Public Media Arts Hub

A Brief But Spectacular take on designing toys for kids


Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.

Geoff Bennett: Finally, tonight as we head into the holidays, many families will be scrambling to get those last-minute gifts including toys for the kids. Throughout his two decades as a toy designer, Khipra Nichols was one of the people who helped make those holiday wishes come true. Tonight, Rhode Island PBS Weekly Producer, Isabella Jibilian, brings us Nichols take on toy making.

Khipra Nichols, Toy Designer: So, people have asked me which toy of all the ones you made is your favorite? And I have to say it's this one, the Snoopy Copter.

My name is Khipra Nichols, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on toys. I'm an industrial designer. And I'm also a professor at Rhode Island School of Design. I designed toys at Hasbro for 20 years and two months. I think the most recognizable toy that I worked on for sure is my Little Pony.

I came up with the idea of having a baby dragon. And so, Spike became the baby dragon, friend of majesty who is the pony that comes into My Little Pony Dream Castle. So, one of the fun aspects of the feature for Spike is that he gets the ride up and down in this little bask. And I have to admit the inspiration for this feature came from watching the movie Rear Window.

Another really fun toy to work on was Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head. So, before this character that we worked on Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head were very kind of playing. They were plastic like this, but they had very little personality. And so, we had the job of, you know, bringing freshness and more life and animation into the characters.

It was my idea to have this little hatch and it was inspired by the Dr. Denton onesies that toddlers wear that have a little flap in the back when they're learning how to potty train. And so, this just opens up and it's plenty of room to put the parts in. And we made sure the parts were flexible enough and soft enough that they could bend and flex and this can change.

Toys are important because this is how children start to understand the world that they're in. So, imagine a toddler sitting in a wading pool. And you give him a block, they kind of splashing in the water. And it floats to the top and they get very excited about that. And then when you hand them something that doesn't float, you know, they put it in the water right away and they do the same thing and it doesn't come up to the top. So, what looks like play and it is play is also discovery. So, one day I had a prototype for a toy, and I had the opportunity to sit next to an eight-month-old was going to teach me, did I get the shapes right? Did I get the size correct? Is it going to be fun for the child? I took the toy out of the box. And the child got very excited about the box. Actually, the box was more interesting and the toy because the box was something that the child could put on their head and then they could put it down on the floor. And then they could put something in the box and they could dump something out of the box. So yeah, sometimes the box is even more engaging than what's in the box.

Support Canvas

Sustain our coverage of culture, arts and literature.

Send Us Your Ideas
Let us know what you'd like to see on ArtsCanvas. Your thoughts and opinions matter.