Some children are naturally articulate. But for most, learning to express themselves is an acquired skill. Kids typically answer questions with short, curt answers. Unfortunately a comment like, “It’s good” doesn’t present much insight about why a toy is fun.
The best way to get these insights is to listen when they play. Often the most vibrant comments and reactions to a toy happen the first time a child opens and plays with it. So be sure to you have a pen and paper handy to jot down what you see and hear. (But note that we are not really looking for snippets of their monologues during play, so much as their spontaneous comments about the toy itself, and why they like it.)
We really do want to hear what your child has to say about the toy – that’s why we rely on you, the parents, to collect spontaneous comments (quotes please) as your children play with their testing toys.
You should of course, also talk to your child(ren) about the toy. It usually takes a little prodding and a gentle nudge or two to help children express detailed comments. Feel free to ask whatever questions are relevant to helping your child express what he/she likes (or doesn’t like) about the toy. Revise your questions in light of your child’s answers. What is good about it? Why do you like it better than [a similar toy you know they like]? What is different about this toy that makes it more fun to play with than that toy? etc…
It helps kids to know that people really do want to hear what they have to say – so by all means show them the online reviews. There are so few opportunities for kids to feel empowered, and for many kids, being quoted and knowing that lots of people will read what they have to say, can be very powerful.
The most exciting toys are assigned to families who offer the best quality feedback. Knowing that their extra effort ‘pays off’ by getting the coolest toys next round can also be a big motivator.
But for some children, trying to articulate their thoughts is simply too frustrating. If you find that this is the case with one of your children it’s best to let me know that this child is uncomfortable participating in the program, even if your other children want to keep toy testing.