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Toy Talk

Behind the Design: Music Toys from Infancy to Preschool

13 February 2024

5 min.

In this feature, we're diving into the world of how toys are designed for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers through the eyes of 2 product developers. As experts in their fields, they’ll be sharing their experiences and insights on how they craft toys that are not just fun, but also educational and safe.

First up, we'll be chatting with Echo, our specialist in infant toy development. Echo has been with Hape for over 6 years, creating music toys and bringing a ton of knowledge and passion to each project.


Echo, what are the key factors you consider when designing musical toys for infants?

E: First off, we really want our toys to spark a love for rhythm and harmony that lasts from babyhood right through to adulthood. We do this by using catchy classic tunes, simple sounds, and even cool nature noises. Plus, we know baby toys need to be super safe. That’s why we’re all about strict safety standards, making sure our littlest ones have both a fun and safe time playing.

Can you discuss the role of sensory stimulation in infant musical toys and how your designs cater to this?

E: When babies listen to music, they’re getting a dose of sounds and rhythms that are really important for understanding language later on. You might see them moving their heads, waving their hands, or even wiggling their whole bodies to the beat. It’s all part of their sensorimotor experience. So, when we’re designing new toys, we think about this stuff a lot. We aim to help babies grow their sensory skills through loads of playful exploration.

What types of functions do you incorporate into musical toys to help infants experience their first sounds?

E: These days, parents are looking for more than just nice-sounding music in baby toys – they want something extra. So, we put a lot of thought into making our toys easy for little hands to explore. We get the size and weight just right. Plus, we like to mix up the materials in our toys to give babies all sorts of fun textures to feel and discover.

Next, we’re chatting with Mavis. She’s the brain behind our toddler and preschool toy designs and has been with Hape for over 5 years. What really makes her day is seeing children play, laugh, and learn with the toys she’s designed.

Mavis, what are the main developmental milestones you focus on when designing musical toys for toddlers?

M: For toddler music, we’re all about exploring rhythm and sound. We mix up different play styles and sounds. Every time a kid plays, they find a new sound, which is a big deal in their musical journey. Like with our Pound and Tap Bench – we put balls on the xylophone so when they hit the keys, it makes cool sounds. The banging of the hammer, the balls dropping, their rolling sound, plus the xylophone tunes themselves, it’s all about giving toddlers a whole world of sounds to discover.

What challenges do you face when creating musical toys that encourage creativity and exploration?

M: Our main goal is to provide high-quality sound while also taking care of little ears. We’re constantly working on improving sound quality, but child safety is always at the forefront. All our toys meet strict global decibel standards, which inspires us to innovate with new materials and techniques. When it comes to technology, electronic music toys have lots of potential, but we like to introduce kids to the basics first, really believing in their natural creativity. We don’t avoid technology, but we use it wisely, always keeping the physical and mental well-being of children as our top priority, as we help nurture their creative abilities.

Moving on to preschool toys, how do your musical toy designs for preschoolers differ from those for younger children?

M: At this stage, we’re all about real instruments – think pianos, ukuleles, guitars and harmonicas. We really focus on the details, like making sure our ukuleles and guitars have actual strings and getting the piano tuning just right. Our preschool music designs are super realistic and have a cool design, usually featuring a red and black colour scheme. We want to take what kids have learned from infant and toddler music to the next level, inspiring their creativity and boosting their confidence in music.

Can you give examples of how your musical toys encourage preschoolers to learn basic music concepts like rhythm and melody?

M: Our approach to music education is inspired by four renowned methods – Dalcroze, Kodaly, Orff, and Suzuki. Each one emphasises the importance of feeling the music. We focus on key elements like rhythm, tone colour, and creativity. To make learning even more engaging, we’ve introduced a ‘learn with lights’ feature in our pianos, ukuleles, and harmonicas. It starts with background music to help kids get the feel of the rhythm, followed by light-guided instructions for simple songs. This really helps to boost their confidence and pique their interest in music.

To conclude…

Our product development experts, Echo and Mavis, have given us a peek into Hape’s process of making musical toys that are just right for children. Echo’s focus on sensory engagement and safety for infants, and Mavis’s emphasis on authentic instrument experiences for older children, showcase a deep commitment to enriching young lives through music. Their expertise highlights how these toys not only entertain but also play a crucial role in children’s developmental and creative journeys.