In my last few posts, I took a look at what new learning and technology toys you’ll be hearing about throughout 2007. But February isn’t just a time for new toys, its also a time when new reports come out about kids, and its a time when this industry looks to The NPD Group for the latest and greatest. While NPD reports on marketing and consumer trends across many different and varied industries, many stats and financial news that make headlines in the toy or video game industry come from this one organization.

One industry expert from NPD to watch for is Anita Frazier. Most quotes in the press about video game sales or the noteworthy toy trends come from her and her colleagues. One recent report by NPD, called the Kids’ Leisure Time II (a follow up to a similar report released in 2006), was presented by Ms. Frazier recently. While this presentation was very data rich, a number of noteworthy points about kids and their leisure time rose to the surface. These broader findings include:

  • On average, kids ages 5 – 12 have about 58 hours of leisure time a week, with almost difference in time noted between genders. As kids get older within this demographic the amount of free time available tends to increase slightly.
  • Kids ages 5 – 12 have about 14 hours of leisure time a day on weekends as opposed to about 6 hours of leisure time a day during the week.
  • Of all the leisure time activities that kids participate in, kids generally spend more time doing those activities on the weekends than during the week, in all activities except for reading. The amount of time kids spend reading remains roughly the same through weekdays and the weekend.
  • The number one leisure activity for kids 5 – 12 is watching TV or movies, followed by doing homework, then playing with toys and games, household chores, and finally using a computer for non-homework related purposes.
  • Kids in the 2 – 4 age range have the greatest amount of free time, that being a little more than 94 hours a week.
  • The number one leisure activity for kids 2 – 4 is playing with toys, followed by watching TV or movies.
  • In terms of the kinds of activities kids participate in during leisure time, gender differences appear with kids 5 – 12, whereas these differences typically so not appear with kids 2 – 4.

The amount of information presented in this short overview was pretty extensive, and I know it was just the tip of the iceberg when compared to the full report. These few points alone hint to the rapidly changing nature of the toy industry. Kids have a growing interest in technology and consumer electronics as playthings. And as this report describes TV viewing as the number one leisure time activities kids engage in, its no wonder why we see more and more products for kids that hook up to a TV, have their own screen, or work in some combination with a DVD player, plug and play device or computer.

In my next post, I’ll take a look at the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) initiative spearheaded by MIT and technology evangelist Nicholas Negroponte. Make no bones about it, this initiative is picking up speed quickly. The $100 laptops will be rolling off of the assembly line shortly in very large numbers, to be distributed to children in early adopter countries around the globe!

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