The other day I was browsing in what was marketed as a “smart” toy store. I was curious about “smart toys,” toys that have their own electronic intelligence, so I went in to check it out.
After rolling my eyes at a hot-pink vacuum cleaner toy (seriously, what is this, 1950?), I came across a Mars Rover Barbie. Despite her sexy astronaut uniform (as if that would be necessary on Mars, people), I thought she was an interesting option. The only problem was the hefty price tag. “Have Barbies always been almost $20? I am in for a real surprise when my daughter gets a bit older!” I thought.
Then again, what if I didn’t have to buy my daughter a new Barbie? What if I could get it for free — or, better yet, what if she could earn it herself?
Cool Job for Kids: Toy Testing
It sounds crazy, but it’s entirely possible. Many legitimate toy companies hire normal kids to be toy testers. If you want your child to be one, the age range seems to vary depending on the application, but typically companies are looking for toddlers through preteens. The company will either send your child a toy to review or ask you to take them to a toy lab at the company’s headquarters.
Interested? Here are three tips to help your child land the gig:
1. Get a Jump on the Competition
These jobs are hard to find. They pop up unexpectedly, so you should always be on the lookout. As journalist Samantha Christmann explained, be proactive by emailing toy companies directly and asking about opportunities. For example, you can email your contact information and your child’s name and interests to firstname.lastname@example.org to find opportunities at Fisher-Price. (Like this idea? Click to tweet it!)
2. Prowl Social Media
Follow toy companies on Facebook — both major ones and smaller players. For example, recently the toy company Step 2 posted on its Facebook page that it was looking for kids to test a Thomas the Tank Engine bed. The company wanted to send the bed to several families to try out. The families got to keep the bed for free in exchange for a product review.
I spoke with Krystal Butherus, a blogger who was selected to test the Thomas the Tank Engine bed after hearing about the opportunity in a blogger Facebook group. Krystal advises anyone who wants to get a toy testing opportunity to set up a blog and social media accounts “to show influence if you’re interested in being a toy tester. Word-of-mouth marketing still seems like a big deal to brands, and it’s worthwhile if you actually use the product and enjoying sharing the information with your friends and family.”
As another example, The Warehouse toy company in New Zealand gives its prestigious toy testers $200 worth of toys plus $8,000 cash for their families! To snag one of those jobs, kids had to buy a toy from their store and upload a video of themselves playing with it and explaining why they’d be a great toy tester.
If you want your kids to land similar opportunities, make sure they are comfortable in front of the camera and have no problem selling their skills! It’s a great opportunity for them to learn about marketing and the power of social media all while hopefully getting tons of free toys.
3. Curate Your Online Presence
As Krystal advised, you should have a strong online community to be a toy tester, even if it’s just an active Pinterest page, to be more desirable to toy companies. The bigger online reach you have, the more likely it is that you will be selected as a toy tester.
If you want to do this regularly, prepare your blog by reviewing toys that you already have. That way, you can use these posts as a portfolio to show companies that you write well and review products thoroughly.
When doing a review, be sure to describe the product in detail, including the size, the color, and the age group it’s designed for. Make sure to mention any special or unique features. Have your kid play with the toy for about a month before posting the review, so you can comment on how it held up to wear and tear.
Also, don’t be afraid to mention if you weren’t happy with a toy. Remember, many toy tester jobs exist to check on the safety and reliability of a product, so it’s an important job but also one that involves a bit of risk. Make your reviews honest and reliable, and the companies will thank you.
While it might seem like these jobs are too good to be true, many kids out there are not spending $20 for Mars Rover Barbie. Instead, they can put that money in their college funds and enjoy playing with free toys instead.
Your Turn: Would you put your kids to work as a toy testers?
Catherine Alford is a full-time blogger, personal finance freelance writer, and mom of newborn twins. She writes about how to balance life and a budget all across the web including on her own site, Budget Blonde.