The new quality label named „Bewegte Innovation“ (innovation in motion) developed by the Würzburg activity lab is awarded to products that have successfully passed the relevant tests. The quality label is the result of years of research and practical experience in the basic issues of physical activity in children.
Since early 2015, toys from about 20 different manufacturers have been tested in the activity lab and in participating nursery schools, families and schools. „To start with, we are certifying 48 toys which are particularly beneficial to the active physical development of children,“ Professor Lange explains.
Equipment to promote physical activity for people of all ages
The range of certified products is huge. The Würzburg „hall of fame“ of innovative activity toys includes a trampoline, various climbing frames, a table tennis table, scooters, caster boards and many more. They are suitable for all ages: toys that promote motor skills for toddlers, bouncers and soft balls for children and teenagers and a mobile minigolf course that also older people have fun playing.
Lange’s idea to develop the quality label is rooted in countless conversations with manufacturers and users in the past. In early 2015, the idea eventually materialised in interaction with manufacturers at the Nuremberg toy fair. „There had been single requests repeatedly. The label now is the result of the systematisation of the test method,“ Lange says.
Only toys that are already approved for the German market are tested. While the Technical Inspection Association TÜV tests for safety aspects and the „spiel gut“ certificate is awarded according to various criteria for special toys by „Arbeitsausschuss Kinderspiel und Spielzeug e.V.“, a committee for children’s games and toys, the Würzburg „exclamation mark“ focuses on the products‘ suitability in terms of physical activity pedagogy.
Decision support for consumers
„Rolling, climbing, gliding, building: Is the toy suitable to promote the child’s active physical development?“ Such questions are the starting point for the Würzburg sports scientists. „In the field of physical exercise, playing, sports and leisure time, there is an endless variety of equipment that promotes physical exercise in children and teenagers. This is great but confusing for consumers,“ Lange says.
The key tests are carried out by experts: the children in families, nursery schools and schools that are part of the network of the Würzburg activity lab. Afterwards, parents and children evaluate the toy using questionnaires developed by the scientists.
Students, too, are involved in the project, for example, in their courses or writing a doctoral thesis in the activity lab. Additionally, the future sports scientists benefit from the opportunity to exchange with toy manufacturers. „This subject is getting increasingly important; the market for these products is growing, creating exciting employment opportunities for our graduates,“ Lange further.
Providing scientific support to the toy industry to create innovations is crucial to Lange. New materials and manufacturing methods have brought a wealth of new features to toys as well. „Unthinkable in the past, the trampoline has become an increasingly popular addition to family gardens,“ Lange quotes one example. Moreover, the growing presence of technology in our environment also has an impact on children. „Children today do not necessarily move less, they move differently,“ Lange explains.
Tailwind for useful innovations
He believes that now it is up to manufacturers and experts in physical activity pedagogy to create the corresponding offers. „Technology is increasingly relieving us and our children of many tasks. At the same time, there are new and exciting ways of making toys,“ Lange says. The quality label aims to help parents and teachers to navigate the product jungle and encourage manufacturers to make better toys.
„One of our goals is to promote toys which are valuable in terms of physical activity education. Innovative toys can stimulate child development,“ says sports scientists Lange and adds that „physical activity interlinks the development potentials of different dimensions: emotional, cognitive and emotional.“
Prof. Dr. Harald Lange, Department of Sports Science, Focus: Sports Pedagogy and Didactics and Physical Activity Education. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Phone: +49 931 31-80283