No Child’s play

Last week I went shopping with my two daughters, aged 9 and 7, for some very basic back-to-school stuff. I needed a bag and a water bottle for the children going to Class II and Class V.

How hard can that be, I thought naively. I can evaluate design and choose the best available product that I can afford!


I was stumped by the variety of badly designed products that have flooded the market for children’s products. I asked the fellow at the counter, for a bag for Class II. ” I want one with no cartoon characters.’ my younger one quipped. This stumped the guy behind the counter. ‘ Oh, we have Barbie bags for girls and Ben10 bags for boys, ” he quipped, ‘ but not plain ones!” I was aghast at the stereotyping. I asked my daughter why she did not like any of them. ” They are all the same. I don’t have a bag I can recognise easily in the class. And I do not like Barbie,” she said. Her actual choice of words for Barbie was more caustic actually.

Do designers even stop to think what a child might want in a bag?

Is my child an odd-one-out or are the manufacturers lost the plot? Why should a child be saddled with characters, that she does not relate to? Why do we, as a society create stereotypes?

The water-bottle buying was worse.

” This one is for small kids.”

” This one’s drinking straw comes off.”

” The lid falls off in this.”

” The lid is difficult to open in the bus.”

” This one gets hot during games practice.”

” This one is cheap plastic and smells.”

“This plastic is not easily recycled!”

The last comment came after she overturned the bottle to read the signs. While I was happy that I have aware children, I realised that the makers of bottles have clearly not understood their customers.

Designing children’s products is no child’s play. Designers miss the point, when they do not understand their target audience.

My kids can vouch for that.