WSJ: Children’s arts and crafts kits are getting user-friendly, as toy makers expand the range of products and improve their performance with both parents and children. That means a new emphasis on mess-free ingredients, sturdier pieces and practically foolproof results.

One-upping the retro appeal of wooden toys, craft kits are emerging at the center of the traditional toy industry’s plans for future growth. The industry’s winning formula is a self-contained kit typically selling for $5 to $15, with everything a child needs to complete a project in anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour.

Parents see low-tech crafts as a productive form of independent play that keeps young children engaged without involving a smartphone, tablet or TV screen. Toy companies see dollar signs: Last year, rubber-band bracelet kits generated sales of more than $100 million, estimates Sean McGowan, toy industry analyst at Needham & Co.

Arts-and-crafts was the second-fastest growing type of toy in the $22 billion toy industry, ringing up $1.2 billion in sales in 2013

Many parents like how the kits replace the chore of collecting art supplies and household odds-and-ends for a project that may prove disappointing when the Popsicle-stick roof collapses. And the kits offer some rare, good economics for the industry because they are relatively inexpensive to produce.


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