A few months ago, we asked our customers on Facebook, “if you could ask Step2 anything, what would it be?” We gathered people across all departments here at Step2 to answer your most pressing questions!
Q. I’m curious to know what companies are doing to help break down gender stereotyping in children’s toys, and which companies seem to be making an active investment in creating more fun simple toys without gender specific colors/themes.
A. “This is a great question and one we at Step2 have continued to address through the thoughtful design and development of our products. Color, label art and sculpted detail often play key roles in toy design when determining if a product has a focused on girls or boys or both. We believe all play patterns and themes are gender neutral until you add these elements. Boys as well as girls role play food prep and serving at home. Outside in the backyard, our playhouse is a home, clubhouse or fort to all children. We recognize by choice boys and girls may play differently or the same, but the toys they use to support their play can drive gender division. We try and provide our consumers with choices for their children. Our Sweetheart Playhouse provides the same basic play our Great Outdoors Playhouse, but each provide the consumer a choice in color pallet and basic features.
Historically Step2 has taken a leadership position creating kitchens that are gender neutral. We have created more realistic colors and labels in our kitchens that provide both boys and girls an experience that doesn’t dictate gender specific play, but rather allows the child to use their imagination in providing a deeper play experience. As we look to the future, we continue to research and pursue a closer connection to our consumers (you!) and end users (your children) to understand and create products that meet your needs and bring family together.” – Bob J., Research & Development
Q. Have you ever thought about a parent idea committee?
A. “At Step2, we strive to bring family together, and to achieve this goal, we get parent input throughout the entire design process. Every month, Step2 invites a local parent panel to join us at our headquarters to gain valuable feedback – from the new and upcoming, to the oldies but goodies, plus everything in between, we ask parents for their honest opinions. We want to know their thoughts on what we should change, what we should add, or even what we should make, so that Step2 brings the best possible product to market, ensuring we delight little tots for years of fun to come.” – Ashley S., Marketing
Q. I’d ask why there’s evil in the world, and if there are toys that either reflect or combat it?
A. “There is a great product we produce and that is the Corvette Bed. I think that if more people had better sleep, including children, there would be less fighting because people would be more clear in their cognitive thinking skills, and be able to work through challenges.” – Chris Quinn, President & CEO
Q. In the future would you make putting together Step2 products a bit easier and add in additional tools (nuts, bolts, screws if needed)? I love Step2 products but I’ve had trouble in the past putting together products due to not enough additional tools and screws being almost impossible to screw in (picnic tables, bigger items)! Most of us Moms are putting together these toys for our children, not always the Dads.
A. ”Thanks you so much for your input and suggestion regarding assembly. There is no doubt whether mom, dad, grandmother, grandfather or any person that has ever had to assemble a toy has wondered what was the designer/engineer thinking when they made this toy!?!? Did they ever try and assemble it themselves? At Step2 the answer is yes! A focal point of the development process includes a team dedicated to the assembly and testing of our products to understand complexity and efficiency of assembly.
Additionally, we have consumers assemble and test each of our new products. This means men and women just like you are given the same tools and parts to build the same toys you get when you’ve decided to have a Step2 experience (thank you!). We observe, study and test our products to ensure they meet ‘time and ease of assembly’ standards specific to the type of product being assembled. We also ensure the assembly method outlined in the instructions meets stringent US, International and toy manufacturing safety standards once the toy is assembled and ready to play. We are always looking for new methods of assembly to help our consumers have a great and safe Step2 experience. We hope your next Step2 experience exceeds your expectations and provides your children hours of play as we strive to bring family together.” – Bob J., Research & Development
Q. Do you have any tips to keep the Step 2 toys we have outside from fading over time? Is there a secret I’m not aware of?
A. “We recommend Armor All for interior and exterior protection from elements, as it is great for cleaning, shining and protecting the products surface. Armor All products come in the forms of sprays, gels, liquids and wipes. According to the patent literature, Armor All typically contains water, PDMS (Polydimethylsiloxane), diethylene glycol, glycerin, and various other chemical compounds. Application will generally result in a dull surface transitioning to a shiny appearance, and can be applied as often as necessary.” – Adam M., Consumer Service
Q. What Step2 toy was the all-time biggest seller?
A. “We receive the most positive feedback regarding playhouses, specifically the Welcome Home Playhouse.” – Adam M., Consumer Service
Q. How are your toys tested for safety? As safety is a number one concern among parents. What measures are taken to ensure a safe product?
A: “Toy safety at Step2 starts during the design stages. As required by US and International laws, a risk assessment is performed on each new product. Any safety issues raised in the risk assessment are addressed during the design stages. Step2 toys must comply with the ASTM F963 Standard Consumer Safety Specification for Toy Safety as well as each country’s toy standard into which they are shipped. Our toys are tested by an independent, CPSC accredited, third party test lab.” – Len H., Product Safety
Q. Will you start back making toys for older children? We love Step2 and would love to purchase your products for as long as I can.
A. “Thank you so much for your testimony and encouragement. At Step2 we love our work and continually strive to provide a play/product experience that brings family together. The answer is yes! We have concepts in the works right now that drive the age grade of a number of our products older in terms of play pattern and usage. We recognize that children of many ages enjoy Step2 toys and we want to ensure we develop toys that inspire children’s imaginations, physical abilities and social skills. I would love to share some of the ideas we are working on, but, our competition would love this too! Unfortunately, you will have to wait, but I encourage you to keep an eye on our website! Big things coming soon!!!” – Bob J., Research & Development
Q. My worry is always about my grandkids getting hurt. Some of the large units seem a bit tall and might they be prone to tipping over?
A. “Step2 toys are designed to take into account stability (‘tipping over’) during use. Our toys are tested for compliance to the stability and other safety requirements of the ASTM F963 toy safety standard. The best step a consumer can do to insure a safe toy is follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the proper use and care of a toy.” – Len. H, Product Safety
Q. How do you come up with the color combinations? Do you only go by what adults find aesthetically pleasing or do you include children?
A. “Thank you so much for your interest in the way Step2 determines color on our products. It’s true beauty is in the eye of the beholder and there is no accounting for taste, but, at Step2 we recognize our products need to visually inspire children and encourage a positive play experience. For parents to choose a Step2 product over the many options that are out there is a decision we don’t take lightly. If you don’t like what we are providing for colors on our product we know your kids will never get to experience the fun a Step2 product has built into it and we will not be able to accomplish our goal – bringing family together!
So the answer to your question is a constant focus on trends and the pursuit of the consumer’s opinion. Every year we look at what new color trends are going on in the toy industry, in the homes, in backyards and across the world. We than create color pallets from these trends that we assign to the new products we are working. We than share with consumer in research here at Step2 and on line in the form of questionnaires and surveys (have any of you ever taken a Step2 survey? If so you helped shape the future for your kids!) From this input we apply to our products what you the consumer feels are the best choices for colors on our toys. It amazing to look back historically at the variety of colors that have helped shape Step2 into who we are today!” – Bob J., Research & Development
Q. I need a toy for a 3 year old who puts quarters in her mouth and swallows them, what toy do you recommend?
A. “I actually had a daughter that did that one time and it was frightening. I’d recommend Patches because there is no possible way you could put any aspect of Patches in your mouth that would induce any sort of risk or danger. Plus, it’s a rocker. Who doesn’t love that type of product?” – Chris Quinn, President & CEO