you have gained wisdom and maturity beyond your years.”

Larssa Martinez, McKinney Boyd High School, 2016
“Let me be frank.  I am not going to stand up here and give you the traditional Hallmark version of a valedictorian speech.  Instead I would like to offer you a different kind of speech. One that discusses expectations versus reality…When people see me standing up here, they see a girl who is Yale bound, and who seems to have her life figured out.  But that is far from the whole truth.  So at this time, if I may, I would like to convey my fair share of realities.”

The messages given during graduation ceremonies are just one of the ways we have seen a shift in the way that Millennials and Generation Z think and act. If you would like to find out more about how Generation Z and Millennials differ, Mary McIlrath will be presenting a retrospective look at both generations at the Marketing to Generation Z Conference in New York on July 20, 2016. You can click here to register attend the conference! If you plan to attend, let us know so we can give you our sponsor discount code!

Tags: Education, youth research, school, millennials, Gen Z, generation research, high school, graduation

How “Z” Are You?

Posted by Mary McIlrath on Fri, May 20, 2016 @ 09:01 AM

Here at YouthBeat, we’ve been surveying youth for more than a decade.  We had Millennials in our data set when they were teens, and we have Generation Z now.  This gives us the unique ability to compare the attitudes and behaviors of these two generations, based on their actual responses to our survey questions.

We’ve recently undertaken a large-scale analysis of more than 20,000 responses to our holistic lifestyle study from 2009-2015, and we’ll be reporting out the findings at the Marketing to Generation Z Conference in New York in July 2016 (click here for a link to the conference website).  Let us know if you plan to attend—as conference sponsors, we can give you a discount code to use.

This was a fascinating exercise for us—we entered into it with several hypotheses (“stereotypes” is such a negative word), and the results were very surprising! Themes that we expected, but didn’t necessarily see validated, include:

  1. Millennials Lite: Being so close in age to Millennials, Gen Z (which some call Centennials) should largely share the attitudes and behaviors of those who passed through a few years ahead of them.
  2. Bleak Financial Outlook: Both generations lived through the housing and stock market crashes of 2007, so both should have similar behaviors when it comes to saving and spending.
  3. Social Creatures: Gen Z, living in a connected age, should be more active on social media than their Millennial counterparts.
  4. Multicultural Melding: The youngest Gen Zers come from no single majority ethnic background (some call them Plurals for this reason). All ethnic groups, then, should think and act in similar ways.
  5. Principled + Charitable: Growing up in the age of TOMS, Gen Zers should be more likely than Millennials were to put their money into brands that engage in cause-related marketing.
  6. Media Multitaskers: With so many functions available on mobile devices, Gen Zers should be more likely than Millennials to be engaged in multiple activities at a time.

In each of these areas, we identify marketing campaigns that fit squarely with the preferences and ideals of Generation Z…and some that miss the mark.

And here’s the best part…we crafted a fun quiz so you can find out whether your mindset is more aligned with the Millennial or the Gen Z generation. 

  Click Here to Take the Quiz!

 

Tags: kids tweens teens market research, kids tweens teens, millennials, Gen Z, generation research

Honoring National Reading Month

Posted by Manda Pawelczyk on Thu, Mar 31, 2016 @ 04:06 PM

reading_month_image.jpg

Here at YouthBeat®, we value the importance of reading, and like those famous words from Dr. Seuss in Oh, The Places You’ll Go!, we believe reading is the gateway to a better future. But as March comes and goes, reading really takes center stage as we help celebrate National Reading Month.  Even as we step into 2016, too many children across this country are struggling with literacy. In fact, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, 65% of fourth graders scored below proficiency on the 2013 National Assessment of Education Progress reading test, indicating that they are not reading at grade level. Among eighth graders, only 36% are reading at or above grade level.

The question is, what can be done to help our youth build the literacy skills they need to live a successful and prosperous life?  There are a variety of organizations, both local and national, that are trying to address this question. 

