When it comes to toys, there’s one thing every parent can agree on: Mess-free is the way to be. Kent Displays and its Boogie Board brand has found a way to roll with that eco-friendly philosophy with paperless writing tablets and creative toys that are designed to help kids discover and explore through tracing and doodling without any mess or waste.
From the collectible Sketch Pals that kids can clip-on their backpacks to doodle on the go to the larger Sketch Studio that helps kids learn how to draw with 20 templates, the Kent Displays’ Boogie Board products help improve the way people communicate, learn, and play. The products also feature a button that users can press to erase the pad when they want a blank slate to start over again, making them reusable and sustainable.
To learn more about Kent Displays’ strategy and kids’ products, The Toy Book spoke with Chief Executive Officer Dr. Asad Khan, who has been with the company since 1995.
Toy Book: When did you make the jump to use your technology for kids’ products, such as Sketch Pals, Sketch Studio, Magic Sketch, and more?
Dr. Asad Khan: When we created the original Boogie Board, we envisioned it as a note-taking product for adults. We had some initial interest from a toy company, but ultimately decided to launch it as something to use as an alternative to notepads. After we launched, it became a hugely popular general use product.
However, we quickly learned that many parents were giving it to their kids to play or practice their letters and handwriting. We decided to create a product specifically for kids that allowed them to trace letters, drawings, etc., using a transparent screen and templates. In 2013, we launched Play ‘n Trace, which ended up being a Toy of the Year finalist in 2016. Since then, we’ve continued to launch new creativity products for kids almost every year with Sketch Pals, the Sketch Studio being the most recent.
TB: Tell us more about your distribution strategy.
AK: We currently have global distribution through a variety of different channels and partners. Boogie Board products can be found in most stationery, gifting, or toy sections of many major retailers.
Our partnership with ASTRA and LEX has been indispensable. From the start, small independent stores have been our biggest brand ambassadors. We work with them on quite a few exclusive partnerships and deals.
TB: More kids are participating in home-schooling or remote classrooms this year due to COVID-19. How can parents incorporate your products into at-home learning routines?
AK: We have an amazing mix of products for kids that help them not only learn, but also play and create. Our Play ‘n Trace, Magic Sketch, and Sketch Studio activity kits help get kids excited about learning to write and draw. Our Scribble ‘n Play with ColorBurst is a fun reusable art board that lets kids draw to their hearts’ content. And Sketch Pals are great for keeping kids occupied while on the go.
More recently, we’ve launched Re-Write, the reusable, classroom-approved practice board. It’s perfect for any learning environment — whether they’re virtual or in person — because it doesn’t require any markers or erasers and is easy to clean.
The great thing about all our Boogie Board kids’ products is that they aren’t connected to the internet, so parents don’t have to worry about screen time.
TB: What kind of challenges have you encountered over this past year pandemic and how were you able to overcome them?
AK: The biggest challenge was not being able to travel as much. Our product is very much a hands-on product that requires buyers and consumers to play with to get the feel for what it does. Luckily, we’ve been able send samples, videos, etc. to our buyers and have seen amazing growth on our digital distribution channels.
One of the small feel-good parts of this pandemic was that we were able to step in and help create PPE for our local community. The plastics we use in our boards are similar to the plastic used in face shields. We were able to quickly pivot our manufacturing line to developing face shields that frontline workers are able to use.
TB: Consumers are becoming more conscious about purchasing eco-friendly products for their families. How do your products contribute to a more sustainable lifestyle?
AK: We often don’t realize how much paper we waste with short-lived notes — jotting down a number, a list, or our kids drawing and learning to write. By using one of our Boogie Board products, you can replace thousands of sheets of paper. Plus, our products are extremely durable and can last for years so you don’t have to worry about buying constant replacements.
TB: Is it part of your marketing strategy to have products that can fit into multiple categories, such as arts and crafts, travel toys, accessories, etc.?
AK: Yes, absolutely! Our goal is for home, office, playroom, and classroom to be filled with Boogie Board products that help people play, create, learn, live, and work better. While we already have a great variety of products for kids and adults, we are constantly looking towards the future and will continue to innovate our technology and product lines based on consumer behavior.
TB: What new items can consumers get excited for this year?
AK: We’ve seen a great response to our Sketch Pals and will be launching new characters next year. We’re also planning on updating some classic favorites, such as Scribble ‘n Play, Magic Sketch, and Jot Kids. Plus, we’re working on some new innovations coming in 2022 so stay tuned!