Two businesswomen have created an app for parents who are sick of expensive trips down the toy aisle. KidsTrade is a free smartphone program that functions a bit like a hybrid of Craigslist, eBay, and Tinder, but which exists to facilitate kids trading toys with one another rather than the more mature activities of conventional marketplace websites.
KidsTrade was founded by CEO Jennifer Wolffert, whose background is in the restaurant business in California, and chief marketing officer Kelly Harrison, a Princeton-based mother who formerly worked as a New York-based TV producer and director. Harrison described the app as a good way for kids to get toys that are new to them without the expense, waste, and clutter involved in buying new ones from the store.
On the KidsTrade website, www.kidstrade.com, Wolffert says the impetus for KidsTrade came after she bought her daughter a new doll at the American Girl store in New York City, spending $100 only to see it cast aside unwanted a few months later. “We all know, the love for a toy is fickle,” she wrote.
Children can sign up for KidsTrade only with permission from their parents, at which point they can photograph their unwanted toys and write brief descriptions of them. They can then browse through items belonging to their own friends or other kids in their school, make trade offers, and exchange messages with other kids. Every trade must be approved by a parent on each side. Parents can also allow their kids to buy and sell toys.
Wolffert and Harrison’s school-age children were the site’s first testers, having recruited their friends into using it to trade toys. “Just yesterday, my son traded a dart board, and he got a football,” Harrison said. “That’s kind of a typical trade. My other son gave up a light-up bouncy ball and he got a beanie boo” (a version of a beanie baby).
Of course, kids trading with each other is nothing new, but KidsTrade adds a digital twist to the process, encouraging kids to create an ongoing Internet marketplace for their unwanted toys. The new toy trading method is intended to work better in today’s era of overscheduled childhood, when kids might have a hard time finding time to play with their toys let alone play at their friends’ houses.
“Sometimes you don’t know what toys your friends have unless you’re at the person’s house and you start digging through their closet. But kids are so busy going from soccer practice to choir practice to cub scouts, there isn’t as much casual playing at home as there used to be,” Harrison said.
The app was developed by programmers working at the headquarters of the company, which is an office attached to Wolffert’s home near the Princeton Battlefield.
The site incorporates a number of safety features. It restricts kids to trading within a closed group of friends and kids at school within one grade level. Parents can expand the boundaries if they wish.
Harrison knows the success of KidsTrade will depend on its popularity. “We don’t have exact numbers on how many kids are using it right now,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of smaller newspapers give us press, and there are little pockets all over the country where it is popping up.” Unlike grown-up swapping sites, KidsTrade requires proof of identity, and comes with a swath of filters and reporting features designed to curtail anything inappropriate. Harrison says the free app is currently focused on growth and will find a way to become profitable later on.
The KidsTrade pitch to parents is that it will give children independence, reduce clutter, save money and teach children that toys aren’t cheap.
The pitch to children is that “It will be like every day is your birthday.”