  • Readaloud.org has started a 10 year campaign encouraging parents to spend 15 minutes every day reading to their children.
  • A study conducted by John Hutton of the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, reveals that preschoolers whose parents read to them regularly show more activity in key areas of their brains.
  • Another study by Dominic Massaro, from the University of California, shows that reading to children helps expand their vocabulary and grammatical understanding more than simply talking to them. He found that picture books are two to three times more likely to include a word outside the 5,000 most commonly used English words than a parent to child conversation. According to Massaro, “Reading picture books to babies and toddlers is important because the earlier children acquire language, the more likely they are to master it.  You are stretching them in vocabulary and grammar at an early age.  You are preparing them to be expert language users, and indirectly you are going to facilitate their learning to read.”

Unfortunately, not all children and families, especially those from low-income households, have access to books and reading material. That is why the White House has announced a new program called Open eBooks.  It is an app that gives children living in low-income households access to eBooks valued at more than $250 million. Students, educators and administrators from more than 66,000 Title 1 schools will have access to the app and its content.  The program is also paired with an initiative to get every child a library card, giving them maximum access to books – both on paper and digitally.

But there are also many smaller and local organizations that are doing their part to make a difference. 

  • Over the past school year, I have had the chance to volunteer with Y Reads!, an after school reading program that is in partnership with the YMCA and the Department of Education. The program is grant-funded by the DOE and focuses on helping Title 1 schools that have high rates of students reading below grade level.
  • Each year, the lowest core readers in first to third grade are invited to participate in the program. The program is led by one site-coordinator who accesses students’ reading levels and builds an appropriate lesson plan for each student. The rest of the program relies solely on volunteers to mentor the children through their lessons.  Each session focuses on the student practicing their phonics, sight words, spelling, reading and comprehension. 

As a volunteer, it has been an incredible experience getting to see some of today’s youth grow and expand and have a better chance at a brighter future. I cheer for them as they figure out that difficult word, and smile when they light up because they got an answer right. Because really when it comes down to it, they want a chance at chasing their dreams and want to know that they are worthy of an education.  Now the question is, how can your organization lend a hand, not just during National Reading month but all year long?

Tags: kids, reading, kids tweens teens, market research, books, literacy

Kid Snacking Trends for 2016

Posted by Mary McIlrath on Wed, Jan 20, 2016 @ 02:29 PM
kids_and_snacking.jpg

One of the questions we at YouthBeat® routinely get asked is, “What trends are impacting kids’ snacking?”  Over the last few years, we’ve seen a few things going on that food producers need to know to be relevant with the snacking habits of Gen Z youth.  Three things we’ve observed that are key for 2016:

1. Parents avoiding “big food”

From avoiding products with GMOs (56% of kids’ parents avoid) to joining the organic (42% of parents seek) and local food movements, younger Millennial parents, in particular, are turning away from some of the bigger brands they grew up with in favor of what we’re calling a “small food” movement towards more versatile brands (think anything from Trader Joe’s, or a brand like Annie’s or Clif Bar Kid).  Though kids have a great deal of influence over what they eat, parents still make the purchase decisions for the pantry, and in most categories there are multiple brand options from which to select.

What’s the benefit to kids of this trend for kids?  Emotionally, this trend benefits parents (who want to make good choices for their kids) more than children.  Kids are still rather hedonistic in what they eat (only 48% say they try to eat healthy).  That said, there are benefits to making choices their parents agree with, and saving their “asks” for things they care about more (like the newest video game system).  And smaller food brands can be more nimble than some “big food” brands, churning out new flavors and forms more frequently, which ups the probability of kids finding something new that they like.

2. Bolder and ethnic flavors entering the mix

With the ubiquity of Internet time, youth now have the ability to go on social media (e.g., Pinterest or YouTube) to encounter not just people of other cultures, but recipes and hacks for creating those flavors themselves.  If they watch MasterChef Junior, they see young people like themselves empowered to think outside the lunchbox and create new flavors of their own.  More spice-forward flavors like jalapeno cheddar (17% of kids like) and wasabi (7% like) are entering the youth lexicon—and even if they don’t love the flavors, they will try them.  Some even catch on virally, such as the hot flavors of Takis (for an entertaining view search YouTube for a Takis vs. hot Cheetos challenge).

