TOY TESTING GUIDE
Please read this guide before applying to be a Toy Tester.
There is no fee – membership, or otherwise - for participating in our toy testing program. There are however, two things to note:
- You don't get to keep the toys you test. They are donated to charity at the conclusion of the testing program.
- We are unable to ship the toys to you. That means that only Ottawa and Toronto area families can participate in our core testing program (but you can still test with your own toys). Ottawa toys are distributed on an ongoing basis from the Beacon Hill area in east end Ottawa. We are still arranging for a distribution location(s) in Toronto.
If you have any unanswered questions about the program after reading through this guide, please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Exposure of the Program
Our toy reviews - which include your comments - are published on The Noise on Toys website. New reviews are posted year round, as soon as we receive tester feedback. It is a source of great pride to our testing kids to know that what they think is important enough for others to read - so if you decide to test for us, be sure to show your children their published comments on the website.
In addition, to the website reviews, we send out press releases several times a year, which result in print, radio and TV coverage of the toys profiled on the site.
Testing with your own Toys
Don't Live in Toronto or Ottawa? We can't send you testing samples – those samples are available only to families who can pick them up. But if you're willing to use your own toys, you can still participate in our testing program in every other way.
There are two ways you can share your input with us. The quickest is to add your comments to the published toy reviews on this site. But you can also be involved in testing our current batch of new toys.
We welcome your input – and especially your children's comments – for any newly released toys you've purchased yourself. As long as you're registered, your feedback can be pooled with our testing results and with your permission quoted in our reviews.
Read through the rest of the overview, and if you think you'd still like to participate, fill out an application form indicating you know that you will be testing your own toys and would still like to be involved. We'll send you access codes to register so you can file your reports in a way that they can be pooled with the rest of our testing feedback.
Objectives of Toy Testing
Our testing program has two objectives:
- To screen toys for kid-appeal and play value. This includes your assessment of the quality of the toy: how well it functions in the hands of a child, its overall durability and any foreseeable safety concerns. We will also ask your opinion regarding the price of the toy.
- To provide us with editorial content – specifically, vibrant quotes to accompany our toy reviews and lively anecdotes that we can relate during media interviews. Part of the report you complete includes a testing journal where you can keep your ongoing notes about your family's experience with the toy. It is this section that provides most of our tester feedback quotes.
We want our toy reviews to have a relaxed, conversational tone – as if you were talking to a friend about the toy. So please try to capture this talk-like feel as much as you can in your comments. Direct feedback from your children is also VERY important, so please quote them as soon as they are able to express themselves, rather than just summarizing what they say. Check out the reviews on this site to see what out toy testers - kids and their parents - are saying about the toys they test.
Most preschoolers manage only simple comments, but even these short comments are good practice. And, some preschoolers really do offer intriguing insights regarding the appeal of the toy. School age kids often need a good deal of help learning to articulate their thoughts – although seen in a positive light, this is a good opportunity for enrichment. By the time they are seven or eight years and older, we expect our kid-testes to give us direct feedback for each toy they test – especially for the toys they enjoy the most.
The Value of Toy Testing
What you and your child get for all that work
People often assume it’s the toys that are the perk in this program. But many testers find that the real value is the toy testing experience itself.
Toy testing is particualrly well-suited to helping kids learn how to articulate their thoughts, because toys are something they know a lot about.
It is a tremendous boost to a child’s self-esteem to realize that his/her opinions really do matter. Self-esteem gets an even greater boost they are quoted on the website.
Your success in talking with your child about his/her reactions to a toy definitely enhances our editorial content – and we thank you for that, because we love passing on your insights to our readers. But many of our testers tell us that the real value for their efforts is the enrichment it provides their own child.
A Note for Parents of Toddlers
Lots of toddlers prefer playing with preschool toys. Unfortunately, this is a preference we cannot accommodate, no matter how precocious your child.
Choking on small parts remains the biggest safety hazard - and an age recommendation of 3+ means the toy may not have been screened for small parts that could pose a choking hazard. For that reason, we would never lower the age recommendation for 3+ toy - or test it with younger children.
The editorial challenge for under threes is finding ‘toddler safe’ (no choking hazards, etc.) toys that two year olds actually find interesting enough to play with. [The only exception to this policy is for children who turn three during the testing period – and then, only with specific parental consent.]
Another consideration for parents of toddlers, is that there are never as many testing toys for toddler testers, as there are for other ages. Manufacturers typically introduce fewer new toddler toys compared to new toys for other age groups. To compound the problem, most of the families interested in toy testing have toddler-aged children.
The Testing Process
Toys are assigned to testing families for a period of about two months. Take them home and let your children play with them alongside their other toys, and exactly as they would play with a toy they owned.
Most families find it convenient to set up their toy testing reports when they first receive the toys. The first journal entry is posted after the initial play session, when your child(ren)'s reactions - and their comments/exclamations! - are most vibrant. Subsequent entries record any changing reactions to the toy. A final report, including a full ratings profile, is made at the conclusion of the test.
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.
Returning the Toys
After the testing period, the toys are donated to charity. New testers occasionally express concern about how their children will react to giving the toys back. Our best advice is to explain it like a library. Kids seem to understand this, especially if they know in advance.
With our prior consent (please check first!) and with the stipulation that the donated toys will not be resold - even for charity - we encourage you to donate your testing samples to a local community charity of your choice. We like that this helps to decentralize the giving, but we do ask that you let us know where you are donating the toys, and request that the recieving organization send us a follow-up acknowledgement. But please remember that, it is critical to check with us before donating your toys, to ensure that we no longer need them (for redistribution, photo shoot or press conference). Toys are often shipped from a limited pool of advanced media samples, and new samples are often difficult – sometimes impossible - to come by until after the toy is in actual production much later in the year.
If you don’t have a charity to donate to, please return your toys to us, and we will take care of distributing them to various community charities.