Snacking and Play Preferences

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U.S. Children: Snacking Preferences

Children of today are more aware of healthier snacks, and because of this, more children prefer healthier snacks than unhealthy ones. Additionally, snack packaging influences children’s snack preferences. Brightly-colored packaging with famous cartoon characters is hugely appealing to children. Other trends regarding the preference of children aged five to ten years old when it comes to snacks cannot be found.

Healthy Children’s Snacks

Snack Packaging

  • Many studies have indicated that packages that appeal to children greatly influence children’s snack preference. A study from BMC Public Health indicated that visual elements such as characters, colors, and images affect children’s snack preference. Additionally, children perceive that specific snacks taste better when popular cartoon characters are in the packaging.
  • Moreover, Market Watch recommends using attractive packaging solutions for fruit snacks to attract children.
  • As per Trend Watch, branding and packaging are essential in making a snack brand stand out from the rest. Bizfluent further discussed that cartoon characters and brightly colored packaging are appealing to children.
  • In a report by Amplify Snack Brands, it indicated that packaging is more important than ever. Millennial parents of today prefer easy-to-understand snack packages that indicate nutritional value when buying for their children.
  • Additionally, many brands, such as SM kids and Pepsi Co, are appealing to children by using brightly colored packaging.
  • Furthermore, on-the-go packaging is becoming more appealing to both children and adults. As per Food Dive, the “squeeze pouch market,” a segment of the on-the-go packaging market is “expected to reach $1 billion.” The squeeze pouch market, which was initially designed for kids and messy toddlers, have also penetrated other markets such as sports athletes.

Additional Findings

Favorite Snack Brands

  • Aside from healthy snacks and brightly colored snacks, traditional snack brands such as Oreo, Lays, Dorritos, Skittles, Hershey’s, are still popular among children.
  • The most popular snack brand, Oreo, indicated that by keeping the heritage, nostalgia, and taste of the brand while continually innovating itself and creating a new marketing campaign, it kept itself popular with children. Additionally, the brand stated that by fostering memorable moments within parent and child also helped the brand successful towards children.

Research Strategy

The research team found two trends when it comes to children’s preferences when it comes to snacks. Other trends that the team found were centered towards children snacking behaviors and snacking in general. We also could not find information about specific snacks that children dislike.

The research team started the research by looking into pre-compiled information regarding recent snacking trends for children aged four to eight years old. This includes popular and not popular snacks with children. Although this search did not lead to a pre-compiled list of children snacking trends (preferably their favored snacks), the search led to some general insights from reliable sources such as Food Dive and Mondelez International. The sources stated that children nowadays are more informed, enjoy healthy snacks and that they like bolder and brighter colored packaging. We decided to look deeper into these listed trends.

First, we looked into healthy snacks. Food Dive delivered the statistics for some recent trends, and we were able to find different lists of healthy from reliable sources such as Healthline and Cool Mom Eats. Upon further search, we also found that children are more informed when it comes to their snack preferences, and because of this, children are more interested in healthier snacks. After this search, we then looked into snack packaging popular with children. We found studies that confirmed visual elements in snacks influenced children’s snack preferences. We also found various articles that confirmed this trend.

The team then looked into media sources to find more trends regarding the preferences that children have when it comes to snacks. We visited trusted sources when it comes to this topic, such as Food Business News, Convenience Store News, CSP, and others. The team was able to find information about snacking trends such as how generations influence their kids on what snacks to buy, but we were not able to find more trends regarding children’s preferences when it comes to snacks.

We also decided to look into the favorite and trending snack brands by children. During this search, we found that Oreo, M&Ms, Hershey’s, Doritos, and Cheetos, are some favorite snack brands by children. We then also looked into why certain snack brands are popular with children. The team hypothesized that by looking into popular snacking brands and what makes them popular to children, we could triangulate a preferential snack trend from the given information. We decided to look into what makes these brands appealing to children and what attributes do children find in the brands attractive. The team found a report from PR Newswire that stated how Oreo continued to be the top snack brand among children; however, the information we found was not enough to drive a trend.

We then decided to visit various survey sites such as Pew Research and others. The team hypothesized that by looking into surveys dedicated to children, we could analyze the data and triangulate some trends from it. The team was able to find an article from Pew Research that discussed smart snacks in schools, but the article did not discuss any preferred snacks by children. We were also able to find a report from Emerald Insight that conducted a survey for children regarding their perception of fruit and snacks. However, the report was outdated and was behind a paywall.

The team then looked into snacks that children dislike. We looked into reliable sources such as Food Business News, Snack Nation, The Daily Meal, and others. However, the search only led to general foods that children dislike and nothing about a specific snack that children dislike. Furthermore, although children nowadays enjoy healthier snacks, no article indicated that they dislike unhealthy snacks, as brands like Reese are still considered popular among children.

The team then decided to broaden the scope of the search by including general snacking trends of children. We were able to find a couple of trends that influence children’s snacks. The team found a trend that millennial families are influencing their children to buy healthier snacks. However, the information did not dictate children’s snack preferences.

