When I passed down the toy aisle of my local Wal-Mart and noticed a single Harumika product on the shelf, I was shocked to see a fashion design toy available for young children. As an advocate for toys that promote artistic expression, creativity and abstract thinking, I couldn’t believe I had never heard of Harumika toys before that moment. I decided to purchase one of the “County Fair” Style Starter Sets and check to see if the implementation of such a novel idea proved to be worth the original $9.97 price tag–the fact that I got it on clearance didn’t bode well.
I was impressed by the amount of items included in my Style Starter Set. I received three different pieces of fabric, a lace trim, two sheets of stickers and a belt-like piece of ribbon with a buckle. The set also came with one of the Harumika manikins, with the slot in the back which enables you to insert the ends of your material while styling your garment(s). One unique feature about the Harumika products is that the fashion design elements do not require scissors, glue or sewing; kids simply wrap the materials around the included manikin and secure them in place by using a plastic rod and shoving the excess fabric into the slot in the back of the manikin.
Looking over the available products on the Harumika website, it is obvious that countless fashion design ensembles can be created using an assortment of sets. I was especially impressed by the Bridal style line, and the newest products seem to feature full-length manikins, wigs and fashion accessories. Unfortunately, I think the 6+ age recommendation on my Style Starter Set was a bit too young for most kids; I can’t imagine your average 6 year old child having the manual dexterity-or patience-required to design multiple outfits. Not to mention with only one manikin, you have to tear apart one design to create another! Fortunately, the stickers were fairly reusable, and the lack of scissors and glue made it much easier to switch from item to item.
The package also included instructions for adding your product UPC code to the official Harumika website; a feature which allows young designers to go online, hopefully under adult supervision, and upload a virtual version of their creations. A very nice touch, considering how Internet-savvy most kids are these days!
I was disappointed to see that the registration required the user’s full name, and allowed optional home and mobile phone numbers; none of which are things I would allow my children to put online, especially not at 6 years old.
Once customers have registered on the website, they can opt to customize their avatar. Registered users have a “My Store” feature, which is also customizable. Once those steps are complete, users can then begin to design whole new fashion design styles using a rather innovative Adobe Flash feature. Outfits are composed of shirts, skirts, shoes and even accessories; the amount of customization options is truly impressive, making the online features of the Harumika products slightly more enjoyable than the actual Style Start Sets. The fashion design styles actually include many current trends, and after ensembles are completed they can be entered into a contest. Users vote on their favorite outfits, and the winners receive a gold ribbon for their design.
Ultimately, the Harumika products seem like a fantastic way to encourage and indulge a child’s interest in fashion design. I would recommend them for a slightly older group of children than the suggested 6+, unless your child happens to be especially patient. One nice feature of the Style Starter Sets is that additional fabric, trims and stickers could be added to the fundamental supplies to allow your child more versatility in their creations. As a fan of artistic expression and creativity, I wish that the Harumika products were more popular and well-known than they currently are. In fact, I had a difficult time securing my “County Fair” Style Starter Set, and ended up purchasing the last one that was available.
Harumika,”Products” and “My Store”