What’s the benefit to kids of this trend for kids?  By the age of about 8 or 9, most kids develop a bit of edge to their senses of humor and adventure.  Eating, or watching someone else eat something that could be good or could be hideous is thrilling.  If they made it in the kitchen themselves, they feel a powerful sense of control over their environment—and, of course, are more likely to “like” it.  And if they can tolerate, or even like, something spicy, they have earned a badge of honor among their peers

3. Flavor mash-ups coming on scene

From Taco Bell’s Cap’n Crunch flavored dessert “Delights” to cookie flavored Oreo drinks at Dunkin’ Donuts, kids embrace combinations of their favorite flavors into new meta-flavors.  Despite not having a kids’ menu, Taco Bell routinely appears in our Top 5 list of kids’ favorite restaurants (unaided).  Their Starburst-flavored slushies might have something to do with that too.

What’s the benefit to kids of this trend for kids?  This one is simple and twofold, the pleasure of the senses being most important.  If one flavor they love is great, two must be better, right?  Plus, if they’re ordering at an “adult” restaurant or coffee shop, they get to feel like they have grown-up palates.

 

Source: YouthBeat® 2015 Wave 1, Kids

Tags: food, kids, flavors, kids tweens teens, trends, snacking, Gen Z

Kids, Tweens, and Teens at the Holidays 2015: Toy and Gift Wish List Results

Posted by Mary McIlrath on Mon, Dec 07, 2015 @ 10:32 AM

Coolest wish list toys!  Holiday wish list alert!  Tech toys kids want! Headlines are hollering this year, whipping parents and gift-givers into a frenzy with the goal of pleasing children during the holiday gift-giving season.  The National Retail Federation predicts that overall holiday spending will top $630 billion this year, up nearly 4% over last year.  This makes sense in households with children, given:

  • Lower gas prices according to AA, thus higher household disposable income

  • The multitude of digital and high-tech-meets tactile toys (think Skylanders, Disney Infinity, or Star Wars/Sphero BB-8 robot) available this year, at higher price points than traditional toys

The holiday gift guides for childern have two consistent themes: 1. Go with anything Star Wars, and/or 2) buy something high-tech (virtual reality, cameras, or tablets).  The browsing and list-making process itself has become tech-saturated.  The Toys ‘R Us catalog includes codes that unlock virtual games and 3D augmented reality views of the products. Kids can create wish lists using Amazon or Target’s Wish List app

All of this sounds very exciting.  Is it, however, what kids are asking for, or what we as adults are projecting onto their desires?  Our 2015 Holiday Wish List survey is in, showing that kids’ desires might be simpler than we think.  Click here to download the Holiday Wish List infographic.

Sure, kids are asking for Star Wars—as long as they’re Lego sets.  Robots and talking dolls?  Not so much.  That’s not to say that they won’t love the more sophisticated toys that they receive this year.  The key to pleasing the recipient is to fit with their favorite play patterns, be it role playing with dolls or action figures, building, or game play. Most of all, they’d really like to pick out their own presents, so consider a gift card.  This commercial for IKEA underscores kids’ desires for simple pleasures at the holidays (spoiler alert: Grab a tissue). 

We also asked kids about their charitable giving over the holiday season.  Most are participating in some way, primarily by donating toys/gifts, food, or clothing.  Just for fun, we asked them whether they’d rather give all of their holiday gifts this year to charity, or forego their electronics and media for a month.  Kids in 1st-4th grades overwhelmingly want to keep the gifts and give up the media, as do the better part of tweens in 5th-8th grades. Teens disagree; the majority would gladly give up the holiday haul in order to hang on to their sources of connectedness, information, and entertainment.

So make those lists and check them twice. But do it knowing that youth pleasures are simple and eternal, even as the toys we build and buy for them grow more complex.

Happy Holidays from YouthBeat!

Tags: youth research, toys, target, wish list, kids tweens teens market research, star wars, holiday, trends, infographic