After the exhaustive search, the team concluded that no other trends could be found regarding children’s (aged five to ten years old) snack preference. The lack of information can be attributed to the fact that parents are the ones still buying snacks for their children, and because of this, market research may be concentrated more towards the parents than the children themselves. We also could not find specific snacks that children dislike.
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U.S. Children: Play Preferences

Outdoor play remains at the top, connected play on the rise, creative play expansion, reduced participation in structured activities, and the personalization of digital play are current trends in play activities among US kids between the ages of six and eight years.


  • Outdoor play remains the top play activity for kids between 6-8 years in 2018. It involves hanging out with friends and engaging with games and toys in an outdoor environment. Games that promote interaction and allows kids to move about while having fun helps to inspire their imagination.
  • Nowadays, both parents in a family are usually full-time workers and are less available in the home. Outdoor play allows families to be able to spend time outside together. As such, family-focused outdoor play structures are being developed to promote family time.
  • The trend of digitization has also increased the time spent by kids playing indoors. As a result, the US is experiencing a rise in the need to reintegrate the childhood of kids to include outdoor play activities. "Nature preschools, outdoor pre-K, and forest kindergartens" are thus starting up communities in the country for this reason.
  • About 91% of kids aged between 6-12 years play outside weekly, and 61% of kids between 6-8 years play outside daily.
  • A group that promotes the need for more outdoor experiences in early education, Natural Start Alliance stated that the number of nature-based preschools has grown by not less than 500% since 2012.


  • Connected play allows kids to engage with friends and family while using digital devices in an exciting, safe way.
  • Its landscape involves toy companies and collaborators promoting/creating the future of play of kids using "emerging technologies such as IoT, AI, Robots, AR, VR, Edtech, Makers, Wearables, Social, NFC, RFID, and Voice."
  • A brand love study showed that "kids are more likely to take digital pictures and videos, use a social network, and post pictures or videos to an app/site."
  • The study showed increment in the likelihood of kids between 6-8 years to take pictures with a digital device (+3%), use a social network app/site (+6%), make videos on a digital device (+3%), post photos to an app/site (+6%), and post videos to an app/site (+6%). These changes took place between 2017 and 2018.
  • "Innovative toy and mobile app makers have stepped up to meet the steadily growing demand for smart devices and games that enable connected play."
  • LEGO launched the most thorough connected play portfolio across technologies such as "IoT, Robotics, AR, EdTech, Social and Voice," while Hasbro released the most connected play experiences utilizing "IoT, AR, NFC/RFID, and Voice."


  • Creative play is still considered as the standard platform for kids to express themselves creatively.
  • Rather than being limited to the use of traditional methods, such as the use of crayon/coloring sticks and drawing boards, or sculpting at a station/kitchen lab, creative play is expanding to involve color-by-number apps and games which allow kids to express themselves creatively online.
  • As with the trend that is driving connected play activities, the increasing exposure of kids to the internet, smart devices, and social media is driving brands to create opportunities for kids to express themselves on such platforms.
  • Traditional creative play brands such as "Crayola, LEGO, and Play-Doh and many others from color-by-number apps to Roblox have expanded their digital creative expression offerings" in a bid to tap promote the desires of kids to create, build, design, and decorate.
  • Social media platforms such as YouTube are also creating avenues for kids to express their creativity.


  • Kids are participating less frequently in structured/organized activities, including sports activities such as basketball, swimming, baseball, soccer, football, and martial arts.
  • This decline appears to be minimal and might be due to economic factors.
  • The decline in kids' participation in structured activities might be because their sports interests are changing, or there is a rising lack of interest in organized sports activities.
  • Also, it might be due to economic reasons such as the rise in limited discretionary income.
  • Between 2017 and 2018, kids from families that earn less than $40,000, showed reduced participation in sports such as basketball (-3%), swimming (-4%), baseball (-2%), soccer (-3%), football (-2%), and martial arts (-1%).
  • Research shows that kids nowadays have 50% more time for unstructured outdoor play than the kids in the 1970s.


  • Digital play is strongly contesting with outdoor play as the top play activity for kids. Playing games on an app takes the second spot for top play activity among kids on a daily and weekly basis. This trend has also followed an increasing desire for kids to play games on personal devices such as mobile phones.
  • Kids are now playing games, watching television shows, and videos on mobile and smart devices. Smartphones, smart speakers, tablets, and laptops now serve to satisfy and attend to the entertainment needs of kids.
  • Smartphone usage is growing faster than any other hardware/device category among kids, thus driving the personalization of digital play.
  • About 49% of kids aged 6-8 years play games on an app.
  • The percentage of kids playing games on a mobile phone increased from 69% in 2017 to 78% in 2018, making them more likely to play games on a mobile phone than play with traditional/non-digital toys (75%).
  • Smartphone usage (7%) is the highest hardware/device statistic for kids aged between 6-8 years followed by VR headset (3%), handheld console device (2%), and others at (1%)


We obtained current trends for US children aged between 6-8 years from the 2018 Play and Playthings report, which surveyed 8,900 US kids and tweens between 6-12 years old. The report provided trends for this age category, but also provided data breakdown to include statistics tailored to the age range required. We sourced for further information to back up our findings from sites that provide information regarding the toy space, including Mojo Nation, Playground Professionals, and Dynepic, as well as media sources such as The Atlantic.

From Part 01