Mommy and Me Gym (YMHA) 14th between First and Second Avenue Children Age: 10 month to 19 month
Today was awesome and chaotic! It is the first time I conducted a focus group and there is a lot to be learned. Such as organization. But that wasn't a problem, everything ran very efficiently and I got a lot of feed back about two products (the BOUNCE Play Mat/Blanket and the BOUNCE Soft Building Blocks).
The children are adorable and most of all they were drawn to the toys, they actually played with them. Which is the first task: are they approachable, do they keep children entertained? They did everything you could think of: throwing, rattling, chewing, juggling, hiding, rolling, shaking, etc.
Parents were also excited and active. An average of 2 out every 3 mothers played with the toys and signed/tried to sign really well. Some need a little instruction as to how to say the word 'elephant' on account that they've never signed before but others were really responsive to the emotional signs such as happy. One mother went so far to develop her own signs, in a sense accenting her very own sign for happy which included happy faces, eyes, and framing her face with her hands. Her son was receptive of it as well.
Second valuable comment was the imagery. Some parents (1 out of 4) were confused by the squishy/stubby hands of the characters and thus unsure of their hand posture. This was to be expected. Even though baby sign is more suggestive than American Sign Language, having the characters hands appear more realistic definitely influences how well the parent responds and copies the signs.
Thirdly, mommy's all agreed: THE NEED FOR MORE APPLICABLE SIGNS. Mothers preferred signs they could use to actually communicate with their child such as "dirty diaper", "hungry", "sleepy", etc. Animal signs, though cute, seem to me secondary and because of it more appropriate for imagery in BOUNCE products which target an older audience (children who know basic signs already because of earlier products).
This is perhaps most valuable because it makes mommy's more engaged to teach their children sign (and in the process learn it themselvse). If a mother can figure out whether her baby is hungry or wants to play with the garden hose at 12 months old and not have to deal with tantrums and fits of confusion and rage - she is all in.
Also, surprisingly for me, mothers at this gym priced both products at 40 to 50 dollars, on average. Much higher than my target market and costs. This is good. This is really good, parents (it seem) compare educational value to product value and worth.
(photography by Claudie Chwe)